youth hockey training

Making Movement Better

In a previous article we discussed the commonality every professional and elite-level athlete possesses. That of course was the accumulation of training years, a simple concept that states: the accumulation of time spent working and practicing a skill, the better/higher reward will be for the future.

The concept itself is simple, but what goes inside those years to create that accumulation? Is there another key that elite-level athletes possess? The answer is...yes, that is their movements patterns.

Every athlete that has ever had great success in their trade all have fundamentally developed movement patterns. These are the way one moves their body through time and space, but they don't just move, they move in a way that creates an optimal response. A huge key to success is learning this skill at a young age, the best athletes/lifters are those who understand their body. They pickup verbal cuing faster, they adapt to movements quicker, they create better ways to facilitate a response from the task at hand, and they possess body awareness.

At Institute 3e we make movement patterns a huge focus for our youth athletes; but why? Like discussed in our age-specific training article, there are points in an athlete's life when learning certain skills become almost impossible. We use animal flow with our younger athletes to improve their movements patterns and here's why...


  1. Locomotive skills - these are skills that can only truly be developed at young ages, this is the ability to coordinate limbs together in an optimal way (ex: crawling, running, skipping, animal flow movements, etc). An athlete who doesn't understand their body and how it specifically moves will have a harder time picking up on sport-specific movements and lifting patterns.
  2. Body awareness/propreoceptiveness - this is understanding where your body is at any point in time, an athlete will understand how to move to create an asked response. For example: if an athlete is back squatting they understand why and where they're moving the bar, they can quickly grasp what they should be feeling and how to move to achieve the best results.
  3. Improved mobility - the best way to stay mobile and flexible is to never lose mobility and flexibility. Animal flow demands the body to move in different ways to stretch and improve the body, which will carry over to other athletic aspects.
  4. Range of motion increase - maintaining flexibility and mobility is important, but so is improving them. Animal flow will do so by creating a specific movement demand that may not already be possessed by the athlete, aka increasing their range of motion.
  5. More coachable - as an athlete grows their demands become greater and more in-depth. A coach needs them to do progressively harder tasks as competition becomes greater, if you understand your body and move to your best ability-you better believe you'll be easier to work with. There will be no time wasted teaching basic movements, you already possess them.


The bigger picture - if there's one point to be taken away from this article, it's being able to see the bigger picture. Once certain ages/times of development have passed, certain skills are near impossible if not completely impossible to learn. Development needs to start at young ages, while you think its just another youth focused drill; you're wrong. Every bit of time practicing these skills at young ages act as bricks, these bricks create entire athletic foundations. Younger athletes are especially important, it's easy to learn a movement, it's hard to understand a movement.

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.

Mite and Squirt Training

When parents hear about their athletes training at this age they become worrisome of things usually heard from others (possible stunting of growth, injury, etc.). This article will illustrate our age-specific training methods and how we help facilitate your athlete's growth–not inhibit it. 

There is something in the athletic and strength training world called, "accumulation of training years." This means the more time spent training and practicing skills, the more results and progress you'll see as time passes. Basically, the more time put in now–the better the end pay off. 

We have three aspects we focus on with your mite or squirt, these are...

  1. General coordination

  2. Flexibility

  3. Speed (reaction time) 

These are all key fundamentals to a young athlete's growth as he/she develops, certain things like coordination become increasingly hard to develop as you age. This being said, the work we do is done to increase the efficiency of your athlete's abilities as they grow. We're priming them for an easier transition to future training and higher levels of play. 

General coordination is done through things like animal flow, tumbling drills and various balance drills we've constructed. These drills also teach body awareness something so key for the athlete whose sport has multiple demands. 

The best way to stay flexible is to never lose it. Younger athletes already have a tendency to be naturally flexible, this is key for developing good habits for their future. We work on improving what they already have and incorporate body awareness aspects. 

The aspect of speed we focus on is more than doing sprints and making your athlete run ladders (anyone can do that). We realize that reaction-time speed is something that is harder to learn as you age, we focus on combining multiple aspects of different skills into one. Examples include, tumbles to one-leg getups, animal flow with frog stands (tripods), beginner jump drills and many more. 

When your athlete trains with us it's more than just going to an off-ice session. It's investing in their future, their future of growth and athletic development. There are aspects of athleticism that become increasingly harder to learn with age, don't miss your athlete's opportunity for optimal growth. To get a better idea of the images above check out the video below! 

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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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.