Off-Season Training for High School Players

If you’re like most hockey players, you’re likely looking for the most beneficial—and injury free—off-season training program. This interview with an elite performance training coach, Oyvind Gulbrandsen of Viking Power Fitness, shares some guidelines for hockey players. Gulbrandsen spent years training pro hockey players in the off season and says, “Whether a hockey player is in a youth organization or a player with a pro team, they are all seeking the same results and that is to improve strength and performance.”

To accomplish those goals, Gulbrandsen has the youth player focus on lower and upper body strength, core stability and improved cardio. Gulbrandsen explains, “While the lower body strength is mandatory for hockey, you have to focus on a strong core and not forget about upper body workouts as well. And, if you balance your off season workouts with interval training, the result is you become a more explosive player.” Gulbrandsen says, “Youth hockey in this country is exploding. It’s a great sport for the players and families, but the key to staying injury free, is to stay fit off season.” And especially for youth, Gulbrandsen has these requirements for the players:

  • Eat for performance (his mantra)
  • Maintain a balanced diet of 55 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 20 percent fat
  • Warm up for five minutes before starting any exercise
  • Stay hydrated all day by drinking water or low sugar electrolyte drinks
  • Track performance using a heart rate monitor and know the heart rate zones
  • Cool down after each workout for five minutes

He suggests an hour in the gym for weight training two to three times a week and interval cardio workouts two times a week. He also is adamant that the youth player does no have to incorporate heavy weights into the training. “Bench press heavy weights is not the No. 1 exercise for hockey, in fact using heavy weights isn’t recommended for youth training. In Viking Power Fitness, I train hockey players using dynamic body weight exercises,” he explains.

Dynamic body weight exercises use your own body weight for performance of key exercises. Gulbrandsen says youth hockey players will benefit tremendously by performing key exercises off-season such as:

  • Two to three strength workouts a week
  • Walking lunges
  • Squats to failure without weights or using low free weights
  • Lateral lunges with a resistance band around ankles to improve hip strength and stability. Keep the band taut the whole time
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks for core strength
  • Box jumps
  • Medicine ball slams to the floor, which is raising a medicine ball to about eye level and slamming it to the floor in front of you, or on each side of your feet

Because the shifts in hockey are short and furiously fast, Gulbrandsen says interval cardio training is a must. “To reach shift performance, it is a good idea to train using a heart rate monitor and knowing your maximum heart rate. When a player trains, I like them to keep their interval bursts between 75 and 85 percent of their maximum heart rate.”

Interval Training consists of a variety cardio bursts followed by a timed reduction is effort. “If the player is training in a gym, I recommend interval training on the Stair mill, treadmill or spinning bike. Outside, the effort can be accomplished running on a track, running hills or cycling.” The off-season training he recommends for the best results is:

  • Do two interval workouts a week
  • Five-minute warmup reaching your target heart rate zone
  • 30 minutes alternating between two minutes on and one minute slowing down at 75 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate during the two minutes on
  • Five-minute cool down

Gulbrandsen summarizes, “I leave the skating drills to the coaches—my goal is to help hockey players achieve or retain their explosive ability, flexibility, full body and core strength and improve their cardio endurance for shift performance.”

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kathy Smith for this story. Oyvind Gulbrandsen grew up in Norway, where he played hockey and semi-professional soccer. He was a member of the Norwegian Military and it was during his two-year stint that he developed a passion for coaching strength and conditioning. When he left Norway in 1995, he started his fitness career in California, but it was in Denver a few years later that he catapulted to success. He is currently the Owner and Elite Performance Coach at Viking Power Fitness.


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