As a follow-up to my previous post on creating off-season (or lock-out friendly) programs that coordinate on- and off-ice demands, today’s post presents the mobility circuit and conditioning programs referenced in the training schedule from that last post. The mobility circuit serves to help improve multi-planar hip mobility and thoracic mobility, two areas that are commonly restricted in hockey players, while also getting some blood flowing which will help facilitate recovery. After completing the circuit (twice), the player should feel loose and energized, but not fatigued at all. Circuits like these are a great way to get some low level aerobic work in without fatiguing the system. I also included an abbreviated mobility circuit with just the stationary mobility work, as I think these are important to mix in frequently throughout the week, and, frankly, I don’t think most players will do the entire circuit 6+ times per week in addition to their pre-existing dynamic warm-ups.

Hockey requires extremes of hip range of motion. Achieving and preserving optimal multi-planar hip mobility is an important off-ice training objective, year-round.

The conditioning programs are presented with three options so the player can still get the work in even without access to any given piece of equipment or space (e.g. field or ice), and to give the player some ownership over the program. They’re listed in order of preference, meaning in an ideal world the player would perform the 1st option, followed by the 2nd if the 1st isn’t an option, and finally, the 3rd. Each day is designed to be in accordance with the targeted energy system for that day’s lifting and on-ice work. Within Conditioning 2, I started to incorporate some work that somewhat diverges from the rest of the work for that day to prepare the player for an upcoming on-ice skating test.

Check everything out below, and please post any questions you have! In a future post I’ll put up a video with all the exercises in the mobility circuit for your reference. This can also be used as a substitute dynamic warm-up for players that need a change of pace. Enjoy.

Mobility Circuit

  1. Wall Ankle Mobilization: 3x(5x2s)/side
  2. Back Knee Elevated Quad Mobilization: 10x2s/side
  3. Back Knee Elevated Lateral Kneeling Adductor Mobilization: 10x2s/side
  4. Supported Hip Airplane: 10x1s/side
  5. Quadruped Cat/Camel: 10x1s
  6. Quadruped Thoracic Rotation: 10x1s/side
  7. Reverse Lunge w/ Hands Behind Head: 10/side
  8. Modified Yoga Push-Up: 10
  9. Lateral Lunge w/ Hands Behind Head: 10/side
  10. Scap Wall Slide: 10
  11. Inverted Reach: 10/side

Modified Mobility Circuit

  1. Wall Ankle Mobilization: 3x(5x2s)/side
  2. Back Knee Elevated Quad Mobilization: 10x2s/side
  3. Back Knee Elevated Lateral Kneeling Adductor Mobilization: 10x2s/side
  4. Supported Hip Airplane: 10x1s/side
  5. Quadruped Cat/Camel: 10x1s
  6. Quadruped Thoracic Rotation: 10x1s/side

Conditioning 1

  1. 50-Yard Shuttle Run (Lines at 0&25) on 60s (Run the shuttle as fast as possible and rest the remaining time until the next minute):
    1. Week 1: 10x
    2. Week 2: 11x
    3. Week 3: 12x
  2. Treadmill: 10s/50s (Put the treadmill at a low incline (2-4°) and put the speed at something you can barely maintain with good running mechanics for the full 10s. Straddle or put the speed to 3mph during the rest)
    1. Week 1: 10x
    2. Week 2: 11x
    3. Week 3: 12x
  3. Elliptical: 10s/50s (Pick a resistance that is hard, but that you can still move fairly quickly for the work intervals; push it all the way down for the rest):
    1. Week 1: 10x
    2. Week 2: 11x
    3. Week 3: 12x

Conditioning 2

  1. On-Ice Shuttle Skate (Goal and Blue) Work ~16s w/ 44s rest
    1. Week 1: 3 x (3×2 Laps on 60s) w/ 2 mins between reps
    2. Week 2: 2 x (4×2 Laps on 60s) w/ 2 mins between reps; 1 x 7 Laps
    3. Week 3: 1 x (6×2 Laps on 60s); 2 x 5 Laps w/ 5 mins between reps
  2. Off-Ice Shuttle Run (Lines at 0&25)
    1. Week 1: 3 x (3×100 yards on 60s) w/ 2 mins between reps
    2. Week 2: 2 x (4×100 yards on 60s) w/ 2 mins between reps; 1 x 300 yards
    3. Week 3: 1 x (6×100 yards on 60s); 2 x 250 yards w/ 5 mins between reps
  3. Airdyne
    1. Week 1: 3 x (3x20s/40s) w/ 2 mins between reps
    2. Week 2: 2 x (4x20s/40s) w/ 2 mins between reps; 1 x 60s
    3. Week 3: 1 x (6x20s/40s); 2 x 50s w/ 5 mins between reps

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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When I was a Bantam (13 y/o), I played for a coach that emphasized that we always keep our feet moving. The second we stepped on the ice, we were supposed to buzz around constantly. The goal was to force a high tempo; it worked. At that level, our team was extremely fast and the strategy of constant movement was overwhelming for other teams.

