Thoughts on In-Season Hockey Training

I had this Friday off so I decided to put together a quick little brain-dump on in-season training with hockey players. Nothing new or outside the box, but some good reminders for other coaches working with hockey as well as a lot at what we are doing on a weekly basis.

#1: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing

“If breathing isn’t normalized no other movement pattern will be.” Karl Lewit

This is simple: diaphragmatic breathing is probably the simplest and easiest thing we can perform with our athletes when it comes to changing and improving movement and performance.

Proper respiration leads to better posture. Better posture leads to an athlete that is more resilient to injury and leads to better performance. More resilient + better performance = better athlete. Don’t miss out on the low hanging fruit.


#2: Consistently Sprinting On and Off Ice

Acceleration is king in most sports and hockey is no different. Winning chases to loose pucks and stops/starts are all acceleration based. If you want to be fast in short distances you need to consistently working to improve being fast over short distances.

Consistently timing 10 yard sprints is one of the best additions to our off-ice program that we’ve ever made (thanks Tony Holler & Michael Boyle). We’ve always performed acceleration work, but the intent has improved (a night and day difference) when the athlete is sprinting versus the timer.

With the way our week is set up we have been able to consistently time 10’s off-ice every Monday. We have done some timed sprints on-ice this fall but not as consistently as we’d like or probably should. In a perfect world, with our current weekly set up, we’d like to time 10’s off-ice on Monday’s and on-ice on Wednesdays.

#3: Anti-Extension for Hip/Groin Health

We perform a lot of things year round to help maintain hip/groin health. Some are smaller ‘prehab’ type things we’ll perform as part of our daily warm ups (tissue quality work, Cook Hip Lifts and other bridge work, different Foam Roll/Pilates Ring groin squeezes, various hip flexor strengthening/function work, etc.) while others are training staples like anti-extension core work with movements like rollouts, fallouts, front plank variations and body saws.

Long story short, our goal is to create balance;
– overworked/tight hip flexors can pull the pelvis into an anteriorly tipped position
– creating stiffness through the anterior core with anti-extension core work does the opposite, pulling the pelvis into a more superior position

#4: Training Power Outside the Sagittal Plane

Hockey is played in different planes, so we train power in different planes. Do we Olympic lift or perform loaded power exercises? Sure. We still hang clean, dumbbell snatch and do jump squats with the trap bar, but we also spend just as much time training power outside of the sagittal plane. We throw med balls in various planes three different days (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday) over the course of each week.

#5: More Hip Extension

This is pretty straight forward: hockey is a sport that is played in constant hip flexed position. Therefore, in order to do everything you can to keep hips healthy, I think its critical to train hip extension often in-season through sprinting, sled marching, 1-leg deadlift’s, slideboard leg curl’s, and 1-leg bench hip lift’s among other lifts/movements.

This year we’ve taken it a bit further and tried adding a little more hip extension throughout the course of the week. On our Day One (Monday) lift we’ll typically do some timed 10’s (2-4 sprints), 1-leg deadlifts (generally 3 sets of 5), and slideboard leg curls (2 sets of 5-8). On our Day 2 (Wednesday) lift while getting in some sled marching (3 sets 5-10 steps each) and 1-leg bench hip lifts (2 sets of 8-12) on our day 2 lift. So far, so good.

#6: Purely 1-Leg Training

Piggybacking off the previous thought, at this point in the year all of our lower body strength work has been transitioned into single leg through 1-leg squats, split squat variations, 1-leg deadlifts, etc.. We perform bilateral lifts like Trap Bar Deadlifts and Goblet Squats in the off-season, but I’m of the opinion that during the competitive season, spending too much time training bilateral strength as well as in the sagittal plane, could potentially have the tendency to lead to imbalances of the hip adductors/abductors. With the additional benefit of potentially more carry-over to the sport of ice hockey/skating, it seems like an obvious choice at this point of the year.

