Optimal Strength and Conditioning Training for Hockey Players

Hockey players of all skill levels can greatly improve their on-ice performance by optimizing their athleticism through a well-constructed Strength and Conditioning program. While athletes on college and professional teams have access to quality Strength and Conditioning Coaches, recreational and adult-league players are often shooting in the dark as far as their physical development goes.

If you have a desire to be competitive in the modern game, it’s tremendously important that you develop your athleticism. While there are rare players with God-given talents who can afford to cut corners on their off-ice work, most players should be putting a major emphasis on developing their physical capabilities away from the rink so that they can concentrate their efforts on developing their skills when they can get on the ice.

This is a lengthy article, and I’ve divided it into two parts: Energy Systems (forms of unweighted/low-weight Cardiovascular Conditioning such as running and swimming) and Strength Training (which encompasses weight training, plyometrics, and similar Set-Rep movements that build explosiveness, strength, lean body tissue, etc). At the bottom, I make a few dietary and supplement recommendations, based on my own experience. I recommend you absorb the article in chunks, and refer back to it as needed.

Key Concepts

I am not going to get into the “Whys” of sport-specific training very much, and instead focus on the “Hows”. I am writing this under the premise that you are an amateur player looking to excel in your respective league, and that you currently are not doing much off-ice training. I am also writing this under the impression that you do not have access to fancy equipment seen at elite Performance-type facilities, but have access to the equipment seen at most commercial gyms (barbells, dumbbells, treadmills, etc).

First, consider a physical specimen and elite athlete such as Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. Most would consider him to be an exceptional athlete in a League full of elite athletes. For much of his career, Iginla has represented the prototype of the contemporary Power Forward, and an optimal blend of size, strength, and speed.

Jarome pointed out once that his game really took off when he stopped training like a conventional bodybuilder and started training more like a sprinter. Here is an overview of one of his training templates:


There’s a good chance that you train like a conventional bodybuilder because that style of training is so pervasive. Legions of gym-goers mindlessly do three sets of 10-12 reps, with no regard for Tempo, just because they read it in a magazine or a friend told them to do it. As a Hockey player, if you want to optimize your results, you are going to need to train in a specific way.

As a player myself, over the years I have used a variety of training modalities to various degrees of success. Here are the Key Concepts I’ve come to adopt in my own training:

* Optimal Strength distribution between Hip Dominant (HD) and Quadriceps/Knee Dominant (KD) muscles.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. After years of drastically over-developing my Knee Dominant muscles (primarily the Vastus Medialis), I eventually incurred a severe knee injury. The Good News was that in the process of my recovery, I was forced to rebuild my stride so that it was better balanced between Knee Dominance and Hip Dominance. I now have a better, faster, and more-economical stride due to the development of my Hip Flexors, Hip Abductors/Adductors, and Glutes.

* Athletic Cross-Training

Playing baseball or tennis is going to improve your game in a distinct way that Strength Training will not. Sports are reactive; something happens, and the Athlete responds to it. The methodical nature of Strength and Conditioning Training does not improve an athlete in this regard.

If you have the option, a session at the batting cages, a boxing class, or a game of soccer is going to improve your athleticism in a way that Strength Training cannot. If traditional sports are not available to you, General Physical Preparedness training such as Sledgehammer Swinging, Tire-Flipping, Jumping Rope, and similar work can be an adequate substitute if executed properly:

* Combination Anaerobic/Aerobic Conditioning

While Jarome’s program emphasizes explosive power and Anaerobic Conditioning, Aerobic Conditioning has gone somewhat under-appreciated in many recent conditioning programs. While a well-conditioned Aerobic athlete may lose a fraction of a second on his blue line-to-blue line sprint time, she or he can also continue to perform throughout the progression of the shift or game at 90-95% of her or his capacity (whereas a purely Anaerobic athlete tops out at 60-70 seconds and gradually fatigues as the game progresses).

Unless you are a professional-level player on strict 40-second shifts, it will behoove you to develop your Aerobic system in tandem with your explosive power.

* High-Performance Mass Only

Jarome noted that the inflated muscles of a bodybuilder are largely useless on a Hockey player. While a Hockey player may want extra-large legs (to allow for optimal power output), adding size without strength makes a player cumbersome, plodding, and slow. It benefits a Hockey player to train Limit Strength, but training for Non-Functional Hypertrophy like most gym-goers is counter-productive. Any size a player adds should come with a commensurate increase in Strength.

