The Complete Guide To In-Season Hockey Training 2020

Complete Guide to in-season hockey training

Whether players should lift during their hockey in-season training is often confusing. The proven benefits of developing strength for athletes are significant. It’s beneficial for injury prevention, speed, power and more.

There is no question that young hockey players need to be developing strength.  Many make this the focus on their offseason.

After offseason gains are in the books and the season is underway, what should a young hockey player’s in-season training look like?

After all, you only have so many hours and so much energy.  Isn’t the in-season just a time for maintaining the strength you built in the summer?

NO.  If you treat it this way you will fall behind and never reach your potential.

But can you really improve strength when playing a full hockey season? 

YES.  You can increase a lot.

Here’s the key.  Young players need to strength train if they really want to continue improving, but if they train like it’s the off-season they’re doing it wrong.

MYTH: Hockey Players Can’t Lift Heavy Weights In-Season

Decades ago the thought for coaches & players was that during offseason you built strength & power.  In-season you just tried not to lose too much. 

Back in the day, a lot of the training methods came from bodybuilding where it was all about gaining size.  Strength and power were a side-effect.

Bodybuilding methods to gain muscle size are traditionally based on a high volume of exercises and inducing muscle fatigue.

In the off-season, they were grinding to build muscle and strength.  Bodybuilding techniques are great for building muscle mass, and they are built on lots of sets and repetitions.  Lots of time with the muscles under tension. 

In strength training terms; Volume.

Because of this, a common approach to in-season training was built on the idea that lifting heavy would make players too tired. 

The thinking went that if they spent too much energy training, they would be sore and tired.  That would interfere with playing well and skill development.

Instead many people jumped to the conclusion that lifting lighter weights was the way to go.  And if you have a lighter weight, you naturally can do more reps.

The problem is that lowering weight and increasing reps can lead to more fatigue, energy expenditure, and even soreness. 

In elite hockey, that idea was losing steam when mandatory helmets were introduced. 

Now to be fair, it’s true that if you spend in-season doing 2-hour, grinding workouts with high volume, you’ll be fatigued.   As a coach or player that’s not ideal.

On top of that, it also won’t stimulate the neuromuscular system enough to maintain or gain strength.

The reason this approach was abandoned; it didn’t work

Players were fatigued and sore but, they still lost strength.

Even Pros Can Get Stronger In-season

Many people think the demands of a youth hockey season are too much to gain strength. Here’s some perspective; even young pros can still improve strength & power during their season. 

That’s right.  Although they may be in the NHL or the minors playing a full season, many players haven’t fully developed their strength yet.  In their late teens through early twenties, they still have a window of opportunity to improve.

We know because Velocity coaches have done it time and again with individual players and teams.

The key is that they stimulate their nervous system enough to improve.  That’s hard because it takes high intensity and power output to stimulate adaptation.  So how do they do it?

Micro-dosing Training

Hockey in-season training is all about stimulating the central nervous system and muscle, not grinding down the body and tissues to grow muscle.

Fast, explosive and heavy movements are what stimulate that type of adaptation.  They do take focus and a serious effort. In strength training terms; Intensity.

The good news though is that you don’t actually need a lot of it.

You see, it’s the intensity, not the volume that stimulates the change. 

Getting 2-3 small doses of intensity every week will do the trick.

This is what we see with pro and Olympic athletes at the pinnacle of sports.   When they have a demanding schedule they can’t spend the time or energy on long grinding workouts like the off-season.

On the flip side, they also can’t afford to lose strength & power.  That just leads to poor play and injury.  It’s the player who can be at their best-come playoff time who shine.

If You’re Not Gaining You’re Falling Behind

Here’s the scary part; if you get stronger and bigger every off-season, but don’t train in-season you are falling behind.

That’s right, other players who train in-season are getting an edge and developing further. As a really young player, your strength levels will continue to improve just out of natural development. You keep pace.

However, as you hit middle school and older things start to change. Even with great gains in the summer, if you don’t train in-season at best you’ll gain slower. Worse, you can actually be losing strength.

That’s right, getting weaker through a season. For a high school player who has a few years of training under their belt, they can really make gains during the off-season. Yet, once they stop and the stimulus goes away the body will readapt to a lower strength level.

A good hockey in-season training program will stimulate that improvement and stop them from falling behind.

in-season strength training
A player who trains in-season will continue to improve strength. Not as fast as they do in the offseason, but they continue to improve. A player that eliminates strength training, or just does lightweight will slow their gains or actually get weaker during the season. After a few years, the small differences add up to a big advantage to players who train smart!

Get Stronger With the Right Hockey in-season training

So the key is to stimulate the neuromuscular system with small doses of intensity.  What does that mean?

Well, it depends a bit on the developmental level of the athlete.  This means their biological development as well as training experience. 

Get this straight, it’s not about their level of hockey skills. Some very skilled players have barely learned to train off-ice.  Others may hit puberty earlier and some later.  The right training is based on evaluating these factors along with their current strength & power levels.

Middle School Years 

For a middle-school-age athlete, they are approaching or in early puberty. They probably don’t have a lot of strength training experience yet.

An athlete at this age also can recover and adapt quickly.  Plus, they don’t actually have the skill to recruit all their muscle fibers so they never hit the true high intensities.  So overtraining them is really unlikely.

This means they need to be doing some explosive plyometrics, speed drills, and basic strength training.  Because they have such a big window to improve, and a low-level experience, it doesn’t take a lot.

