Off-Season Hockey Strength Program: Phase 1

During the final week of my internship under Kevin Neeld at Endeavor Sports Performance last year, I was given the assignment of writing a 12-week off-season training program for an imaginary teenage hockey player and one for a pro level hockey player.

After putting pen on paper, Kevin proceeded to roast question me for an hour in his office about why I chose specific exercises, sets/reps/rest periods, tempos and everything else involved in designing a comprehensive strength training plan.

stamkos squat

Having to defend my view points to a much more knowledgeable and experienced strength coach was definitely a great learning experience and increased my confidence in being able to rationalize my training philosophy and methods to just about anyone.

I’ve had a few people, both online and in person, ask me about off-season hockey training – so I thought I’d use this article to give those of you interested a glimpse into how we train.

But before we get there, I quickly need to address some things.

Without fail, youth hockey players are accustomed to a “throw a bunch of exercises together and make the athletes tired” type of training approach so prevalent in today’s volume-oriented exercise prescription that focuses on making people sore instead of better.

NOT the goal

NOT the goal

I’m not saying the following is the BEST or ONLY way of designing an off-season strength program for youth hockey players.

Simply put, it’s MY way of doing things in the environment I’m working in – a bunch of U17 hockey players, most of whom have no or very little prior experience with proper strength training, in an organization operating with a limited budget.

Now, I could lament the fact that we were only able to get two strength training sessions per week at the local gym, whereas I would have preferred three.

Related:  Off-Season Hockey Strength Program: Phase 5

Or that certain equipment, such as sleds, were not in the team’s budget.

Or how hard it is to be running a training session by yourself for 30 kids at a time out of a tiny weight room.

Instead, I will take the opposite route and embrace adversity – when things don’t go your way, you have two options:

Sink or swim.

You can either give up, saying it can’t be done.

Or you can find a way to make your athletes stronger, faster, better conditioned and more resistant to injury with what limited resources you’ve got at hand.

Choosing the former makes you a loser.

The latter is how you develop as a coach.

“Excuses are for losers, I’m not gonna make excuses.”

– Glen Metropolit, 407 games in the NHL

glen-metropolit

Knew a thing or two about not making excuses

Since all of the athletes I’m working with on the U17 team are beginners, the focus is not on creating the fanciest exercises imaginable or maximal loading.

Here are the key training goals I set for this phase:

1. Learn proper form on easier variations of main movement patterns (squat, hip hinge, etc.), so that we can progress toward more complex lifts (power clean, front squat, high pulls off blocks, etc.) in later phases

2. Learn the importance of keeping a training journal (every player has got their own sheet that they record their numbers in)

3. Learn proper weight room behavior (loading and unloading plates, spotting a training partner, cleaning up weights at the end of a training session)

That said, here’s Phase 1 of our off-season hockey strength program:

Related:  5 Things Every Hockey Player Needs to Do in the Off-Season

Day 1

1a) KB Squat Jump

Week 1 3×3

Week 2 3×4

Week 3 3×5

1b) Glute Bridge

Week 1 3×8

Week 2 3×10

Week 3 3×12

2a) DB Split Squat

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 3×8

Week 3 4×8

2b) Chin-Up

Week 1 3×5

Week 2 3×6

Week 3 4×6

3a) DB Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 4×6

Week 3 4×8

3b) Push-Up

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 4×6

Week 3 4×8

4) Front Plank

Week 1 3x20s.

Week 2 3x30s.

Week 3 4x30s.

Day 2

1a) 1 Arm DB Snatch

Week 1 3×3

Week 2 4×3

Week 3 4×4

1b) 1-Leg Glute Bridge

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 3×8

Week 3 3×10

2a) Deadlift off Blocks

Week 1 3×5

Week 2 4×5

Week 3 5×5

2b) 1 Arm DB Push Press

Week 1 3×5

Week 2 4×5

Week 3 4×6

3a) DB Goblet Squat

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 4×6

Week 3 4×8

3b) 1 Arm DB Row

Week 1 3×6

Week 2 4×6

Week 3 4×8

4) Side Plank

Week 1 3x20s.

Week 2 3x30s.

Week 3 4x30s.

As you notice, the program is about as basic as it gets.

We start each session with an explosive movement paired with an activation drill for the glutes.

After that we attack the major muscle groups/movement patterns of the upper and lower body (performed both bilaterally and unilaterally), making sure we’re balancing pushing/pulling work as well as knee and hip dominant exercises, with training volume ramping up from week to week.

Then we wrap up the session with some core work.

Since many of the players had never set foot in a gym before, we took things really easy at first.

Week 1 was simply teaching proper movement patterns (squatting, hip hinging, rowing, accelerating and decelerating body weight and external resistance), and at times I had to hold the athletes back a bit from increasing weight if they couldn’t demonstrate great form at lighter loads.

Related:  Prevent Hockey Hip Injuries With These 3 Movements

Week 2 saw more of the same; hammering home technique but I would encourage guys demonstrating good form to add load.

For those who didn’t grasp technical intricacies as quickly, we’d spend more time individually going over proper setup and key points in technique – for instance, “chest up, neutral low back, chin tucked, keep bar close to shins, push feet through the floor, keep shoulders down” in the deadlift.

The younger you start, the stronger you get

The younger you start, the stronger you get

In Week 3, I told the players to push the numbers up as long as technique remained PERFECT.

With the guys lacking in shoulder mobility and/or suffering from previous back injuries, here’s how I modified the program:

– 1 arm DB snatch -> kettlebell swing

– deadlift off blocks -> pull through (or 45 degree back extension for those experiencing back discomfort even with pull throughs)

– 1 arm DB push press -> 1/2 kneeling landmine press

Right now we’re in the midst of Phase 2, which I’ll be posting here once we’re through it.

If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might dig it as well.

Thanks!

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Yunus Barisik
 

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.