I would like to discuss a very important point in this article. Across Canada there is a stigma attached to off-ice training for kids under the age of 16. Fears of stunted growth, too much bulk and many other statements are what I hear frequently. Time and time again I hear Minor Hockey Coaches having there teams run 2 miles, doing plyometric jumping drills and push-ups and sit-ups. This usually takes place only at the beginning of the season. There are many flaws in this situation. First, most of the players have spent their summers doing nothing in terms of conditioning. All of a sudden they are running miles at a time. Doing plyometrics before establishing a strength base is terrible for the bones, joints and tendons. The coaches have good intentions but inevitably they are hurting their players.
The human body has the greatest potential to develop power and speed from the ages of ten thru eighteen. The bases for any gains in speed and power, is strength. Strength is built through off-ice training. Starting an off-ice strength and conditioning program when you are ten years old is the best thing you can do to reach your athletic potential. When properly supervised and designed, strength training programs are extremely safe and effective. Problems arise when children try to lift weights on their own. They usually try to use too much weight and use improper form.
Training a young athlete with exercises like lunges, single leg squats, core training movements like Russian twists and reverse axe chops, and agility drills allows their bodies to stimulate fast twitch fibres. These fibres are responsible for first step quickness, shot velocity, hitting power and injury prevention. Once the strength base is established, light plyometrics can be introduced which really starts to produce gains in speed and power.
This is very widely used in Europe and accepted as a vital part of a young athletes development. In Canada players tend to do nothing all summer, or continue to play hockey. There is no development in their physical strength. We often see the less gifted athletes coming to our facility as a way of catching up to the more elite players. These elite players and parents must realize that in Europe and the U.S, their elite players are training from a young age. These are the players that Canada’s elite players will be battling for spots on Tier II, OHL and NCAA teams. So many kids are thought to be superstars when they are ten or eleven. If these young superstars were working on their physical strength, speed and power they might reach there potential. Right now, many of these young talented players are just average by the time they are fifteen or sixteen.
I se players all the time, who have just been drafted to the OHL, come into our training center for their first workout. This is a shame because they are going to be playing against eighteen, nineteen and twenty year olds. They try to become physically stronger and more powerful in one summer. Although, they do progress very well, they would be way ahead if they had started some off-ice training when they were ten or eleven.
It was very clear in the Canada/Russia World Junior Championship game that the Russians were physically superior. They dominated the third period. This is due to teir training techniques with their young athletes. They view off-ice strength, speed and power training just as importantly as on-ice practices. In Canada they run some laps and do twenty sit-ups and push-ups before practices, that has to change.
Canadian players are very smart, strong willed players. Unfortunately if they don’t start realizing they need off-ice development the trend of the European’s and the U.S catching up and passing us is going to continue. Let’s take “our” game back. We just have to open our eyes and start realizing that we are neglecting this facet of hockey.
We have trained many players between the ages of ten and twelve and they ball have loved it. Every single parent has been delighted with the results. We also trained two teams during the winter in this age group and they have improved dramatically.
Here are the exercises that can be added to the one’s in the first to help young aspiring players start building their strength base. They are also very effective for any other age group.