In practice hockey in-season training this age could look like;

  • 2 -3 sessions per week
  • 60-90 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for injury prevention and movement fundamentals
  • Athletic movement, speed, and plyometric drills
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift fundamentals
    • Squat, deadlift
    • Bench, chin, and rows
  • Compound free weight movements that involve multiple joints.
  • Low reps 3-8 at most.  Sets of 3-5 on basic lifts

In fact, the bigger benefit of in-season training for this age of athlete is that they are learning to train.  Learning how to do the exercises right.  They are building the neuromuscular foundation for when hormones kick-in later.

High School or Higher Training Age

For a hockey player of high school age, their physical development is further along.  They may have some experience with strength training now.

For this type of athlete, the requirements go up.  Now they can recruit more of their fast-twitch type muscle fibers.  They can coordinate the movements a bit better.

Therefore, to generate enough intensity they need combinations of two things;  Speed and force. 

Speed

Fast, explosive movements are one way to stimulate the neuromuscular system.  This means things like Olympic lifts with high velocity and power output.  Explosive medicine ball drills.

The muscle needs a high rate of force development to create this stimulus.  Lifting light weights, moving slow, won’t do it.

Traditional strength lifts like the bench, squat or deadlift only move between 0.5 and 0.8 m/s.  That’s just too slow.  Explosive lifts with medium weights should generate movement velocities between 1.0 and 2.0 meters per second.  That’s the stimulus needed.

Force

To really stimulate the fast-twitch fibers and the central nervous system, basic strength lifts need to be heavier.  That requires a higher level of force production.  This stimulates the central nervous system as well.

It also requires multiple muscles and joints under tension.  Isolation exercises just don’t give enough bang for the buck.  Whole-body exercises stimulating lots of muscle groups and joints are the way to go.

Weights need to typically be 85% or more of 1 rep max.  That gets the nervous system fired up.  It also means to avoid fatigue only 2 – 3 reps are needed.

High School hockey in-season strength example

For a developing athlete a hockey in-season training program may look like:

  • 2 -4 sessions per week
  • 30-60 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for prep and injury prevention
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift  
      • velocity of 0.75-1.6 m/s
      • 3-5 sets or 1-3 repetitions
    • Lower body lift – squat, deadlift, step-up, lunge
      • 85% or more of 1RM
      • 2-4 sets of 1-4 reps
    • Upper body lift – press, row, pull-up
    • 2-3 Injury prevention exercises

Sports Recovery

The off-ice training is the stimulus for the body and neuromuscular system to change.  Improvements come for the body and brain’s process of adaptation.

Here’s the thing to take note of; adaptation happens when the athlete recovers.  The work is the stimulus, the recovery is where adaptation happens.

What Is Recovery

Recovery is a term used for the processes every athlete goes through after some type of stress or fatigue.  The return to their previous normal state or slight improvement. 

This recovery process is specific to the type of stress the body experience.  In sports, we classify four types of stress.

Faster Recovery for Hockey Players

When looking at how a young hockey player can recover faster, there are some key strategies we know work. 

The body recovers in all four areas of stress during sleep.  That’s why sleep is the foundation of all recovery.   If you’re not sleeping enough, anything else you do is just a band-aid.

We’ve witnessed the benefits of sleep in athletes for decades with measurable changes in their readiness when they sleep better.  Following a routine and some basic tips can really help athletes sleep better.

Training, practice, and gains create fatigue. During recovery, your body returns to baseline or improves. Over time if you don’t recover you may over train.

The second foundation in sports recovery is basic nutrition.  We aren’t talking in-depth diets or loads of supplements.  Just getting enough of quality foods at the right times.

After these, it becomes about the specific needs you have.  It could be more mobility to help your muscles and joints.  Types of flushing like compression, e-stim or cycling can be great when your legs are heavy after a grinding on-ice session or game.  Or maybe it’s learning to reset mentally with breathing, visualization, floatation or other methods.

Start with the foundation of sleep and nutrition.  Then you can add specific recovery methods to meet the rest of your needs.

Take Your Hockey In-season Strength Training Seriously

Unless you want to fall behind other players, you should take your in-season strength training seriously.  If you are not getting stronger and more powerful in-season you are falling behind.

You can’t train with the same grind of high volume as in the off-season.  However, focusing on consistent training every week and small doses of high intensity will make you better.

The science backs it, decades of experience have shown, and it’s practical to do.  The only question, is why aren’t you training smarter during the season?

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

Olympic Lifting for youth athletes

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

By Coach Tim Hanway CSCS. Sports Performance Director – Norwood
 
Every four years without exception, the world is treated to the Summer Olympic Games. The world’s best athletes assemble and compete for national honor, prestige and glory.
 
It’s Usain Bolt shattering preconceived notions of speed. Simon Biles combining all elements of strength, power, poise and grace in what can only be described as gymnastics masterclass. The level of athleticism at the Olympic Games is truly inspiring.
 
From a sports performance standpoint, coaches like myself view the Olympic Games through a different lens. Specifically, those displays of incredible athleticism stimulate our appetites and thirst for knowledge.
 

Olympic lifts are a common denominator

As coaches, we look at the performances of world-class athletes and ask ourselves; how can we reverse engineer the training process? What allowed these athletes to hit such peak form? How can we also improve own athletes’ performances?
 
I have found that there is a common denominator when looking at the training systems of all athletes. That is, the successful integration of Olympic Lifting into the athlete’s respective training programsOver the years, I have spoke with countless coaches and athletes alike. Reviewed training logs of professional, collegiate and other national level athletes. The Olympic lifts are almost always there.
 
