youth hockey strength

The Commonality Every Elite Athlete Possesses

There's one commonality that every elite athlete possesses, it's something that could be argued as the most important aspect to their success. This commonality is called...accumulation of training years.

We stress this concept so often to our athletes and their parents-if you want future success you have to put the time in now. Accumulation of training years is the concept that all of the years/time spent practicing your skill will lead to the best/optimal athletic result. Think about every pro athlete you follow, how often do you hear them say, "Well I started when I was 14." You don't. They start young, they practiced forever and put in the work, which correlates to their success.

No athlete plays a sport not wanting success for their effort, which is why we push for younger athletes to start learning basic concepts early. The picture below shows our table of critical age periods of trainability - this table illustrates which age level will benefit from different forms of training. Every age has their optimal times to learn different skills. For example, think about a skill like coordination and a midget aged athlete - if a midget didn't take the time to develop coordination at a young age it's incredibly hard (if possible at all) to catch up to someone who started when they were 5.

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A lot of times younger athletes don't realize how much the drills and practice is building towards their success, every time they're in the gym it's building their foundation. As trainers it's easy to see which athletes started at a young age, even when we're teaching exercises/lifts athletes don't have previous experience with.

For example, teaching a back squat - if you took two athletes, one who's been in the gym and worked their flexibility, body awareness and understands basic movements and the other none of the prior, 10/10 times the athlete who understand basic concepts will learn and develop the move faster. This again can be linked back to accumulation of training years, it's the lump sum of training/athletic experiences that weighs heaviest on future success.

Every concept learned and worked on will correlate to an advanced future concept. Body awareness is linked to better lifting (understanding movements/verbal cues), basic plyometrics correlate to explosive power/strength, the list goes on forever...

Athletic success has one commonality, it's the total amount of time spent practicing and training your trade. Start working today to build your future, every day counts.

Age Specific In-Season Training

Off-season and in-season training are both key to a hockey player’s success, although, they’re both entirely different beings. At different ages a growing hockey player will reciprocate to different forms of work. For example, a junior level player will benefit most from focusing on strength and hypertrophy aspects, while a pee wee should be most concerned with strength endurance and speed work. 

In-season training is so key because this is the training that will allow you to keep your off-season work at maintenance. If you’re a junior level player and you make strength gains in the off-season, but lose them all by the end of the season–this is a sign of strength loss, which usually relates to size loss. The same scenario is true with younger players, if a pee wee major was able to do 14 pull-ups in the off-season, but can barely do 5 in-season, he’s lost muscle endurance which will correlate to strength. 

The key point is that in-season training is what keeps your off-season gains present and ready to increase in the next off-season. You can leave a season and hit the ground running because you know your past advancements are still present and primed. Every hockey age group has specific training aspects that will benefit them most.

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Junior/Midget

At this level the focus is to have no drop off in size and strength gains, an older player’s success is often dictated by how strong he is on the ice. Workouts that surround strength (lower volume) and hypertrophy (higher volume) are king and queen when keeping strength and size. Below are a few points that every junior/midget level player should follow in the off-season. 

Intensity of workouts should be dictated by the volume–this is key to avoid killing the nervous system. Since you’re in season, there has to be some concern on the work:rest ratio. If you’re going super heavy with lifts at a high volume multiple times a week you’re setting your body up for failure. 

Frequency (recommended 2x a week)–2x a week is the perfect balance to have a strength workout one day and hypertrophy the next. Also, it is better to couple practices and workouts on same days, this allows full days of rest which the body needs in-season. 

Volume kept lower than off-season–along with frequency and intensity, volume should be kept lower in workouts for the off-season. 

Bantam/Peewee Major 

This level has more focus on strength endurance, as opposed to max strength levels in the midget level. It is key to learn the fundamental lifting principals now, the body and muscles are growing rapidly. Learning fundamental movements will be a key to success when strength and size become the main focus. 

Workouts should focus on strength endurance–the ability to do more reps of a fundamental movement will benefit for the priming of training in the future. Its beneficial to build this foundational ground, the body can then begin to grow and adapt into the stress being presented on the joints and muscles. 

Various speed-work–while lifting fundamentals are heavily stressed at this level, agility and speed are also very important. With the fast development of the body, this age is primed for faster adaptation to become faster and more agile. 

Peewee Minor/Squirt/Mite 

Last but not least–the little guys. The unsung heroes in the gym who are training not only for the present, but their future selves (usually without knowing it). Gym time at this age is so key, not only for priming the body for lifting weights and training, but teaching basics such as: coordination, locomotive skills and manipulation skills. A lot of youth are missing opportunities to learn the basics by not having the education on how to train, or even the proper coaching. While you can teach and improve coordination as you get older, building a solid base at a young age sets you up for success, especially while in-season. 

Locomotive skills–these are your fundamental human movements: crawling, running, jumping, skipping, etc. As the body gets older it’s increasingly more hard to pick up simple movements such as a jump to a crawl, it feels awkward and unnatural. Locomotive skills teach young ones how to move their bodies in odd situations, how to position themselves when the optimal position isn’t had. 

Balance skills–balance is something that can be heavily influenced at this stage in life, through constant exposure and training balance will increase. It not only requires fundamental movements (locomotion), it requires coordination too, both of which can only be trained to a certain point.

Manipulation skills–this is your stick handling, skating with the puck, any time you’re using your balance and coordination involving something else. These aspects are key for every position in hockey and early adaptation is an easy to step for success. 

Every age group has aspects of training that should be emphasized and focused on to maximize potential. In-season and off-season training go hand in hand, there is a proper way to do both to increase training gains throughout the whole year.