Hockey Speed Training: Resetting the Clock

Speed training for hockey is one of the most highly sought after areas of hockey development information. My colleague Chris Collins put together an article about an interesting strategy he uses to prime the nervous system for continued high performance following a speed training session. I’ve heard Gray Cook emphasize in the past that “the body remembers what it does last”. Within this context, Chris’ idea here is especially appealing.

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On to Chris Collins’ article!

There was a research study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that looked at which physical tests were most strongly correlated to performance in hockey.  Sean Skahan started the discussion on this article1 and did a great review of it so that I was inspired to pick up where he left off.  Check out more of Sean’s work at his site: Sean Skahan.

The study found that bodyfat percentage and Wingate score correlated to on-ice sprint performance.  When we work with our hockey players we can strive to achieve lower levels of bodyfat and increased lower body power production in a number of ways.  One way this is sometimes this is approached is by performing sprints.

When we perform sprints for our hockey players we will start out with longer, less intense reps early in the off-season and finish with shorter, more intense reps towards the end of the off-season.  I’ll always remember the words of a mentor of mine who said, ‘the longer the interval the shorter the rest’ and ‘the shorter the interval the longer the rest’.  This is such a basic statement but unfortunately gets forgotten near the end of the off-season.  Consider the following table.

A shorter interval lasting 10 seconds could require up to 3 minutes 20 seconds recovery time with a 1:20 work to rest ratio.  However a one minute effort may require between 3 and 4 minutes for recovery with a 1:3-1:4 work to rest ratio.  The longer effort has a shorter recovery compared to the shorter effort based on work to rest ratios.

At first this may seem counter-intuitive but once you experiment with your work to rest ratios a little you’ll understand the truth behind it.  The reason for this is that the longer, less intense and more aerobic a drill is the more quickly you can recover from it.  The shorter the duration, the more intense and the more it taps into the anaerobic and ATP-PC energy systems, the longer it will take you to replenish these energy systems and recover.

But there is another key reason to be patient with your speed drills near the end of the off-season.  The reason is to allow full nervous system recovery.  For a lot of hockey players their ability to generate speed and power is limited by their nervous system.  They may achieve cardiovascular system recovery.  And they may achieve muscular system recovery.  But the nervous system may take more time so it is essential to be patient after each effort and ensure complete recovery.  The best way to explain this to your hockey players is that each effort must match or exceed their previous effort.

Bonus tip
There’s something I like to do with our hockey players at the end of every speed session and we’ll even include it earlier on in the off-season as well.  I like to call it ‘re-setting the clock’.

What this means it performing one last effort that is guaranteed to beat all previous efforts.  This may mean performing a shortened version of a drill.  Or this can be done by performing the last drill as a competition to up the intensity.  Lastly you could perform the drill with an assist such as a slight decline or a harness.  You are only limited by your creativity in terms of ways to provide the hockey player with the opportunity to exceed their 100%.

And why does this matter?  Very few speed sessions and almost no conditioning sessions end with the hockey player demonstrating their top gear.  And guess what happens when you train below your top end speed?  You compromise your speed.  But if your last effort is your best one you ‘reset your internal clock’ and provide your nervous system with a new definition of speed.

Keep these tips in mind regarding work to rest ratios and remember to ‘reset the clock’ at the end of every workout.

Chris Collins M.Sc. CSCS
Onside Hockey Training


  1. Burr, JF, Jamnik, RK, Baker, J, Macpherson, A, Gledhill, N and McGuire, EJ. Relationship of Physical Fitness Test Results and Hockey Playing Potential in Elite-Level Ice Hockey Players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22(5):1535-1543, 2008.
  2. Baechle, TR and Earle, RW. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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