I should start off by saying that whilst this is written for hockey players (and goalies), the same concepts can be applied to almost all sports that have a defined off-season. That said, let’s talk hockey…
The physical demands of playing ice-hockey can be brutal, especially at the elite level where the in-season schedule is always intense and at times bordering on the insane. At certain times of the year you hardly have time to recover between matches, never mind get in the weights room to work on your fitness. As a result, over the course of the season many players will lose lean bodyweight (i.e. muscle) and consequently lose strength and power*. That’s not ideal when both strength and power are pillars of your performance.
On top of that, the repetitive on-ice movements that you make throughout the season can lead to a variety of structural and functional issues, which can restrict your mobility, make certain movements painful, lead to an increased risk of traumatic injury (muscle strains etc.) and even the development of long-term degenerative disorders.
For example, the muscle imbalances which develop around the hip joints during the season can alter both the position of the pelvis and the way that the head of the femur (thigh bone) moves within the acetabulum (i.e. it alters the arthrokinematics of the hip joint). This can directly limit performance by reducing the range of motion around the joint, and perhaps more importantly can lead to hip impingement (FAI). Without being addressed, this repeated impingement of the hip will almost certainly result in a labral tear, and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. These same muscle imbalances also affect muscle tissue quality around the hips, making you susceptible to adductor and hamstring strains whilst on the ice, and increasing your risk of developing of a sports hernia.
Basically, an intensive season on the ice drains your strength & power, and messes with everything around your hips and core. It kinda turns you from Superman into the Tin Man. So, when you do get the chance to address these issues, it’s a pretty good idea to take it with both hands!
The good news is that you guys have a nice long off-season to focus on these issues and really address the things that you can’t during the season. This is your big opportunity to transform yourself into an awesome, resilient, bulletproof athlete ready to kick some butt when your season starts again. Turn yourself back into Superman.
And it’s not just the professional players that can benefit from a good off-season training program. For the younger players, this is the time when you can really set the foundations for your long-term development as an athlete. Yes, of course you should be playing other sports in the off-season and expanding your movement repertoire, but learning to train properly will also prove invaluable in the long run.
If you get the off-season right, it can have a huge impact…
So, it’s pretty easy to see why the off-season is such an important time of year for hockey players, both for preparing yourself to dominate in the next season and for long-term athletic development. If you get your training right it can have a huge impact.
If you get it wrong’s like banging your head against a wall!
The problem is that a lot of players get their off-season training wrong. Even the players that train hard in the off-season won’t benefit if they are doing the wrong type of training, and may even make things worse. It’s like banging you head against the wall; it hurts, but it won’t actually get you anywhere and may do you some damage!
So, in my next couple of posts (out soon), we’ll be looking at how and why so many players screw up their off-season, and the secrets to using the off-season to unleash your athletic potential!
Alternatively, if you want an individualised off-season training program tailored specifically to your needs, just get in touch to discuss it.
Until next time,
Train Smart… Play Hard
*N.B. It is still possible to make gainz in-season – especially for the younger athletes playing fewer competitive matches, and with less strength training under your belt… and if you train smart!