Periodization training changes the focus of a conditioning program at regular time periods during the year. The periodization plan is divided into cycles referred to as macro-cycles, meso-cycles, and micro-cycles. The macro-cycle is the entire year training program. Meso-cycles lasts one to three months. Micro-cycles lasts one to two weeks (Clark and Lucett, 2015). According to Matt Nichol, strength and conditioning coach for BioSteel, as the summer progresses, players go from recovery to developing strength, then into power and speed (Traikos, 2015).
An off-season hockey training program is divided into the following phases (Clark and Lucett; 2015 and Wathen, 1994):
- Introduce and define the training phases in the periodized program.
- Review the weight training protocols for each training phase.
- Understand how interval training is used in each phase.
- Relate the training phases hockey performance enhancement.
Periodized Training for Hockey
Early Off-Season - Active Recovery
Most players have hockey seasons that last from August to February or March. For other players, their season will end in April or May. This means they are practicing, playing, traveling, doing conditioning, going to school, and trying to have a social life for seven to eight months. This is can be exhausting on the body and mind. The best ways to recover from a long season is to have an active rest phase at the end of the season, lasting two to four weeks. This phase would start approximately one to two weeks after the end of the season or play-offs. This gives players a chance for almost complete rest right after the last game of the season. The length of the active rest phase depends on if the player is injured and/or recovering from an injury, how fatigued the player is, and how long it takes an individual player to recover from the season and get ready for training.
The active rest phase consists of low intensity “cardio” training, body weight training, foam rolling, and as Matt Nichol, strength and conditioning coach for BioSteel is quoted as saying “The first half of the summer, we’re just trying to get these guys into alignment.” (Traikos, 2015).
Muscle Endurance / “Cardio”
Clark and Lucett (2015) suggest the endurance phase is used to develop stabilization and to create optimum strength and postural control. Generally speaking, the endurance phase will last three to four weeks.
The weight training for endurance consists of 2 – 3 sets, 12 – 20 repetitions, 1 – 2 minutes rest between sets. Exercises will include primarily multi-joint exercises for the upper body, and compound exercises for the lower body (squats, lunges, dead lifts).
The “cardio” training for endurance will be low intensity, long duration training of 30 – 45 minutes. Exercises can include: outdoor or indoor running, spin cycling, mountain biking, hiking, elliptical, boot camp style of “cardio,” or circuit training.
The skating training can be started by performing slide board training. The training can consist of 3 - 5 sets of 2 - 4 minutes in duration. It is best for the player to be holding his or her stick when performing the slide board training. Slide board training is a key component to maintaining and developing endurance, strength, and power for the legs. The movements of a slide board are almost identical to those done on the ice when skating. And it trains the same muscles as skating. Electromyographic studies of ice skating have shown that the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis have the most activity during the propulsion phase of skating (Halliwell, 1978; Kumamoto et al., 1972). The other muscles that are important for skating performance include the gluteus maximus, hip adductors, and hip abductors.
Hypertrophy/Low Intensity Interval Training
Hypertrophy training is an important phase for hockey players in order to develop muscle mass. It is specifically designed to develop muscle size (Clark and Lucett, 2015). The exercises used in the phase are similar to the endurance weight training. However, the sets, repetitions, and rest between sets are different. Muscle hypertrophy is best developed with 3 – 5 sets, 8 – 12 repetitions, and 1 minute rest between sets. Generally speaking, the hypertrophy phase will last three to four weeks, but there might be a short “unloading” phase in the middle to give the athletes a short rest from very high intensity training.
To develop muscle hypertrophy, the use of supersets can be beneficial (Wuebben and Stoppani, 2009). Supersets involve doing two different exercises back to back without resting. Examples of supersets could be: Standing Cable Chest Press – Standing Cable Row or Leg Extension – Leg Curl. Wuebben and Stoppani (2009) indicate the research suggests a muscle, or muscle group, receives a strength boost immediately after an intense contraction of its antagonist. The exercises continue to be the same, except that functional training exercises such as battle ropes, ViPR training, and other forms of non-traditional training can be added.