#7: Chin Up = Our #1 Upper Body Strength Movement

We push chin ups and we push them hard. It isn’t often that we go a week without performing some type of chin up or chin up variation. In sports where there is a chance for potential collision-related shoulder injuries, whether it be a collision with an opposing player or a collision with the boards in the case of hockey, pulling strength is hugely important from an injury prevention standpoint.

#8: Shoulder Friendly Pressing

Probably one of the big things we do different then other programs; we don’t bench press with a barbell in-season. Yes, we still bench press, but its more of an off-season movement for us. Most hockey players don’t tend to have the best posture in the world and live in that classic shoulders rolled forward posture, in large part because of the sport demands.

Because of that, in-season we tend to focus more on what we would consider more shoulder friendly pressing movements; landmine press variations, dumbbell bench press, 1DB and alternating dumbbell variations (flat and incline) and push ups. When the season ends and we spend much less time on the ice we can clean up posture we’ll bench with a barbell more often, but in-season its a simple risk > reward scenario for us.


Post Season Aerobic Circuit

First day back with @unhvolleyball and we got after a “Countdown” style aerobic circuit, using the assault bike, goblet squat, neutral grip push ups, inverted row, standing belly press, and med ball overhead slams.

🔴 1 Mile Ride
🔴 Round of 10 reps, Round of 9 reps
🔴 1 Mile Ride
🔴 Round of 8 reps, Round of 7 reps
🔴 1 Mile Ride
🔴 Round of 6 reps, Round of 5 reps
🔴 1 Mile Ride
🔴 Round of 4 reps, Round of 3 reps
🔴 1 Mile Ride
🔴 Round of 2 reps, Round of 1 rep


Med Ball Overhead Throw

🔷 Trains/improves anterior core power
🔷 Helps to teach and athlete how to transfer power from the ground, through the core, and out of the hands
🔷 Excellent drill for a throwing/overhead athlete to teach the posterior shoulder to decelerate effectively that is similar to throwing a ⚾️ or hitting a 🏐
🔷 Allows for the ability to train power outside the sagittal plane

Our progression goes from tall kneeling ➡️ 1/2 kneeling ➡️ standing ➡️ stepping ➡️ 2-step. We never use a med ball heavier then 4lbs to maintain velocity.

Each progression adds either more joints or movement, which leads to greater velocity. Greater velocity = more power output and a greater demand on the posterior shoulder to decelerate.

We typically program 2-3 sets of 5-10 throws depending on the time of year and training effect we are after.

Why We Love Landmine Pressing

Why the Landmine Press has become a staple in our pressing movements:

🔶 Overhead Pressing is important for various reasons and needs to be trained – it’s often overlooked in favor of horizontal pressing like the bench press which is often over-emphasized by coaches/athletes.
🔶 Don’t try to fit a square leg in a round hole. Like it or not, there aren’t many people or athletes that have the mobility to go overhead without compensation. If you don’t have the ability or range of motion to press overhead and do it anyway, don’t be surprised if you end up getting hurt.
🔶 Promotes full scapular range of motion.
🔶 Unique demand on the core + standing, the way most sports are played.
🔶 Unilateral, which allows for more ease on the shoulders.
🔶 Generally more shoulder friendly then pressing with any type of straight bar.

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! Here are a few thoughts bouncing around in my head after a week of reading, podcasts and other continuing ed. Enjoy!

  1. “The human body is incredibly complex. Training isn’t.” – Jorge Carvajal Couldn’t agree more. Push and pull things. Hip hinge and bridge. Squat on one and two legs. Carry things. Perform anti-extension/rotation/lateral-flexion core work.
  2. Volume, especially in-season, is a killer. Continually figure out how you can get the adaptations you are after while doing as little as possible. Minimum dose, maximal effect.
  3. I think coaches under-estimate the value of med ball work. You can get more specific with the planes/patterns you are training power, which isn’t going to happen with a barbell.

