In-Season Training: What Needs to Change?

Labour Day weekend kind of represented the unofficial transition from the off-season this year. With tryouts in the spring getting cancelled due to Covid, September is even more important than most years.

This weekend at Prospects we’re hosting our end of the off-season/beginning of the season fitness testing. For me, it’s important to have those numbers to measure changes over the course of the season. Inevitably as schedules get tighter due to school and team obligations, one of the first things to go by the wayside is the young athlete’s workout routine. While I agree school has to be a top priority, and your team obligations are what they are, I would argue that when the games are the most important next spring, it will be the athletes that were able to maintain their athletic qualities the best throughout the season who will really have a chance to make an impact.

I’ve heard objections in the past to continuing to lift in season, citing the total workload that’s going to be on an athlete. I totally get where they’re coming from, and although their argument is well-intentioned, I think they’re coming from an incomplete understanding of what an in-season program would look like, so I’d like to clear some of that up here.

First of all, let me explain what in-season training isn’t.

  1. It isn’t the same as your summer training.
  2. It shouldn’t leave you sore and tired.
  3. It isn’t your primary focus during the season.

In the interest of keeping this positive and informative though, let’s look at what the qualities of good in-season training are. Here are my top three goals for an in-season program and some of how we accomplish each of them.

  1. Maintain as Much Strength as Possible
    Ideally over the course of the summer you’ve made progress in strength by focusing on your off ice workouts in a well organized strength and conditioning program. The nice thing about strength is that it doesn’t have to be addressed as often to maintain as some other qualities such as muscle size or cardiovascular development. A good in-season program will still include some heavy lifts, but only enough to maintain what you’ve built all summer; not enough to leave you depleted going into your next ice time or workout.
  2. Protect Joints from Overuse
    A lot of the exercises present in an in-season program involve maintaining strength and stability in the deep muscles surrounding the hips and shoulders, the joints with the least inherent stability. Going months and months without addressing these joints is a recipe for disaster when you consider the crazy demands hockey and goaltending specifically places on them.
  3. Provide Balance in Movement
    By nature, hockey is played in a crouched over type position, and rarely do players get to move out of that position, whether actively playing or sitting on the bench. A good in-season program will provide balance by getting athletes into the opposite position, opening them up to avoid getting tight in those positions over the course of the year.

Ultimately, there are a lot of demands on a young athlete’s time, from sports, from school, and maintaining a healthy social life. All of these are important, but as the old cliché says “the best ‘ability’ is ‘availability'”. The most important goal of your time spent in the gym during the season is to keep you on the ice so you can compete at the highest level all season long.

If you have any questions about how to apply these principles to your own training or how to get started, please don’t hesitate to use the contact form on this website or email me directly at goaliecoachandrew@hotmail.com.

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