* Emphasis on Muscular Control and Slow-Twitch Muscle Development

While developing fast-twitch muscles like the pectorals, biceps, and hamstrings can be selectively useful to a Hockey Player, the development of the slow-twitch muscles (triceps, shoulders, quadriceps) has much more applicability from a skill perspective. Excellent muscular control of the triceps, for example, allows for precision in passing and puck control, as the muscle group acts as a stabilizer for your hands and forearms. Development of muscular control of the quadriceps allows for better precision in skating.

To develop Muscular Control, I recommend higher reps (15-25 or more) at a very deliberate Tempo. The Eccentric or “lowering” portion of the lift should last 4-8 seconds. This type of training works best with Isolation (single-joint) movements on the Slow-Twitch muscle groups (Quadriceps, Tibialis Anterior, Triceps, Latissimus, Spinal Erectors, etc.)

A Brief Word on the Strength-Endurance Continuum

Here is a very brief overview on the different Strength Capacities people possess:

Limit Strength – The absolute-most weight a person can move. For training purposes, Limit Strength is defined as Greater than or Equal to your five-repetition maximum (5RM), or 87.5% of your one-rep maximum (1RM)

Functional  (Myofibrillar) Hypertrophy – A repetition range in which you develop strength commensurate with size gains. This repetition range is generally defined as 6-8 reps, or 80-85% of your 1RM. This type of Hypertrophy is commonly seen in elite-level anaerobic athletes, such as gymnasts, boxers, and sprinters.

Non-Functional (Sarcoplasmic) Hypertrophy – A repetition range in which you increase size without additional strength; the “bodybuilding” repetition range. This range is generally denoted as 8-12 reps, or 70-80% of your 1RM. While there is debate about distinguishing between the two branches of Hypertrophy, this higher-volume repetition range generally does not boast the same gains in strength as the Functional Hypertrophy repetition range/intensity level.

Strength-Endurance – Strength-Endurance is localized muscular endurance (as opposed to general Aerobic/Anaerobic endurance, or  Cardiovascular Endurance; “lung power”). This is the ability of a muscle to contract repeatedly or hold a contraction under tension. Strength-Endurance is generally defined as anywhere over 12 reps (70% 1RM), with a terminal limit around 30 reps (25% 1RM). Within this repetition range, Speed-Strength (loaded movements), Strength-Speed/Plyometrics (explosive movements), and localized muscular endurance can be trained.

Aerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to efficiently operate in a Heart Rate Zone (HR) of 70-80% of maximum. Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is generally defined as 220 minus your age, but this number can go up in well-conditioned athletes.

Anaerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to operate in a HR Zone of 80-90% of MHR. Anaerobic Conditioning can involve Anaerobic Endurance (the ability to stay above 80% MHR for time) or the ability to maintain an Anaerobic Ouput at or near the 90% MHR mark. The HR Zone above 90% is generally defined as the VO2 Max Zone (Maximum Oxygen Uptake), and it’s a given that a person cannot operate in this zone for time periods beyond 30-40 seconds (thus the nature of the 40-second NHL shift).

This is a very brief overview of big-chunk exercise science concepts. It is only meant to inform you of which systems you will want to develop as a player. Most people reading this will not need to get so technical, but feel free to ask me questions in the Comments section if you want to really get into the science.

Optimal Energy Systems Training

Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) for time: This is non-stop running or swimming for a set duration (usually 25-60 minutes) within the Aerobic Heart Rate Zone. For me, this is about 133-162 Beats Per Minute, though I err on the high end because I’m fairly well-conditioned aerobically. This is the most standard way to improve Cardiovascular Conditioning, which improves overall on-ice performance on a number of levels. The key is not fall into a comfort zone. Try to challenge your body and perform at higher levels for extended duration to increase your Cardiac Output.

My sentiment on Aerobic Training is that You Are Stronger Than You Think. Jogging or lap-swimming at a comfortable pace is not going to really help a Hockey layer, but pushing the Aerobic Threshold (working at or near 80% of your MHR) improves your body on a number of levels, which I won’t get into here.

