A couple weeks ago I announced the completion of the Ultimate Hockey Training Video Database. Since then, I’ve received a bunch of emails about accessing the database and about off-season training program design.

This is really an exciting time of year for me. As my friend Devan McConnell said, the hockey off-season is really the hockey strength and conditioning coach in-season. We’re currently training the Team Comcast U-18 team 4x/week through August, the two U-16 teams 3x/week through August, and the ’99s, ’00s, and ’01s will start up 2x/week in June and train through August. This is in addition to the dozens of junior, NCAA D1, and professional players we’ll have in the mornings everyday through August. A few of the junior kids have been in since February. Talk about maximizing your off-season! Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks assessing/testing everyone and designing programs.

Once players take a few weeks off and let their body recuperate a bit, the off-season provides a great opportunity to start restoring and improving different capacities (e.g. range of motion, movement quality, speed, power, strength, conditioning, etc.). The key to maximizing this time is to really understand where you want to be come pre-season and what you’re willing to do to get there. Finding a good strength and conditioning coach that understands how to coach movement well, how to design a quality training program, AND the demands of the game is extremely difficult, and will almost always require some degree of inconvenience, typically in the form of a longer drive (there isn’t a quality coach in every neighborhood) and increased costs (great coaches cost more money to work with).

Understanding Quality Programming

One of the biggest struggles players and families face in finding an off-season training program is being able to decipher quality from garbage. With seemingly knowledgeable people boasting the benefits of their programs, it can be difficult to sift through the hype and really see who knows what they’re talking about. In my opinion, a quality program should encompass:

  1. Some sort of initial assessment to identify structural limitations, range of motion/mobility impairments, movement quality, and basic performance capabilities. At Endeavor, we find resting heart rates, baseline heart rate variability, 12-site body fat calculations, assessments taken from the Functional Movement Screen, PRI, and traditional orthopedic tests, and a simple battery of performance tests to get an indication of their power, full body strength, muscular endurance, and repeat sprint ability. This is key to understanding the limiting factors in a player’s performance. For example, a player may not be able to maintain a low skating position because they: 1) Don’t possess the hip structure to squat any deeper than they are; 2) don’t possess sufficient strength to support their weight in this position; or 3) don’t have the local muscular endurance or conditioning necessary to maintain this position for any significant amount of time and pattern themselves into a higher position. A thorough assessment will shed light on the limiting factors to all components of performance.
  2. Different physical targets based on the individual’s stage of development. USA Hockey has done a great job outlining the windows during a youth player’s development where he/she is “sensitive” to developing specific qualities. Players at different age should have programs designed to emphasize different qualities (see image below).
  3. Progressive phases, each with their own emphasis. Once players cross the ~13 y/o age group, going through random workouts or “classes” isn’t likely to deliver the results the player is looking for. In general our off-season phases progress from: Work Capacity/Hypertrophy -> Hypertrophy/Strength -> Max Strength/High Load Power -> Low Load Power/Speed/Strength -> Conditioning/Speed/Power. Each phase is essentially tiered so that it has a primary emphasis, but also includes some work in other qualities to make the transition from each phase smooth. For example, the phase before we attack speed work, we’ll integrate a low volume of sprints so the player becomes accustomed to sprinting and has some time to work on technique before we really hit the gas. Planning progressions in this fashion is simply what S&C professionals refer to as “periodization” and is essential to hitting higher peaks in performance.
  4. An energizing training environment and positive culture. Finding a facility that isn’t shy with the music volume, and doesn’t ban chalk, Olympic lifts, and deadlifts will go a long way in improving the quality of the player’s training as well as the amount of fun they have in the process. Our players look forward to coming in over the Summer (at least most days!), in large part because they get to train alongside current/former teammates and friends, have some say as to what goes on the radio, and basically are placed in an environment where they can just get after it. This is one of the major downfalls of general member gyms; it’s tough to do 100lb farmer’s walks by some idiot in a tank top grunting while doing curls w/ 65lbs in the squat rack. Environment matters, and so does the culture. One of the things I love the most about Endeavor is that I’ve now had some of the same kids for 5 Summers; these guys know our system so well they are often proactive in teaching new players how to perform the exercises. It ends up being a great experience for both players and a huge help to us!

Long-Term Athletic Development-Sensitivity to Training

Developmental Sensitivity Periods

Naturally, the most important part of any off-season program is that it gets results. I know our corrective/mobility works because I remeasure players. After 1-2 phases of our program, most players (that need it) are adding 15-20 degrees of hip rotation arch in EACH hip. This is huge in maximizing their structural mobility, giving them the best opportunity to optimize their stride and avoid injury. We have a player preparing for the NHL combine here that has added 4.5″ to his vertical jump in two weeks. Another that has put on 12 lbs of muscle in 12 weeks. These are just a few examples of the early successes from our current off-season group, but provides supporting evidence that our programs are delivering the results our players are looking for.

If you’re interested in using one of our off-season hockey training programs for your own purposes, you just need to join the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider’s Section. Simply, it’s the most affordable way to follow a quality, proven training program if you can’t find/access a hockey training facility this off-season. To become an Insider, follow these steps:

  1. Purchase a copy of Ultimate Hockey Training
  2. Register to become an Insider here: Ultimate Hockey Training Insider

Ultimate Hockey Training-Membership Card Insider Small

Insider access is only available to those that have purchased Ultimate Hockey Training, as the book provides a ton of information that will help players get more out of their training, including exercise progressions and lateral substitutions so players can make exercise substitutions based on equipment availability without compromising the intention of the exercise. An Insider membership provides access to monthly training programs for players at each age group, the newly added 800+ exercise video database, and recommended equipment, all for a monthly cost of less than a decent lunch.

Follow the instructions above, and have the best off-season of your career!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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