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How NHL Players Stay In Shape During The Off-Season



The 2012 NHL lockout has thrown a lot of schedules completely out of whack for both hockey players and fans alike. It’s also made a lot of professional players appreciate the resources they had available to them for normal off-season training. However, since the players aren’t allowed to use their teams’ facilities, make use of team employees, or participate in pre-season NHL training camp for the duration of the lockout dispute, these same highly paid pro athletes have to fund their own intensive off-season workouts.

And they definitely do keep exercising, despite the sudden cut-off in negotiations and active game participation or planning. NHL players know that sooner or later their game will continue, and they have to be ready for it when it does. Here’s a basic primer of some of the intensive exercises that the NHL pro players take on between hockey seasons.

1. Skating Maneuvers and Ice Time

Naturally, a big part of every NHL pro’s exercise routine, off-season or during any case, will involve skating maneuvers. During this lockout and during their off seasons in general, the players get put through some rigorous ice training to make sure they stay sharp all times.

Ice time consists of cardio exercises, speed exercises and the constant perfection of game maneuvers. Of course, there’s also plenty of practice playing as well. The bottom line of all on-ice off-season training is to keep those game season skills as sharp as the players’ skates and not lose any speed, agility or skill. Even an hour or two of skating exercise twice per week during the off season can make a huge difference when it comes to starting formal training at camp before the next season begins.

2. Relentless Cardio Exercises

Tied into on-ice exercise maneuvers is a constant push to keep developing cardio strength and stamina. This is where many players focus heavily on excelling. Common cardio exercises for NHL players include running, sprinting, jogging, and swimming and of course, ice skating rigorously.

Other cardio exercises also include plenty of stationary bike time, workouts of a skate simulating mat, Plyometric work on the track and even the use of a skipping rope to increase stamina pro-boxer style. The bottom line of all the athletes’ cardio exercise is to maximize their cardiovascular condition so that they can go multiple rounds in the ring and stay on top of their opponents.

Overall, the cardio probably lasts longer during the off season times than any other exercise structure since it’s one of the single most important aspects of holding up in the ring; a player doesn’t have to be muscular enough to hit the other guys but he definitely needs to have the stamina for constant speed movement.

3. Weight training for Strength

By strength, the focus should be largely on core strength. However, arm and leg musculature is also very important. For the pros at the NHL, the most important weight exercises are often those that involve use of the whole body. These compound exercises include squats, bench pressing, dead lifts, military press exercises and whole-leg weight training routines.

Isolation maneuvers that augment arm strength, wrist strength and certain other individual muscles are certainly an excellent and needed part of a players weight training but they’re much less important than core muscle exercises that reinforce the strength and mass of the body itself.

4. NHL Training Camp

Due to the lockout this year, a hefty chunk of potential practice time in training camp time might not be possible for many players in the NHL. This intensive training and physical improvement regime can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several more and involves intensive player supervision under stress and exercise conditions. During camp, numerous different routines involving an intensive mixture of fitness and exercises are enforced daily.

5. Diet

During times of intensive exercise and shaping up, you can almost certainly guarantee that most NHL players are keeping their meals balanced and tightly regulated.

A rock solid diet for an NHL player that’s serious about their off season training will depend slightly on whether the player is trying to lose weight or gain it. Players who want to build muscle and raise their weight should increase daily calorie consumption, eat at least 1 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight and pack healthy carbohydrates into their meals during the morning and evening hours.

On the other hand, NHL pros and normal players alike who want to lose a few extra pounds need to decrease carb consumption in favor of protein and keep their daily calorie burn through cardio exercises in particular as high or higher than the calories they get from their daily food intake.

Earl Reidlen’s extensive history writing for the sports world has been ongoing for over two decades. When he’s not writing, you can find him reviewing Putterman benches or playing catch with his young son.

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