The Biggest Mistake Made During Off-Season Training!


I hope you are all enjoying your off-season, but also working hard to get ready for the upcoming hockey season. There’s usually a lot to be done during the summertime; speed, strength, stamina, skills: often they all need to be worked on. I’m sure that a lot of you have been training a lot, but there’s one mistake that I hope you are avoiding this summer: turning quality work in to quantity work. I see this a lot with players as well as coaches, and it makes me cringe.

What is “quality work”? For me, this is anything where you need a really fast, explosive effort, like jumping, sprinting, med ball throwing, or Olympic-style lifting, to name a few examples.

What is “quantity work”? This will be your regular weightlifting, (especially at the start if the offseason when you’re often doing doing a lot of reps to build strength-endurance), as well your aerobic/longer anaerobic conditioning, where your legs are burning and you are panting for breath.

What often happens: quality and quantity get confused with one another, or mixed together, and quality loses out. Many coaches talk about how they want their team to get faster during the offseason, then work exactly against this goal. Here’s a list of insanity that I’ve experienced during my professional career as a player:

-27 sets of 5 Olympic height hurdle jumps, followed by a 10m sprint. On the 25th set, one of our best players landed weird, and there was a loud pop: that was his Achilles tendon tearing. Operation, four months of rehab. He was never the same player after that.

- 14x100m “sprints”, for “speed”. Let me tell you, after the first few sprints, we weren’t really fast any more.

- A 20-minute-long “speed” course, consisting of sprints, agility ladders, and mini-hurdles. We had about 5-10 seconds in between drills. How are you to supposed to do this fast for 20 minutes????

-280 total jumps in one workout. #ihavenokneesleft

There were many examples more than just these four….

The coaches were always very satisfied at the end of these workouts because we were bagged and had “trained to get faster”. My question is, how the heck were these workouts supposed to make us faster?

Let’s simplify the science a little bit: while I am not a scientist or a conditioning coach, I do read a lot of scientific articles as well as books by some of the best in the business, like Michael Boyle, Kevin Neeld and Mark Verstegen. If I want to become faster, then wouldn’t it make sense that I have to be moving at my absolute top speed in order to get faster? In order to get me moving at my absolute top speed, wouldn’t my muscles have to be contracting as powerfully as they possibly could? And can they contract as powerfully as they possibly could if they are tired or “burning”? The same idea applies to exercises for explosiveness in the gym like your Olympic lifts or kettlebell swings: your muscles have to be firing on all cylinders in order to get that weight moving as fast a you can; they can’t be exhausted. This is the reason why I hate putting explosive drills into a circuit training environment: the most common duration for a station in a circuit is about 30 seconds. Are you really going to be “exploding” after the first 10-15 seconds?

I f you want to get faster, then you have to move as fast as you possibly can. If you are tired, then you can’t move as fast as possible. If you move slowly, you will at best not become faster. At worst, you will become slower, and injured. Slow and injured, is the last thing anyone wants to be.

Here are a few guidelines for you for your training:

-In his book, “Ultimate Hockey Training”, Kevin Neeld recommends 150-200m TOTAL distance when doing sprints, with complete recovery between sprints. So for example, 4x10m, 4x20m, 2x30m and you’re done. Please don’t be doing 100m sprints for speed; this is an Olympic discipline, not training for hockey.

- In “New Functional Training for Sports” Michael Boyle recommends about 25 jumps per workout and 100 jumps per week. So essentially, when we did those 280 jumps in a workout, that was the entire workload for about three weeks. Not a good idea.

-Always do your explosive lifts in the gym first, before going on to your squats, chin-ups, etc.

-Always do the “conditioning” part of your workout on the field as the last exercise. Quality work must be done before the quantity work. And move more towards interval training for your conditioning and away from long, continuous aerobic workouts.

Apart from lack of knowledge, I think on of the reasons many coaches and players still train for speed and explosiveness the wrong way is that they feel that “if it’s not burning, then you’re not working”. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Doing a 10m sprint- that’s full-out, 100% effort. Doing an explosive lift is absolutely hard work, even if your muscles aren’t burning. There is a time and place for that gasping for air, legs on fire feeling. It’s just not when you are training for speed and explosiveness. Remember, this is high-quality work.

Getting fast is so hard- it takes years. Please don’t mess it up by training to become slow instead. Work hard this summer, but also work smart. Then when the season starts again, you’ll not only show up “fit” in the traditional sense, but you’ll have that speed and power that all coaches are looking for!


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