To be successful in the highest level of any sport, athletes need to reach their maximal levels of strength, power and speedOlympic lifting for youth athletes is one strategy to achieve this.
 

Olympic Lifting For Young Athletes; Is It Good?

The beauty of Olympic lifts is that they are hands-down the single-best method for developing the many aspects of strength, power, speed and total-body athleticism.
 
However, Olympic lifts have a highly technical in nature. Sometimes they get a bad reputation from athletes, parents and even strength and conditioning coaches. They can have a perceived difficulty and/or danger.
 
 
However, when Olympic lifting is one of the safest, most versatile and effective methods of training sport-specific athleticism. When they are taught and executed properly.
 
Like so many elements of training, it can be misunderstood. Which is why the purpose of this article is to shed light on Olympic lifting.
 
For young athletes there are many benefits. Incorporating them into your training program can help you achieve newfound levels of performance and enhanced athleticism. So we are providing a general overview of these lifts.
 

The Snatch and Clean & Jerk

The Olympic lifts are broken down into two main categories. These two categories are called the “Snatch” and the “Clean & Jerk”.
 
power ouptut of olympic lifts
As portrayed in the following diagrams, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk lifts are very similar in that in both instances, the movement ends when the bar is
successfully lifted over the athlete’s head.
 
Sports science research shows both have very large power outputs.  Much larger than classic compound strength exercises.
 

The Snatch

The Snatch, according to world renowned Performance Coach, Clive Brewer, is the “most powerful, whole-body human movement possible in sport”. It requires a tremendous explosive effort to move that bar from ground to overhead in one movement.
 
Technical breakdown of snatch olympic lift
Figure 1: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Snatch”
 

The Clean & Jerk

The Clean & Jerk on the other hand, is a two-part exercise where the Snatch ends when the bar is successfully lifted over the athlete’s head. Although nearly identical, the position of the bar and segmented nature of the Clean & Jerk allows athletes to lift even heavier weights than when performing the Snatch.
 
However, because of the heavier weight and greater distance of bar travel, the speed of execution for the Clean & Jerk is slower.
Technical breakdown of the clean & jerk olympic lift
Figure 2: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Clean & Jerk”
 
 
 
With that, the emphasis of power in training (i.e. speed vs. force) becomes the key element in executing the two lifts and more specifically, successfully training the body when performing the Clean & Jerk.
 

Big Force, Small-Time: The Basis of Athletic Power

 
Drilling a soccer ball 50yds from midfield. Soaring through the air to dunk a basketball. Making bone-shattering hits as an offensive lineman. Each of these illustrates the concept of power application.
 
However, as alluded to above when discussing the difference between the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, each of the above three scenarios illustrates different types of power. To understand the difference between the three, we must first discuss what power exactly is:
 
In its simplest terms, power can be described in the following mathematical equation:
 
Power = Force x Velocity
 
“Force” in this equation can be broken down into equaling the product of Mass x Acceleration. Producing force is the application of “strength”.
 
“Velocity” on the other hand, can be described as equaling the distance an object travels divided by the time it takes to get there (Velocity = Distance/time). This is commonly called “speed”.
 
Jumping, sprinting, cutting and exploding from a three-point stance are all examples of sporting skills that each require a high degree of force generation, in the shortest time possible (Force x Velocity).
 
Hence, the mantra ‘Big Force, Small Time’ perfectly captures the essence of optimal sports performance training. Most sports movements require an optimal combination of force and velocity. to be successfully executed at the highest level.
 
 

The force-velocity curve

Either Force or Velocity can be emphasized in the above equation to maximize power output. Depending upon the task at hand, you might want one more than the other.

 
This concept is best illustrated in the following image, which depicts what is commonly known as Sports Science circles as the “Force-Velocity Curve”.
 
the force velocity curve
Figure 3: Illustration of the ‘Force Velocity Curve’
In the diagram you can see the inverse relationship between maximal force and maximal velocity. In a nutshell, the laws of physics state that when resistance or force levels go up, speed of movement goes down and vice-versa.
 
Let me illustrate this concept into force and velocity components. I often ask my athletes; “Which would you rather: Be hit by a cement truck going 10 mph or be hit by a bullet going 1,700 mph?” The look I typically get in return tells me that neither option is considered ideal.
 
In each instance, both the cement truck and fired bullet are considered extremely powerful from a physics standpoint. In the truck scenario, what makes the truck so powerful is the sheer weight and force of the truck of question. What it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in mass.  Getting hit by a truck is very unpleasant!
 
The bullet on the other-hand, is tiny. The mass of such a small object is practically inconsequential on its own, but when traveling at such incredible speeds, represents a powerful and equally dangerous scenario.
 
In conclusion, when it comes to developing athletic performance, not all power situations are created equal. This is part of the reason Olympic lifting for youth athletes is a great way to train power.
 

The Best Athletes “Surf the Curve” In Their Training:

 
I learned the phrase “surf the curve” was one when reading an interview by Nick Grantham and Neil Parsley. They are both highly acclaimed Strength and Conditioning Coaches from the United Kingdom.
 
velocity based strength training
Velocity Sports Performance applies strength training across different parts of the force – velocity curve to optimize athletic performance.

Nick and Neil expressed that for a majority of athletes, in order to achieve optimal power training, there are times in their respective training plans where they have to train more like a “truck”, less like a “bullet” and vice-versa.

