The in-season workout is more of an art form than anything. It’s much different than the highly fatiguing endurance workouts that start the year, easier than the extra heavy 6 sets of 2 reps strength sets in the middle of the summer, and less intense than the explosive power workouts that you finish the year with. Yet, it includes (for the most part) all of those components, and does so without completely fatiguing the body. Creating a good in-season program can become tricky because it needs to include so many different facets of performance all while limiting the amount of stress placed on the body.
In essence, an in-season program is a stripped down version of an off-season program. Eliminated are the extra prehab sets, and the finishing exercises, and instead recovery modalities are sometimes included. The main goal of any in-season workout is to maintain what was achieved during the off-season training. Increases in performance attained through off-season training have a finite limit. The length is determined by the component, how long it was trained, and which modalities were used to obtain the desired increase. As was pointed out by the strength maintenance series, the component must be worked on during the season to make the affect last.
In season workouts are created around this principle, and exercises should be prioritized based on their importance to performance and how long their training residual lasts. Taking this into account, the movement priority for an in-season workout should be:
- Power based strength exercises
- Large muscle group strength exercises
- Whole body muscular endurance exercises
The next factor that needs to be accounted for is stress. Physical, mental, and emotional stress all drain the body’s energy and take away from what can be achieved in the weight room. On the other side, what is done in the weight room should not have a significant decrease in on-ice performance. Performance in practice and games is of utmost importance during the season, and must always be prioritized over the weight room. By walking the line between fatigue and acute tiredness, maintenance can be achieved in the weight room while on-ice performance stays near its peak.
Here’s a simple equation to explain this concept better:
(Body Energy) – (On-ice energy) = (Off-ice energy)
Off-ice energy is determinate on the total body energy, minus what is needed to perform at a high level on the ice. If total body energy is 100%, and the on-ice energy required is 70%, then the energy available to use off-ice is 30%.
100%(BE) – 70%(On) = 30%(Off)
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Due to the limited amount of energy available for weight room use during the season, a workout should be constructed to match that energy output, and not extend it. Sets and reps are much lower than during the off-season, and the number of exercises is limited as well. Furthermore, in-season workouts should only be conducted two or three days a week, calling for a full body workout each day. a typical week may include a hard day at the beginning of the week, a moderate day mid week, and an easy day as a third day if the week allows for it. The total amount of work performed each day (i.e. number of sets and reps) will be similar, with the intensity of the exercises varying depending on the intended intensity of the workout.
A typical in-season workout may feature 3-4 main lifts per day, divided into 1-2 leg exercises, 1 pushing exercise, and 1 pulling exercise. Secondary exercises should include some dynamic core work, prehab work, and/or recovery modalities. Differences in workout intensity vary from an extra lower body lift or an olympic lift on a hard day, to eliminating an overtired muscle group or using very light weight on an easy day. Repetition ranges should vary in the 3-6 range, allowing for 10-12 reps on easy days, and sets should rarely eclipse 4.
The exercises chosen should be “big bang for your buck” exercises that can target large muscle groups and motions. Care should also be taken to choose exercises that do not place more stress on already high stressed areas of the body. An example of this would be power cleans. Due to the stress placed on the wrists during hockey, a better option would be the high pull exercise, or a loaded squat jump, because those exercises do not stress the wrists like a power clean.
A hard, high intensity day may look as follows:
a1. Loaded squat jumps – 3×3
a2. Cuban Press – 2×8
a3. Med ball side throw – 2×6
b1.Bench glute lifts – 3×3
b2. SA BO Rows – 3×4
b3. Opposite side deadbugs – 2×2 w/ 10 sec hold
c1. Bench press – 3×4
c2. Med ball chest pass – 3×6
c3. Upright Row – 3×4
c4. Band external rotation – 3×10
d1. foam roll/barbell smash/mobilize – 20 min
An easy, low intensity day may mirror this:
a1. Back squat – 3×6
a2. Med ball chest pass – 3×8
b1. DB bench press – 3×10 (light)
b2. SL RDL – 3×6 (light)
b3. Same sided dead bugs – 2×3 w/ 10 sec hold
c1. SA bent over row – 3×10 (light)
c2. Overhead lateral raise – 2×10
c3. Plank intervals – 2×3 for 10 sec
THE ABSENCE OF ENDURANCE WORK
Being cardiovascular conditioned is an important component of playing hockey, I will not deny that. However, it is on purpose that I left out any cardio work in my sample workout. There is simply no room for cardio work to be performed in the weight room during the season. The on-ice practice of any quality organization should include enough skating to produce a cardiovascular performance gain, and therefore that component does not need to be trained in the weight room as well. In the season, the weight room is reserved for training components of performance that cannot be trained on the ice. By doing so, the workouts can target what is needed without causing too much fatigue.
That being said, if what is being done on the ice is not enough to increase your cardiovascular performance, then it is okay to include extra conditioning work in the workouts for one session per week until you feel as though you are in shape. At that point it is recommened to limit the cardio session to once every other week, or one hard, longer session per month.
Working out is not an always an exact science, and the examples outlined above are just guidelines. Sometimes you need to listen to your body. If what I outlined here seems to be too little for you, then by all means add in an extra set or exercise to make it as challenging as you need it, and vice versa. There will be weeks where your body feels like it can handle a 90 minute workout, and others where it feels like it will collapse just from walking. Generally, your body knows what it needs, so listen to it and plan your week accordingly. Rest is always good to take, and is the only way to bring a slouching performance back up to par. So, get your workouts in, take your rest when needed, and play at your peak for as long as you can.