It’s kind of interesting the training programs that different hockey players follow. Some will do the basics in terms of ground-based powerlifting such as the squat, deadlift and bench. Others will  lift no iron at all and perform every movement and exercise on a balance implement of some type. And lastly you’ll get the players who do a bodybuilding style workout that includes a few elements for the ‘show muscles’. These would be exercises such as crunches, biceps curls and other isolation favourites where you can feel the burn and then run and flex in front of the mirror.

It should be pretty obvious what my training philosophy is. We use a little bit of everything but focus our efforts around the powerlifting and Olympic movements. This means more whole body, ground-based lifting that progresses to explosive, powerful contractions. Which is kind of the opposite of what is done standing on a balance toy or when training the ‘guns for the show’.

So if this is the approach we use then we need to look at every element and ensure it has a purpose and a place in the program.  Do we simply set foot in the gym to work hard? To get a sweat on? To check something off our to-do list?

Are we there to make improvements in specific and key areas?

When you look down the list of the elements of your training program you should be able to defend and justify everything on that list.

And if you can’t defend or justify it, cut it out. Simple as that.

Because I’m a big believer that we have finite resources in terms of our available energy system supply, the tolerance of our tissues to wear and tear, the fatigue on our nervous system and our ability to regenerate and recover.

Imagine these elements as being a real monetary currency. And that this currency was directly correlated to performance. So spending less on wear and tear, fatigue and recovery meant that more was left in the bank for game day. Pretty straightforward concept.

What seems to be happening however is that we are being very spend thrift with our training currency. Take for example the bench press.

Why do we perform the bench press when training for hockey? Is it because the program we have has it included as an exercise? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Is it because no one asks ‘how much can you single leg squat?’ but rather ‘what’s your bench?’. Is it because it is a lift that we are all familiar with? Is it an ego lift and makes us feel strong? Is it because they test for it at the NHL combine? Or is because we think it translates well to hockey performance?

Because unfortunately our decision to bench probably has less to do with the last two reasons and more to do with all the others.

And this wastes some of our training currency.

And this may not lend to enhanced performance.

And this leads to increased potential for injury.

So as you carry on with your hockey training I want you keep the following in mind when you consider the bench press as part of you training program.

1. Are my bench press muscles as balanced as my pulling muscles?

2. Have I had any type of shoulder issue in the past?

3. Can I develop my upper body strength in other ways as opposed to the bench press?

4. What are the biggest deficits in my game and does the bench press address these?

Just to be clear our hockey players do bench. But we make sure to manipulate the angles, volume and loads constantly. We put them on their feet occasionally and in a closed-chain position. We also put as much, if not more emphasis, on their pulling muscles. And lastly we make sure that this decision leads to improved performance.


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