 
The reason for this is that for so many sports, both elements of power (i.e. Force and Velocity/Speed emphasis) are present when describing the skills and abilities necessary to attain peak performance.
 
Take our football player as an example: the football player making a tackle represents a skill with a high force component. Whereas, that same player exploding off the line of scrimmage to beat his man and chase the opposing quarterback, represents a skill with a high velocity component. Therefore, both elements of power (i.e. big force and big velocity) are necessary to compete at the highest level as a football lineman.
 
Strength and Conditioning Coaches describe this point of emphasis when it comes to training power as either a “Strength – Speed” or “Speed – Strength” emphasis. 
For example, let’s look at two different strength types in the same basic movement pattern. A bench press executed with explosiveness, could be considered a “Strength-Speed” exercise. Whereas a light, fast medicine ball chest throw could be considered an example of a “Speed-Strength” exercise (greater speed or velocity emphasis).
 

Olympic Lifts: Giving Athletes the Best of Both Worlds

 
Now that power has been clearly defined, and the relationship between force and velocity clearly understood, one can start to fully appreciate the ‘complete package’ of Olympic lifts.
 

Olympic lifts aren’t the only way to increase power

Let’s be clear, medicine balls, plyometrics, and speed work are also essential to overall athletic success. Anyone that has sat through my podcast of maximal speed training has heard how much I value focused, precise and biomechanically sound speed work.
 
The truth is that each of the above three classifications of exercises represent focused training strategies that are scientifically proven to maximize peak power output, especially from a speed-strength standpoint.
 
Conversely, I also love the regular incorporation of heavy, key compound lifts, including overhead and horizontal pressing movements like the military press and bench press, upper-body pulling movements and classic lower-body strength exercises.
 
What each of these broad categorizations of lifting movements have in common, is the high degrees of coordinated, muscular-strength efforts necessary to complete each of these lifts successfully.
 
However, Olympic lifts provide athletes with the best of both worlds.  To illustrate, in revisiting both the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, one can appreciate the degrees of power necessary to navigate the bar overhead from a stationary floor position.
 
What is not captured in the static images for either the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk however, is the requisite strength, explosive power, precision, and total-body coordination necessary to successfully navigate such impressive weights from the ground to an overhead position.
 
It is only through such highly precise, coordinated muscular efforts where high levels of athletic power can be achieved to successfully attempt either of the two types of Olympic lifts.
 

Olympic lifts provide one type of sports specificity 

Arguably, from a ‘sports specificity’ standpoint, the Olympic lifts successfully capture the rapid triple-extension qualities of the ankles, knees and hips so often encountered in sports (see below images):
running
 
arm care program for baseball and softball players
 
building young athletes female goalie
 
elite training
Each Demonstrations of the rapid ‘Triple-Extension’ of the hips, ankles and knees as they relate to sport
 
Virtually all sporting actions require a forceful triple-extension of the hip, knee and ankle. Whether sprinting, cutting, making a tackle, or attempting to jump for a serve, triple-extension is there.
 
Plyometrics, speed work and heavy compound lifts, are tools that represent invaluable components of my own coaching ‘arsenal’. Utilizing a combination of these tools throughout a training plan can lead to substantial gains in performance. There is no question that even in the absence of Olympic lifting, athletes can still achieve increases in athletic power.
 

Training efficiently

Athletes and coaches have limited time and effort to spend in the weight room. The question I usually ask myself as a coach when creating a program is; what types of lifts and activities are going to give my athletes the most ‘bang for their buck’. What will give them the greatest return from their training investment in the weight room?
 
The answer is Olympic lifts. Programming olympic lifting for youth athletes combines high levels of strength, speed, power and total-body coordination. 
 
Let’s return to the key distinction between the two lifts as well as our ‘Force-Velocity’ Curve.  By nature the Snatch is considered by many coaches to be more of a ‘Speed-Strength’ exercise. Whereas the Clean & Jerk is considered more of a ‘Strength-Speed’ exercise. This due to a combination of factors which includes the bar speeds and degrees of resistance encountered in both lifts.
 
Overall, both versions of the Olympic lifts in a training program allows athletes to effectively ‘surf the curve’ in their training. These lifts rely on the successful application of high force and high speeds. It is impossible to attempt either the Snatch or Clean & Jerk slowly.
 
Unlike plyometrics or medicine ball work, Olympics lifts can have a very wide range of resistanceInstead of relying on either body weight or small, weighted implements, Olympic lifts us adjustable barbells and weight. A coach can adjust the plates in order to achieve optimal resistance levels.
 

Summary:

There are numerous benefits that strength and power training has on sports performance. Speed training, plyometrics and classic strength training exercises can all provide athletes with exceptional gains in performance and athleticism.
 
Olympic lifting for youth athletes provides athletes with the ultimate “X-Factor” when it comes to training.
 
These lifts closely mimic the force and velocity demands of sport. As a result, they allow athletes to make monumental both strength and power gains in the weight room. They are efficient. One exercise gives multiple strength benefits.
 
Still the argument persists that these movements too technical for some athletes.  The truth is that once mastered, Olympic lifts provide young athletes what’s needed.  An array of exercises and drills that transfer to on-field performance.
 
Youth athletes that can learn Olympic lifts at a young age benefit from a superior training stimulus. Their successful incorporation also adds the confidence to execute one of the most common lifting skills in the sports world.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Big Force

speed training drills
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Getting Stronger for Speed

These 2 important drills help you to develop BIG FORCE qualities.  Although these are not weight room drills, strength training for speed development is important.  To be fast, athletes need to train in the weight room and do it properly.

