Training consistently throughout the season can sometimes feel like a grind. Your schedule gets busy, you’re sore and tired from practices and games, and you do not want to find the time to train.
Unfortunately, that’s a mistake. In-season training has to be a priority if you want to stay strong and healthy for the second half of the year and into the playoffs.
There is a concept in the strength training world called Residual Training Effect (RTE). RTE refers to how long you continue to benefit from your previous training without continuing to work on it. For example, if you spend the off-season training for hockey, you can expect your strength gains to last 30 days (+/- 5) if you stop completely.
The season lasts anywhere from 6-9 months, which means the off-season training benefits will be a thing of the past. It also makes it harder come summertime to get back to off-ice training. Your body will be sore and feel like you’re back at ground zero.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of training during the season – you don’t want to miss out on valuable development time – let’s get into a few tips on how to do it well. This article wil help guide you on how to get the most out of your off-ice training during the season.
Consistency – Keep At It
The most important part of training in-season is to keep doing it. Early in the season is a great time to establish your training schedule and develop a pattern that you can stick to throughout the year. Quality training has a compounding effect. The more you continue to do it, the more you will continue to see growth and improvements.
We recommend that our athletes get a minimum of one solid training session during each 4-5 day span throughout the season. It is harder to stop training and then start over again after a couple of months. Most teams have a consistent schedule for games and practices, so look for the ideal training times in your schedule and stick to them!
Volume – Do Just Enough
One of the most common mistakes we see from athletes training in-season is that they do too much. Games, team practice, skills practice, team off-ice, extra-curricular at school, etc., all add stress to the body. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of how much you’re doing when you get to training. Many players come into the season having completed a thorough off-season with plenty of volume and think they need to train the same way during the year.
This is not the case.
During the season, athletes should be focusing on doing just enough work to see improvements. More is not always better. Full-body lifts are an efficient way to work on strength, speed, and power during the season. Pairing or supersetting 6-8 exercises for 2-4 sets of each using a moderate rep range and weight is likely all you need.
Timing – Plan Your Schedule
With busy in-season schedules, athletes often worry about how their off-ice training will affect their on-ice performance. Training on and off the ice challenges the body’s tissues and energy levels, so we must consider it. Choosing the proper workout at the right time is crucial if we want to feel our best and maximize performance on gamedays. Soreness and fatigue are two of the biggest things athletes want to avoid feeling heading into a game.
We recommend our athletes complete the most challenging workout of the week as far as possible from their next game. Then as the week progresses, focus more on specific performance goals. This could mean recovery sessions or primer lifts that prep the body and nervous system for the game.
Variety – Do What You Do Best
Training time is limited throughout the season, so stick to movements you can do well and make minor adjustments as you progress through the year.
We focus on compound, multi-joint movements that allow us to train several muscle groups efficiently. Limiting the variety of exercises can also enable athletes to gain maximal adaptations and improve their technique during the training phase before switching things up.
This doesn’t mean that you must do the exact same exercise every session, but utilizing variations of the same movement can keep things fresh and help target different adaptions.
For instance, try doing reverse lunges or rear-foot elevated split squats instead of doing split squats. Athletes can also try using different training implements. For example, try using dumbbells or kettlebells for weight instead of using a barbell. Minor changes such as these can help keep workouts fresh while still being effective.
Recovery – Take Care of Yourself
Recovery is everything you’re doing away from the rink to take care of your body. Recovery is divided into two categories; passive and active. Passive recovery involves things such as nutrition, hydration, and sleep. Active recovery includes light workouts, foam rolling, soft-tissue release methods, and hot/cold therapy. Taking care of yourself away from the rink helps maximize your performance on-ice. Beyond refueling, rehydrating, and emphasizing sleep quality, we recommend you do some aspect of active recovery every day to help you stay fresh and prepared for game day.
Make Adjustments – Be Adaptable
The season is a busy time of year in terms of scheduling. Practices and games do get changed. Some training sessions can feel harder than others; if you’re run down after a long week or tournament weekend.
It’s important to listen to your body and be adaptable to the situation. There will be days you feel great and can push yourself during off-ice training. However, there will also be days when you feel terrible, can’t get into a solid rhythm, and must do the minimum. That’s ok. If you are staying consistent, then there will always be another opportunity. One great workout on its own won’t make your season, but a bad workout at the wrong time can put you in a bad position.
It’s the Game That Matters – Prioritize Performance
In-season training is meant to maximize game-day performance. That’s its most important role. The things you’re doing away from the rink mustn’t be taking away from your game.
Consider making changes if you feel great in the gym but lack energy on the ice. Avoid wasting time and energy on extra volume or conditioning, and prioritize the things that will help you most come game time.