With club, school, and junior hockey teams in full swing, finding available ice to train on is challenging to say the least. Even finding the free time to travel to a rink and skate is difficult with collegiate preparation, recruiting visits, and applications taking up valuable hours during the day. Fear not, there are plenty of off-ice ways to work on strength training, injury prevention, and player development. When life gets in the way, these five activities will improve hockey specific hand-eye coordination, hip and thoracic mobility, footwork, speed, strength, conditioning, and ultimate durability.
- Golf – No other sport replicates the mechanics of a hockey player more than golf. With a focus on hand-eye coordination, thoracic mobility, hip extension, and core stabilization, eighteen holes of golf is the ideal off-ice activity to help you improve your shot velocity, puck handling, and focus.
- Soccer – The difference between a slow skater and a fast skater is all about stride turnover. On average, it takes .5 seconds for a “slow” skater to execute a single stride (from the skate’s first contact with the ice, to full leg extension and the leg’s return to flexion). “Fast” skaters typically execute a stride in .35 seconds. A stride’s speed and power is greatly influenced by hip flexor strength, hip extension power, and knee flexion angle. Playing soccer will force the muscle recruitment of hip flexors, quadriceps decelerators, and fast twitch muscle fibers to improve stride power, frequency, and recovery.
- Treading water – Skating is not a natural movement. Neither is treading water. Water is both buoyant and fluid and therefor creates resistance without causing injury. Water creates more resistance than air which in turn will deliver similar aerobic results with less physiological stress on the body. When treading water, increased water pressure helps to pump blood flow to the heart while core, hip, and arm muscles are utilized to maintain an upright position. For hockey players looking for aerobic conditioning with decreased load on joints, treading water is an excellent place to start.
- Trail Running – Whether in the snow or on dry land, trail hiking is an exceptional training experience. Utilizing moderate inclines with varying pace, trail hiking/running teaches skaters to maintain a slightly forward posture while propelling forward, decelerating downward, and adjusting appropriate to unpredictable obstacles. With appropriate tempo, hiking mimics the acceleration, endurance, and kinetic awareness required to maintain an injury free, high level of intensity for extended periods of time.
- Racquetball – The epitome of agility, hand-eye coordination, and conditioning, racquetball exposes hockey players to intense changes of direction, rapid acceleration, and fundamental deceleration in sport. In conjunction with lower body power and trunk rotational mobility, racquetball develops a strong lower back through bouts of high intensity exercise. Racquetball is the ideal sport for hockey players looking to improve their kinetic foresight, footwork, focus, and coordination.
Durability training is available in dozens, if not hundreds, of variations. You don’t need a sheet of ice, a hockey stick, puck, or net to achieve an injury-free athletic career. To remain injury free, you must be open to exercises and activities that diversify the type of athlete you wish to become. Multi-directional movements, varying tempos, and unpredictable adaptations are variables that will set your training ahead of your competition. Don’t be afraid to put the stick down, pick the racket up, and break a sweat.