You need to develop some of the specific strength qualities in these drills to improve your speed.  They are very specific to building strength for speed.  They are proven speed training drills that build specific strength and have a high carryover from training to application.

MORE FOR YOU:  The Science of Strength For Speed

Box Blast Exercise

The Box Blast is a speed training drill that lets you focus on maximum power.  The basic alignment of the limbs and torso is similar to the acceleration phase of sprinting.  Most importantly, the muscle motion is a piston-like action which we observe the acceleration phase.

Heavy Sled Runs

This is another greater drill that is highly specific to strength for speed.  Speed training drills like this need to be executed with great form and body alignment.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop the force production capabilities of athletes.  Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll the results transfer to game speed.

WANT TO GET FASTER: The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training

Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

strength training helps prevent injury

Stay In The Game

In elite sports there is a lot of emphasis put on injury prevention.  It doesn’t matter how good you are if you are sitting on the bench, hurt.

Teams and athletes look to us to reduce their risk of injury.  We know there are many parts to injury prevention, but the foundation is often strength.

For the last 20 years, Velocity Sports Performance has known that good strength training is injury prevention.

  • Our experience with athletes in 11 Olympic Games backs it up.
  • Our experience with thousands of professional athletes backs it up.
  • A growing body of scientific research is starting to catch up.

is Youth strength training safe

RELATED:  Is Youth Strength Training Safe?

 

You need to know: strength is more than just weight on a barbell

Types of Strength
When you speak about strength or being strong, what do you imagine? An athlete hoisting a barbell loaded with heavy weight in a Squat or Bench Press? How about an Olympic weightlifter explosively moving 400 pounds from the floor to over his head in a single movement?
 
These types of things are often considered “strong,” but what about other sporting actions? How about sprinting at full speed, jumping high, or throwing and kicking?  Most people become unsure whether or how strength is part of these movements.

Defining Strength

What is strength in general and specifically for athletes?  Strength is all about physics, and we are talking about Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion: in a nutshell, Force is equal to Mass multiplied by Acceleration.
 
Strength is a way of talking about the application of force. An athlete can apply force to the ground, to an opponent, to a ball or other piece of sports equipment, or even internally to his or her own body.

Mass & Magnitude

The mass in this equation is what’s being moved. As an athlete that could be things like:
  • a ball or stick in your hands, to
  • your own body weight (jumping, sprinting and cutting)
  • a 300-pound linemen
  • 500 pounds on a barbell

Acceleration and Time

One thing most people recognize is that in sports, doing things quicker is usually an advantage. Athletes don’t have unlimited time to apply force.
 
Acceleration is how fast something increases its speed. The faster the acceleration, and thus the speed, the shorter the time.
 
In sprinting or agility, your foot is in contact with the ground for a limited time. In jumping, there is limited time, and doing it faster than your opponent can be key.  When throwing or kicking a ball or swinging a racket, bat or stick, you want it moving as fast as possible.
 
Speed of movement matters.

Muscle Action

In physics, force is what we call a “vector.” This means it has a magnitude (how much?) and a direction (which way?). Direction matters because forces can be applied in different directions for different effects.
 
One thing to consider about direction is whether the muscle is lengthening or shortening during the contraction. When it’s contracting and getting shorter (e.g., bringing the bar up in a Bicep Curl), it’s called a “concentric” action.
 
If you’re applying force while the muscle lengthens (e.g., while slowly lowering the bar in the 2nd half of the Bicep Curl), it’s called an “eccentric” action.
 
Types of muscle contractions:
  • CONCENTRIC = Shortening
  • ECCENTRIC = Lengthening
Eccentric and concentric strength are not the same. The same muscles may be used, the same structures and contractile proteins, and the same lints moved. Yet, the brain uses different motor control strategies. For the same action concentrically or eccentrically the motor control is different.

Physiology & Motor Control

Another important thing to understand about strength for athletes is where it comes from.  Often people equate strength with bigger muscles. This is for good reason, because they are related, although not perfectly and not for all types.
 
Generating force with your body is a combination of the structure of your muscles (size and biological content) and your neuromuscular control. The muscle is your engine to develop horsepower, but your brain is the driver that decides how hard you push the pedal.

Sport-Specific Strength

When we analyze an athlete in his or her sport, we observe various forms of movement. Speed, agility, jumping, throwing, kicking, hitting, twisting, landing and so on are movement caused by how an athlete generates force.
 
It follows that all types of athletic movement are based on how you generate and apply strength.
 
Still, how can everything be about strength? Is what your muscles do squatting a full barbell different from what they do when you throw a baseball that only weighs ounces?
 
The answer to understanding strength is actually composed of different combinations of Newton’s 2nd Law. Force = Mass multiplied by Acceleration

Playing with the Equation

In different movements we manipulate the 3 parts of the equation—Force, Mass and Acceleration (Speed & Time). The we consider the direction of contraction (eccentric or concentric). Now we have a way to analyze sports movements and strength types.
 
We use this movement-based approach to simplify complex biomechanics into 6 specific types of strength.

6 Types of Strength

Max Strength

This is the basic capability of the muscle to produce a forceful contraction. In application it also involves coordinating multiple muscle groups across multiple joints. The amount of force that can be generated regardless of the time it takes to develop and apply it is called max strength. This is what we call this type of strength even when he or she is under sub-maximal loads.
Maximum strength
Using a car analogy, imagine a big industrial dump truck. It may not move fast, but it can move big loads.

