The Strength-Speed Continuum.. The Key to Hockey Off-Season Training

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

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A big part of what we do here at RPP is setting our athletes up for success in their respective sports. This requires not only great programming, but great timing in regards to whether a player is in their in-season or off-season.  Let’s face it, everyone wants strength and speed and a well-designed program should deliver on both. Strength is a huge foundation for producing power so the general idea is to make an athlete as strong as possible in the beginning of the off-season and then use this strength to increase speed (power) as we get closer to the start of the season.

For example, we train a lot of baseball players and hockey players but if you walk into RPP on any given day the workouts would be completely different due largely to the fact that one sport will be in-season and one is in their off-season. Let’s take a look at what this means using this “off season” timeline:

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Now let’s review each of these phases one at a time.

Strength: This is the first few months of the offseason and also the time to get strong. Low reps combined with high intensities are used. Very little conditioning or movements specific to the sport are done at this time. The athlete has just finished being explosive and playing their sport all season so we’re really trying to emphasize strength training using the big movements (i.e. deadlifts, squats, pressing and pulling movements). This is particularly effective with our younger athletes who are just starting a strength program for the first time. They have spent their entire childhood at the far right of the timeline above so their bodies are primed and ready to get strong. West Milford Hockey’s Chris Dressler demonstrates single leg training with split squats below.

(Split Squats)

Strength/Speed: As the off-season progresses, we move a little more to the right of the timeline.  Adding explosive lifts such as hang cleans, as well as introducing rotary movements with resistance such as med ball throws into the strength program, begin to get the athlete moving while still creating a strength training effect.

(Med Ball Shovel Pass)

Speed/Strength: Conditioning drills and movements more specific to the sport begin to be added to the program as we get the athlete ready to begin their next season.  For example with hockey players we incorporate slide board sprints, weighted complexes (a series of exercises performed in sequence without stopping to replace the heavier intensity sets in the weight room), and transitional sprints (notice I didn’t say long distance running) which are change-of-direction drills specific to movements on the ice to name a few.

(Sled Crossover)

Speed: This is generally 4-6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Our main focus is to apply the strength we have acquired in the off-season to create power in movements that will translate over to on-ice speed and endurance. In addition to strength training, transitional sprint work and plyometrics (box, hurdle jumps, etc.) are ramped up to comprise roughly 20% of the program and even more movements specific to the sport are added.

(Reactive Heidens)

Training the right systems at the right time is crucial to making sure you are “peaking” when it comes time to start your hockey season. It also keeps the task at hand from week to week more focused when using a well thought out game plan.  Off-season training programs should not be generic or stock. Our program design is a well thought out process.  It is designed with the time of year and where an athlete is in their season in mind.

See ya’ in the gym.

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