You do not need a Heart Rate Monitor, but if your treadmill is equipped with one, it may be useful in giving you an idea of what 160 BPM feels like. If you do not have one, just keep asking yourself, “Can my heart work harder?” Chances are, it can.

400 Ms: Quarter-mile “sprints” at maximum intensity. This is an excellent way to train Anaerobic Endurance. For me, a 400 M sprint takes about 90-120 seconds (which runners will note is a 6:00-8:00 minute mile). The goal is not to hit your absolute maximum speed, but the maximum speed you can sustain at the upper time-limits of your Anaerobic System. You could also implement 90-120 seconds’ worth of “weighted” strength training to a similar effect, if you understand how to do so.

I would equate a quarter-mile sprint to 75-100 M of maximum-effort swimming (which is 3-4 “lengths” in most swimming pools). The key is to work as hard as you can for 90-120 seconds, recover for 60-90 seconds, then go again. This will greatly improve your ability to maintain level of play at the end of a shift.

If you wish to train the upper limits of your Anaerobic Endurance, running at a pace that you can only sustain for 2.5-3 minutes is also an effective way to train. This is slightly different from a 400 M, as you must pace yourself in a different manner. You are training the threshold between Anaerobic and Aerobic work, and amateur-league shifts tend to run more in the 2-3 minute range than the 45-second range. This is one training method in which a treadmill, with an incline and a timer, can be more effective than running outdoors.

15-Minute Timed Walk: This is a technique taught to sprinters to teach them how to recruit their hip flexors preferentially to their quadriceps. The goal is to walk as far as you can in 15 minutes. This is easy on Day 1, but as you progress it will become quite challenging to better the Distance you can complete. Your stride will naturally lengthen, and your body will involuntarily start developing more hip-drive. If you are a very quad-dominant skater (or if your skating posture is “aggressively-forward” or the majority of your bend comes at the knees), balancing your stride with hip-dominant work will help prevent injury and develop more overall power.

True Sprints: the best way to develop maximum speed is the True Sprint. Treadmills unfortunately do not allow for a True Sprint because you are not working from a dead stop, and many agree that treadmills take away the necessary stabilization of the antagonist muscles, robbing you of the maximum benefit. If your goal is maximum speed (such as improving blue line-to-blue line speed for a time-trial), you probably need to take 1-2 training days and do legitimate sprints on a track or field.

I would start with 50-yard sprints x 5-7 on a football field, if possible. The aim is to constantly be Accelerating, or trying to accelerate (much like a lifter does under an extremely-heavy weight). On longer-duration sprints, your acceleration reaches a Terminal Limit or plateau where you cannot accelerate any more. Shortly thereafter, you may experience a loss in acceleration, at which point your body starts training Anaerobic Endurance as in the 400 Ms drill.

If you can run a 400 M (quarter-mile) in 90 seconds, you should aim to do a 200 M in 40-50 seconds (much like an NHL shift). Again, the goal is Constant Acceleration – shorten the distance, if needed.

Energy Systems Training Plan

This will vary with your goals as a player. A Power Forward-type may want to improve his acceleration, while a Sniper may want to improve his Anaerobic Endurance.

I recommend incorporating some of each of the above techniques into your training, based upon the areas you need to improve or wish to Optimize. Less-conditioned athletes may have to start with more Aerobic Conditioning and Timed Walks before progressing to True Sprinting or 400 Ms. Also, do not be afraid to take “Active Recovery” days in which you do lower-intensity work. Listen to your body, and tailor your training program to your Hockey schedule.

Optimal Strength Training Program

There may not be an Optimal Strength Training Program for all athletes, but there certainly can be a program that is optimal for you.

Let’s whittle down the areas of Strength Training to the ones that are most applicable to a hockey player:

* You Will Do Squats of all shapes and sizes: Back Squats, Box Squats Front Squats, Overhead Squats, Dumbbell Split Squats, etc. There is a reason Squats are the linchpin of NHL Strength Training programs: no other exercise develops Leg Power and stimulates Growth Hormone release as effectively. However, you should Squat intelligently: because muscle mass is not your primary goal, you are going to keep the Repetition Ranges either extremely low (3-8 Reps per Set) or fairly high (15+ Reps per Set). All Size gains must come with a commensurate gain in Strength. Accelerate the weight, and lower under control but not deliberately.

