Winging it isn’t the best approach to strength and conditioning for hockey players.
Okanagan Hockey Group strength and conditioning coach Blaine Harrison said a planned workout is best.
“The biggest thing they need to do is to find a program that they feel comfortable with, that they know and to stick with it,” says Harrison. “Go see a trainer, come and see us, we have plans for all of our players for the summer time.”
Harrison says it is important to recognize weaknesses and avoid this well-heard expression.
‘Well, I’m strong enough.’
“Are we ever strong enough?” says Harrison, a three-time B.C. power lifting champion. “You can never really be too strong for anything. There are different styles of getting yourself strong.”
Harrison says hockey players should be lifting between 50 to 60 per cent of their max weight from June into July three times a week then picking it up. They should also shift their focus to speed work in July and integrate other sports. Come August, they can focus on specific training and do an exercise for 30 to 45 seconds simulating a shift.
“That is probably one of the biggest recommendations from a lot of people in the fitness world for hockey players,” he says. “You need to go out and work on certain things. Not the best at handling the puck? I’m going to work on that more.”
The regular season routine changes by reducing the lift load as the goal is to maintain what was built over the summer. Players are lifting weights two to three times a week, but two is recommended. There is also more emphasis on upper body workouts.
“You don’t have to do too much conditioning throughout the season because you should be getting that on the ice,” he says.
And players shouldn’t begin weight lifting until they reach the bantam (13-14) age. The average person's ligaments and tendons don’t really grow until they are closer to midget age.
“They should be doing a lot of body weight exercises, a tempo pushup, a tempo squat. You would go down very slowly or hold it at the bottom and then explode out of the power part,” he says. “Body weight is the best way to go.”
Spring break is the time for players to relax and recover. They ease into working out with rehab exercises and get themselves ready to go again into summer training.
At OHG, Harrison says instructors like to work on the players learning to become more explosive and having power. Off-ice work is important to building overall strength.
“I tell our players all the time is work on form and be smart,” he says. “The reason we train off ice is to help you on the ice. You don’t have to put in a lot of hours, it’s more the quality of your work.”
Plyometrics can be brought into the picture when players are at the peewee (11-12) age. Plyometrics involves any kind of jumping - long, vertical, on a box, from a box and medicine ball work. It’s about explosive movements that isn’t like running or sprinting. It should be done carefully as ligaments are still not developed and the player will push that area of their body. If done properly, plyometrics teaches the player to be explosive with their body weight.
OHG athletes do plyometrics once a week and instructors introduce what is called SAQ (speed, agility, quickness). That is about movement and there is change in direction, which isn’t as hard on the body and helps improve a players’ speed in a short area. In the summer, plyometrics is done one to two times a week.
Harrison likes mixing weight training and plyometrics as players will do a squat for six reps and a load at 75 to 80 per cent. They will also do some long or vertical jumps onto a box and should feel a bit lighter.
“That is a good combo. Do that in season and now you are working and not doing a lot of reps,” he says.
Harrison encourages players to emulate the approach of professional athletes. Watching them warm up and everything they do is deliberate, Harrison says it is unbelievable.
“Do everything with purpose. Focus is high,” he says. “Get our kids to try to buy into that. Work efficiently.”
In 2010 I was fortunate enough to play at the Okanagan Hockey Academy on the Midget Prep team. With coaches like Robert Dirk and Greg Holst it was an unbelievable year. I have to this day still never been on such a close-knit team. It was my first year of midget hockey and that meant a lot more travel. Playing in the CSSHL I got the opportunity to play in some pretty awesome spots. The league helped me learn to stay on top of school, which has helped me not only in college but also in junior. I was able to make an easy jump to junior and college academically with the help of Dave Nackoney, a guidance counselor at Penticton Secondary School who works with all the student athletes. To this day if I need anything he is always more than willing to help. It is the great staff that left such an impression on me, and made it possible for me to be where I am today.