Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Youth Hockey Training Blueprint: Part 2

Part 1 of the “Youth Hockey Training Blueprint” series presented a real-world example of the environment and philosophy by which a youth hockey organization off-ice training program was designed. Part 2 picks up with age-specific training principles and guidelines, and provides examples of the exact dynamic warm-ups we use for these teams. Enjoy!

Age-Specific Breakdown

In general, age-specific recommendations follow the progressions outlined in the athletic development pyramid below. The goal is to create a solid foundation of proper movement patterns and sound training habits, upon which elite level athleticism can be built.


 Athletic Development Pyramid

The Athletic Development Pyramid can be expanded to include the following long-term development recommendations:

  1. Participate in 2-3 different sports with distinct off-seasons
  2. Emphasis should be on having fun with friends
  3. Incorporate other outdoor activities (e.g. riding a bike, rollerblading, hiking, playing tag, run to bases, capture the flag, etc.)
  4. Begin teaching basic athletic and exercise movements and education on the importance of posture


  1. Participate in 2 different sports with distinct off-seasons
  2. Emphasis should be on developing overall athleticism and sport-specific skills
  3. Begin athletic development training program (1-2x/week in-season, 2-4x/week off-season), emphasis on learning efficient movement patterns and proper lifting technique


  1. Specialization in one sport is okay at this point
  2. Emphasis on maximizing sport-specific skill
  3. Participate in athletic development training program (2x/week in-season, 4x/week off-season) with increased emphasis on maximizing strength, power, and conditioning

These age groups are simply general guidelines based on average physical and psychosocial development rates. To paraphrase my mentor Mike Boyle, it’s important that we don’t apply adult values to youth sports programs. The importance of having fun should not be overlooked in the development process.

In accordance with these guidelines, teams within the organization can be segmented into different groups with distinct, but inter-related training goals. In this case, divisions were made as follows:

  1. Group A: ‘02’s-‘00’s (~Ages 9-12)
  2. Group B: ‘99’s-‘97’s (~Ages 12-15)
  3. Group C: U-16-U-18 (~Ages 15-18)

Based on the included ages and the respective training backgrounds of the players in each group, the purpose or goal of each group’s program can be determined, which will dictate the design of their program:

GROUP A (’02’00)


  1. Develop proper training habits
  2. Multi-directional movement
  3. Short-distance sprints
  4. Proper jump technique
  5. Reactive skills
  6. Basic movement patterns: squat, lunge
  7. Basic core: glute bridge, front plank, side plank, miniband walks

GROUP B (’99-’97)


  1. Develop proper training habits
  2. Learn proper exercise technique with basic movements
    1. Squat, stiff-legged deadlift, slideboard hamstring curl, reverse lunge, dumbbell chest press, push-up, chin-up, 1-arm dumbbell row
    2. Progress to Olympic lifts if proficiency is developed in basics
  3. Basic core: glute bridge, front plank, side plank, miniband walks and variations

GROUP C (16U-18U)


  1. Develop proper training habits
  2. Learn proper exercise technique with basic movements
    1. Squat, stiff-legged deadlift, slideboard hamstring curl, reverse lunge, dumbbell chest press, push-up, chin-up, 1-arm dumbbell row
    2. Progress to more advanced exercises: single-leg variations, dissociated upper body movements, etc
    3. Teach Olympic lifts
  3. Basic core: glute bridge, front plank, side plank, miniband walks and variations
    1. Progress to more advanced

These divisions are also ideal from a scheduling standpoint. In this organization, teams around the same age group have similar practice days and times, which caused time slots on specific days with multiple teams having the exact same off-ice training time slot. Because these overlapping teams fall in the same “Group”, it’s possible to combine them into one larger group for training purposes.

Developing Proper Training Habits

A common theme in the program of each group is to develop proper training habits. While this may differ slightly among groups, in general this refers to:

  1. Eating a decent pre-training meal
  2. Arriving on time and focused
  3. Following instructions from a coach
  4. Performing soft-tissue work
  5. Performance flexibility work
  6. Warming up
  7. Putting an appropriate effort into each exercise
  8. Supporting teammates

While some of these qualities should develop organically via the training process, many of the players don’t have a sufficient understanding of the importance of soft-tissue and flexibility work, and warming up. As a result, we place a lot of attention on these things early on so that players begin to internalize these practices as beneficial and necessary, not as a hassle easily bypassed.

With the two older groups (B & C), our warm-up is as follows:

Foam Roll

  1. Front Quad: 30s/side
  2. Lateral Quad: 30s/side
  3. Hamstrings: 30s/side
  4. Inner Thigh: 30s/side
  5. Glutes: 30s/side
  6. Upper Back: 60s
  7. Lats: 30s/side

Static Stretch

  1. ½ Kneeling Hip Flexor w/ Internal Rotation: 30s/side
  2. Lying Knee to Knee: 60s
  3. Lying Glute: 30s/side
  4. Straight Leg Adductor w/ Hips Extended: 60s
  5. Straight Leg Adductor w/ Hips Flexed: 60s
  6. 3-Way Hamstring: (3x10s)/side
  7. 90° Pec Stretch: 30s/side

Dynamic Warm-Up

  1. Wall Ankle Mobility (3×5)/side
  2. Walking Knee Hug: 8/side
  3. Walking Quad Stretch: 8/side
  4. Reverse Lunge w/ Hamstring Stretch: 8/side
  5. Spiderman Lunge w/ Rotation: 8/side
  6. Backward Inverted Reach Walk: 8/side
  7. Inverted Reach Walk w/ Quad Stretch: 8/side
  8. Lateral Lunge Walk: 8/side
  9. Butt Kickers: 25 yards
  10. High Knee Skips: 25 yards
  11. Side Shuffle: 25 yards/side
  12. Carioca: 25 yards/side
  13. Back Pedal: 25 yards
  14. ¾ Speed Jog: 25 yards
  15. Backward Run: 25 yards
  16. ¾ Speed Jog: 25 Yards

When captains are named at each team, they are notified that after the first month they will be expected to run their team’s warm-up. This gives them the knowledge and confidence to implement the warm-up before practices and games when a member of our staff is not present.

For the younger teams (Group A), we use a slightly modified version of this warm-up:

Dynamic Warm-Up

  1. Walking Knee Hug: 8/side
  2. Walking Quad Stretch: 8/side
  3. Reverse Lunge w/ Rotation: 8/side
  4. Backward Inverted Reach Walk: 8/side
  5. Lateral Lunge Walk: 8/side
  6. Butt Kickers: 25 yards
  7. High Knee Skips: 25 yards
  8. Side Shuffle: 25 yards/side
  9. Long-Stride Carioca: 25 yards/side
  10. Short-Stride Carioca: 25 yards/side
  11. Back Pedal: 25 yards
  12. ¾ Speed Jog: 25 yards
  13. Backward Run: 25 yards
  14. ¾ Speed Jog: 25 yards

The same static stretch circuit is used but performed at the conclusion of the off-ice session instead of the beginning. In our experience, younger kids tend to lose focus quickly if immediately put into a static environment. We prefer to get the kids in organized lines and moving immediately, and approach the flexibility work later in the session. From a myofascial standpoint, an argument can be made for the benefits of static flexibility work at the beginning and end of a training session; the timing of this work is less important than just ensuring that it gets done.

Stay tuned for Part 3 which will present training templates and our approach to periodization for each age group!

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To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.