Hockey is a fast-paced sport, and if you're a player, you need to be on your toes to keep up. Just like with any other sport, it's important to train properly beforehand so you're at peak performance during games.
Long, moderately paced cardio workouts used to be the go-to method of increasing endurance in any sport. However, research — including study results published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2007 — has since shown that shorter periods of intense exercise are more effective — not to mention more time efficient.
Hockey players who train by running sprints and doing plyometrics and agility drills will build the stamina, strength and power they need to make it through the game without losing their edge.
Warming up before a workout is crucial for preventing injury. Jog or do another easy activity for five minutes to get the blood flowing. Then do some dynamic stretches, such as leg swings, body weight squats and hip circles. These activities prime your body for the intense activity to follow.
Interval training involves short bursts of intense effort followed by periods of recovery. After warming up, increase your pace to an all-out sprint for 30 seconds. You should be very winded at the end if you're working at full effort. Recover by walking or jogging for 90 seconds. Do six to 12 rounds, then cool down.
Once you've built up some stamina, increase your sprints to 45 seconds to two minutes. Keep your recovery period slightly longer than your sprint.
Do Endurance Drills
Another way to do interval training is with intense endurance drills. These drills train your body to quickly reverse direction and they improve stamina and power.
1. Tennis ball suicides: Set up five tennis balls along a line, each five meters apart. Hold one in your hand at the start line, where you have placed the first of the five balls. Sprint with the ball in your hand to the ball at the five-meter mark. Switch the two balls, then run back to the start and switch the ball in your hand with the one at the start. Next, sprint to the 10-meter mark and switch the balls. Run back to the start and switch the balls. Repeat, doing the same thing at the 15-, 20- and 25-meter marks. When you've switched all the balls, rest and repeat, aiming to beat your first round time.
2. 40-meter shuffle: Set up two cones 40 meters apart. Start at one cone and side shuffle your way across to the other cone as quickly as you can. Tag the cone then shuffle back to the first cone. That's one rep. Repeat, trying to make each rep faster than the last one.
3. 20-meter agility box: Set up four cones 20 meters apart in a square. Start at the back right cone. Sprint to the front right cone, then side shuffle to the left front cone. Back peddle to the back left cone, then side shuffle to the back right cone. Repeat.
Plyometrics are body weight exercises that involve jumping or other explosive movements. Not only do they tax your cardiovascular system to build stamina, but they also strengthen your muscles and build explosive strength.
These exercises can be done on their own in a circuit workout, or mixed in with sprints. If doing them on their own, pick five or six and do one set — 10 to 20 reps — of each exercise in quick succession with no rest breaks in between. Repeat for five or six rounds.
If you're combining them with sprints, do a round then run a sprint in between each round.
1. Jump squats: With feet hip-distance apart, squat down then explode up, jumping off the ground and extending fully at the hips and knees. Land with bent knees and go into your next rep.
2. Squat thrusters: Squat down, place your hands in front of your feet and shoot your legs back to the top of a push-up. Jump your feet back in and jump up into the air, extending fully at knees and hips. Land with bent knees and go into your next rep.
3. Lateral jump lunge: Start in a side lunge to your left with your right leg fully extended. Push off your left foot into the air and land with your left foot where your right foot was. Come down into a lunge on the right side with your left leg extended.
4. Jump switch lunges: Come into a lunge with your right foot forward and your left foot back. Jump up into the air, switching your legs and landing with your feet reversed.
5. Plyo push-ups: From the top of a push-up, lower down until your chest hovers above the floor. Press through your hands explosively so both hands lift off the floor. Land with bent arms and go into your next rep. Increase the challenge by clapping your hands beneath your chest on each rep.
Work It Into Your Routine
The number of interval training sessions you do per week will depend on your training schedule and the intensity of your other workouts. You may already be doing some of these exercises if you train with a team.
It's important to alternate high-intensity workouts with less intense workouts throughout the week to avoid injury and over-training. You should also leave adequate time for rest, stretching and mobility work. And eating a healthy diet is key to having the energy you need to train and compete.