Volt Ice Hockey
Research supporting the methods of Volt Athletics to develop the ice hockey athlete.
Game play within hockey is highly reliant on acceleration, deceleration, and power endurance (3). A unique level of metabolic and biomechanical stress is placed on active muscles in the lower body and trunk due to athletes performing powerful upper and lower body movements while on skates. Considerable amounts of fatigue are withstood, and players will frequently endure shifts on the ice between 30-80 seconds in duration (7). The physiological stress of hockey places between 50-60% of the workload on anaerobic energy systems, and 40-50% on the aerobic energy system (3,9). Successful performance in ice hockey requires that athletes develop well-rounded fitness including high levels of anaerobic power, aerobic endurance, muscular strength, power, and muscular endurance.
Hockey is a highly demanding and physical game that will cause progressively worse fatigue over the course of the season. For this reason, ice hockey players must supplement game play with scientifically constructed training programs in order to maintain seasonal fitness goals (5). The movement demands inherent within the game of hockey place predominant stress on single-leg lateral extension, while placing the torso in a forward-lean position. The ability to produce force unilaterally is magnified; force absorptive capabilities via eccentric contractions are necessary for change of direction. Shooting and passing the puck at a high velocity rely heavily on rotational power. The added physicality of the game places a much-needed importance on maintaining high strength and power capabilities. Volt has identified three main sports performance factors that can be developed through the implementation of an annual strength and conditioning plan. The development of rotational power, stamina, and strength are direct goals that can help increase the performance of the hockey athlete. Injury prevention methods are interwoven within the strength and conditioning plan to focus on increasing the stability of the joints and limbs that carry a higher risk of injury within the game.
Elite ice hockey players have high levels of upper-body and lower-body strength; in fact, the 1RM front squat among hockey players was, on average, higher than the 1RM back squat of athletes of other sports. Hockey is a game of power: a shift typically lasts 61 seconds, in which athletes are on the ice working very hard. High levels of leg power translate to faster skating speed (7). Strength is needed in hockey due to the physical nature of the sport. With players skating at high speeds with regular body contact, upper- and lower-body strength will reduce shoulder, hip, and groin injuries. For these reasons, a combination of upper-body and lower-body strength training should be a focus in hockey training programs (17).
The ability to generate power during a stride will provide a more meaningful contribution to skating speed if the player exerts force while well-balanced or stable. Unstable resistance training using unilateral resisted movements can enhance the overall balance of a player while training the neuromuscular system to provide greater motive (propulsion) in contrast to stabilizing forces. Hockey skating skills place a greater emphasis on impulse (force exerted for a given period) rather than stretch-shortening cycle actions (1). Strength is the ability to overcome or counteract external resistance by muscular effort (20). The most effective way to develop power is with strength training; the speed aspect of power changes very little training and will be accounted for with hockey-specific activities. However, if the athlete can move more weight at the same speed they will, by definition, be more powerful (12).
The primary mode of increasing muscular force production in Volt programming is the inclusion of multi-joint, barbell-based, open- and closed-kinetic-chain resistance movements. These movements include all variations of squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and other movements where athletes are tasked with producing force into the ground while maintaining structural alignment. These movements are the most effective means of developing strength for athletes because they allow an athlete to move the largest amount of weight with their body as the base of support (13). Closed-kinetic chain movements, specifically, have a higher transfer of training effect to specific sporting movements (9).
Developing strength is a key performance factor within the Volt program, emphasizing the development of total body strength through functional resistance training movements and progressions. Ice hockey athletes should engage in activities that promote increased force and power production in the legs to increase on-ice skating speed (14). The more force an athlete can apply into the ground, the faster they can skate, change direction and move explosively (11). Volt Ice Hockey will incorporate stability training with traditional resistance training to develop the ability to generate power on an unstable surface, as ice hockey requires athletes to do.
Rotational Power Development
The majority of the movement patterns in ice hockey are rotational and multi-planar in nature. Yet unlike other sports, the majority of hockey movements are conducted in a forward-lean position and on a low-friction surface. Skating requires lateral and diagonal power with multiple rotations of the upper body, trunk, and hips. The more force produced and quicker the rotations, the more rotational power will be generated, and the skater will be able to move at higher velocities (17).
