Hockey Training – Off-season conditioning

A couple of weeks back I said that I would be starting a series of posts called, “Behind The Scenes In Sports.” The purpose of these posts was to bring you all more information about what fellow suits in the sports industry are discussing in boardrooms around the country. My first post in this series was about Dynamic Pricing, and how buying tickets to sporting events is about to become analogous to purchasing airline tickets.

I decided to expand this “insider” concept and include what happens behind the scenes with pro athletes as well, since after all, their lives are often more interesting than Front Office suits.

For today’s post, I am going to delve into hockey players’ off-season regimens, since many players will begin their hardcore conditioning in the coming the weeks.

Working in the biz for many years, I’ve become closely acquainted with several players and strength & condition coaches. As a result, I’ve frequently picked their brains about hockey training vs. your typical workout routines. As you may imagine, getting into hockey shape is quite different. Most guys you see in the gym have these huge torsos and these itsy bitsy legs. Hockey players…not so much.

Strengthening Your Core

The most important muscles they’ll train in the off-season are their legs, abs, and lower back (often referred to as the core). This is the area of your body where all your power comes from.

Have you ever seen what Martin St. Louis or Jagr looks like without all the pads on? Their upper bodies are somewhat pedestrian, but their legs are tree trunks. This isn’t to say training the rest of your body isn’t important, but you just can’t bypass your legs and most guys in the gym often do.

Off-season conditioning isn’t just about strength, it’s also about explosiveness, agility, and nutrition, the core elements that help to improve athletic performance. If you are working out to get bigger biceps like The Situation, good for you and good luck trying to play hockey. Unfortunately, this does nothing for your agility or your mobility.

So, what are some of the best exercises for hockey players? Core exercises like squats, split-squats, deadlifts, step-ups, rows, etc. should all be part of your regular workout routine.


Scouts often talk about how certain skaters have a “great first step.” This term is used to describe how a player with an explosive stride can separate himself from other skaters. The exercises that help to improve this skill are called Plyometrics, which focus around jumping. The goal of Plyometrics is to develop fast, explosive movements.

A lot of young athletes won’t do Plyometrics in the gym because they think it looks awkward – it does, get over it. For those of you who don’t care about appearances, you should do burpees, box jumps, and lateral box push offs, etc.

As a general rule of thumb, I was told to avoid using any machines or cable exercises. Many players stick to exercises with dumbbells, barbells, or exercises that make you use your own body weight like power cleans, dips, and chin ups. The reason being, machines and cables were created to isolate muscle groups and make working out easier. Working out shouldn’t be easy. If it was, Americans wouldn’t be so lazy and obese. Besides, if a Roman Warrior couldn’t do it, you shouldn’t either.