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Strength Training for 14U-16U Hockey Players

06/27/2017, 1:15pm MDT
By USAHockey.com

It’s not only the right time of the year to get serious about training, but for the 14U-16U hockey player, it’s the right time in their life. 

This is the age when hockey players start to put it all together. The quality of play is markedly improved and the level of intensity is at its peak. That means the training calendar increases to nine months of the year and serious young hockey players start to focus on building athleticism. 

But what does “strength training” or “weightlifting” mean to teenagers? 

“What kids usually want to do is focus on whatever they can see in the bathroom mirror,” says Darryl Nelson, the strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Their arms, their shoulders and their chest – that’s what they want, but that’s not going to make you a better hockey player.” 

Nelson details the importance of training the right way, and why this is the right age to get serious.

This … Is Your Time!
In an ideal situation, Nelson says, kids should start learning about strength training and weightlifting between the ages of 13 and 14.

“It would be really nice if they were entering that window and they were already proficient in the weight room,” says Nelson. “If they already practiced sound technique and had experience with a wide variety of different exercises.”

The best time to begin serious strength training is after the child’s adolescent growth spurt, which is around age 16 for boys and around 15 for girls.

“Once that happens, that’s really where they can develop strength and power and muscle mass and bone density the most easily,” says Nelson. “That’s when they’re the most trainable.”

These athletes should now be “Training to Train.”

Creating an Overall Athlete
The key is to get kids to understand why they need to be athletic as opposed to looking like someone in an exercise infomercial.

“They see the CrossFit Games on TV or the World’s Strongest Man competitions or bodybuilding magazines when they’re waiting around at the grocery store,” says Nelson. “They don’t understand that those things aren’t necessarily athletic or making them better team-sport athletes.”

Nelson recommends finding a good strength coach who understands what it means to be athletic, and why other more popular, trendy workout programs don’t provide the tools that allow you to be a good hockey player.

“This infomercial stuff you see on TV is geared toward general fitness or for some middle-aged person that has a desk job,” says Nelson.

Hockey players should be looking to gain high performance qualities, not general baseline fitness levels.

 “How often are they really going as fast as they can go?” asks Nelson. “I think what we’ll see is that it’s not very much. That’s what we need to be training. That’s what game speed is.”

Bodybuilders or marathon runners couldn’t keep up with hockey players on the ice. Why should hockey players train like them? It doesn’t make sense.

“The best hockey players in the world are going to play 20 minutes of hockey in a game that lasts two-and-a-half hours,” says Nelson. “You don’t need to go out and run 10 miles. The type of endurance you need is you need to do things powerfully and explosively and with a lot of speed over and over and over again.”

Strength Training for Hockey Players

It’s not only the right time of the year to get serious about training, but for the 14U-16U hockey player, it’s the right time in their life. 

This is the age when hockey players start to put it all together. The quality of play is markedly improved and the level of intensity is at its peak. That means the training calendar increases to nine months of the year and serious young hockey players start to focus on building athleticism. 

But what does “strength training” or “weightlifting” mean to teenagers? 

“What kids usually want to do is focus on whatever they can see in the bathroom mirror,” says Darryl Nelson, the strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Their arms, their shoulders and their chest – that’s what they want, but that’s not going to make you a better hockey player.” 

Nelson details the importance of training the right way, and why this is the right age to get serious.

This … Is Your Time!
In an ideal situation, Nelson says, kids should start learning about strength training and weightlifting between the ages of 13 and 14.

“It would be really nice if they were entering that window and they were already proficient in the weight room,” says Nelson. “If they already practiced sound technique and had experience with a wide variety of different exercises.”

The best time to begin serious strength training is after the child’s adolescent growth spurt, which is around age 16 for boys and around 15 for girls.

“Once that happens, that’s really where they can develop strength and power and muscle mass and bone density the most easily,” says Nelson. “That’s when they’re the most trainable.”

These athletes should now be “Training to Train.”

Creating an Overall Athlete
The key is to get kids to understand why they need to be athletic as opposed to looking like someone in an exercise infomercial.

“They see the CrossFit Games on TV or the World’s Strongest Man competitions or bodybuilding magazines when they’re waiting around at the grocery store,” says Nelson. “They don’t understand that those things aren’t necessarily athletic or making them better team-sport athletes.”

Nelson recommends finding a good strength coach who understands what it means to be athletic, and why other more popular, trendy workout programs don’t provide the tools that allow you to be a good hockey player.

“This infomercial stuff you see on TV is geared toward general fitness or for some middle-aged person that has a desk job,” says Nelson.

Hockey players should be looking to gain high performance qualities, not general baseline fitness levels.

 “How often are they really going as fast as they can go?” asks Nelson. “I think what we’ll see is that it’s not very much. That’s what we need to be training. That’s what game speed is.”

Bodybuilders or marathon runners couldn’t keep up with hockey players on the ice. Why should hockey players train like them? It doesn’t make sense.

“The best hockey players in the world are going to play 20 minutes of hockey in a game that lasts two-and-a-half hours,” says Nelson. “You don’t need to go out and run 10 miles. The type of endurance you need is you need to do things powerfully and explosively and with a lot of speed over and over and over again.”

Making You Stronger, Keeping You Safer

Not only will proper strength training give kids the tools to be better athletes. It also helps prevent injuries from happening during the season.

“We’re really looking at reducing those injuries from happening within your sport,” says Nelson. “Proper training absolutely helps in that area.” 

Good coaches can also help you figure out what’s causing certain injuries in the first place, whether it’s groin pulls, sports hernias, lower-back pain or other common problems that may keep players off the ice.

Avoid focusing on just one or two areas. You’ll better prevent injuries while creating an overall, high-performance athlete. The concept is that everything is equally worked on the athlete’s body and any asymmetry is minimized.

“The idea isn’t that we specialize on any one type of movement or any one muscle group,” says Nelson. “The idea is to do everything and to be well-rounded, not to be as strong as your weakest link."

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