Eccentric Strength

As mentioned before, motor control is different if the action is concentric or eccentric. The capacity to develop high levels of eccentric force is key in sports. Actions such as landing from a jump, stopping, changing direction, winding up to throw a ball and swinging a bat are all eccentric in nature.
When we come to cars, think brakes.  Eccentric strength is like having great brakes on a car to handle those high speeds. An F1 racer has to have great brakes so he or she can go into turns as fast as possible before braking.

Strength-Speed Power

Most sports applications of force involves doing it quickly. Faster is usually better. This is where power comes in. Power is equal to the velocity times the force. Increasing either force or the speed its applied will lead to more power.
strength speed
When an athlete applies force rapidly to a larger load (e.g., blocking another lineman or pushing a bobsled), it’s what we term Strength-Speed Power. “Strength” is first in the name because it’s the bigger component in generating the power. This is like a NASCAR racer who can apply a lot of torque (force), moving the car even at high speeds.

Speed-Strength Power

Here it’s the “speed” of movement (or short time of force application) that is the larger factor in generating the power. Think of an athlete swinging a bat, throwing a ball, or applying force to the ground during high velocity sprinting.
The racing analogy is more akin to motorcycle racing—still applying force at high speeds (like NASCAR), but against much lighter loads.

Rate of Force Development

This is the drag racer. In a drag race, the goal is to go from 0 mph to full speed in as little time as possible. This is the same quality that creates quickness in an athlete. Rapid movement of the limbs, a quick release of the ball throwing or a shot in hockey, fast feet for soccer. Being able to rapidly generate force, regardless of whether the force level is high is known as Rate of Force Development.
Rate of Force Development
A drag racer coming off the line and getting up to speed as fast as possible is a good car analogy.

Reactive Strength

This one’s a combo. It’s a fast eccentric action coupled with a high RFD force. Think of rapid footwork, or a quick step to change direction and juke an opponent. Or the second quick jump when a basketball player comes down and goes back up quickly to get a rebound.
We use a motocross bike as the analogy. Because it has high Rate of Force Development with eccentric-type landings of bumps that gives it that “springy” quality.

Developing Strength that’s Functional

At the end of the day, athletes want the type of strength that will help them perform at the highest level and gives them the resilience to stay healthy.
 
Every athlete needs a base across all six types of strength. While it seems to make sense to go straight to the specific type of strength for your sport, it’s not the best strategy.
 
Doing that actually limits development and long term potential. During early stages of strength training, a broad base of strength is important. Even at the elite levels of sport, athletes mix strength types during different parts of the year.
 
As you progress in your development and level of competition, you begin to focus on the specific qualities. The strength types more important to your sport, your position and even your individual genetics and style of play.
 
Strength is much more than how much you can lift on the barbell.

TRAINING: 3 drills to help you stop on a dime

Better Agility: Stop on a dime

Almost every sport is about more than just running fast or a huge vertical. Pick one, and we’ll bet that most of the action happens around changing direction. For the majority of the athletes with whom we work at Velocity around the country, this means they have to be just as good at stopping as they are at starting. Without good brakes, they simply can’t control their speed.

RELATED: Do Athletes Need A Bigger Engine or Better Brakes?

Three of our coaches have chosen their favorite drill to help their athletes have strong, fast brakes so that they can stop on a dime.

Level Lowering Ladder

One of the most basic skills an athlete needs to change direction is the ability to maintain proper position during deceleration. One of the tools we like to use at Velocity is the agility ladder because it helps focus the athlete on foot position and accuracy in addition to whatever skills we choose to address that day.

To do these drills, athletes first need to have the coordination to perform basic ladder drills well, such as swizzle, scissor switches, and the icky shuffle. Once the athlete can perform each of these without difficulty, they can modify the drill and pause as they drop their center of mass, stopping themselves in the proper position. The most basic, and therefore most important, positions in sports are the square, staggered, and single leg stance. A mini-band can be placed around the athlete’s knees to create awareness of proper knee position.  If the athlete adds a medicine ball into the drill, they can work on more ballistic/dynamic eccentric movement with a different stimulus.

The athlete needs to lower his/her center of mass to create “triple flexion” in lower extremity joints: hip, knee, and ankle. The center of mass, knee, and ground contact must be in a good alignment to keep the movement safe and efficient.

Most importantly, the athlete must achieve proper hip hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankle. The vast majority of non-contact injuries occur during deceleration, often at knees or ankles. Learning how to absorb (load) force with proper body position (hip hinge, stable knee, and dorsiflexed ankle) will help prevent these injuries.

Springs and Shocks Ladder

The agility ladder is a great tool to help our athletes develop their shocks and springs.

When it comes to speed, athletes need to be springy and quick off the ground. When we talk about “springs,” we mean our athletes’ ability to be faster by using the elastic properties of their muscles.

“Shocks” means having the ability to absorb impact and force so our athletes can stop safely and quickly. This drill emphasizes both abilities and applies to any sport.

How to do the drill:

through the ladder try to be a quick as you can off of the ground. This is where we focus on our springs. When we land we want to land and be under control. The more control we have when decelerating the safer our body will be when changing direction. Most important part of the landing is keeping the body in proper position and not allowing a valgus knee.

Important details to watch are: position and control. We want an athlete to be able to develop the strength and control through the proper range of motion. This is especially important as we begin to add not speed or distance. Do not let athletes progress unless they can properly and effectively let control their landing for at least 2 seconds.

