Strength Training For The Minor Hockey Player
One of the most frequent questions that I receive from hockey parents is, “When should my son or daughter start strength training for hockey?” There are many myths concerning youth strength training. At one time it was felt that strength training would not benefit youth as they did not possess the hormones necessary for increases in strength. But studies have shown that the pre-adolescent population can expect increases in strength of 30-40% in 8-12 weeks when following a proper strength program.
Much research has been completed in children as young as 7 years old. And the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as a result of this research does not recommend any strength training for children under 7 years old. But on the flip side there are other factors you must take into consideration for you child. It has been my experience that 12- 13 year old boys and girls are not only physically ready for a structured strength program, but they are also mentally ready to begin a program. The main difference between what a 12 year old should focus on is significantly different from what I would prescribe for an 18 year old hockey player.
The focus for a youth strength training program should be to introduce exercises that will promote joint mobility, balance, stability, and the introduction of movement skills that will enhance their ability to skate. These physical characteristics cannot be effectively trained using exercise machines that you would typically see in a commercial gym. Exercise machines do not promote the principle of sport specificity. Although they look inviting, when was the last time you saw a hockey player sitting on a chair while on the ice? Like hockey, most of your exercises should be taught and executed from a standing position. Exercises that utilize cables, swiss balls, medicine balls, balance boards, and dumbbells are very effective in teaching young hockey players the movement skills that can enhance their skating for hockey, and reinforce the movement patterns they are learning during power skating classes.
One area that always requires work for the hockey player is the legs, and the most effective exercise for this is a squat movement. Using the swiss ball to introduce the mechanics of the squat is very helpful for the young hockey player. The wall squat unloads some of your body weight, which is a great way to progress into and prepare for free weight squats. You will activate all of the major leg muscles throughout this exercise.
Stand facing away from a wall and place a stability ball against the wall at low back height. Plant your feet 12 inches in front of your body with a shoulder width stance, toes pointing forward.
Lean your weight into the ball while you lower your body until your knees are flexed to a 90 degree angle and hold for two seconds. As you squat, the ball will move to your mid to upper back region. Note your feet – your weight should be on your heels, not your toes, and your knees should not be out past your toes. Except to check your knee position, keep your head and eyes forward.
Extend your legs to elevate your body back to the setup position.
For kids who are just beginning, 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions is recommended for this exercises at a slow movement speed.
Lorne Goldenberg is a former NHL Strength & Conditioning Coach with the Ottawa Senators, Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues. He is also the co-owner of Station Seven Reebok with Gary Roberts and Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For more info see www.stationseven.ca