The Purpose of In-Season Training

Along with the development program our hockey players receive on the ice, we have an equally important, complimentary physical preparation program that we run in the Duckett Performance Centre (DPC). People are often unaware of the benefits of strength and conditioning (S&C), unsure what to expect from an S&C program or what a good versus not-so-good program looks like. My goal throughout this season is to give some points of education as to what we are trying to accomplish and what can be expected of our program.

The most common request for an S&C coach is to give their son or daughter a better ‘first three strides’, a close second relates to altering their body composition and third is making them stronger. Physiological adaptation and motor skill development are incredibly complex tasks that require intelligent exercise prescription and a lot of effort and diligence on the athlete’s behalf. With this recipe progress can be attained.

The primary goal of our in-season training in the DPC is 3-fold: prevent injuries, maintain movement quality and maintain strength.

  1. Injury Prevention

Thanks to the incredible work of Brady Greening and her staff in the Edge School clinic, the recovery time from injury is greatly reduced in our community. While the day when Brady has an empty clinic will never come, through tracking training volume, monitoring key performance indicators, developing strength, energy systems and movement development, flexibility training, implementation of recovery modalities and more, our number 1 mission during the season is to reduce the incidence of injury. Training load (volume and intensity) is a notable issue that will often lead to injury. As our bodies acutely or chronically become fatigued we become less resistant to injury. Because this is the case, our other goals are typically not approached by increasing the volume, intensity or quantity of the athletes’ training, but by fine tuning the quality of their training.

2. Maintain Movement Quality

Movement is often viewed as a reflection of what is happening in the specific muscles involved in a particular movement pattern, but the story begins much deeper in one’s anatomy. Our nervous system controls everything. Some are born with a greater ability to coordinate movement patterns than others but the more skilled we become at coordinating specific and non-specific patterns, the more skilled we become at the art of movement. One thing sticks out like a sore thumb to me this NHL season, the game is being played with incredible pace. The game is now faster than even and the slow are being left behind. Putting movement skill at the top of one’s motor skill development list is paramount to compete in this era of hockey.

3. Maintain Strength

Much of the strength development that happens in those new to off-ice training comes through improvement in nervous system capabilities. That’s right, even strength is largely dictated by the nervous system. With our younger athletes, and those new to training, it is not a stretch to see strength gains being made during the season, especially with the foundational movements that we often practice. For those who have a history with strength training, especially if it has been consistently maintained over the months approaching the season, our goal is to start next off-season training where we left off last off-season from a strength standpoint. Strength maintenance during the hockey season is a best case scenario for athletes with a high training age. Because our athletes have the luxury of doing a formal S&C program 2-3 days/week throughout the entire season, they have a major advantage in this area of development.

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