In-Season Training: Capacity Maintenance

A couple days ago, I wrote about a few things to keep in mind when designing an in-season training program. If you missed it, you can check it out here: In-Season Hockey Training

In that post, I alluded to the fact that one of the primary goals of an in-season training program is to maintain the capacity of the individual physical qualities (e.g. speed, power, strength, conditioning, etc.) developed over the off-season. To approach this the right way, it’s instructive to have an idea of:

  1. What qualities are inherently trained as a part of hockey practice and competition
  2. The rate at which individual qualities degrade
  3. What qualities can be trained together without compromising progress

The first of these was discussed in the last post, so today we’ll focus on the latter two. Much of my knowledge in this area comes from Dr. Vladimir Issurin, a scientific advisor to the Soviet and Israeli Olympic programs and author of the book Block Periodization. Mike Potenza introduced me to his work last Summer when I was in San Jose, and I’ve done quite a bit of reading in this area since. For advanced athletes that have already gone through the rapid progress phase typical of newbies, I think Block Periodization is the best way to go. Joe Dowdell did a brilliant job of outlining this work in the seminar he co-ran with Mike Roussell at Peak Performance NYC several weeks ago as well. The basic idea is to use information on physical quality degradation and training interference to optimize progress for any given physical attribute.

This periodization model is based on the length of physical quality residuals, which is the time at which qualities experience a significant detraining effect (Block Periodization, 2008; pg. 25):

  1. Aerobic Endurance: 30 +/- 5 days
  2. Maximum Strength: 30 +/- 5 days
  3. Anaerobic Glycolytic Endurance: 18 +/-4 days
  4. Strength Endurance: 15 +/- 5 days
  5. Maximum Speed (Alactic): 5 +/-3 days

These numbers imply that qualities such as aerobic endurance and maximum strength can be left alone for periods as long as 25-35 days before there is a significant detraining effect. Another notable takehome from this is that EVERY quality degrades within ~30 days, with some much faster than others. For the qualities that don’t receive a significant training stimulus as a result of playing the sport (e.g. maximum strength), ceasing training at the beginning of the season will result in a substantial decline in ability before Halloween. That doesn’t bode well for Playoffs/Nationals in February and March.

This is in addition to the fact that soft-tissue stress accumulation and overall fatigue tends to cause a degradation in movement pattern quality (a more abstract thing to quantify). Again, all of these factors will lead to impaired performance and an increased risk of injury, and could be easily reversed (or at least minimized) with an in-season training program.

Dr. Issurin’s work also highlights the importance of training complimentary physical abilities simultaneously (Dr. Issurin, Block Periodization. 2008, pg 65):

  1. Aerobic Endurance: Alactic (Sprint) abilities, strength endurance-aerobic, maximum strength-hypertrophy (after)
  2. Anaerobic (Glycolytic) Endurance: Strength endurance-anaerobic, aerobic restorative exercises, aerobic-anaerobic (mixed) endurance
  3. Alactic (Sprint) Abilities: Aerobic endurance, explosive strength, maximum strength-hypertrophy (after), aerobic restoration exercises
  4. Maximum Strength-Hypertrophy: Maximum strength-innervation, flexibility, aerobic restoration
  5. Learning New Technical Elements: Any kind of training modality, but after the dominant tasks

In a training setting, this means that each training session (and block of training sessions) should have a primary and secondary focus, and should minimize any emphasis on competing qualities. Nutrition periodization can be tied in to these training initiatives as periods of intense endurance or hypertrophy training may warrant an increase in caloric intake. Similarly, supplements can facilitate improvements in certain athletic qualities. Creatine and beta-alanine are two that many of our athletes will use during phases where strength/hypertrophy and anaerobic endurance, respectively, are primary training focuses. On the ice, these principles still apply. It’s counter-productive to heavily condition athletes and then teach them new skills or tactics. Teaching elements should precede exhaustive ones.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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