Ice Hockey Athletes

How to Meet the Conditioning Demands of Ice Hockey Athletes

NAKOA Fitness and Physical Therapy Fitness, Programming, Science, Sports

With the winter season fast approaching, we turn our sights on a sport with physical grueling demands: ice hockey. Ice hockey demands a strong conditioning program to help you perform better on the ice and we’ll outline some tactics that will keep hockey athletes prepared all year, especially here in Southern California. When developing a sports conditioning program, the first step you must take is analyzing the physiological demands of the sport. Once you understand what the sport is asking the athlete to do, we can develop a plan to optimize on-ice conditioning.

With different positions on the ice carrying different responsibilities, the demands of forwards and defenseman will vary. During a typical shift, an athlete can expect to have high rates of acceleration followed by coasting, decelerating, and changing directions. In between, the athlete has time to recover, recuperate and prepare for the next shift while on the bench. Given these parameters, we understand that ice hockey players must have a high level of aerobic fitness to aid in recovery from intermittent bouts of intense skating in addition to being able to withstand a sixty-minute game. Plus, ice hockey athletes must be able to produce repeated force and acceleration for short periods of time; they need to have high levels of alactic capacity and lactic power (anaerobic metabolism). This article will discuss a rigorous conditioning program that will work for all positions at a variety of levels.

A well-developed conditioning program begins at the start of the offseason. Once the previous season ends, time off from skating, conditioning, and weight room work should be taken to recover and allow the body to heal. Based on how long the season was when the next season starts, and how beat up the body is will help determine how much time should be taken off, usually around two to four weeks.

The start of offseason conditioning should consist of all dry land training and be predominately aerobic based. Before any anaerobic conditioning starts, we need to make sure the athlete has a robust aerobic foundation. This base conditioning work will aid in the recovery process and start to lay a solid foundation for more intense work. Methods to use in the offseason conditioning are doing tempo runs, long moderate intensity bike rides, and longer less intense slide board intervals.

Moving from the offseason into the preseason, athletes will now start to incorporate on-ice conditioning alongside their dry land training. This is the time where getting back on the ice and backing away from running will help the more specific movement patterns of skating. There are various on-ice drills to use as seen below.

Ice Hockey Skating Drills

These drills can be done with a single athlete, a small group of athletes, or full teams. The work to rest intervals can be done in 1-to-1, 1-to-2, or 1-to-3 depending on the current fitness level of the athlete or goal of the current session. Dry land training to complement on ice work can be done on a recumbent bike, Airdyne bike, a Concept 2 rower, and VersaClimber.

The in-season period is typically done all on ice, however, if you do not skate more than a couple times a week or do not log many game minutes, then more dry land training should be incorporated. The bike is a great way to flush the legs and kick start recovery. Riding the bike can be done several times a week for shorter durations at light to moderate intensities. If more conditioning is needed due to lack of skating time during the week, the bike is still a great option. However, the work-rest intervals will change from a recovery mindset to a conditioning mindset. Bouts of 30 seconds work with 60 seconds recovery for 20 minutes a couple times a week in addition to skating is recommended.

The testing measurement below should be done at the start of the off-season, retested at the start of the preseason, and again at the start of the in-season.

Sprint repeats

Option 1) Shuttle Run
Set two cones 65 feet apart. Sprint from cone 1 to cone 2 and back to cone 1. Measure the time it takes to finish the interval; administer 30 seconds rest and repeat 9 more times. 10 total rounds. You will make sure to record all rounds. You can use the fastest, slowest, and mean times of all 10 to track progress.

Option 2) VersaClimber Sprints
Sprint for 10 seconds and record the maximum amount of feet climbed. Rest for 50 seconds and repeat 9 more times. 10 total rounds. You will make sure to record all rounds. You can use the most, fewest, and mean feet of all 10 to track progress.

Now that we have outlined the need for a developed condition program, here is a sample we recommend you implement with your ice hockey athletes.

Off-Season Conditioning

4 Days a Week

Tempo Run
Slide Board
Tempo Run
Bike

Week 1

10 sets at 110yds
9 sets :30 with :90 recovery
10 sets at 110yds
Moderate 30 minutes

Week 2

11 sets at 110yds
10 sets :30 with :90 recovery
11 sets at 110yds
Moderate 35 minutes

Week 3

12 sets at 110yds
11 sets :30 with :90 recovery
12 sets at 110yds
Moderate 40 minutes

Week 4

13 sets at 110yds
12 sets :30 with :90 recovery
13 sets at 110yds
Moderate 45 minutes

Week 5

11 sets at 120yds
9 sets :45 with :90 recovery
11 sets at 120yds
Increased gear moderate 40 minutes

*The duration and intensity starts low and increases as the weeks go by. The off season time you have may vary weeks 1 to 5 is an example and can be increased according to how much time is available.

Pre-Season Conditioning

4 Days a Week

On-Ice Practice
Bike
On-Ice Practice
VersaClimber or Concept 2 Rower

Week 1

Variable
8 sets of :30 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
8 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 2

Variable
9 sets of :30 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
9 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 3

Variable
10 sets of :30 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
10 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 4

Variable
11 sets of :30 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
11 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 5

Variable
8 sets of :45 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
8 sets :20 max sprint :50 recovery

*The duration and intensity starts low and increases as the weeks go by. The offseason time you have may vary how much preseason time you have. This is an example and can be increased according to how much offseason time is available.

In-Season Conditioning

4 Days a Week

On-Ice Practice
Bike
On-Ice Practice
VersaClimber or Concept 2 Rower

Week 1

Variable
8 sets of :10 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
8 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 2

Variable
9 sets of :10 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
9 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 3

Variable
10 sets of :10 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
10 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 4

Variable
11 sets of :10 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
11 sets :15 max sprint :45 recovery

Week 5

Variable
8 sets of :20 hard as possible :90 recovery ride
Variable
8 sets :20 max sprint :50 recovery

*The in-season conditioning is similar to preseason, however, the times are reduced as working in a lactic zone is very taxing to the body. While in season, lactic conditioning is ill advised. If playing/practice time is limited, increasing the work durations can be done.

We put our ice hockey athletes through this regiment and encourage you to explore if it works for you. This program will keep you ready for the season no matter what time of year it is.

References:

Sean Skahan. “Total Hockey Training
Anthony Donskovsc. “300 Yard Shuttle for Ice Hockey: To test or not to Test
SPIERING, BARRY A.; WILSON, MEREDITH H.; JUDELSON, DANIEL A.; RUNDELL, KENNETH W. “Evaluation of Cardiovascular Demands of Game Play and Practice in Women’s Ice Hockey.