Weekend Warrior Hockey Conditioning

by | November 30, 2018 | Fitness, Sport performance

“I’m so out of shape”
“I’ve got no lungs”
“I’ve got no legs”
“I can’t keep up on the ice”
“My chest feels like it’s on fire”
All common complaints of a de-conditioned weekend warrior.
 When it comes to getting in shape for hockey, there is a ton of information out there. 
Some say to do intervals. 
Some say to run for a few miles.  
Some say to forget cardio and just lift weights. 
We are constantly inundated with information on how to train. 
That’s why we wanted to write this article. 
To give you a no-BS look at what you need to do to dial in your conditioning for the game you love. 
And guess what? 
The better your conditioning,
The harder you can play. 
The harder you can play, 
The more fat you can blast…
As you long as you don’t go crazy on the post-game brewskis 😉

What it means to get in shape for hockey

There are plenty of factors to consider when it comes to getting in shape. 
It could be an issue of strength. 
It could be an issue of speed. 
It could be an issue of mobility. 
Or it could be an issue of conditioning. 
We’ll touch on all of these things in future articles, 
But for the purpose of this article, we’re going to look at conditioning. 

What is conditioning? 

Generally speaking, we are referring to energy systems development.
Energy systems are the processes in the body that provide energy to your working muscles. 
The working muscles can then perform actions like shooting, skating, passing, laying guys out on the boards, blocking shots and more. 
When we are de-conditioned, we can still perform these movements, 
They are just not as efficient, 
As quick, 
And as repeatable as we’d like. 
So, to be well-conditioned means your body is producing energy that is sufficient for the task at hand. 
To be de-conditioned means your body is not doing so.

Energy systems for hockey

We aren’t going to launch into a full-scale explanation of the energy systems as that has already been done here. 
But, we are going to give you a little background information. 
When you start to skate, shoot, pass, hit or block, your body’s need for energy increases. 
Your body provides energy for these hockey activities using three different energy systems. 
The first energy system is the alactic energy system. 
This is the quick-burst system that activates in response to high-intensity activities. 
The caveat is that this system has a relatively small supply of energy and only lasts for up to 12 seconds. 
So, the alactic system produces high power but has a low capacity. 
The next system is the lactic system. 
This system produces lactate that can become lactic acid. 
We all know about this stuff. (Turns out it’s not actually as bad as we once thought, the real problem is the proton produced as a result of the lactic acid…but I digress)
This system has a little more capacity than the alactic system, but the tradeoff is that the power it can produce is a little lower. 
It’s still powerful, just not as powerful. 
This system is involved in hockey to a certain degree but not to the extent that we once thought. 
Finally, the last system is the aerobic system. 
This is the system that can produce energy for days, 
but it does have a huge range of activities that it can be used for.
This can include sitting on the couch to running a marathon to a 2-minute PK. 
But, here’s the deal, the aerobic system gets a bit of bad rap in that people think it’s just for mall walkers and marathon runners…
Not strong, powerful hockey players. 
Turns out the aerobic system is actually quite useful for hockey in that it can help replenish the alactic system. 
This happens between shifts and periods so that you can continue to produce high power outputs.
Plus, the more the game wears on, the more the aerobic system becomes important.
Here’s what we mean..
Your first shift might be alactic with some lactic mixed in, but as the shifts accumulate, the aerobic system becomes more and more favoured. 
More shifts = greater reliance on the aerobic system. 
Also, you’ve probably noticed what happens when half of your team doesn’t show up to your 10:15 pm game on Sunday night. 
This makes for a short bench. 
What happens with a shorter bench?
Your intensity goes down. 
It’s inevitable. 
As your intensity goes down, you’ll have a greater reliance on the aerobic system. 
So, the takeaway here is that you should prioritize two energy systems in your training. 
The aerobic system
And the alactic system


Training the aerobic system

So, I’m sure you get it by now that a strong aerobic system can help you get in better shape for hockey, 
but don’t forget about some of the other less-sexy benefits of improving your aerobic system…
Decreased inflammation
Decreased stress
Decreased blood pressure
Decreased stress on the heart
Decreased risk of heart attacks and strokes
Improved blood sugar control
Increased overall life expectancy
To dial in the aerobic system we use the “cardiac output” method with our hockey guys. 
Here’s how it goes:
20-90 minutes of lower intensity work (120-140 beats per minute) one to two times per week. 
So, go for a long-ass jog, right? 
Well, it depends…
If you like to run, 
Your back and knees aren’t beat up, 
You have running access in the winter, 
And the thought of running on a treadmill for over an hour seems like fun to you…
Then, yeah, do your thing. 
If not, we have other options: 

1. Roadwork 2.0

This method uses lower intensity circuits with the intention of breaking up any monotony of doing longer cardio. 
The ticket is to keep your heart rate in that 120-140 beats per minute range. 
Just use a heart rate monitor or periodically check the pulse on your wrist for a 10s count
Here is an example of a road work 2.0 circuit: 
50 jumping jacks
10 per side bear crawls
10 per side lateral lunges
Repeat this circuit continuously for 20 minutes or more and you’re good! 

2. Mobility circuits

Another option for you tight-ass tin-men are mobility circuits. 
Again, these are lower intensity circuits that can not only get your cardio up, but they can also improve your mobility and range-of-motion. 
All without the boredom of sitting on an exercise bike or a treadmill. 
Here is an option you can run through a few times for 20 minutes or more.  
Again, just make sure you are doing it fast enough to keep your heart rate in the 120-140 beats per minute range. 

Training the alactic system

As mentioned above, the alactic system is essential for powering quick-burst activities inherent in hockey. 
This system relies on stored forms of energy right in the muscle. 
This energy does not need to be produced, it is just waiting there for you to get to work! 
For weekend warriors, there are two ways we encourage the development of the alactic system. 

1. Get bigger and stronger muscles

It seems to be that one of the primary factors that determines how much stored energy you have in your muscle is the size and strength of your muscles. 
So, this is pretty simple…
get bigger and stronger by strength training with a wide variety of rep ranges and loads. 
We’ll touch on weight training for hockey in future articles. 

2. Do your drills hard

Like my friend, Coach Jeff Wood, says “to get in shape, go to practice and do your drills hard”
If you get the chance to be on the ice, each drill should be about 10-15 seconds of hard work, followed by 1-2 minutes of rest. 
This is perfect! 
If you are doing your drills hard and maintaining good posture and skating technique, you’re hitting your first goal. 
The second goal is to bring your heart rate down as quickly as possible between bouts. 
So, just chill out, 
Skate around lightly, 
Grab a shot of water, 
And get ready to go again. 


Getting into shape for hockey is not complicated. 
It shouldn’t take you more than a couple hours per week. 
And, man, if you can get on the ice to do some drills, you will be rocking. 
The unfortunate thing is that getting time on the ice to do this can be a battle. 
That’s why we started the Highlight Reel Hockey Academy.
So guys like you can do some high-quality drills to get into high-performance shape. 
All under the guidance of an over-qualified coach.
Go here to learn more. 

Get on the VIP List Today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.