Rotational strength, power, stability, and mobility are undoubtedly the training staples of ice hockey (16). The Volt strength development plan institutes multiple varieties of resistance-based rotational movements to train the core muscles in all planes. Anatomically, the majority of our muscles are positioned diagonally with corresponding diagonal lines-of-pull. Because of this diagonal relationship, resistance exercises involving diagonal-rotational movements span a greater range-of-motion and are more sport-specific because they follow the natural movement pattern in the majority of sport skills (2). The body's chain of diagonal and crisscrossed core musculature is best developed through Olympic lifts, squats, presses and pull-ups. These movements, when combined with rotational exercises, allow athletes to apply their strength from traditional lifts in rotational movements (18). Volt Ice Hockey will develop the rotational power to increase skating speed, shot power, and the core strength required to move powerfully yet with full control of your body, thus allowing players to move quicker and with more agility.
Medicine ball training is an effective way to increase performance for athletes involved in rotational power sports such as ice hockey. When implemented as part of a progressive resistance-training program, an athlete will be better equipped for their sport and their performance will improve (6). In addition to medicine ball training, Volt institutes a progressive resistance-training program to develop the strength and stability of the core musculature. Abdominal and lower-back strengthening are key variables in developing dynamic stabilization, which is defined as: the rigid stabilization of a body segment by surrounding musculature, allowing only movements dictated by the skill being performed. Dynamic stabilization of the trunk is a necessary base for the development of rotational trunk musculature (2).
Development of Stamina
Hockey is a high-intensity sport that requires speed, agility, muscular strength and endurance, and aerobic and anaerobic fitness (17). For this reason, proper energy system training is essential to meet the metabolic demands of hockey players' bodies during the course of a competitive season. During the 60 minutes of play, athletes are functioning largely aerobically but rely on highly intense bursts of speed; this means that hockey athletes must prepare both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
As previously mentioned, Hockey is a game of power, and high levels of leg power translate to faster skating (17). During these short but intense shifts, hockey players are constantly moving in a powerful manner. Skating itself requires power from the lower body, and when combined with physical contact, change of direction and handling the puck, a hockey athlete is constantly applying power in different ways during their shift. To maintain this level of energy expenditure (usually 30-35 minutes of play for elite athletes (17)) hockey players must train their repeat sprint abilities. Volt uses a periodized strength programs in conjunction with a 12-week conditioning program, which is focused on increasing the aerobic pathways as well as the ability to withstand repeated alactic and lactic efforts. An aerobic base phase sets a foundation for the development and maintenance of the aerobic energy system. The anaerobic phase is the longest and most prolific phase, focusing on glycolytic energy pathway development and improving the repeat sprint ability of hockey athletes under fatiguing conditions. The program concludes with an alactic phase designed to maximize the ATP-CP energy pathway and improve maximal acceleration and sprint speed, as well as improving an athlete's repeat sprint abilities. Training with both repeated sprint conditioning and explosive strength drills have shown independent improvements in short sprint/skate ability (4).
Volt uses maximal strength training with an emphasis on neural adaptations to improve strength, in particular the rate of force development, which improves aerobic endurance performance by increasing work economy. (8). Resistance training designed to improve 1RM strength with a focus on neural adaptation will have a limited hypertrophic effect, especially when combined with aerobic exercise, however substantial gains in strength occur due to improved coordination. Neural adaptation refers to alterations in recruitment, rate coding, synchronization of motor units, reflex potential, co-contractions of antagonists and synergistic muscles (1). To ensure optimal neural adaptations in strength training, it is important to stress all motor units to achieve maximal muscle activation. This will increase the peak force an athlete can produce.
Injury Prevention Methods
Due to the physicality of ice hockey, a variety of injuries can occur due to direct contact or avoidance of contact. Many contact injuries are unpredictable; however, Volt Ice Hockey provides athletes with the ability to avoid unwanted contact, as well as the strength to protect themselves when contact is inevitable or intentional. Development of upper-body strength is required to reduce shoulder injuries, while lower-body strength is needed to prevent hip and groin injuries (17).
Upper-body injuries are usually in relation to the shoulder joint and caused by contact. Volt Ice Hockey develops the musculature supporting this joint, which will reduce the stress placed on ligaments around the acromioclavicular (AC) joint and decrease the likeliness of injury. Lower-body injuries in hockey are usually limited to the hip and knee joints (10). The hip and groin can be injured due to the mechanics of skating, which usually include a groin or hip flexor strain. These types of injuries can be reduced with strengthening and stretching of the supporting musculature, as well as a comprehensive warm-up before play. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the knee is the most likely to be damaged due to the push-off required on the inside edge of the skate during the stride. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus damage are less common in hockey than field sports, but still occur due to torsion created when moving laterally and changing direction. Despite efforts to reduce head injuries, concussion levels are still high in hockey. While difficult to prevent, Volt’s strength and lateral quickness training will help athletes move in a safe and controlled, yet still powerful manner. This will help hockey athletes to position themselves to avoid all injuries, including head injuries.
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