Aerobic vs Anaerobic Conditioning for Hockey

Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko is a skating coach, skating researcher, strength & conditioning coach, and fitness educator. He holds a Doctorate degree in Exercise Science and Biomechanics and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach through the NSCA. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). He does skating clinics with 300–400 hockey players every year specializing in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with male and female players ranging in age from 8 years old to pro players.  He is also the strength & conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic hockey team.  [email protected]

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Should players be focused on aerobic or anaerobic conditioning?


Specificity of training is the golden rule for athletes. The training an athlete does needs to be specific for the demands of the sport. One of the most important components of fitness for hockey is the ability to do high intensity work (during a shift) and recovery quickly (on the bench, or between a whistle and puck drop) to be ready for the next shift. The high intensity work on the ice is anaerobic in nature.

What is aerobic conditioning?

Aerobic conditioning is sometimes referred to as “long slow distance” training. Aerobic conditioning is characterized by medium intensity long distance exercise (30 – 90 minutes). A practical way to determine if an athlete is doing aerobic conditioning is if they can carry on a normal conversation while exercising. Specifically, aerobic training has a relatively low heart rate.

Aerobic conditioning also trains the muscles to contract slowly, for a long period of time. It trains, what are referred to as, slow twitch muscle fibers. These are muscles that contract slowly but can keep going for a long time. Aerobic training is essential for sports such as soccer, field hockey, long distance running, or any sport where the athlete must move for a long time at a low to medium intensity.

What is anaerobic conditioning?

Anaerobic conditioning is high intensity exercise done for relatively short periods of time (15-seconds – 2-minutes). By its very nature, anaerobic conditioning has to be done is short bursts, because an athlete cannot maintain high intensity work for a long period of time.

Anaerobic fitness is important for sports such as hockey, CrossFit, sprinting, baseball, football or any sport where an athlete must produce high levels of exertion for short periods of time. Moreover, anaerobic conditioning trains the muscles to contact powerfully and fast. It trains, what are referred to as, fast twitch muscle fibers. These are muscles that contract with a lot of force, they contract fast, and fatigue quickly. This is the type of conditioning hockey players need in order to have high levels of fitness for a game.

Should players be focused on aerobic or anaerobic conditioning . . .



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