Over the past few years I seem to hear the expressions ‘sport-specific’ or ‘hockey specific’ training more and more. Parents that will inquire about training sometimes like to use these terms. As well, these are popular ways the competition likes to market their business towards prospective clients.

But what is sport-specific training anyways? For some it appears this involves replicating the movements or motions that are performed in the game of hockey and transferring them to the weight room floor. And the drills and exercises that most closely resemble the on-ice aspects of the game are therefore considered the best options.

If we really wanted to be sport-specific, applying this logic, we might incorporate some drills that involve throwing our bodyweight into the wall as though throwing a check. Or maybe we would perform some hand-eye coordination drills for a goalie by having them wear their mask to obstruct their vision somewhat. Or what about wearing skates into the weight room to perform squats and lunges in a manner that translates to the balance requirements of the game?

None of this would make sense. And it actually sounds kind of rediculous. But unfortunately we see this in the gym day in and dayout by hockey players attempting to improve their on-ice performance. Worse yet these hockey players are the ones selecting these drills or this type of training. This is the plan set out by their coach or trainer.

The truth is the most specific hockey training we can do is to play the game itself. When not playing the game here’s how we make our training as purposeful or specific as possible to improve our game.

When we are performing our energy system training this is where we try and mimic the demands of the game and get ‘hockey-specific’. So when we are doing conditioning, agility or speed training we make sure that manipulate the length of the drill and the rest between reps to match the energetic demands of hockey. 

When it comes to our weight room workouts, they are specific to hockey but may look nothing like the game of hockey. Our emphasis is on generating ground-based explosive strength and power. This is done by selecting triple extension exercises for the lower body such as the Olympic lifts as well compound exercises for the upper body. Just as with our energy system training it is important to incorporate the appropriate volume (reps, sets), intensity and rest when you train these lifts. Failing to do results in sub-par performance or potential injury.

Lastly, when we address our mobility and stability with our hockey players the drills may not resemble the game of hockey either. However performing an airplane exercise is an excellent choice for increasing ankle and hip mobility while connecting the lower and upper parts of the body through the middle. When performing this drill players can readily make the connection between this drill and where they will draw strength from to unleash a snap shot.

The key point here is to not get caught up in what ‘appears’ to be sport-specific. Take some time to be assessed by strength and conditioning specialist to determine your weak links. Addressing these issues plus the abilities that are commonly required for success in hockey will allow for your best on-ice performance.

2 Responses to “What is hockey-specific training?”

  • Just wanted to let you know that your blog is not showing up properly on the BlackBerry Browser. Anyway, I’m now on the RSS feed on my laptop, so it works!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ll look into the BB issue. Glad to hear the RSS is coming through.


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