Brian Galivan is fighting a misinformation campaign being waged on social media.
Galivan, the Director of Sports Science for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, sees hockey players using their platforms to suggest off-ice training isn’t necessary to maximize talent.
He would like to set the record straight.
“There's a lot of bad information out there right now that you don't need to be doing weight training or resistance training. And I mean, that's a huge problem,” Galivan says. “Kids are seeing all this stuff on Instagram that they don’t need to lift weights. Well, good luck going against my players.”
Players in the NTDP routinely put on 20 to 30 solid pounds during their mid-to-late teens with the help of strength training and nutrition. Galivan sees off-ice training, particularly during a hockey season, as a critical complement to the development of a 14U and 16U player.
In-season weight training at least once a week but ideally two to three times per week is an essential component of building the sort of strength that translates throughout games and practices, Galivan says.
It’s particularly important, he says, if players are in a cycle where they are playing a lot more games than they are getting practice time.
“I think one of the big problems between 14U and 16U is there is just not enough practice time,” he says. “In games the best player on the team touches the puck, you know, maybe a minute. I would always recommend more – more practice time, more training. … I think with so much specialization in sports, off-ice training, especially for hockey, has pretty much become a mandatory thing.”
But doesn’t that put young players at risk of injury from overuse?
“Overuse injuries come from playing hockey,” Galivan says. “The weight room is where we complement that and balance things out.”
This would have been a much different analysis in, say, the late 2000s. That was around the time Galivan started training NHL players, and the sports science has evolved a lot since then.
“The more science changes every year, if you're not constantly researching and learning, you're falling behind. It changes so much, and the game changes, right?” Galivan says. “When I first started training NHL players, we worked out very much like football players. Hockey players need to be trained differently, and it's definitely evolved.”
NHL players need to be trained differently than 14U and 16U players, of course, but by that age training should be incorporating hockey-specific concepts as well as body composition and nutrition.
As for what areas to work, the science makes sense.
“Typically a 3-to-1 ratio of lower body to upper body and emphasizing posterior to anterior,” Galivan says. “We need to have a strong chest, strong shoulders as hockey players. But you know, we're not training offensive linemen.”
Good training that helps players get stronger at those age levels can give way to even more specific work as they get a little older.
“As they get closer to 17 or 18, then they can start asking if they need to be training more power? Do they focus more on speed? Do I need to focus more on athleticism?”
The short answer of why to train during the season is simple: to improve and to maximize both the potential of the individual and a unique time in a young athlete’s life.
“This is a window in their lives where they're never going to be able to train that much again. Kids can really get after it,” Galivan says. “I think the strength training piece is something that is definitely a priority, especially in season with the insane amount of games that coaches put their kids through.”
He puts an early emphasis on strength training because in the end it’s all connected.
“Everyone wants to be faster. But to get fast, you need to have power and to have power, you need to have strength. But you can't have one without the other,” Galivan says. “Not that they don't need cognitive work or speed and agility work, they do need to do that, but they get so much volume of that on the ice.”
To Galivan, it comes down to priorities and goals. Committing to a strength program, particularly during the season, is a lot of work. But lofty aspirations require work.
“Everybody says, ‘I want to play Division I’ or that they want to play pro,” Galivan says. “And I think, ‘well, OK, how much time do you want to put into it?’ The weight room, this is kind of what I always say, is a place where they can go to figure out what God gave them and how do they make the most of it?”