Resisted Deceleration March Series

Slowing down is often the most challenging aspect of changing direction and requires the athlete to absorb more force than at any other phase of the movement. This series of drills teaches athletes to keep good posture and body-alignment during deceleration. When we add a concentric movement (explosiveness) immediately followed by a deceleration phase the drill also develops reactive strength and power in the athlete.

How to do the drills:

  1. Position the athlete in a good athletic base with a resistance band or bungee cord around their waist. The partner holding the band increases resistance by pulling toward the direction where deceleration needs to occur.
  2. The athlete controls their posture while moving toward “the direction of pull”. Their shin is a very important detail and must point away from the direction of pull. This helps their foot dig into the ground and resist the momentum that is trying to keep them moving in their original direction.
  3. The ground contact, knee, and athlete’s center of mass should be in alignment and proper posture maintained.
  4. If you want to incorporate an explosive moment, have the athlete perform any form of change-of-direction movement, such as a lateral push, crossover step, or jump.

Important details to watch are:

  1. Make sure the athlete understand the basic athletic base position. Hip-hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankles are very important.
  2. The level resistance needs to be appropriate to their strength and ability. You may adjust this by using a different size resistance band or the distance between the athlete and partner.
  3. Ground contact, shin angle, knee position, and the athlete’s center of mass stay aligned (away from the direction of pull).
  4. Make sure the athlete is not leaning on the band.
  5. Eccentric control first, then concentric! Make sure your athletes understand how to use the brakes before they hit the gas pedal.

HOCKEY TRAINING: Five Exercises to Help you Battle in the Corners

Hockey training

We do a lot of work with hockey athletes here at Velocity, and one thing they all share in common is that they are ready to work. Hockey has a long tradition of grueling training, and that’s because being on the ice is a fight (sometimes literally, though that’s not what we’re talking about here).

As performance coaches, we love athletes who aren’t afraid to get after it – the ones who are going to leave a trail of sweat on the gym floor when they’re done. Hockey players always fit this description, so we wanted to give all of you ice-warriors a few exercises to help you win when you’re up against the boards, fighting it out in the corners.

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight You Can Lift On A Barbell

Add these to your training program and we bet you’ll win more of those corner battles on your way to winning the war.

Exercise 1: The Burpee

For such a simple exercise, few movements forge mental toughness and an unbreakable body like the burpee. With little more required than “get down to the floor and get back up,” it develops a mindset and work ethic that won’t quit, which is critical for winning the battle of the boards during all three periods and beyond. If you want to learn how to bend but not break, all while preparing your body for grinding competition, then burpees are for you.

To begin, drop your chest to the ground as quickly as you can while under control. Maintaining tension through your midsection during the descent is critical to a clean, efficient burpee. Next, push away from the floor, snapping your hips up so your feet land under your hips and jump. Spend as little time on the ground as possible – if you want to build a better motor you have to practice going as fast as you can. It’s that simple: get down, get back up! This simple exercise is a fantastic tool for the body and the mind because you have to keep your body moving even when it wants to give out – a skill every hockey player needs.

 

This physical and mental strength will serve you well the next time your opponent picks your most exhausted moment to come after you. If nothing else, the burpee teaches you how not to give up.

Exercise 2: Keiser Pulley Push-Pull

This cable exercise is a great way to build whole-body explosive power in a rotational pattern.  When you are fighting along the boards, it’s not just about pushing or pulling in one direction. When you need to knock the other guy off his skates, rotational movement from your skates all the way through your upper body makes the difference. Build this type of explosiveness and you’re sure to win more battles.

We like to use the Keiser trainer for this exercise because its unique air resistance lets us move more explosively and measure an athlete’s power output, but you can use any cable trainer that has two arms.

In a good athletic stance, use your legs and hips to rotate your body. Transfer that power to an explosive pulling and punching motion with the arms. Control it on the way back to the start position.  

 

Exercise 3: Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge

This exercise is designed to strengthen the legs and core in the frontal plane of movement (side to side). It challenges the athlete’s ability to resist and absorb lateral forces as well as produce force coming out of the lunge. These abilities are critical not only for general skating but also for staying on your skates while pushing back against your opponent as you fight for the puck.

To do the Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge, you need to:

  • Hold two kettlebells in the front-rack position with elbows forward and not to side
  • Maintain a rigid torso
  • Take a large step to the side with toe pointed forward (not to the side) while keeping the other foot in place
  • As you lower yourself to the side, keep your chest up, core tight, and feet flat
  • Push your hips backward
  • Get as low as possible while maintaining posture
  • Push back to original standing position with speed and continue to maintain posture
  • Repeat on the opposite side and continue to alternate for the prescribed repetitions

Exercise 4: Anti-Rotational Stability Chop

This exercise is designed to improve athletes core control in different positions. It teaches the athlete to engage and brace his or her core while the rest of the body is doing other tasks. This ability is critical for all movements on the ice, but especially at the point of contact.

To do the Anti-Rotational Stability Chop, you need to learn basic breathing technique and lumbo-pelvic control. Then you can apply the exercise to different base positions, such as: Tall-Kneeling, Half-Kneeling, Split Stance, and Standing.

 

Exercise 5: Airex Pad Single Leg Stability

The is a simple exercise that can be performed with or without equipment. It forces the athlete to focus on balance and stability at the hip, knee, and ankle of the working leg. Even though it doesn’t involve any weights or powerful movements, the improved balance and stronger stability you will gain will make you a tougher skater to knock down.

