Training camp, pre-season, regular season and [hopefully] playoffs—that's quite a bit of high-intensity competition in a short period of time. Depending on where an athlete plays, game totals for a year can range from 50 to more than 100. And if you happen to be a junior hockey player who gets called up at the end of the year, we're talking higher totals yet.
What does this mean to the athlete from a physiological point of view? Simply said, accumulated competition volume often results in fatigue and breakdown. The answer to this fatigue lies in the work an athlete does in the off-season. A major part of off-season workouts should be complex lifts, incorporating Olympic-style variations.
As an athlete, your major concern in regards to performance is power. Other performance characteristics like strength, movement, balance and mobility are important, but power remains the most measurable aspect of your game.
Lower body power, thought of in terms of "speed strength" or "strength speed," can be improved by a systematic program that recruits a large portion of muscle fibers in a short space of time. Jump work [Cleans, Squats, etc.] is critical, but since hockey particularly involves many short- and long-term puck battles and repeated body contact, the higher load characteristics of complex lifts suit the training demands of the sport very well.
Off-season programming for us at Crash Conditioning involves incorporating complex lifts. One great example is Bear Mountain [see video below]. Athletes will perform two to five circuits of the exercise one to two times per week, depending on progression and overload. Repetition totals vary, but each set is often very demanding and can last upwards of 30 to 45 seconds—which is also the average shift length for a competing player.
By incorporating complex lifts, we can ramp up intensity and condition the athlete for the demands of a long season.
Photos: crossfitbc.com, Crash Conditioning
Shawn Stead is the director of athletic development at Crash Conditioning, located in Calgary, Alberta. His education focused on the performance enhancement of athletes. He has worked with the U.S. Ski Team's Sport Science division and has developed, consulted, coached and managed programs for the Lethbridge Hurricanes [WHL], Hockey Alberta, University of Lethbridge Athletics and other sporting organizations in Western Canada.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock