Basics‌ ‌And‌ ‌Essentials‌ ‌Of‌ ‌Strength‌ ‌Training‌ ‌For‌ ‌Hockey‌ ‌ ‌

Bill Murray is a world-renowned athletic trainer who won the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils. He is a Bolt Sports Co advisor and among things will be telling you to prevent & cure injury. Read his full bio here.

Strength training for hockey, at most every level, is still an important component of the game.  Being skilled and agile does not make you a complete player; you also need muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility to get you through the grind of a season successfully.

Hockey players require these components to optimize their game but how?  At what age should you begin training?  What muscle groups should you focus on most and why?  What is the difference between in season and off season training and what are the dangers of over training?  In today’s article I will answer these questions by providing you with the basics and essentials necessary for a balanced hockey player.  While there are many aspects and components in a strength training program today I will concentrate on the very basics of  resistance weight training.

Strength can be converted into power and explosiveness on the ice.  Flexibility can dramatically reduce your risk of injury and greater stamina can improve your functional output and improve your performance.  These are just a few reasons why serious players incorporate a strength program regimen into their training.   

The best time to consider beginning a strength training regimen, with weights, is after a player’s adolescent growth spurt; this is usually around age 15 for girls and 16 for boys.   A 14 or 15 year old can consider strength training before their growth spurt ends by using body weight exercises, push-ups, and core exercises.  Early teen years are not the time to be banging out heavy weights hard and fast.  Don’t forget your main goals; the purpose is to make gains in strength and flexibility.  This won’t be achieved if you’re in pain; your on ice game will also suffer.  The emphasis at this age should be on having fun and creating good habits by maintaining good form.  The pace should be slow and steady.  Progressing to heavier weights should not happen overnight.  Your workouts should never cause injury they are designed to prevent injury.

While overall body strength is certainly important and an asset on the ice your focus, especially in Preseason, should be on the primary muscles you 

use in hockey which are located in your lower body and your core.  Quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and gluteus are what you need to give you power and drive on the ice while core muscles maintain your motion and balance.  How and when you exercise these all important muscle groups is dependent on your time of season.

Post adolescent players should be classified into three groups for resistance training: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Beginners are those who have little or no previous experience in resistance training, generally less than 2 months.  Intermediate players are those who have been training for 2-6 months while those classified as Advanced have been training for 6 months to a year and more.  Frequency for Beginners should be 1-2 times per week, 2-3 times for Intermediate, and 3-4 times per week for Advanced.  The amount of stress applied should be proportionate to their grouping: low, medium, and high.  

Training programs for post adolescent players can be year round and broken down into three categories: 

Preseason, In Season, and Off Season.  Preseason emphasis should be on muscle building for maximum strength and power; this is the time to lift heavier and make your gains not in season.  Build your foundation.  In Season is only for maintenance.  You want to focus only on maintaining the gains that you made in your Preseason program.  I have a saying: “Don’t leave your legs in the weight room”.  I have seen games lost, even in the NHL,  because a team wasn’t smart and lifted legs too heavy two or three days before a game.  You need your legs to compete on the ice.  I am a true believer that you will never win a game in the weight room but you can definitely lose one.  “Maintain your gains” in season.  

Off season is for R&R, rest and recovery.  The season is over and you need to rest your body AND your mind.

You want to relax but stay somewhat active; we call this Active Rest.  Begin your preseason program 4-6 weeks before your training camp begins.  Your Off Season R&R should be one month for junior, professional, and elite player.  I tell players to forget about hockey and focus on the other things you enjoy.  When you get back at it you want to be hungry; those seasons are a long grind and you don’t want to be tired and hating hockey in December, January.

Now let’s discuss two topics that are often overlooked in strength training and it is a pet peeve of mine: Recovery and Overtraining.  Schedule training sessions so there is at least one rest and recovery day between sessions and not more than three days per week when possible.  Recovery is most important between sessions that stress the same muscle group.  Don’t ever forget: Recovery is required to repair and rebuild muscle. You cannot build strength without recovery.

Overtraining is too much exercise with too little rest and recovery. Symptoms of Overtraining can include lack of energy, soreness, body aches and pains, sudden decrease in performance, insomnia, headaches, and an increase in resting heart rate.


Prolonged Overtraining can also lead to decreased immunity or an increased frequency of colds and viruses, decrease in training capacity and intensity, moodiness, irritability, depression, loss of motivation for the sport, decreases in appetite, and an increase risk of Injuries including overuse injuries.

Two absurd myths I often hear in training are:  You will lose progress if you take a day of rest and rest is a waste of time. Not true. Elite players don’t ever forget that the most important thing is the game.  The gym is important but never more important than the game. The order of importance is game, practice, gym, in that order. The gym never comes before the practice or game and the practice is never more important than the game.  Use you off ice training time wisely.

Strength training can improve the power and strength in your skating, your shot, and your ability.  It can benefit your overall performance and prevent injury.  These are all great benefits to anyone’s game but always remember that when not done properly or at the right times all of these aspects of your game can suffer rather than benefit.  Quality Not Quantity!