Few sports are more demanding on the body than hockey, which nuances the physicality and toughness to withstand crushing checks against the boards with the burst to blow past defenders like an Olympic speed skater.
Success on the ice requires a wide array of athletic skills and attributes that only develop with year-round conditioning, both on and off the rink. But while offseason training, such as building muscle, endurance and agility, is a given for hockey players at all levels, in-season attention to detail can be every bit as important for reaching goals and elevating performance.
Looking to maintain your edge and perform at your peak throughout a long winter schedule? Follow these rules, and you’ll still be on top of your game when the playoffs begin.
Listen to Your Body
When it comes to your physical limits, no one knows your body better than you do, so be an attentive listener. True, in-season training is crucial for maintaining all of the gains you made during the summer and the fall. But blatant overuse will increase your likelihood of injury, and you’re no help to your teammates from the trainer’s table.
Seek Out a Helping Hand
Feeling gassed and a little battered from taking on too many defensemen near the goalmouth? It could be time to get energized and kneaded by a professionally-trained physical therapist. A licensed physical therapist will offer a full spectrum of supportive services, from injury recovery and prevention protocols to deep-tissue massage for melting away an accumulation of hits. Think of today’s physical therapy, with all of its advanced procedures and equipment, as a much-needed opportunity to reboot and recharge your body for this season’s all-important stretch run.
Become a Medicine Man
Want to improve the velocity and power of your slap shot, anywhere, anytime? Invest in a medicine ball. Sure, it might seem old school, like Gordie Howe or Bobby Hull old school. But it absolutely works by targeting an athlete’s rotational core, from the legs up to the torso, allowing scorers to uncoil with greater force. Torso twists and the medicine ball rotary pass are just two of the many drills that can help turn centers and wingers into riflemen. Best of all, the exercises won’t eat up too much time in an already packed winter schedule.
Foam Roll, Please
Much like the medicine ball, there’s an undeniable simplicity to the foam roll that belies its enormous benefits once the season has begun. A foam roll is essential and portable, fitting neatly in any hockey bag. Simply rolling on the body’s trigger points increases blood flow to muscles and connective myofascial tissue, which is great for both pregame warm-ups and postgame healing. Plus, foam rolls are especially effective at hitting adductor and abductor muscles, the leg engines for any skater.
Train for the Sprints, Not the Marathons
Naturally, conditioning is a huge part of hockey success. Tired legs lead to late-game, and late-season, breakdowns. But once the season begins, cardio training ought to move from stamina-based to high-intensity sprint intervals. There’s no longer a reason to perform exhausting roadwork that taxes the legs and the schedule. Instead, sprinting will improve speed and endurance in a sport that typically requires its players to burst suddenly in tight spaces and work within the framework of one-minute shifts.
Stretch Like It’s Game Day, Even When It Isn’t
Stretching should be like flossing and showering, a part of every hockey player’s daily routine. The benefits of stretching are both extensive and time-tested, from helping reduce injuries to improving overall flexibility and performance. Any stiffness, particularly in the areas of hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and glutes, can negativity impact production and further expose hockey players to muscle pulls and tears. For the best in-house advice on stretching, bend the ear of your goalie, one of the most elastic positions in all of sports.
Looking to gain an advantage on the competition this hockey season, or to recapture your preseason form? Contact JAG-ONE Physical Therapy today to find out which of its 10 locations is most convenient for you, and which of its services for athletes can help prevent a late-season collapse.