Unfortunately, this strategy does not work at higher levels. Speed kills and tenacity intimidates, but constant high speed movement is inefficient. At any given level of conditioning capacity, a player can improve his/her level of expressed conditioning by learning how to conserve energy on the ice.

Think about it this way: The goal is rarely to skate as fast as possible at any given moment on the ice. Instead, the goal is to skate just fast enough to win possession of the puck or positioning relative to an opponent. Sometimes this requires all-out efforts. Sometimes it does not. In every case, a player can improve his/her ability to win the race or gain optimal positioning by reading the play faster than their opponent.

Hockey conditioning comes down to preparing the body to delay fatigue to the greatest extent possible. In my setting, conditioning is mostly a preparatory effort. In other words, the idea is to pre-emptively overload the body and allow recovery time so that it is well-prepared for the rigors of the game. In reality, there is also a strategic component to conditioning that most players are never taught.


Off-ice conditioning is important, but only part of the equation

When a player hops on the ice and goes all out for the entire shift, they rely on a metabolic process known to have a longer recovery time and lead to impaired future performance. In contrast, if a player becomes an expert at alternating periods of near all-out efforts with periods of strategic gliding and repositioning, the shift is transformed from a 30-45s interval to something more like 8 x 2-3s/6s. In other words, the player skates all out for 2-3s, then strategically glides/rests/repositions for 6s, 8 times throughout the shift. This allows for less fatigue accumulation and a more prolonged maintenance of near-peak performance.

Naturally, hockey isn’t nearly this regimented. The game is chaotic in nature. However, players can adopt this strategy based on the demands of any given shift to help build in recovery intervals on the ice. To be clear, the message here isn’t to “loaf” on the ice. Certain shifts will mandate constant motion at maximal efforts. However, not all shifts do, and it’s important for players (especially at higher levels) to learn to read the game so they can position themselves properly to conserve energy without impairing performance.

One of my favorite players of all time. Known for being a student of the game.

In the training world, we measure performance through things like time to move a given distance (speed and conditioning) and weight lifted. On the ice, all that matters is goals for and goals against. There are ways to maximize objective on-ice outcomes, while strategically conserving energy. Become a student of the game. Learn to anticipate play development. Develop the habit of creating time and space. More optimal on-ice positioning leads to shorter races to the puck and/or open areas on the ice, leading to less fatigue accumulation and more desirable hockey-specific outcomes (e.g. goals scored or prevented). Conditioning isn’t just a physiological state of being; it’s also a playing style-specific strategy. Maximize both and optimize your on-ice performance.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Before reading this post, check out the two preceding posts on hockey conditioning:

Hockey Conditioning: To Bike or Not to Bike!

Hockey Conditioning: Shuttle Runs and Slideboards

As you may have noticed, I’m not a huge supporter of hockey players riding exercise bikes, but I am a huge supporter of slideboarding.

My opinion changes slightly when hockey players are in-season.

When players are on the ice for hours a week, they probably don’t need as much work in lateral and diagonal movement patterns because they get enough of that on the ice. To this extent, slideboarding consistently throughout the season could over-stress (or not allow for sufficient recovery) the hip adductors (“groin”) and lead to overuse (or under-recovery) injuries.

If Not Slideboards, Then What?

I generally think shuttle runs are a better alternative than exercise bikes if players NEED to condition (read below). With that said, one of the Hockey Strength and Conditioning Coaches I’ve learned the most from is Michael Boyle. He has his players ride exercise bikes in-season to decrease the risk of hip overuse injuries, as described above. However, he uses Schwinn Airdyne Exercise Bikes, which allow upper body movement and a more upright posture. These bike design changes remove many of the downsides of using exercise bikes for conditioning hockey players.



Do Hockey Players Need to Condition In-Season At All?

The amount of in-season conditioning players need depends on the amount of ice time they get and the composition of that ice time. There is nothing more hockey-specific than skating intervals. If coaches build conditioning-type drills into their practice or go through familiar drills at a high tempo, it’s likely that many players won’t need ANY off-ice conditioning.

Train Hard. Train Smart.

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you want to use a PROVEN ice hockey training system this off-season to guarantee you enter tryouts and next season at your best, check out my Off-Ice Training course.

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