You need a strong motor during the third period of a hockey game when everyone on the ice is gasping for air. That's where cardio strength and endurance comes into play. During the season, and especially in the offseason, dryland cardio workouts help build up your aerobic endurance capacity and your anaerobic quick-burst ability. Some workouts are traditional, and some are the result of advances in sports science.
Traditional Cardio Work
The old-school approach to cardio development is well-known by athletes and coaches. You build up your endurance capabilities by running long distances at less than maximum speed. Other dryland exercises, recommended by former NHL conditioning coach and exercise physiologist Peter Twist, who leads on-ice and off-ice training camps for adult and junior hockey players, include indoor spinning classes on a stationary bike and outdoor bike riding on hills. Elliptical machines, treadmills and stair climbers also can get you heart pumping for hockey season. And running up and down the bleacher stairs has never gone out of fashion.
Tabata for Hockey Players
On the STACK website, author and fitness coach Chris Costa recommends a cardio program, developed by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata, for hockey conditioning. "To achieve optimum endurance, players need to replicate an actual shift on the ice as closely as possible," Costa advises. The Tabata program comes close. You warm up for two to five minutes on a stationary bike, then blast at full-intensity for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat for eight minutes. A two- to five-minute cool-down completes your workout. Although you could do Tabata running or swimming workouts, Costa says the stationary bike is your best bet, because you can adjust the bike's resistance to ensure an all-out effort during the 20-second bursts.
Metabolic running workouts are akin to the way hockey is actually played, according to conditioning coach Ben Peterson on the STACK website, and are ideal for both hockey and football players. You can use metabolic training for two to four weeks to establish a broad base of cardio conditioning before the season. You run sprints of varying distances and movements -- for example, shuffling motions or skipping or jumping motions -- in 30- to 40-second all-out bursts with 20 seconds between reps. Unlike straight-ahead running, metabolic training enables you to work the smaller support muscles in the legs and not just the large muscles. These smaller muscles help hockey and football players improve their ability to plant, cut, cross over and shuffle during competition.
Both Tabata training and metabolic sprints are part of the HIIT revolution in cardio conditioning. As "The New York Times" explains, HIIT training -- high-intensity interval training for as little as seven minutes -- has been shown in to give you a cardio workout that seems to be just as effective as the traditional long sessions of lower-intensity running, biking or swimming. However, hockey players live by their legs as well as their hearts and lungs. So even if HIIT training makes their hearts as strong as traditional exercise, old-school forms of cardio are still valuable for developing strong legs for hockey.