ICE-HOCKEY OFF-SEASON TRAINING: Part 2

OFF-SEASON TRAINING: THE MISTAKES TO AVOID

In Part 1 we looked at why it’s so important for Hockey Players to get their off-season training right, both as preparation for the next season and long-term athletic development.
In this post we’re going to be looking at why so many people screw it up, and a couple of the typical mistakes that people make. So, if you want to unleash your athletic potential this off-season, these are the things to avoid!
Why Do So Many People Screw-Up the Off-Season?
If you want to play a sport like ice-hockey at an elite level, you need to possess a variety of different athletic qualities. You need a combination of strength, power, speed, aerobic fitness, local muscle endurance, mobility, stability, agility etc.
All of these qualities are important in their own right, but they can also interact with each other in a variety of ways. This interaction is sometimes positive and sometimes negative. So, training one athletic quality may support and even accelerate the development of another, but it also may screw it up completely.
Basically, this means that you can’t just train all of these different factors at once and expect to get great results. In order to optimise your development as an athlete and make continual improvement year after year, you need to develop the right athletic qualities at the right time of year. i.e. You need to Periodise your training.
In order to optimise your development as an athlete, you need to Periodise your training
Unfortunately, since most athletes, parents, teachers and even coaches have limited understanding of exercise physiology and the rationale for periodisation, they end up using their intuition to guide their training instead. As we will discuss below, this intuitive approach usually runs into problems that don’t just limit athletic development but also increase the risk of injury.
I should point out that this isn’t meant to be a criticism of people that are trying hard to improve, or help their kids improve, but an attempt to take that enthusiasm and point in the right direction.
In fact, even some well-respected off-ice (S & C) coaches still make the very same mistakes. I think we all know those coaches who are just stuck in the past with their ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’ attitude to training, when they should be taking the opportunity to learn and improve.
So, whether you’re an athlete, parent or even a coach it’s important to know which mistakes to avoid… let’s dig in…
The Problem With the Intuitive Approach to Training 
The intuitive approach to training assumes that in order to optimise performance your training needs to mimic the demands of the sport. i.e. In order to dominate on the ice, your off-ice training should replicate as closely as possible the movements made on the ice, and the metabolic demands of your on-ice performance.
Whilst this may seem like a reasonable idea at first, it basically means that you end up training to be match-fit throughout the year… an approach which will lead you into the following traps…
  1. Doing Too Much Conditioning
The fact is that training to be match-fit in the off-season won’t win you medals… But it might lose you them.
How? …By interfering with your long-term gains.
As we discussed in Part 1, the off-season is your big opportunity to focus on the things that are difficult to train in-season; i.e. becoming a fast, explosive athlete. To do that, you need to train your neuro-muscular system to produce more force and with more speed, and you do that by lifting heavy weights and moving fast. It’s this neuro-muscular training and resultant adaptation that is going to be the basis of your athletic development and give you that extra power and speed on the ice.
Now, when you perform aerobic training or ‘cardio’, you are moving relatively slowly against basically no resistance (except gravity), so you’re actually training yourself to do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. In doing so you are sending the wrong signals to the body and limiting your neuro-muscular adaptation.
Doing ‘cardio’ is actually training yourself to do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve
This is a concept known as competing demands, which basically means that you can’t ride two horses with one saddle. Or, to put it another way, if you want to improve as a sprinter you shouldn’t train like a long-distance runner. As we said earlier, if you want to optimise your training, you need to structure (periodise) your training to minimise these competing demands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that aerobic fitness isn’t important. You need a good aerobic base to be able to train properly and recover effectively between your off-season training sessions. And, of course, by the end of the off-season your conditioning needs to be spot on, as it’s vital to your on-ice performance. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how explosive and fast you are if you run out of gas in the first play!
As always, the important thing is balance, and getting the timing right…
  • If you start aerobic training too soon, it will screw up your strength, power & speed development.
  • If you start it too late, you won’t have the energy to display your strength, power and speed
If you want to make sure that you get the balance right in your off-season training, then check out Part 3, coming soon!
  1. Overuse of Sport-Specific Movements
As we discussed in Part 1, at the end of a long hard season, your body is a mess. Not just from the repeated pounding, but from the muscle imbalances that develop due to the constant repetition of those unnatural on-ice movements.
If you follow the intuitive approach to your off-season training, you would carry on getting as much time as possible on the ice, and your off-ice training would focus on training those same sport-specific movement patterns, for example using a slide-board.
So, instead of allowing your body recover and helping it to rebalance, you are actually just reinforcing the very same imbalances and movement dysfunctions that you developed in-season. This continual overuse of the same muscles and joints is going to increase your risk of developing an overuse injury, and even if you don’t get injured during your off-season, it’s likely that you’re just storing up problems for later and may well suffer once the season gets into full swing again.
So, once again, we see that following this intuitive training approach is basically like shooting yourself in the foot. You’re working your butt off and all you are really doing is making your problems worse…. A great way to screw up your off-season!
On the flip side, however, if you avoid these movements all off-season, you’re not going to be prepared for when you get back on the ice. This lack of preparation will also increase your risk of injury, and is one reason we see so many injuries during pre-season training and the start of the season.
So, once again, the key is to get the balance right. You need to help your body recover from the previous season, but you also need to train those sport-specific movements so that you’re ready to hit it hard when preseason starts without putting yourself at risk of injury.
If you want to find out exactly how you should approach your off-season to ensure that you recover properly from the previous season and then prepare yourself properly for the next, then please join me in Part 3 coming soon!
And remember, if you have any questions or you just want help with your off-season training program, just get in touch… we’re here to help.
Until next time,
Train Smart.. Play Hard!
James