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It’s Not Always How Much but How Well

As another off-season begins, it’s an exciting time to grow both physically and mentally in order to put yourself in a better position for the next season.

Because of this excitement it can sometimes be easy to think more is better. In fact, athletes will bury themselves under mountains of work and grind through marathon sessions in the gym and on the ice only to feel beat up and run down by the time they start training camp.

This is problematic considering we want the exact opposite to be true. We want to feel like we are peaking at the start of camp. Yes, we want to work hard in the off-season, but we also want to work intelligently. Every exercise and movement should have a purpose: To further develop our athletic attributes.

There is a misconception that if you don’t leave the gym half dead, dragging yourself home, it means you didn’t work hard enough or make constructive use of your time. Some trainers and strength coaches buy into this philosophy just to make their clients happy. When compounded over multiple off-seasons this training style quickly becomes counterproductive and leaves many broken-down, tired athletes in its wake.

Always remember this: Off season training should be about quality over quantity.

The hockey season is already a grind and the off season is already very short. We want to actively recover from the rigours of the season and progress into the next year. This can be done at the same time with well thought-out, smart programming.

My suggestion is to take a little time off, away from the ice – and away from skating — at the beginning of the off-season with more focus on mobility and base movements. This will give your body some time to recover while we put it in a position to be able to train again at a high quality level. We call this phase the primer phase as its priming our body to be able to train at the level we want. Here’s a good primer program:

Mobility: A high frequency sport like hockey has many repetitive movements that cause tightness and imbalances. These should be addressed through mobility work. We want to be able to move without restriction in order to get the most out of our training.

Aerobic: You need a proper aerobic base to be able to train, even in the weight room when we’re doing strength work. If we can’t recover between sets by having an efficient aerobic system, we are entering each set at a deficit and not getting the most out of it or hitting our full potential.

Base Strength Movements: A proper execution of the five basic movements (push, pull, hinge, squat, and carry) should be introduced at the appropriate progressions. This is our foundation. You cannot build an athlete on a poor foundation. It is only a matter of time before it becomes exposed and things fall apart. Tempo training should also be worked in with special attention to the eccentric loading of these movements in order to help with regaining strength — and strengthening tendons to get them ready for the intense strength and power work to follow in the training progressions.

Accessory Work: Smart accessory work can directly help to correct imbalances, improve mobility, aid in injury prevention and will complement the basic movements. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, just simple and well thought out. Hockey is a contact sport with lots of shoulder injuries so rotator cuff work should be programmed in as it helps with injury prevention, shooting, and assisting in the basic movements. This is an example of something simple, but effective.

Remember off season training is about quality not quantity. It should have you feeling at your best when camp starts. When it comes to training it’s not always about how much but rather how well. Enjoy your off season, work hard, and if you need help come see us.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Originally published in Game On Magazine