Your Energy Connection
By Greg Siller – Pro Learning Systems
The body has two main energy systems that work together to fuel a players’ hockey performance; aerobic and anaerobic. The aerobic system provides energy for low and moderate intensity action, helps the body recover from fatigue, increases the body’s cooling efficiency, and helps reduce body fat. A one hour bike ride at a comfortable pace would be fueled mainly by your aerobic system. The anaerobic system produces energy very quickly to meet the demands of intense action such as a slapshot, skating hard during a breakaway, chasing an opponent, or stopping and starting quickly. These two energy systems work together with your heart, lungs, blood, muscles, and other components to provide you with a complete energy connection.
According to Peter Twist, in his book Complete Conditioning for Ice Hockey, there are two ways to increase aerobic conditioning; through both continuous and intermittent exercises. Players should first use 30-60 minutes of moderately paced (75-85% of your maximum heart rate) continuous aerobic conditioning to build up a base of fitness; which would typically be done during the pre-season. Once players have achieved a solid base, aerobic training can continue with intermittent aerobic conditioning, performed during the season. This intermittent conditioning focuses on using a series of 2-3 minute, high intensity exercises (5 beats below maximum heart rate), interspersed with 2-3 minutes of active rest (i.e., slow skating, walking, slow bike riding). Both continuous and intermittent aerobic conditioning helps improve your energy system by raising the lactate threshold of muscles, which ultimately enables players to perform at higher intensities for longer periods of time.
Since rink time is a limited and costly commodity, aerobic conditioning is most effectively developed as part of an off-rink dryland training program. It can also consist of street cycling, stationary cycling, swimming, stair-climbing, moderate-and fast-paced walking, inline skating, hiking, and running. Participation in non-hockey sports such as lacrosse, soccer and basketball will also provide aerobic benefits to hockey players. During practices, aerobic conditioning needs to be tailored according to the intensity and frequency of games. On-rink aerobic drills can include figure-8 skating drills and circle drills, either with or without the puck.
The anaerobic energy system (ATP-PC and Anaerobic Glycolysis) provides the major source of energy during a typical hockey game according to Twist. Both anaerobic systems should utilize interval exercises to improve conditioning. The ATP-PC system provides the most immediate form of energy. It is used for instantaneous bursts of maximum intensity for up to 10 seconds. Exercises designed to increase ATP-PC conditioning involve stair sprinting, plyometrics, explosive strength training, quickness, speed, and agility drills. Exercises should consist of 10 reps, a working interval of 5-10 seconds, and a rest interval of 1:5 (rest interval is 5 times the working interval). The anaerobic glycolysis system provides energy production for up to 120 seconds, depending on intensity, but peaks at 30-45 seconds. This is why typical hockey shifts (in stop-time games) average about 45 seconds in duration. Intense shifts that last much longer will have players showing fatigue, lower effort, and deteriorating skill execution. Exercises designed to increase anaerobic glycolysis conditioning involve stationary bike sprints, cycling sprints, inline skating sprints, hill running, and 400-yard running sprints. Exercises should consist of 6-10 reps, a working interval of 30-45 seconds, and a rest interval of 1:5 or 1:4 initially—decreasing to 1:3 or 1:2 depending on a players’ ability to sustain full-out efforts for 30-45-seconds.
As with aerobic conditioning, anaerobic conditioning can be developed as part of an off-rink dryland training program. As part of an on-rink practice, ATP-PC conditioning can consist of 5-10 second drills such as sprint relays. Anaerobic glycolysis conditioning can consist of 30-45 second drills such as two-player skate/shoot drills, line drills, and two-lap paced drills.