You are also going to focus on Glute Activation, balancing out what I suspect to be slow-twitch and quadriceps dominance with a plethora of Deadlift and Glute Bridge Variations. I am not going to get into Deadlifting 101, other than to repeat that the reps are to be kept around 3-8 per set. Five sets of five reps is an excellent, time-honored Rep Scheme that you could adopt and expect rapid results from.

The key is to use any means necessarily to get your glutes firing and powerful. Deadlifts and their accessory exercises are some of the best ways to accomplish this.

Your concern as a Hockey player is Force Production. If you push yourself into the ice harder, you will propel your body away from the ice with more power. This is basic concept of physics, which you can research elsewhere. As it pertains to your training, you want to drive up your Strength numbers on Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift variations, Single-Leg Squats, and so forth. I assure you this will lead to speed gains, especially if you can whittle away your excess body fat.

* Balancing out Knee/Quadriceps Dominance seen in slow-twitch athletes is critical. The Timed Walks will help in this regard, but you should aim to include certain Glute Activation Exercises, as well as Hip-Dominant movements such as American Swings, Deadlift variations, and Bridging movements.

High-Rep Posterior Chain movements, like Stiff-Leg Deadlifts and weighted lunges, are going to leave you extremely sore; these need to be implemented on days in which you have a 2-3 day break before your next game or important practice. Low-Rep movements such as Deadlifts can be placed on a “Heavy” day, in which the goal is increase Maximum Strength.

* With upper body movements, again the optimal performance protocol will center around Force Production along with Injury Prevention. The upper body movements that involve the most Force Production are the Olympic lifts, the Bench Press, and standing Barbell Shoulder Press variations. These are all movements in which you can Accelerate the weight, and are thus most applicable to sports.

(Note: I realize the Olympic lifts are not upper body movements, but most players are not going to utilize them without experience or an experienced trainer. I included them with the Presses just to illustrate the type of Strength movements that one can Accelerate, as opposed to most Pulling movements or Isolation movements.)

To help prevent injuries, counter-balancing all of these pushing movements with some quality Pulling movements is crucial. To cite one example, Weighted Chin-Ups are one of my absolute favorites. They protect your shoulder girdle by conditioning you to retract your scapula, which in English means that they offset the caveman-shoulder look that excessive bench-pressing can give you. Other favorites include Dumbbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, and Farmer’s Walks. I prefer Rep Ranges of 5-8 for these movements.

Injury Correction would be another article onto itself. If you are reading this with an ailing shoulder or knee, I suggest you save this article until you have rehabilitated yourself. There are plenty of free articles all over the internet that cover all areas of the body at-length.

Lifting weights under Tempo is optimal for bodybuilding, but not as much for Hockey player. If you have a lengthy break between games, it may help to balance out your body with a more-traditional program in which you lift and lower the weight with extreme control, but this is most likely going to add size without strength. Unless you are severely underweight, this is not an optimal way to train while in-season.

If you are like me and have a narcissistic desire to look good naked while performing well at Hockey, I recommend Christian Thibideau’s Star Complex protocol. It incorporates most of the Strength Training principles I have described above:


Combined with the Energy Systems and Nutritional Guidelines I’ve recommended, this program has been the most-effective for me. It allows me a large volume of work without excessive Eccentric training that bodybuilders prefer, and is very useful for increasing Force Production.

Finally, a Sample Program

Putting together the above considerations, here is a sample of a program I might construct for myself as an in-season adult-league player (albeit a very dedicated one):

Player: Jack

Height/Weight: 6’1/195 lbs.

Athletic Developmental Goals: Emphasis on Endurance, Durability and Agility, with secondary work on Speed and Acceleration (I want it all). Strength Training emphasis should be on development of muscular control (especially in slow-twitch muscles) rather than maximum explosiveness. Emphasis should be on Performance Work/Compound movements rather than machines.

Personal Notes: I have a tendency to put on size very easily, so heavier strength training should be kept extremely heavy (5Rm or less with selective Functional Hypertrophy work); Glutes/Posterior Chain do not naturally fire as well as Quads – emphasis on Glute Activation and Posterior-Chain recruitment/development.

