Strength and Conditioning Tips for Youth Hockey Players

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Strength and Conditioning Tips for Youth Hockey Players

Strength and conditioning are important for any skater, whether that is a figure skater or a hockey player.
We met with Siobhan Miller who is a Strength & Conditioning coach and asked her some questions about what young hockey players can do, with regards to strength and conditioning so they can perform their best on the ice.

Q1. What are three key things for young hockey players to know about movement?
1. Building body awareness is key for not only better performance on the ice, but also for more effectively building strength and power in the gym. 
2. "Move it or lose it" is a cliché for a reason - it's true! The off-season can be a great time to work on building up a base level of strength and fitness that will serve you well on the ice in-season.
3. Everyone's body is different. It's important to start understanding your body and how it responds to training as soon as possible. I strongly recommend that all players keep a training diary. Not just with details of the sessions (e.g. 60 minutes in the gym doing x/y/z exercises), but details of how your body and mind felt before, during, and after. It's a great tool to start seeing patterns in what does and doesn't work for you.
We love that Siobhan also suggests body awareness. If you haven't read our recent conversation with Courtney King, check out her suggestions for have your hockey player become more aware of their body.
Naturally we also agree that noticing how you felt after you exercise is great. The mental side of things is so important and if something makes you feel heavy and weighed down, then it may not necessarily be the best thing for you/your player to do long term.
2. What is the one thing a player can do off the ice to move better on the ice?
This is a tricky one. I honestly think I would say: Develop your mindset. Remember that everything is a skill that can be learned (some skills faster than others, but they're all learnable). This will feed into all your training and performance, on and off the ice.
A big high five to Siobhan for pointing out that mindset is key to being a great skater and having the power to do what you love and play to your best. 
3. If a young player goes to the gym what is the best training for them to focus on?
It totally depends on their training age (how long they've been training) in the gym. Always start focusing on technique first. If the technique of a lift or exercise starts wavering, decrease the weight. You want to build good habits and movement foundations that will serve you for the rest of your hockey career.
Especially in the first few years in the gym, I would not get a youth player lifting their maximum weight. Generally speaking, you should always have 2 more reps in the tank. That way you'll be building strength without going so heavy that the technique fails. This can be a slow burn; you've got many years to work up towards your peak strength and power, so don't rush it!
In the off-season, I'd be generally working a bit towards hypertrophy (building some muscle mass) and basic strength, and in-season I'd be working on power development. It's really important to know that we can't skip steps (well, we can, but our performance will suffer!). So start with the basics and build up slowly. 
4. What is the biggest difference between training for a hockey player and someone playing other sports?
It really depends on what sport we're comparing it to; there are a lot of similarities to some sports, and some huge differences compared to others. In a lot of ice sports, including hockey, the adductors (inner thigh muscles) have to work a lot harder than when we're off the ice. They're especially important when players are pushing against the ice to move in the opposite direction (like in the crossover step), or when the foot is being pulled back under the body in preparation for another stride. I always include some adductor-specific strength for hockey players (and speed skaters, and curlers) to help prevent injury here. 
5. One tip for young hockey players to prevent injuries.
Strength train, but do it purposefully and with good technique.
If you will like to find out more about the services that Siobhan provides head over to her website