The transition from “cardio” to low intensity interval training is important because it is important to train the appropriate energy system. Montgomery (1988) found that hockey was 65% anaerobic and 35% aerobic. As such, a small amount of training the aerobic energy system is sufficient. The low intensity interval training can be done with Fartlek training. The interval training can be done two days per week for 30 – 45 minutes. Skating training during this phase can be ramped up by adding an exercise to the slide board training.
Muscle Strength/Medium Intensity Interval Training/Plyometrics
The muscle strength phase is designed to enhance maximal strength, recruiting more motor units, increasing the rate for force production, and improving motor unit synchronization (Clark and Lucett, 2015). Developing maximal strength requires 3 – 5 sets, 5 – 8 repetitions, with approximately 1 – 1.5 minute rest between sets (Clark and Lucett, 2015; Wathen, 1994). Generally speaking, the strength phase will last two to four weeks.
The weight training exercises used in the muscle strength phase are either compound or multi-joint exercises done entirely in sport specific postures. For instance, squats, lunges, and deadlifts are all sport specific, but for the upper body, it is important to perform exercises such as standing cable chest press, standing cable row, and medicine ball throws where the athlete must engage the entire closed kinetic chain of muscles.
Medium intensity interval training can be done with the protocol of Tremblay, Simoneau, and Bouchard (1994) who used a procedure of 10 – 15/15 – 30 second intervals or 4 - 5/60 - 90 second intervals at an intensity of 60% - 70%. By this time in the off-season, most players have started skating and doing on-ice training so a slide board is usually not used.
Muscle Power/High Intensity Interval Training/Plyometrics
This phase is the final push before training camp starts and the exercises are designed to get the body ready for high intensity hockey performance. Muscle power is developed by lifting heavy weight at slow speed using 3 – 6 sets of 2 – 5 repetition maximums (Clark and Lucett, 2015; Wathen, 1994). There are fewer exercises used in the power phase for instance: squats, dead lifts, bench press, seated cable row.
Fast, ballistic movements would be used when doing exercises such as medicine chest press throws, medicine ball overhead throw, medicine ball side throw, and medicine ball overhead backward throw. The medicine ball throws can be done on the same days as weight training with one set of each exercise done 10 – 15 repetitions.
The interval training can be using the protocol of Gunnarson and Bangsbo (2012) exercise at 30% of maximum effort for 30 seconds, 60% of maximum effort for 20 seconds, then 100% of maximum effort for 10 seconds, repeated continuously for 5 minutes. This would be alternated every other day with a hockey specific interval training program of 75% - 90% maximum effort for 1 minute followed by 1 minute active rest, repeated for 20 – 30 minutes.
The training week would consist of three days of weight training, two days of plyometric training, two days of “cardio” or interval training. It is in the best interest of the athlete to have at least one day of complete rest in the training week.
Clark, M. A. and Lucett, S. C. (2015). NASM Essentials of Sports Performance. In M. A. Clark, S. C., Lucett, S. C. Sutton, (Ed.), The Science of Periodization and the Optimum Performance Training Model (pp. 385 – 421). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Gunnarsson, T. P. and Bangsbo, J. (2012). The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners. Journal of Applied of Physiology, 113(1):16-24.
Halliwell, A. A. (1978). Determination of Muscle, Ligament and Articular Forces at the Knee During a Simulated Skating Thrust. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of British Columbia.
Kumamoto, M., et al., (1972). Electromyographic Study of the (sic) Ice Skating. International Congress of Winter Sports Medicine, Sapporo, Japan, pp 130 – 134.
Montgomery, D. L. (1988). Physiology of ice hockey. Sports Med, 5: 99 – 126.
Traikos, M. (2015). NHL off-season training regimen not exactly how it appears http://www.torontosun.com/2015/08/31/nhl-players-off-season-training-not-exactly-what-it-seems, Retreived February 22, 2017.
Tremblay, A. Simoneau, J. A. and Bouchard. C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism. Metabolism, 43(7): 814–818.
Wathen, D. (1994). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. In Baechle, T. R. (Ed.), Periodization and Applications (pp. 459 - 472). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Wuebben, J. and Stoppani, J. (2009). Stronger Arms and Upper Body. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.