In an ideal world, here is what my Training Schedule looks like:

Saturday AM: True Sprints on football field (50-60 yards x 6-7 reps)

Saturday PM: Limit Strength weight training (Thib’s Star Complex A) followed by Pick-Up Hockey

Sunday AM/PM: Active Recovery or Game

Monday AM: Strength Training (Thib’s Star Complex B)

Monday PM: Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) + light weight training

Tuesday AM: On-Ice Skills Training

Tuesday PM: Game

Wednesday AM: Thib’s Star Complex A

Wednesday PM: Hockey Skills Training

Thursday PM: True Sprints or 400 Ms, Thib’s Star Complex B

Friday AM: Hockey Skills Training

Friday PM: Aerobic Training + light weight training or Pick-Up Hockey

That’s in an ideal world in which I can train myself twice-per-day while meeting my personal Calorie Demands. Work, school, man-whoring, significant others, etc. tend to interfere with this. The point is that I try to Strength Train four times per week, sprint twice per week, and jog twice per week if I can work it around Hockey and my other commitments.

On Nutrition for Hockey Players

Most templates I have seen assume a lot of things about the athlete. Many look like something a Strength Coach would write that could be generically implemented on a group of 25-30 people. The plans I have read both online and in books on the subject do not take into account food allergies or sensitivities, body type or body composition, and so forth.

For example, one book on the subject is The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain. While a paleo-type diet built around lean meats, fruits, and vegetables would benefit most people, Loren also recommends foods that I generally do not believe to be beneficial to most people, such as milk products, fruit juice, commercial breakfast cereal, etc.

Diets like these assume the athlete has optimal body composition, and does not desire to gain fat or lose muscle. Many diets written for Hockey players are carbohydrate-heavy, with the rationale being that carbohydrates are imperative because they tend to readily be converted to energy, While these diets think “Performance first, Physique second”, they also do not consider how much improved Body Composition (muscle: fat ratio) will improve performance. Excessive amounts of refined carbohydrate have not improved my Performance noticeably, but they have led to wild swings in Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and sluggishness, not to mention increased body fat and decreased metabolic output.

Having said that, I personally have swung too far the opposite direction and completely omitted carbohydrates from my diet. While this has led to a much better hormonal profile, decreased body fat, and improved muscular size/strength, this has not led to optimal performance on the ice.

So, my recommendation to start with Protein Intake. I am going to suggest that a hockey player err on the high side and aim for 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. I am suggesting this because Hockey is so calorically-demanding and metabolically challenging that a player is rapidly breaking down her or his lean body tissue.

Take for an example a player such as Danny Briere, who is slightly-built. Danny rapidly loses weight, and likely muscular weight, throughout the season, to the point that he has to choose lighter Stick Flexes as the season wears on. Being a rec-league player, I do not have the luxury of unlimited sticks via Easton or Bauer, so it behooves me to maintain (or ideally, improve) my muscle:fat ratio and strength through a season.

Here is an excellent article featuring New York Islanders’ Strength Coach Jesse Demers:


While Jesse recommends a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for his NHL players, he also notes that he recommends a ratio close to 1:1 for players entering training camp:

Early in the off-season, Demers recommends a 2:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. As the workout intensities increase, he says the ratio needs to be closer to 1:1 to provide extra protein for muscle growth and repair. However, he says players can become overly focused on protein, so he must ensure they don’t skimp on carbohydrates. “A lot of guys are scared of carbohydrates; they think they make you fat,” says Demers. “My biggest thing then is getting guys to not be scared of eating a carbohydrate, according to certain rules, throughout the season and throughout the off-season.”

He and I independently come to some of the same conclusions:

1) The calorie and nutritional demands of a Hockey player are extreme.

2) Protein Intake needs to be increased to keep a player Anabolic, or at the very least anti-catabolic, as training demands increase

3) As Jesse writes, “Carbohydrates according to certain rules.” This means adequate amounts of rice, potatoes, and possibly oats and gluten products if you elect to keep them in your diet. It does not mean reaching your carbohydrate requirements via Sour Patch Kids.

