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 off-season, dryland cardio workouts help build up your aerobic endurance capacity and your anaerobic quick-burst ability. While traditional endurance workouts are still effective, recent research shows that forms of high-intensity interval training may be just as, if not more, effective.
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Traditional Cardio Work
The old-school approach to cardio development involves building up your endurance capabilities by running long distances at a moderate pace. The theory behind this is that training the heart and lungs to function optimally over long distances will prepare it for the demands of a 60-minute hockey game.
The same training can be achieved by riding a stationary bike or riding outdoors, climbing stairs, rowing or any other type of steady state cardio done for an extended period of time at about 70 percent of maximal heart rate.
The efficacy of this method hasn't been disproved by scientific research; however, it has been established that it takes far longer to achieve similar results the old way.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is the new revolution in cardio conditioning. Alternating periods of intense effort with periods of low effort creates similar metabolic adaptations and cardiovascular improvements as steady-state cardio in much less time.
In one study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, high-intensity interval training significantly increased V02max, an important measure of cardio-respiratory fitness, compared to traditional long, slow training.
There are many variations of HIIT workouts. In the Medicine and Sports Science study, athletes performed interval running with 4-minute periods of all-out effort followed by 3-minute periods of active recovery for four rounds.
A simple HIIT workout can be performed on a treadmill, stationary bike, track, rowing machine, elliptical machine or in the pool.
Read more: What Muscles Are Used While Playing Hockey?
Tabata for Hockey Players
Named for the Japanese researcher who developed it, Tabata workouts are a form of HIIT. On the STACK website, author and fitness coach Chris Costa recommends twice weekly Tabata workouts because they closely mimic an actual shift on the ice.
To do it, warm up for two to five minutes, then blast at full intensity for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for eight minutes total. A two- to five-minute cool-down completes your workout.
You can do Tabata on any type of cardio equipment, but 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 and are ideal for dryland hockey training, according to conditioning coach Ben Peterson on the STACK website. You can use metabolic training for two to four weeks to establish a broad base of cardio conditioning before the season.
A metabolic conditioning workout involves running sprints of varying distances and with varying movement patterns, such as sprints, side shuffles, backpedals and power skips. Each movement is performed at maximum intensity, then followed by 20 to 120 seconds of recovery.
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 players improve their ability to plant, cut, cross over and shuffle during competition.
Read more: How to Increase Hockey Stamina