Off ice training to help you become a hockey playing machine.

Functional training for ice hockey

You should not be sitting down to do your off ice hockey training.

Step One – stay off weight machines

I remember when I worked as the head coach at one of those half-million dollar athlete training franchises and we would get hockey players coming in for a tour of the training center.  Probably fifty percent of them looked right past the sprinting track, turf and olympic lifting platforms, turned to their parents and said – ‘but there are no machines’.  The parents would explain that they were trying to decide whether Johnny would do his off ice hockey training at the athlete training center or at the local fitness club down the road.  They were leaning toward the fitness club because it had a lot more machines!

I will try not to flip out right now just thinking about it and instead look at some of the benefits to using weight training machines.  Ready?  Here we go (please note I have a tendency toward sarcasm):

  • Machines are safer, they control the range of motion – you cannot stray from the path of the machine.  This way you do not have to waste any off ice training time work those pesky little stabilizing muscles.  They can just take a nap while you spend your time building a defined chest.
  • Machines allow you to work one muscle at a time – this way you do not get tired working several muscle groups at the same time – the way you do when you play hockey.  We all know that hockey is exhausting, why would you choose to train that way?
  • Machines are more comfortable; you can sit on your butt to do almost all of your training.  Again, you don’t need to rely on those pesky core stabilizers while you are building more width in your lats. 
  • Machines let you lift more weight.  Without the degree of motor control and stability required from free weight training, you can use your prime movers to lift more weight and teach your body to exert more force than it is capable of stabilizing. 

The good news is that injury you spent all summer developing probably won’t occur until you get into the season or at least until part way through training camp.  By not using your stabilizers to control the load you did not get the stabilizers stronger, you did not improve their stamina and you did not make them smarter.  Congratulations, you just build a mansion on a mud bog.  Just like the hockey player who spends time training with weight machines, beautiful on the surface but without any foundation, it is destined to crumble.

Are there any machines that are useful?  Yes.  I love cable columns, the kind where you stand and do the work, not the ones that are created for isolation movements.  Basically if it has a seat, then I would not use it for hockey training.  Other than that look for a training facility with a nice power rack (not a Smith machine), lots of dumbbells, barbells, good quality stability balls, a slideboard would be a nice bonus and some space for doing a few ladder drills or miniband walks.