Very important to note that Jesse estimates a player’s caloric expenditure to be 1800-2500 Calories per game:

Demers measures calorie expenditures by measuring the players’ metabolic heart rates. He starts by establishing a baseline for each player’s VO2 max—the amount of oxygen he can process—at four different work rates. Using these data, along with a player’s height, weight, and age, he can calculate the number of calories that player burns during a game. Depending on the player, calorie expenditures can range from 1,800 to 2,500 per game.

While you might not be an NHL player, you are placing relatively-similar Caloric Demands upon yourself. That means you may be drastically underestimating how many calories you need, or trying to make up the caloric deficit with post-game trips to Taco Bell. Both courses of action are going to lead to trouble, as well as less-than-optimal performance.

While Jesse thinks carbohydrate intake is paramount, I think the base of any athlete’s diet should be protein, rather than carbohydrate. This view is unconventional, but there are many who will support it, particularly in the fitness community.

Assuming a 200-lb Hockey player is getting 300 g of protein throughout the day (again, for optimal performance), I would suggest the player aim for 3-5 whole food meals and 1-3 protein shakes. Egg or even Beef protein powder is an option if a player notices any kind of lactose sensitivity or intolerance.

The continued inclusion of dairy in an athlete diet remains a topic for debate. Currently, I am omitting dairy due to the estrogenic effects that seem to come from drinking the pasteurized milk of fattened, pregnant cows. Personally, I have always responded better to meeting my Protein needs via lean protein food sources such as chicken and beef, but I admit that meeting my Protein Intake goals this way can be a challenge.

You can decide for yourself if you wish to keep dairy/gluten in your diet. There is plenty of information on both on the internet. After you make a determination on those foods, you can move forward with diet program design.

I suggest most people follow Dr. John Berardi’s suggestion of separating carbohydrates and fats in given meals. Around the workout or workouts, a player would optimize Protein Synthesis by combining a protein source with a carbohydrate source. During less-active times, a player would combine a protein source with healthy forms of dietary fat (fish oil, coconut oil, animal fat, olive oil, avocado, mixed nuts or nut oils and butter, etc.)

My preferred carbohydrate source is white rice or potatoes. For an athlete, I do not see a huge difference between opting for brown rice over white rice, since the goal is to temporarily use an insulin surge to drive dietary protein into the muscle cells.Brown rice also is heavy in something called Phytic Acid, which mimics the effects seen with gluten.

I am definitely against high-sugar sports or energy drinks, unless an athlete is at optimal body composition. Not to start another brainy nutritional discuss, but I also believe Glycemic Index is far less crucial than Glycemic Load in determining how severe an insulin spike might be.

For you, this means that you do not need to justify the intake of Sour Patch Kids as a means of more-efficiently delivering dietary protein to the muscle cells. A natural carbohydrate source such as banana, corn, white rice, or white potatoes will accomplish the same principle more effectively and without dousing your body chemistry with unwanted additives.

Former NHLer Gary Roberts has a lot of great suggestions for a player looking to get adequate calories while ingesting quality foods rather than Sour Patch Kids and nachos. This article provides a nice overview, but a routine internet search will bring up a lot of additional information on his nutritional views.

My ideal diet for a day in which I have a game might look like this. I weigh 190-200 lbs, depending on activity levels:

Waking (8AM): 50 g egg whites cooked in coconut oil or organic/pasture butter (such as Kerrygold), 1/2 cup walnuts

Mid-Morning (10:30 AM): 40-60 g protein powder

Mid-Day (1PM): 60-80 g chicken, 1-2 cups broccoli, 1-2 cups brown rice

During Workout (4-6PM): 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Workout (6PM): 50-60 g protein powder, possibly with 1/2 cup applesauce

Pre-Game (7:30 PM): 30-40 g chicken or fish, 1 cup green vegetables (I personally do better without rice before games)

During Game: 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Game (10:30 PM): Chicken or fish and Potatoes or Rice/Vegetables as desired

That seems like a lot of eating, but it’s really just breakfast, lunch, two shakes, and a meal before and after the game. On non-game days, I am probably eating one less whole food meal and swapping out the rice for healthy fat such as olive or macadamia nut oil on a salad and ample amounts of coconut oil or animal fat.

