Yes, it’s a professional athlete’s job to maintain his strength, stamina, and power. But no one’s going to argue that’s an easy task—especially for contact sport athletes. Take hockey players, for example. One of the most athletic and physically demanding sports, hockey requires athletes to exert near maximal energy in rapid-fire bursts and (famously) collide with one another at top speeds. Their balance, reaction times, and endurance are constantly being tested. So, how do they do it?
How do they truck through a season and keep their conditioning up to par off-season? Well, we talked to four New York Rangers players to get their top training tips, advice, and secrets. The best part: They've got some advice for the everyday athlete that's not training to win the Stanley Cup. Click to the next slide for Jarret Stoll's training plan and tips.
How does a professional hockey player stay resilient and relentless in an 82-game NHL season? Well, if you're talking about Canadian center Jarret Stoll it’s probably not how you’d think. The key to his durability is yoga and self-myofascial release.
Aside from stretching before and after workouts (check out our 10 best stretches for men, according to 10 trainers for ideas) to improve flexibility, relieve aching muscles, and maximize workouts, Stoll takes to foam rolling. “Every morning I roll out my neck, back, quads, hamstrings, and groin,” Stoll says. “[It’s a] good way to keep your body loose.” The handy recovery tool is with him at all times—especially on the road. He can increase blood flow and get major muscle groups firing without leaving his hotel room.
As for the yoga? “During the off-season, I do Vinyasa Yoga five to six days a week,” Stoll says. Vinyasa is a style of yoga where you focus on creating a mind-breath connection and really work your body through aggressive stretching, which is why it’s sometimes called Flow or Vinyasa Flow. Balancing and holding these stretches help build all-over strength, Stoll explains. “If you’re active and work out often, yoga is a great option to add in to your training regimen to help prevent injuries while building muscle,” he adds.
To stay in shape through the off-season, Canadian defenseman Kevin Klein works with his strength coach Mike Krajewski. “He maintains the concept that explosive exercises will not only improve my power production throughout the lengthy NHL season, but also keep me lean, strong and conditioned for the minutes I play,” Klein says. Some of his favorites?
Squat jumps, single-leg bounds, and drop box jumps—moves that torch fat, boost sports performance (i.e. jump higher, run faster), and of course, build impressive leg strength and mass.
To complement the plyometric work, Klein’s trainer puts him through traditional barbell Olympic lifts with power and hang cleans, and plenty of kettlebell work. “Kettlebells are an amazing way to safely perform power movements, while subsequently training my aerobic system," Klein says. Typically, they’ll do kettlebell swings, cleans, and light-weight snatches to keep him prepped between practice and lengthy hockey games where he sees a lot of time on the ice.
But the exercise that’s really translated to power performance on the ice is one you’re probably not doing—hip thrusts. Sure it's a bit of an awkward exercise, but barbell hip thrusts, specifically, strengthen the glutes (which create a healthy back and flexible hamstrings). “The benefit of this exercise—to strongly develop hip and glute strength and power—directly relates to my hockey stride and my ability to skate harder, faster, and to create more drive and power out of each stride I take,” Klein adds.
The 23-year-old right wing has some advice for you: “As many push exercises that you do (dumbbell bench press, pushups, etc.), try to do as many exercises counteracting that direction (rear delt cable pull downs, reverse flyes, etc.).” He’s on to something. Push-pull routines are better than body-part-focused plans since you’re safeguarding your body against injury—in the instance of push-pull arms exercises, you prevent your shoulders from collapsing too far forward—and stimulating muscle growth.
Like Stoll, Etem sticks to a fairly extensive warmup and cool down regimen—which he says all athletes, amateur and professional alike, should follow. “Start your workouts with a nice active warmup, [and] follow that up with leg extensions and leg curls,” he suggests. “This warms up those knee joints and prevents knee pain in the long run.” Try our Best Dynamic Warmup For Any Workout; it’ll help increase your body temperature and get your muscles moving at a greater range of motion (correcting limitations), and activate your entire nervous system.
Etem also finishes each workout with some cool down stretches—it’s when you’ll see the most benefit since your muscles are warmed, elastic, and fairly pliable—to alleviate next-day soreness. He also fuels his body with a post-workout snack. “A protein shake—preferably plant based—can't hurt!”
“For me, personally, training has changed a lot in the last few years,” Stalberg says. The Swedish right wing used to solely perform Olympic lifts—squats, bench presses, and cleans—“but bench pressing 400 pounds doesn't transfer very well to the ice,” he admits. Now, he’s all about getting his body in optimal shape to perform. That means his off-season regimen has changed tremendously, too.
“I'm doing a lot of weighted one-legged exercises—like Bulgarian squats with my back leg in a TRX strap or lunges in different angles—to make my body strong and well-balanced,” Stalberg says. His focus is keyed in to doing exercises off the ice that will function better for him in the rink. “In a game, things happen so fast, and it's never the same positions, so you’ve gotta try and simulate that in the gym,” he adds.
But whether you're a hockey player or just trying to bulk up or slim down, in order to progressively grow in your pursuits, you need you keep your body guessing and change up your workouts.