There are many benefits to strength training when it comes to athletics. The one that is probably the most celebrated in sport is the increase in performance. The development of more strength, speed, and power is usually the most recognizable benefit of getting into the gym and lifting weights. But if an athlete can’t stay healthy and is always out of the lineup, does it really matter how fast or powerful he/she is?
With the second half of the regular season upon us and playoffs approaching, it is vital that teams have all their players in the lineup if they are hoping for a deep run. It is no coincidence that over the last nine years, the Stanley Cup has been won on seven occasions by a team that has been in the top two in the NHL in the statistical category of fewest man-games lost due to injury. The only team to break that trend was the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016 and 2017). So, I guess when you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on your team you can find ways to beat the odds.
For the rest of us, the question is how do you keep yourself healthy in order to stay in the lineup and play your best hockey when it really counts? Easy answer: you strength train.
Strength training is the most proactive thing we can do to reduce injury. Most other treatment modalities are reactive, meaning they are used once an injury has already occurred. This helps reduce man games lost by getting players back onto the ice as soon as possible, which is very important. However, not being out of the lineup in the first place is even better.
In a physical game like hockey, some injuries are inevitable. But many injuries can be greatly reduced through consistent strength training. Hockey is a high-frequency sport, meaning players are on the ice a lot and there is plenty of repetition. This causes muscular imbalances and leads to movement restrictions that in turn put an athlete in a position where they are more likely to sustain soft tissue injuries like muscle pulls and strains. Strength training corrects these muscular imbalances.
While there is no guarantee that stepping in front of a frozen puck to block a shot is not going to hurt, strength training is the number one thing we can do to increase bone density. This can mean the difference between a bruise or a fracture.
So, while we all want to be bigger, stronger, and faster, a case can be made that the biggest advantage of strength training during the season is that it will simply help to keep you on the ice doing what you do best – playing hockey.
Until next time,
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
Originally published in Game On Magazine, Year 7/Edition 4