In-Season Strength Training – Your New Secret Weapon

Use in-season dryland hockey training to blow away your competition
Coach Brian
December 6, 2023
In-Season Strength Training – Your New Secret Weapon

Coach Brian


December 6, 2023

In-Season Strength Training – Your New Secret Weapon

The game of hockey has more speed and skill than ever before. Players are committing more than ever to developing their game to get an edge on the competition. This makes hockey season an exciting time of year. The skill, strength, and speed developed over countless hours during the off-season are fully displayed. But with so much time committed to being on the ice during the season, an essential performance aspect is often overlooked: in-season strength training. When done correctly, in-season training can be a game-changer and help push a player's performance to the next level.

This article will explore why in-season training is important, its benefits, how to incorporate training into a busy schedule, and what to look for in a training program. Regardless of your age or level, learning how to take care of your body throughout the season can help you stay at the top of your game.

Why In-Season Strength Training?

Strength training isn't just about lifting heavy weights and putting on muscle mass; it's an essential component of athletic performance. It forms the foundation for power, speed, agility, and injury prevention. When the competitive season begins, many athletes make the mistake of reducing or even discontinuing their strength training routines. However, this decision can have a significant impact on their performance.

There is a concept in the strength training world called the Residual Training Effect (RTE). RTE refers to how long you continue to benefit from your previous training without continuing to work on it. For example, if you spend the off-season training for hockey, you can expect your strength gains to last 30 days (+/- 5) if you stop completely. That number is even smaller for other training adaptions, such as speed or power. Therefore, athletes who stop strength training during the season may experience a decline in their physical abilities. In contrast, those who continue or adapt their strength training routine can maintain and enhance their performance as the season progresses.

Strength training can also help with reducing the risk of injury. Maintaining and improving muscular strength helps stabilize joints and reduces the risk of injury. During a season, the body undergoes significant stress from repetitive motions and competition demands. In-season strength training acts as a protective shield against overuse injuries. Athletes also often develop muscular imbalances due to the repetitive nature of their sports. In hockey, these imbalances are often the cause of chronic groin or hip injuries. In-season strength training can address these imbalances, promoting better overall movement patterns and reducing the risk of chronic injuries.

Beyond on-ice performance and injury prevention, hockey players can use strength training to promote recovery between practice and games. As previously mentioned, the repetitive nature of sports can cause imbalances and movement compensations. 

Mobility and movement-focused training sessions can help to improve these movement limitations while also acting as a recovery tool, promoting blood flow and reducing muscle tightness. This could be as simple as doing an extensive warm-up or a bodyweight circuit, working through full ranges of motion. This is a great way to target specific areas and help athletes feel their best as they prepare for their next game or practice.



Implementing In-Season Training


With so many benefits to in-season strength training, every hockey player should be doing it to maximize their performance throughout the season. But, this isn't always the case, as many have such busy on-ice schedules (team skates, skills, power skating, games etc.) that they find it challenging to accommodate training. It can be difficult balancing a high volume of skating and training and staying fresh and ready to go come game time.


Below are a couple of sample weeks to help break down what an effective training week might look like.

Sunday (Recovery or Full Body Session) – Training focus will depend on how the athlete feels the day after a game and the intensity of team practice. Higher-intensity games and practices will likely dictate a lower-intensity training session. Limited playing time in a game or a low-intensity practice may allow for a higher-intensity strength training session.

Monday/Thursday (Recovery) – Athletes participating in highly technical/skill-based or high-intensity on-ice activity would benefit from lower-intensity training, a mobility or movement-focused session.

Tuesday/Friday (Primer) – Primer training sessions are designed to wake up the central nervous system and prime the athlete for competition. They are short, low-volume, high-intensity training sessions that make the athlete feel fresh and ready to go. These can be done within 48 hours of a game.

Sunday/Wednesday (Recovery) – Low-intensity movement or mobility-focused sessions that target specific areas that might feel tight or sore following a busy weekend. A light, 30–40-minute bike ride is also a great option on recovery-focused days as it is a low-impact option for increasing heart rate and promoting circulation through the lower body.

Tuesday (Full Body Session) – Full workout. With over 48 hours before the next game, athletes can train without restrictions. Focus on compound movements that target multiple muscle groups to get the most out of the session.

Thursday (Primer) - Primer training sessions are designed to wake up the central nervous system and prime the athlete for competition. They are short, low-volume, high-intensity training sessions that should have the athlete feeling fresh and ready to go. These can be done within 48 hours of a game.

In-Season Training Sessions

With a better understanding of how and when to fit in-season training into a busy schedule, what does a typical training session actually look like? Below are examples of a full-body session, a primer, and a recovery session.

Example #1: Full Body Session

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

1a) Box Jump 3x4

b) Bear Crawl 3x20 Steps

2a) Squat or Trap Bar Deadlift 3x5

b) Band Pull Aparts 3x12

c) Glute Bridge 3x10

3a) Dumbbell Bench Press 3x6-8

b) 3-Point Dumbbell Row 3x10

c) Side Plank 3x30 seconds per side

Example #2: Primer

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

1) 15-meter Sprints x3

2a) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat or Bulgarian Split Squat 3x4 per side

b) Lateral Bound 3x4 per side

c) Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 3x10-12

d) Mobility Exercise of Choice

Example #3: Recovery

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

 1a) Alternating Reverse Lunge 2x6-8 per side

b) Yoga Push Up 2x8-10

c) Glute Bridge Walkout 2x8-10

d) Prone Blackburns 2x8-10


2) 30-Minute Bike Ride (Low-Moderate Intensity)

Off-ice training should complement, not hinder, your competitive performance. Pay close attention to your body. If you're tired or experiencing excessive soreness, adjusting your strength training intensity or skipping a session is okay. Prioritize recovery, which includes proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Putting It All Together

In-season strength training is an often-overlooked but crucial component of a hockey player's journey to peak performance. By understanding its importance, embracing its benefits, and following a well-structured plan, athletes can maintain and even enhance their performance throughout the competitive season. With more of the year being spent on the ice, players can no longer afford to spend 6-9 months away from strength training. The season is a great time to continue improving while other players stay the same, so plan and take advantage of it!

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