The importance of In-season training in hockey
The popularity of strength training during the off-season increases every year among hockey players. The weight room becomes the priority for every young player to increase their performance and get ready for the next season. Nowadays, several training methods exist and every strength coach has their own way to incorporate them into a short term periodization in order to increase the performance of their athletes (strength, power, speed, muscle mass, energy system, etc.) in less than 16 weeks during the summer. Ultimately, the vast majority of players arrive ready for the training camps as well as the physical tests for the upcoming season.
But as soon as the regular season begins we start to notice certain problems. In my experience, there are two types of athletes which can be divided into two categories. The first one being those who abandon training as soon as the season starts, which can lead to a strength loss of 55 to 100% compared to their last summer program. The second category of athletes corresponds to those who continue a strict training with the same parameters (intensity, volume, reps, load etc.…) as those used during their off-season, which could lead to overtraining. But there is a middle ground.
Why should we train during hockey season?
What are the recommendations?
During the hockey season, it is important to plan the workouts around the athlete’s schedule in order not to diminish his performance during his games and practices. Communication with the team’s head coach facilitates the periodization of training and will allow you to plan timely rest days. According to my experience, Monday should be a day off since the majority of the games take place between Friday and Sunday, and we also need to consider travel and fatigue. Subsequently, Tuesday and Wednesday would be the most favorable days for strength training sessions of 30 to 45 minutes maximum in order to allow the athlete to recover before the weekend.
Here is training schedule example for Peewee to Midget AAA players:
Tuesday workout (Goal: maintaining strength through the hypertrophy method)
Wednesday workout (Goal: Fast work and explosive strength)
What happen if we do not have a strength and conditioning coach with our team?
We work closely with several teams and players to allow them to optimise their performances by taking care of their training and periodization with their hockey schedule. Here is what we do for them:
By: Sébastien Lagrange
Ronnestad, B.R., Nymark, B.S. et Raastad, T. (2011). Effects of in-season strength maintenance training frequency in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res, 25(10), 2653-2660. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822dcd96
Hoffman, J.R. et Kang, J. (2003). Strength changes during an in-season resistance-training program for football. J Strength Cond Res, 17(1), 109-114.
Dahab KS, McCambridge TM. Strength Training in Children and Adolescents: Raising the Bar for Young Athletes? Sports Health. 2009;1(3):223-226. doi:10.1177/1941738109334215.
Pollard C., Sigward S., Ota S., Langford K., Powers C. The Influence of in-season injury prevention on lower extremity kinematics during landing in female soccer players. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: 16(3); pp 223-227. 2006
Smith A. In-Season training for athletes. Ezine Articles. 2005 Dec 12.
The Generation Z
After discussing of the 2016 NHL combine results in Buffalo with Mark Lambert, strength & conditioning coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is clear that things have to change. According to him, the overly precipitated specialization is the main consequence of the weaker off-ice results which have been seen in the past few years. This was the first wave of the Generation 2000 athletes.
In 2016, young players have the possibility of playing ice hockey all year round, even during off-season. Several parents and coaches incorrectly believe that the early specialization in the career of the child would surely allow them to attain an elite level.
We often hear «that it takes up to 10,000 hours of practice before attaining our full potential». Unfortunately, this myth must be busted. A study of 35,000 highly qualified young athletes selected to train in Russian sports schools found that only 0.14% reached high-level status. In his book The sports Gene: Inside the science of extraordinary athletic performance, David Epstein highlights that the vast majority of Elite athletes achieved their full potential over less than 10,000 hours. This belief of 10,000 hours of practice introduced by Anders Ericsson does not take into consideration several factors such as genetics on athletic performance, coaches’ support and help, psychological aspects on performance such as the intrinsic motivation of the players (pleasure of playing), and even the chance to be in the right place at the right time (“timing”).
So what are risks the risks of early specialization for the young hockey players of the generation 2000?
An early specialization in sports such as ice hockey can often lead to overtraining and injuries. Those symptoms can be identified by articular and muscular pain or by a change of personality. The rest and recovery time is not respected, which causes body fatigue. The treatment is indisputably rest!
A study involving more than 1,500 student-athletes conducted by Timothy McGuine, Ph.D., ATC, of the University of Wisconsin in 29 high schools in Wisconsin showed that the athletes who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report lower body injury while participating in sports (46%) as opposed to athletes who did not specialize (24%). In addition, specialized athletes sustained 60 percent more new lower-extremity injuries compared to the others during this study.
According to the Council Sports Medicine Fitness, a specific physical activity should be limited to 5 days a week with one rest day per week to recuperate, and about 2-3 months free per year to practice other physical activities. Taking part in another sport is associated with a decrease in injuries since the body makes different movements and the athletes use their muscles in a different way, thus reducing the risk of overuse injuries. It is also associated with extended sports participation in young athletes and a greater pleasure continuing the practice of their sport, which is linked to a better potential of long-term physical health.
Here are other possible consequences of early specialization
When our Midget AAA and QMJHL players arrive at our Performance Center after their hockey season, they have a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks before starting their off-season training in the gym. The return on the ice to get ready for the next season is only made 6 to 8 weeks before the training camps. In total, these young athletes, aged 15 and older, rest about 2 to 3 months without setting foot on the ice! This brings us to the following question: why should a 12 year-old take part in ice hockey schools, AAA summer leagues or showcases for his visibility?
These kids should have at the very least 3 months off of ice hockey before the following season, which is a perfect time period to participate in other sports.
What are the recommendations?
For a young player under the age of 12, it is important to play as many sports as possible to learn and develop fundamental motor skills such as agility, balance, coordination, speed, jumping, climbing, walking, skating, to hop, to swim, to skip, to throw, dribbling, kicking and catching. Since ice hockey is a late-specialization sport (after 15 years old), it doesn’t even need to be the main sport before the child’s maturation. Between 13 and 15 years of age, the athlete can dedicate 50% of his time to his main sport, while 80% of his time should be dedicated to the sport from the age of 16.
Specializing early in a late-specialization sport (and practicing only one sport at a young age) contributes greatly to one-sided physical preparation, one-sided technical-tactical preparation, overuse injuries, and increases the chance of dropping out from sports and physical activity.
Ultimately, playing different sports at a younger age improves motor development and gives the child the opportunity to discover the sport he enjoys most and in which he will excel.
After all, summer is made to play other sports and have a good time!
Have a good season everyone!
By: Sébastien Lagrange and Marie Michelle Rousseau
Ljach W. High-performance sport of children in Russia. Leistungssport. 1997;27:37-40
Franzen J, Pion J, et. al. Differences in physical fitness and gross motor coordination in boys aged 6-12 years specializing in one versus sampling more than one sport. Journal of Sports Sciences, DOI:10.1080/02640414.2011.642808 (available online ahead of print: 03 Jan 2012).
Mostafavifar AM, Best TM, Myer GD. Early sport specialisation, does it lead to long term problems? Br J Sports Med. 2013;47:1060-1061.
DiFiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner J, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry GL, Luke A. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clin J Sport Med 2014;24(1):3-20.
Jayanthi N, Pinkham C, Dugas L, Patrick B, LaBella C. Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations. Sports Health. 2013;5(3):251-257. doi:10.1177/1941738112464626.