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The Importance of In Season Training in Hockey

The grind of a hockey season can take a toll on a player’s body. There can be upwards of 50-60 games plus two to three practices a week and private training during a season that can run from August until USA Hockey Nationals in April. This grind can break down the muscles in the body leading to decreased performance and possible acute or overuse injuries. A common oversight is to either stop “Dryland” training during the season or to train the wrong systems leading to more breakdowns in the body. There is a reason all NHL teams have a full time Strength and Conditioning Coach that works with the team during the season. A big portion of their job is to make sure each player is prepared to meet the demands that will be placed on them throughout the year. The players that play a ton of minutes will need more recovery work to maintain strength and recover better to perform at their best in the next game. The player who is either scratched or does not get a lot of playing time may need a more intense program to prepare them for when they are asked to play a bigger role.

The goal of an in season program is to prepare the athlete to play at their best each and every game. This means the program will have to change throughout the season. Understanding a team’s schedule including games, practices, travel and intensity as well as how the players are feeling both physically and mentally need to be taken into consideration when devising a proper program. For instance, in the beginning of a season, the program can be based more towards aerobic and anaerobic work to prepare for the games to come. As the season progresses, the focus may shift to maintaining strength and doing the things necessary to remain healthy including resistance exercises and deceleration drills. Following a tournament or showcase weekend, the focus may be more on recovery work such as foam rolling, mobility and injury prevention exercises. By making these modifications throughout the season you will maximize your performance while reducing injuries.

Chris Phillips is a certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist and owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, CA. Chris spent 8 seasons as an Athletic Trainer in the NHL.