Q: My bantam-aged player wants to begin a workout program. Can you recommend some good guidelines?
A: First, if possible, seeking training and safety tips from an accredited trainer. This can help set a foundation for success and safety for your child. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has a user-friendly trainer locator that can help people find certified trainers in their area.
As a basic guideline for bantam-aged players, we recommend beginning with a focus on range-of-motion exercises executed with proper technique. But before doing any exercise regimen, it’s important to always get a good warm-up in, with approximately 5-10 minutes of low-impact cardio (a light jog, skipping rope, jumping jacks, etc.) to get the blood flowing, along with dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is movement-based, and takes the joints through a full range of motion. Avoid static stretching whenever possible.
Moving past the warm-up, body-weight exercises such as wall-sits, lunges, planks, pull-ups, push-ups and explosive jumps are great for athletes, especially young athletes. They build strength and help develop a good base, which is essential to success in any sport, and specifically for hockey. We want to build the hockey player’s engine from the core out.
More good exercises to consider would be the various hamstring, quad and hip movements that can be performed with a stability ball. Cross-training with a variety of all these exercises is the key to working different muscle groups.
When lifting weights, it’s best to use light weight during this introductory phase of training. The focus should be on safety and mastering technique, not maximum pounds and big plates.
Lastly, while strengthening the core and stabilizer muscles is very important, don't forget that bantam-aged players are in their second key window of speed trainability, so make sure that they emphasize skating and sprinting in their workout regimen (this, actually, should be a higher priority than strengthening). The key window for strength trainability is still a couple years away, so it’s important to take advantage of the final speed window now.
And, naturally, it’s also important to refine actual hockey skills as well. Bantam-aged players are still developing their hockey talents. Skill development remains paramount.
The author, Guy "Goose" Gosselin, made his NHL debut with Winnipeg in 1988. He is a two-time United States Olympian and was inducted into the University of Minnesota Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.