Hockey specific training, or sport specific training has some supporters, and some people who think it’s junk. What does the 2.0 version of hockey specific training look like? Here are some highlights:
- 2.0 parses the best parts of other sports/training methodologies and only uses the parts that are useful to hockey. Find out what parts are useful to hockey.
- 2.0 chooses those aspects that complement on-ice hockey performance
- 2.0 isolates key physical skills and trains them with the best known methods
Let’s start by unpacking why hockey specific training can be junk.
Why hockey specific training is junk
- Disrupts motor recruitment patterns
- Reinforces crappy posture and movement mechanics
Hockey skills have very specific motor recruitment patterns. Things like stick handling, shooting, and skating all have different programs that your brain runs when you want to do them. When coaches decide that a hockey player should do an exercise that is “stick handling-like”, or “shooting-like”, or “skating-like”, they can actually throw off these specific motor patterns. Let’s take the example of shooting. I’ve seen many players and trainers at the cable machine trying to mimic the shooting motion. I’ve been there myself, in a misguided effort to improve my shot power. But now matter how you set up the exercise, some major parts of it are different than actual shooting. This might actually have the effect of making your shot worse. You can probably think of many other examples of “hockey-like” exercises that seem to mimic a skill, but with added resistance make it completely different.
Crappy Posture and Movement Patterns
Hockey is a very unnatural sport. Skating, shooting and stick handling are not natural movements for the human body. As such, if repeated incorrectly and too often, these unnatural movements can cause the body to keep some permanent, unnatural, posture changes. When your body has poor posture and movement mechanics in day-to-day life, you increase the stress on your body.
I’m referring to Kelly Starret’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by saying that the body is designed for millions of cycles. Each joint, ligament, tendon, muscle are designed to last millions of cycles…or 100-120 years. When people move unnaturally, it dramatically lowers the amount of cycles that the body can withstand. So we know that hockey is going to cause the body to move unnaturally WHILE PLAYING…so we don’t want it to cause the body to move unnaturally in everyday life. (Importance of stretching and myofascial release routines)
So when we go to train off ice, we should focus on moving with correct, natural movement patterns. The “hockey specific” movements are already over-stressing your body while you’re actually playing the sport. There is therefore no need to increase the amount of these movement patterns by mimicking them off the ice. When you do mimic these movements while doing “sport specific” exercises, you further stress an already stressed system and reinforce crappy movement patterns and posture.
Hockey Specific 2.0
I always get asked:
- Is Yoga good for hockey?
- Is Track good for hockey?
- Is Boxing good for hockey?
- Is Olympic Lifting good for hockey?
- Is Tai Chi….
- Is Ping Pong….
The answer to the above is: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes….
BUT – you don’t have to become a Yoga/Track/Boxing/Olympic Lifting/Tai Chi/Ping Pong expert to reap the benefits.
For example, to get the benefit of Yoga for hockey players, you don’t need to change your whole wardrobe over the Lululemon, buy a mat, say Namaste, never strength train and go to 90 minute classes. But you CAN experience oneness with body, synchronize breathing and stretching and have mindfulness experiences. Those parts can help hockey, but you don’t have to be a Yogi to use those tools.
Track – you don’t have to go and get track spikes, join a track club, and do ridiculously long warm-ups in order to get the benefits from track. You can find a trainer who can teach you good sprinting mechanics, and get them to sprint you.
Olympic Lifting – You don’t have to get your personal chalk bucket, drop ass to the ground, buy lifting shoes, never do cardio, and get a guru olympic lifting coach. But you can do olympic lifts to improve your power.
So the key to Hockey Specific Training 2.0 is taking the most applicable parts of other methodologies and incorporate them into your hockey training program in a way that makes sense. Remember that hockey specific exercises that mimic hockey movements are B.S., so don’t do them.