In Part I of this discussion I talked about the demands of the various energy systems during the game of hockey. I included a brief review of a research paper on the levels of lactate produced during a hockey game. And we can see from this paper what the upper and lower levels of lactate production are and the relative importance of the anaerobic energy system.

But this study, and many others looking at the game of hockey, focus specifically on measuring the results of male hockey players. Are these results the same for females? Minus the hitting they play the same game as the guys do, so can we simply apply the same research to female hockey training?

Besides the energy system training of males and females for hockey there are going to be some other considerations to make as well.  I mean there are the obvious hormonal differences, differences in muscle firing patterns, differences in absolute strength levels, differences in joint angles i.e. Q-angle and differences in fat-free mass. So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to simply pass Jack’s hockey training program over to Jill.

A study in the  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at gender differences in the game of hockey during on-ice testing. The results can be considered valid as they replicate the muscle recruitment, equipment and environment as close as possible to the game itself. (see the bottom of this post for the citation of the article)

The researchers measured the VO2 max, ventilatory threshold and lactate thresholod of 10 male and 10 female NCAA div III hockey players. VO2 max is the maximal amount of oxygen a hockey player’s body can take up and use during exercise. The ventilatory threhold is the point during exercise that gets progessively harder when respirations increase more quickly than oxygen can be taken up. Lactate threshold is the point during exercise where lactate begins to appear in the blood during anerobic energy production.

What they found is that VO2 max is higher for males (52.7 +/- 1.3 ml/kg min) than for females (40.1 +/- 1.0 ml/kg min). Maximal heart rates were similar (185.8 b/min for males and 191.3 b-min for females). For both male and female hockey players they observed that ventilatory threshold is not an accurate predictor of lactate threshold in hockey.

So what does this tell us? Well first of all we can see that VO2 max scores are almost 20% different between males and females. And the high end of the heart rates reached reached during testing was similar for both. While females have lower VO2 max scores they have higher ventilatory thresholds than males. The authors suggest this may be a mechanism to make up for a lower VO2 max.

Going forward with their hockey training males and females should focus on different aspects of their conditioning to improve their fitness in hockey. For males increased fitness in hockey would come as a result of improved ventilatory threshold whereas for females  the emphasis should be on improved VO2 max. Females working on improved VO2 max should keep Part I of this discussion in mind as they do so.


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