The offseason is for rest and relaxation, lakes and beaches. The offseason is for training.
Much of that training happens in a gym. Some of it doesn’t (we’ll come back to those).
Athletes and trainers alike tweet videos of the impressive-looking and sometimes outlandish training exercises. Not all of the exercises are outlandish. Some are simply effective.
At exit interviews, Julien BriseBois and strength coach Mark Lambert lay out goals and things to work on for players. Every year, some players spend time with Lambert at Axxeleration, his gym outside of Montreal. He builds programs for some others.
“The objective of offseason training is to make an athlete a better athlete,” Lambert said. “You have to look at what’s missing from an athlete.”
It can be strength, size, power, speed, energy systems, or (most often) a combination thereof. Lambert splits the athletes working with him into three groups, based on what he referred to as their “training age,” meaning number of years training at this level.
Athletes in their first, maybe second, years often have the same issues with muscles like the VMO, the outside quadriceps muscle, and external rotators. Lambert has that group on the same program with variations according to the specific athlete, like using dumbbells versus a bar.
Then there are athletes like Alex Killorn, who at age 29 is in his eighth summer working out with Lambert. He is “older” in training years and has a program with similar tenants but specialized for his own needs.
The point isn’t to just lift the heaviest possible weights.
“We are not powerlifters,” Lambert said. “I don’t care if an athlete comes in and lifts 100 pounds at a certain movement. My goal for them isn’t to lift 200 by the end of the summer.”
The goals are to get stronger, and to do so in a way to prevent injury now and in season. The offseason starts with time off, then work on strength ratios for injury prevention and finally performance.
How that breaks down varies by player preference. For some, like Nikita Kucherov, offseason training includes a lot of skating. Others barely get on the ice until August.
Kucherov skated drills in late July with a mid-season intensity. He prefers not to go into detail on his regime but teammates and coaches credit his offseason intensity for his marked improvement each season.
This session, he worked on his skating and his shot, moving through a course of dummies and then taking a shot on net. Because nothing can be easy, the net held a board covering everything except a small hole at the bottom middle, like what the team uses for fans to take shots from center ice at intermission.
Now that we’ve laid down the basics, we can go back to those fun workouts.
Hockey may not feature much jumping (mostly in celebration), but it’s a key part of the training. The vertical jump is an indication of leg power, so the higher you jump the faster you skate.
The NHL tweeted a video of Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun doing a set that looked more like gymnastics than hockey. On a trampoline, he jumped over a set of blocks of different sizes then immediately went into two somersaults and a cartwheel.
Mikhail Sergachev trains with Sergey Gvozdez, who posted a video of the Lightning defenseman along with New Jersey’ Nikita Gusev and Washington’s Dmitry Orlov that might tire your legs out just watching it.
The trio performed one-legged double jumps, transitioning to the other leg without putting both feet down. The move features a horizontal jump, then vertical. The trick is the horizontal jump starts on one leg and lands on the other.
If that’s not hard enough, they do this on an uphill.
Another video, which also features Lightning prospect Alexy Lipanov, shows the players doing side jumps over track hurdles, then a series of front-right-front-left through more hurdles.
There are also things like swinging a sledge hammer off a tire, and swimming with a parachute. Gvozdez’s instagram (@gvozdevsv) is full of them.