To perform this exercise, stand with both feet together and one small ball of any type in each hand (LAX ball, baseball, tennis ball, whatever you have). Start with your feet on the ground and progress to standing on a balance pad when you need more of a challenge. While hinging at the hip and keeping your back flat, bring your chest forward and down by bending one knee while keeping the opposite leg straight. Reach across your body with the right hand, placing the ball on the ground. Return to standing position and try to maintain your single leg stance. Next, reach across your body with the left hand to place the ball on the ground. After you’ve stood back up, repeat the process to pick up the balls. Small cones may also be used: instead of setting something down and picking it up, you have to touch the cones.

3 ways to get an edge on the ice: hockey specific training

Hockey Strength training

Every player who wants to excel is working hard on the ice.  But it’s your off-ice training  hat’s a great opportunity to get an edge over other players. If you want to get ahead and not fall behind the competition, here are three keys to your off-ice training.

Get Stronger

Off-ice is the place to get strong. With general physical growth young players get stronger and practicing hard will build some strength, but it’s a lot tougher. If you can get in the gym 2-4 days a week for you’ll see incredible gains.

Strength has a correlation with reduced injury risk, lower-body power, and on-ice speed. To get these benefits, a hockey player needs to increase his or her athletic strength. This means your strength training must be ground based, use multi-muscle/joint exercises, and include elements of both force production and rapid muscle contraction.

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight You Can Lift On A Barbell

Build Athleticism

While it may seem to be counterintuitive, training to improve your hockey game doesn’t always mean more hockey drills. When you increase your overall athleticism through dynamic movement training or even playing another sport, you challenge your coordination, functional strength, and have fun at the same time.

Building a broad base of athletic skills can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries and increase your long-term potential. When an NHL team has a choice between two equal players, they typically pick the one who is more athletic across a broad spectrum.

Get/Stay Fit

Hopefully you worked hard in the off-season to get fit.  When you are in-season, don’t lose your fitness. No one wants to go into the new season fit, only to lose some of it if practices are running slow or there’s limited ice time.

Keeping up your base of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is key even if you’re not on the ice. In-season, one day of longer aerobic work helps maintain or build a good base and help you recover from the strength and power work.  Another 1-2 days can be used for higher intensity intervals and circuit style workouts.

Use the your off-ice to get an edge. If you’re fast now, you can get faster. The strong can be stronger, and the fit can be fitter. Imagine where you want to be at the start of next season and get to work!

LEARN MORE:

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

3 Secrets To Quickly Improve Your Off-Ice Hockey Training

3 Secrets to Quickly Improve Your Hockey Training

Yo and Steve Nash

Hockey players know that they while they need superior hockey skills on the ice, they also need to work off the ice to keep up with the competition. You can use your off-ice training time more effectively by adding these three steps to quickly get ahead of others.

Strength and Stability on One Leg

Part of developing athletic strength is the ability to apply force the same way you do in your sport. For hockey, that means you need to be able to explosively push-off of a single leg, stabilizing the hip and core as you do it. While common strength training like squats and deadlifts are a great start, they are bi-lateral exercises (they use both legs).  A great way to take your results to a higher level is to add some uni-lateral (single leg) exercises.

Training on a single leg might not let you lifts as much weight, but it will certainly lead to high levels of muscle activation while adding balance and stability to the mix.  Some ways to add single leg strengthening to your mix could include:

  • Single Leg RDL: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg
  • Bulgarian Split Squat: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg
  • Lateral Box Step Up: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg

Build Your Power Through Plyometrics

While basic strength training builds a foundation, you need to develop power to be more explosive on the ice. Power is the combination of strength applied with speed.  Olympic lifting and plyometric exercises are two great ways that both develop strength and speed.

One of the advantages of plyometrics is that they can be performed on a single leg to work on stability and balance at the same time. They also can be done focusing on movement in vertical, horizontal, lateral, and diagonal directions.  These are all things that build a better hockey player.

The list of potential exercises is long and includes any form of jumping, bounding, sprinting, and medicine ball throws. A few suggestions are:

  • Squat Jump or Box Jump: 3-5 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Lateral Jumps or Split Jumps: 3 sets x 5-8 reps per leg
  • Hurdle Hops: 3 sets x 3-8 hurdles (line them up in a row)
  • Clap Push-Ups: 3-5 sets x 5 reps
  • Kneeling Med Ball Chest Passes: 3-5 sets x 5-8 reps

Train Your Core to Transmit Power

Most hockey players recognize that a strong and stable core is important for performance and preventing injuries. Unfortunately, the majority of training time is spent on crunches, sit-ups, and a long list of their variations.

There can be a place for these in training, but excessive use can actually stress the spine more and create imbalances, all while ignoring key functions of the core. We have to understand that the core isn’t designed to create and initiate diagonal or rotational movement; its key function in hockey is transmitting forces from the lower body and stabilization so you can use your upper body.

Think of both resisting movement through the core as well as making it move. Then think of training in all directions. A few suggestions could include:

  • Pallof press: 8-15 reps x 3
  • Diagonal Cable Chop/lift: 8-15 reps x 3 per side
  • Sit-Ups: 10-15 reps x 3
  • Medicine Ball Rotational Throws: 5-10 reps x 3 per side
  • Side Plank: :30-:45 sec x 3 per side

MORE HOCKEY TRAINING:

3 Ways To Get an Edge: Hockey Specific Training

Hockey training: 5 Exercises To Help You Battle in the Corners