Now that I’m fully back on the writing saddle after a four-month hiatus from the blog at the beginning of this year, I’ve begun receiving more training related questions again.
A few days ago, I found an email in my inbox from a young hockey player seeking my advice on nutrition and off-ice training.
Here’s the email (edited slightly for clarity and to protect privacy):
I was wondering if you could help me out.
I am a 16-year-old hockey player. I am contacting you for some advice for working out over the summer as a hockey player.
I live [on the East Coast] so unfortunately I cannot train with you however; I was hoping you could help me out with my training. I am small for my age (5’4) but height is overrated and I know you know because you saw numerous small hockey players at Ben Prentiss’s gym.
My goal this summer is to get bigger, stronger, and most importantly faster. I have learned that no matter how hard you work in the gym if you do not eat right you will not see the results you want.
This brings me to my first question, what is considered a good protein recovery shake?
Furthermore, I have learned that overtime you develop muscle imbalances and I know my right leg and right arm are stronger then my left arm and right leg. How can I fix this and how are the imbalances effecting me?
Not to boast or brag I know I am strong for my size on the ice, I can shield of guys who are much bigger then me and not get pushed of the puck easily. However, off ice I need become stronger.
How can I test which muscles do I need to strengthen the most? I know I am never going to be tall (the tallest person in my family is 5’7 on a great day) however, I know that won’t stop me from being the best hockey player I can be.
My answer to Charlie’s message can be found below (also slightly edited):
as you probably know, I work with junior hockey players, many of whom are your age, so I definitely see much of what you’re describing on a larger scale.
Let’s talk nutrition first…
Most young athletes simply don’t eat enough OVERALL calories to support muscular strength and size gains.
Nobody grows on 1500 calories a day. So that would be the first thing to look at.
Next, make sure you’re eating a quality protein source at every meal – meat, fish, eggs, poultry are all good choices. Dairy if you can handle that (not everyone can).
On days that you’re working out in the gym and/or have longer/more intense on-ice practices or games, eat some carbs prior to training and then more afterwards.
Rice, yams, potatos are great especially post-workout. On off days or when playing a game of lower intensity shinny, cut back on carbs (but still have some as going ultra-low on carbs isn’t the goal here).
Also make sure that at least 20 % of your daily calories come in the form of quality fats – i.e. fish, eggs, coconut oil.
And eat fruits, vegetables, berries multiple times per day every day.
When all of that has been taken care of, then we can start focusing more on supplements and the post-workout recovery drink you asked about. That should have a 3:1 carbs-to-proteins ratio as carbs ingested with proteins accelerate the recovery process more than ingesting proteins alone.
It won’t make a difference whether this comes in the form of a shake or solid food but for most people a shake will be more convenient than eating a chicken breast and rice immediately after training.
I can’t recommend you a specific protein powder for the shake as I’m not too familiar with what’s available in the US. Look for a quality whey protein product and buy it in bulk once you find a good one – bulk orders tend to be significantly cheaper than buying single 1 lb. packages!
As far as strength imbalances are concerned, my response to you would be:
“Get stronger EVERYWHERE”
I’ve yet to meet a young hockey player who was “strong enough”.
So here’s what I would focus on:
– power development (power cleans, jumps, hops, medball throws etc.)
– lower body strength (squats, deadlifts and all their variations – single-leg as well!)
– upper body pushing and pulling strength (benching, overhead pressing, chin-ups, rows etc.)
– core strength (plank, Pallof press, cable chops and lifts etc.)”
* … but do this
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post where I underlined the importance of focusing on the things that will have the biggest effect on your strength levels and body composition —> Nothing Else Matters
If every young hockey player followed these simple training and nutrition tips I mentioned here and in the article I linked to above, we’d have plenty of stronger, more powerful, better moving, less injury-prone athletes at all levels of competitive hockey.
Want a proven off-ice training program that turns guys into beasts?
Check this out…
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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.
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