Offseason Training: The Importance Of Proper Physical Assessments

Mike Pickles Off Season Assessments Dryland Training Ice Hockey Coach Tips and Drills

After a long season it’s important for players to take some time off and let their body rest. During this down time players should consider a regeneration phase by getting the necessary body care. You might be wondering what exactly a ‘regeneration phase’ is. It’s basically getting your player the proper body treatment they need after a hard battled season.

To put it in perspective, our bodies weren’t designed to put skates on.

The repetitive motions of skating can lead to muscle imbalances, stiff joints, nagging aches, and injuries. Unlike dryland sports, the demands on the body from ice hockey will cause an over-use of dominant muscles while under-used muscles become weaker and forced to compensate for the imbalance. And it’s not a matter of if rather when injuries occur, especially the good old groin pull, low back, hip, and/or knee problems. There is no reason why minor hockey players shouldn’t treat their body the same way as the pros do after a long season by getting the proper treatments when necessary.

When players see me in the off-season to start training, they’re beat up, they’re tired, and their body is a mess. They’ll re-hash the injuries they played through or had to sit out from while listing the tweaks, aches, pains, and muscle tightness they have. That’s when I ask if they’ve seen someone to take care of those things, and when they say “not really”, it draws some concern.

It’s just not smart to start a player on a strength training program if their body is in need of some serious repair. I can assess a players’ body to find those imbalances and weak links, but they need to see a health care professional to take proper care of those issues. If they don’t, they’re only going to get worse by jumping right into a training program. This regeneration process could be in the form of seeking physio-care, chiro-care, massage therapy, IMS, or ART. While the player is getting the proper treatments my job is to design an appropriate program to work around those issues, or help to correct the problem based on feedback from their health care practitioner.

Educating parents and players is not only the hardest part of my job but it’s also one of the best parts of my job. With so much miss-information floating around out there it’s an on-going struggle to make sure they know the facts. Often overwhelmed about what is true and what is hype or trendy, parents can be confused where to put their player into an off-season training program.

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For those looking to save some money you can find low cost programs and trainers who do as little work as possible by not assessing players or taking the time to design a specific program for them. They’ll generally pack a bunch of players into a cookie cutter program with poor supervision and risk players getting injured. I’ve seen it happen many times.

Sure, players will leave exhausted and covered in sweat but they won’t see themselves get any stronger. And this is why the hardest part of my job is educating parents about the value of a good training program. If parents want the best for their player off the ice, it comes at a cost no different than the professionals they work with on the ice. At the end of the day parents are investing in results for their player.

Player assessments are so important to detect potential injuries and know if the body is ready for the demands of training. Players need to be assessed and tested to know where they’re at in order to measure their performance and see if they’re actually getting results. The design of their program will be the anchor for the results players get – as long as they’ve put in the work that it takes.

The best advice I can give parents is to do your research when looking for an off-season program for your player. Most importantly make sure they are being assessed properly and performing some kind of testing to measure their progress. If you’d like to know the top three tests I use on all my players and exactly how to increase first step quickness you can find that information and more at my website. Hope that gives some perspective for why it’s important to do the right things for your player so they can continue to get better, safely and properly.

Good luck this off-season!

Mike Pickles, D.FHP
Hockey Strength Training Specialist

Mike is the Founder of DrylandHockeyTraining.com and Creator of Explosive Hockey Speed. He's the #1 Provider in the South Surrey area of British Columbia for specializing in off-ice hockey development year round. Mike trains elite players at the Major Midget and Junior level preparing them for the WHL and NCAA. Mike has also presented for BC Hockey's Elite prospects on High Performance Training and Nutrition, and helps with the WHL Combine testing for the Okanagan Hockey Group

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