New In-Season Hockey Strength Training Considerations: 

Application of the 3-Day Westside Barbell Conjugate Method

 In- Season Hockey Strength Training Program Template

By: Coach K-mac

Weight Training has been considered a vital part of a Hockey player’s development for decades now but it has long been believed that weight training is beneficial for the Hockey player in the Off-Season only. Coaches have been misinformed and led to believe that if they allow their players to continue following an In-Season Hockey Strength Training Program that their players will experience a loss of speed and agility. Despite science continuously proving that In-Season Hockey Strength Training enhances strength, speed and agility. There has been a longstanding myth that In-Season weight training makes athletes less athletic. 

Good coaches and good programming will allow for the training that takes place to be tuned specifically for the demands and schedule of the sport by making adjustments to Volume, Intensity Exercise Selection, and workout timing. Good coaches will be able to dial in the strength training so  that athletes abilities will increase both in competition and in training. 

Here are some adjustments to consider that create synergy between strength gains and recovery times during the Hockey Season. 

Day 1: Max Effort Lower

When designing an In-Season weight training program you will want to include max effort lower and upper body days. Max Effort Lower workout should be done 36-48 hours post game. This is important to ensure that recovery time from Max Effort Lower work is more than enough to allow for fresh legs on game day. The goal in any In-Season Program is to get the most out of training, but also show up with the most on Game Day. 

The Exercise Selection should feature Squat and Goodmorning variations more often than not. With a Deadlift variation thrown in every 2 to 4 weeks. The reason why Deadlift exercises are less frequent is due to the fact that Deadlifts above 90% 1RM tend to be associated with increased levels of fatigue and the need for longer recovery. As usual Max Effort should be performed working up to a top set single or triple so that the intensity is at or above 90% 1RM.

The accessory volume will be low to moderate with intensity being moderate to high. Accessory exercise selection should be as individualized as possible by addressing the specific weaknesses of each athlete. Each accessory exercise should be performed for 3-5 sets of 5-10  reps for the heavier work and 10-15 reps for less intense accessory work.             

Day 2: Max Effort / Dynamic Effort Upper 

The reason these two days are included together is that you will be alternating between them week to week. Given the fact that the primary focus is sports performance on the ice, the in-season program should feature only 3 training days per week. This allows for Optimal Training Sessions, Optimal Recovery Times, and ultimately Optimal Sports Performance.Your Max Effort Upper Body Training will be performed 36 hours after your Max Effort Lower and will follow the same set and rep protocols for upper body training. This means reps will be between 1 and 3, working at or above 90% 1RM. Exercise selection should include the rotation of Flat Dip, Bench Press, Incline Press, Floor Press, Close Grip, Overhead Press and variations of those movements. 

Dynamic effort upper body days will be 3-week waves. Close Grip and Medium Grip Bench Press are preferred for dynamic effort bench, alternating between the two, wave to wave, week to week or set to set. The accessory volume will be higher intensity and lower volume for max effort bench, and lower volume and higher intensity on dynamic effort bench. Focusing on strengthening the arms, chest, shoulders and mid/upper back should be the focus of accessory exercises. 

3-Week Wave Examples: 

  • 12×3 @ 40% + Minibands
  • 10×3 @ 45% + Minibands 
  • 8×3 @ 50% + Minibands 

Day 3: Dynamic Effort Lower

On the final training day of the In-Season Conjugate Hockey Program Dynamic Effort Lower should be Executed 36-8 hours before game day. A good way to use time to and keep recovery time between the final training day and game day properties to get in your Dynamic Effort Lower workout before/after the Wednesday Practice or before/after the Thursday Practice. 

Dynamic Effort Lower is designed similarly to the way Dynamic Effort Upper training for hockey players and is approached in 3-Week Waves including 10×2 @ 50% + 25% band, 8×2 @ 55% + 25% band and 6×2 @ 60% + 25% band. 

You will alternate bars every 3 weeks, and bands will always be the choices far as accommodating resistance goes. Accessory exercise volume will be lowered on this day to ensure the maximum amount of recovery between the fina training day and game day. We recommend a few sets each of high rep kettlebell swings, abs, and GHR after Dynamic  Effort Lower, then getting on with the recovery process. 

Final Words 

With proper Exercise Selection, program organization and design, and timing you can develop a very successful In-Season Conjugate-Based Hockey Strength Training Program that will provide your players with the training necessary to take their sports performance to the next level. The most important thing to adhere to when writing In-Season programming is the recovery times between game day and the first training day. If planned and executed correctly, you should be walking into your first training day fully recovered, and you should be hoping on the ice recovered from your first training session. If games are on Saturday then Monday / Wednesday / Thursday or a Tuesday / Thursday / Friday training schedule would work best. Be sure to understand the weaknesses, training needs, and recovery needs or limitations of your athletes. If you begin to notice the training program is working for some but not all of your athletes, don’t hesitate to make programming adjustments on an individual level. Any Coach can make a program work for some players, a great coach finds the approach that ensures success for all players. 

  • This past weekend 10/14/23 I went to The Westside Barbell Education Seminar and also read a bunch of articles from the WSBB Blog. So most of this information is influenced and regurgitated from those sources (and not my original ideas, I learned from Westside). I just presented these ideas for the Hockey community because that’s the arena where most of m current athletes compete. Before he passed, Louie Simmons allowed me to train at Westside for almost 3 years on Saturdays as a visitor. This gave me an opportunity to learn and observe the training and the culture. Reading about it is great but, experiencing it firsthand and training there +150 hours between breakfast at Tee Jay’s with the morning crew and then the training that followed afterwards was the real ticket. I will forever be gratefull for Louie’s generosity and willingness to teach. Thank you to Andrew Williams for introducing me to Westside, Sal Alosi for arranging my first visitation, Phil Matusz for allowing Mark Uptegraff and I to go there and learn while I was at tOSU, and finally Mark Uptegraff, Andrew Williams and Charles Barger for accompanying me as my training partners along this time.