When you think of what constitutes a great athlete, your mind likely jumps to a physical freak like the NBA’s LeBron James or NFL’s Cam Newton, even swimming sensation Michael Phelps. However, would you believe that some of the world’s best athletes play in the NHL?
Hockey players are some of the most talented athletes out there – it takes a unique combination of size, speed and balance to play the game.
The average hockey player stands roughly 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighs around 205 pounds and works extremely hard off the ice to stay in playing shape.
Exercise means nothing if all you’re eating is fast food and candy, but starving yourself into losing weight doesn’t get one into hockey shape, either.
The high level of activity in practices and games uses up a lot of energy, so hockey players have to keep their bodies fueled with the right nutrients. Hockey players have meal plans that focus on eating very specific types of food, such as lean protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats.
Depending on their height and weight, different players have to adjust their diets to build muscle and aid recovery in the proper places. An imbalanced diet can lead to inhibited performance, and even raise the risk of injury.
Given the high-octane pace of hockey, the players must be able to make sharp turns, powerful shots and other motions that require a considerable amount of flexibility. In order to improve flexibility and range of motion, hockey players use stretches as part of their routines.
There are two different types of stretches that hockey players use in their workouts – static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is the resting range of motion and dynamic stretching is the active range of motion.
Dynamic stretches are done before a workout – this gets the blood pumping and muscles ready for the work they’ll be doing. Static stretches are for after the workout is over – they are somewhat of a cooldown that help sustain the muscles’ flexibility.
Injuries are a natural occurrence in sports, especially in such a physical game like hockey. It is imperative that the recovery from an injury is handled correctly, or that injury could become worse.
An increasingly popular rehab method for hockey players is water therapy. The natural resistance and swell-reducing compression of water makes this type of therapy ideal for helping a hockey player recover.
There are many range of motion exercises that can be done in the water, including underwater walking and jogging, flexion and extension of the joints, and lateral sliding. All these exercises, and many more, are extremely effective in allowing hockey players’ muscles and joints to heal with little pressure.
A shift in hockey can be anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds of sprinting, meaning hockey players must have excellent endurance. Performing high-intensity interval training is very important in building cardiovascular conditioning.
There are several exercises that accomplish this feat – sprinting, biking and swimming are some of the most common. No matter which method is used, the important part is the burst of speed separated by slower recovery jogging or walking.
It’s important for hockey players to be in excellent shape to perform at their best when it comes to game time. After all, nobody wants to be known as a bender.