Weekend Week in Review

Another week, another group of podcasts and articles to read and listen to that I have dived into. Like every other week, there was a ton of content out there both in written form and through podcasts.

For podcasts, both of the Pacey Performance Podcasts (Ryan Horn & Boo Schexnayder) were great. Ryan has a great philosophy on training and Boo is one of the best sprint coaches in the world. Tons of great info from both of them.

For articles, read them all. Not joking. They are all great!



Pacey Performance with Ryan Horn

Pacey Performance with Boo Schexnayder

Iron Game Chalk Talk with Jeff Hurd

Strength Coach Podcast #243

Leave Your Mark with Stu McMillan


Advice I Wish I Knew in the Beginning by Adam Ringler

Performance Implications for Ice Hockey by Anthony Donskov

For Thirty Six Years I Patiently Waited at the Train Station Hoping my Ship Would Come In by Michael Boyle

The 4 Brain Superpowers by Inc.

Making Sense of Rotational Med Ball Progressions by Eric Cressey

Complex Training for Power Development

Complex Training: pairing a biomechanically similar strength exercise (we go with 3-5 reps) with a power exercise (we go with 5-8 reps depending on the exercise) to improve power development.

Our first lift of the week in-season is typically more strength oriented. Our second in-season lift of the week we typically perform more of a speed-strength emphasis as we get closer to competition using complex training methods.

Some examples of what we’ve done 👇

✔️Trap Bar DL ➡️ Bodyweight Jump Squat
✔️Inverted Row ➡️ Overhead Med Ball Throw
✔️DB Incline Press ➡️ Standing Med Ball Chest Pass
✔️Split Squat ➡️ Explosive Step Up
✔️ Chin Up ➡️ Overhead Med Ball Slam

“Anti” Core Training

“During most activities, the primary role of the abdominal muscles is to provide isometric support and LIMIT the degree of rotation of the trunk.” – Shirley Sahrmann

💥 Anti-Extension: exercises where the goal is to resist extension of the spine ➡️ rollouts, fallouts, body saws, front plank variations, deadbugs, etc
💥 Anti-Rotation: exercises where the goal is to resist rotation of the lumbar spine ➡️ kettlebell drag, plank rows, push up taps, etc
💥 Anti-Lateral Flexion: exercises where the goal is to resist sideways bending of the spine ➡️ side plank variations, Pallof press variations, suitcase carry, farmers carry, etc

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! Here are a few thoughts bouncing around in my head after a week of reading, podcasts and other continuing ed. Enjoy!

  1. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw. In strength and conditioning, we need more unreasonable coaches trying to progress the field forward in a positive manner.
  2. Coach the first person, then coach the athlete.
  3. A lot of coaches think that the coaches that put themselves out there are sellouts or that they always have their phones out and aren’t coaching. I don’t think that could be any further from the truth. It takes 10 seconds to take your phone out and get a video of something. I think that if you think you have something of value to offer other coaches you are doing them a disservice by not sharing.

Weekend Week in Review

Another week, another group of podcasts and articles to read and listen to that I have dived into this past week. Like every week, there was a ton of content out there both in written form and through podcasts.

For podcasts, I really enjoyed both the Pacey Performance with Eric Renaghan who spoke a lot on hockey and his work with the St. Louis Blues, and the Leave Your Mark with Bill Knowles, who is an outstanding rehab professional.

For articles, Todd Hamer wrote a great article on leadership that everyone could learn something from.



Pacey Performance with Eric Renaghan

Leave Your Mark with Bill Knowles

Iron Game Chalk Talk with Raph Ruiz

CVASP with Lee Taft


All Blacks Secrets by NZ Herald

Dos and Don’ts of Leadership by Todd Hamer

The Truth about Dodgeball and Tag by Lee Taft

Why College Athletes are the Most Badass People You’ll Ever Meet by Alex Duffield