Should Hockey Players Train In-Season?


This is a question I answer every year and something I seem to continually preach to athletes and parents.

In short, the answer is yes.
But it’s important to be mindful of quality over quantity and to make sure you’re doing it in the right environment.


#1 - STANDARD Team Training can be a waste of time if not done properly

Let’s look at the facts first:

  • Most teams will provide team training 1x/week

  • Most team training is done in a massive group setting

  • Most team training sessions are understaffed for the amount of athletes

  • Most team training sessions are planned in larger groups do not take the individual needs of each athlete in to account

The reality is, other than creating potential team camaraderie (this is assuming all teammates are attending consistently) team training rarely accomplishes any adequate level of progression throughout the year. 4 sessions a month in a setting where coaches are juggling off and on-ice training for a full team usually result in the value per session being extremely low.

Young players (ages 12-17) typically need coaching with every rep they do. I say this because quality of repetitions and emphasis on proper technique should greatly out way quantity or working hard to work hard. Many programs that are managing a large group typically resort to circuits or stationed based training, which has its place, BUT when the majority of sessions are built around this model, athletes will not receive adequate strength training.

Advanced athletes could benefit from higher intensity days with lower volume. Younger athletes would greatly benefit from consistent strength training 2x/week with moderate intensity and load. The important point here is that each athlete is very different, and they need to be treated as such. Relying on generalized training for all 20 players is like throwing darts while blindfolded expecting to hit the bullseye.

There are cases where team training can be done effectively and efficiently. For example, we currently work with 4 teams (3 hockey, 1 ringette), but we have 1 staff member assigned to specifically oversee team programming, scheduling and communication, training sessions are properly staffed, and we provide numerous external resources that athletes and parents can take advantage of. To me this is the only way team training makes sense for an organization.

#2 - Reduce the risk of injury, loss of weight or increase in body fat %

Skating everyday will give you the reps needed to become a better player but if you don’t take the time to strength train and recover you run a higher risk of injury, loss of weight, or gain in body fat %.

Typical on-ice sessions are also based around 1 energy system; the Lactate system. The problem with overuse in one specific energy system is that it can lead to potential burnout.

Off-ice conditioning should rarely mimic the same energy system that games and practices are played at. Depending on the season and schedule we will work on different systems. Players will feel better and more energized throughout the season if done properly.

Power and Speed:

A loss in strength means there will be a loss in power and a loss in power will lead to a loss in speed. Power and speed output can drop off after 2-3 weeks of not training them. Hockey is a power and speed game, teams with players that maintain or improve in these two categories will have a better chance at winning at the end of the season.

#3 - Skating every day can severely hinder mobility & performance

Reduced mobility will lead to a higher risk of injury and poor patterns. Hockey has numerous repetitive actions so we see the same overuse injuries throughout the year; hip flexors, groins, ankles, low back, and shoulders.

Taking care of your body starts with the feet:

Most players will spend countless hours in their skates in-season and off-season. Depending on the skate model, how you tie your skates, and ankle mobility/stability, players will lose dorsiflexion (forward flexion of the ankle). A loss or lack of ankle dorsiflexion will cause a bent over and short stride.

If a player has ankle issues they will spend the entire game or practice in a hip flexed position which will lead to tightness throughout the hip. Tightness in hips will lead to the player altering their stride without even knowing it. This can lead to hip and low back injuries, which often becomes a reoccurring issue.

The game is played with your hands in front of your body, your shoulders are rounded, your chest muscles get tight, which leaves your shoulders in a vulnerable position. If you see a group of kids with backwards hats, joggers, rounded shoulders and their butts sticking out, there is a 90% chance they play hockey.

Without proper strength and mobility work to balance out the positions they get into while playing, players will likely get hurt at some point. I can speak to this personally, not being able to lift my hands over my head after years of playing while not doing proper mobility exercises to counteract this.

Programs should always have a portion dedicated to creating flexibility (range of motion) and stability (tendon strength) for all of the areas listed above. You will never reach your sport goals if you are injured all of the time.

#4 - Create good habits

Depending on your hockey goals, creating good habits around proper body care in-season will benefit you down the road. If you want to play college hockey, major junior, and eventually professionally, this is what those teams and athletes are doing. The sport is advancing rapidly and the use of analytics is becoming more and more prevalent in the way organizations make decisions about players. Taking control of what you can control is a good start.

These points are all doable IF time management is sufficient. Obviously there are many other responsibilities for athletes; family, school, social life, etc. having gone through this myself, playing with teammates that made it a habit and now working with kids who are following this, I can confidently say with proper time management, you can accelerate your progression as a hockey player.

To give you a better idea of a typical week here is an example of what a program would look like for a hockey player in-season:

*Assuming games are played on the weekend

Day 1 - Monday

45 mins - Full Body

  1. Corrective work - mobility, stability

  2. Dynamic Warm Up

  3. Linear Speed/Power Development - sprinting, plyometrics, medicine ball work

*Typically takes 15 minutes

A) Main Strength Exercises

B) Secondary Strength Exercises

C) Accessory Exercises - focused on core, hips and shoulders

*20 Minutes

D) Energy System Development

* 12 Minutes

Day 2 - Wednesday

45 mins - Full Body

  1. Corrective work - mobility, stability

  2. Dynamic Warm Up

  3. Lateral Speed/Power Development - sprinting, plyometrics, medicine ball work

*Typically takes 15 minutes

A) Main Strength Exercises

B) Power Exercises

C) Accessory + Speed Exercises

*20 Minutes

D) Energy System Development

* 12 Minutes

Day 3 - Thursday *OPTIONAL

25 mins - Speed Focused

  1. Corrective work - mobility, stability

  2. Dynamic Warm Up

    *That typically takes 10 minutes

A) Main Speed Drills - sprinting, plyometrics, agility

B) Accessory Exercises - focused on core

*15 Minutes

If you would like more info on our in-season programs click this [link]

Best of luck this season!

Alex Allan

Shelby Stewart