I wanted to give you guys something else to think about on the off ice side of things today.
I love seeing athletes getting after it in the gym. It’s really cool to see kids doing work beyond what they’re required to do and parents who put in the extra effort and take on the extra expense to support their kids. I’m also really encouraged by how much more common this has become in recent years. When I played, off ice training was still not commonplace. I wasn’t aware of too many guys doing things in the gym to get better at that time (or maybe they just didn’t want to tell me about it!)
Thankfully we know a lot more now than we did back then. We know that skating all year round eventually does more harm than good to muscles and joints. We know that limiting your training to the ice doesn’t allow you to develop to your full potential. We know that working out like a body builder might make you ready for the beach, but it won’t get you ready for the ice.
With that in mind, there are a couple things that I’ve learned over time that have helped my athletes get the most out of their off ice training.
Single Leg Work Wins
When I first dove into the realm of off ice training, I was in the last couple years of my playing career. Until then I hadn’t done anything beyond jogging and stretching off the ice. Maybe occasionally a couple lunges, but nothing resembling good training and certainly nothing structured into a plan. I could see that the guys who were getting stronger off the ice were experiencing more success on the ice. So I dragged myself into the gym and, being the #HockeyGuy that I was, I headed directly for the squat rack. That summer, I will say, my legs got huge. I was actually really proud of myself. Until I got on the ice in the late summer. What I thought would leave me feeling strong just left me feeling…heavy.
Fortunately, now we know better. As much as kids coming up do need to develop a good squat movement pattern, the thing that’s going to have the most direct carryover into their game on the ice is going to be single leg movements such as split squats and lunges and their variations. When done correctly, these movements more closely mimic the way we move and use our legs on the ice. Unfortunately, this realization came too late for my playing career, but you don’t have to make that same mistake!
Do What Makes You Better, Not Just What Makes You Tired
Once off ice work started to get popular, it seems like some people started to make it a competition to see who could bring themselves closest to the brink of death in the summertime with the idea that when the season started they would be indestructible. The problem with this is that you can’t develop strength and endurance very well at the same time. Hockey players need both, but absolutely crushing yourself every time you’re in the gym won’t let you develop either one to your best potential.
That’s why there’s a need for a good structured plan that will allow you to develop the right things in the right order and have your work actually pay off when the season begins. More on that later.
One of my biggest frustrations is watching an athlete work hard all summer, only to leave the gym on the last day before the season starts and never come back as long as they’re in their season.
A good coach should be able to develop a plan to help you maintain the progress you’ve made in the summer by continuing to do some limited lifting during the season. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the end of the season back at square one when it comes to your fitness. Some loss of muscle and strength over the grind of a season is inevitable, but I would rather keep 30% of all my hard work than 0%. Come playoff time, that 30% could be the difference between winning and losing.
As I’ve written before, working in the gym is no longer considered “extra” but has grown into an essential part of developing as a complete athlete. If you’re not doing the right things aside from your ice times, you’ll eventually get left behind by those who are.