Beef, chicken, and fish have about 6-8 grams of protein per ounce, and medium whole eggs have about 6 grams per egg. One scoop of protein powder generally yields 25 grams of protein. Omitting a powder makes it very difficult to keep yourself in a positive Nitrogen Balance (think of it as “Protein Plus/Minus” – you want to be as far into the positive as possible, and you accomplish this by ingesting more protein than your body can catabolize, which keeps you Anabolic. This is a great thing.)

All of this will lead to some unusual dietary habits, such as eating two dinners sometimes. If I have a typical day in which I swim laps, weight train, use the treadmill a bit, and then go play Hockey for 90 minutes, I might pound chicken and rice afterward and then have a huge protein shake an hour later. Staying Anabolic, and thus keeping your body from feasting upon itself for Energy, is paramount. If you are going to continue to play Hockey, you are going to need to adapt to meet your ongoing Metabolic needs if you want to maintain a high-level of performance.

I realize this reads very neanderthal, but my on-ice performance was actually best in college and shortly after, when I was eating copious amounts of animal flesh to promote my Physique/Man-Whoring goals and back-loading all of my carbs in the form of tequila and whiskey. But I digress.

Worth repeating: this is what works well for me. I seem to have moderate-to-severe sensitivities to both Gluten and Dairy products, as well as a family history of Diabetes. Ensuring a positive Nitrogen Balance while being smart about carbohydrate intake (and thus controlling insulin) is what promotes optimal Body Composition for me, which in turn promotes optimal performance. If you are 160 pounds and 7% body fat, you obviously metabolize carbohydrate more efficiently and probably want to scarf down as much food as possible. But the principles of maintaining a positive Nitrogen Balance and meeting Calorie Demands remain.

If you get your protein intake optimized, the carbohydrate and fat will likely take care of itself, especially if you swap out gluten-laden or sugary carbohydrates (fruit juice, soda, Sour Patch Kids, white bread, brownies, etc) and bad fats (baked goods and the like) for rice, potatoes, and quality fats. If you’re like me and refuse to give up alcohol, ditch beer, wine, and sugary mixers. Drink your Vodka like a Man, and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.

Another issue is Water Consumption. Back in college when I was a complete meat-head, I strolled around with a gallon jug most of the time, usually filled with BCAAs and Glutamine. As fitness magazines informed me, an optimal water intake was around 1 ounce per pound of body weight, and again weighing around 200 lbs, this was about 1.5 gallons for me.

As I’ve aged, I’ve fallen into a lazy, more socially-acceptable habit of drinking coffees, zero-calorie energy drinks, etc. in lieu of water. I think this has hurt my on-ice performance to a degree.

So, my recommendation is to ensure a daily water intake of 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight. This is going to seem like a lot, but I think the rewards are worth the effort.

If you have a 32 ounce water bottle and weigh 200 lbs, you would need to drink and refill the bottle six times per day. It’s a hassle, but again this is an article on optimizing your performance. Even if you doubled your current water intake, you would likely see a noticeable jump in performance and stamina.

Final Remarks

You can agree or disagree with my recommendations, but I do have the unique vantage point of having experience in both Performance and Physique protocols. Just as Physique-obsessed gym-goers could stand to learn from athletes, Performance specialists could stand to implement some of the dietary and nutritional approaches advocated by meat-heads.

This is one program written by a lifelong Hockey player who has taken a keen interest in Fitness. I have worked for a lengthy amount of time as a Personal Trainer and I am well-read on most Fitness topics, but I am not the ultimate authority on Strength and Conditioning.

In fact, I rarely implement this program as written. It’s an Optimal program, not necessarily a practical one. Hopefully, I have given you a starting point or a few things to think about as you design your own programs or work with your trainer to create a program.



4 thoughts on “Optimal Strength and Conditioning Training for Hockey Players

  1. Pingback: How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates | Jack_Has_Spoken

  2. THANKS! Best article I ever read on training for hockey. Right now my motivation is down in the drain since I don’t know what to do! I have too much info coming from different people on how to train, how to eat bla bla bla

    Thanks for finnally providing a CLEAR plan with clear info to follow. It seems to have a good effect on my motivation.

    Great job.

  3. Pingback: Reboot Hockey | How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates

  4. Pingback: Five for Friday – Five hockey links worth sharing | Colorado Hockey

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