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In Shape

A Player is in shape when he can play hard for each shift of an entire game without losing strength, skill or speed.

For those coaches wishing to reach maximum potential with their teams conditioning, he must become familiar with two terms Aerobic and Anaerobic.

 Definition: Aerobic exercise is exercise that involves or improves oxygen consumption by the body.   Aerobic means “with oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen in the body’s metabolic or energy generating process. Many types of exercise are aerobic, and by definition are performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time.

Definition: Anaerobic exercise is exercise intense enough to trigger anaerobic metabolism.  It is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power and by body builders to build muscle mass. Muscles trained using anaerobic exercise develop differently as compared to aerobic exercise, leading to greater performance in short duration, high intensity activities, which last from mere seconds up to a maximum anaerobic metabolic contribution at about 2 minute.  Any activity after 2-minutes or so, whether it be exceedingly easy or immensely intense, will have a large aerobic metabolic component. Anaerobic metabolism also known as anaerobic energy expenditure is a natural part of whole-body metabolic energy expenditure.  In fact, fast twitch skeletal muscle (as compared to slow twitch muscle) is inherently composed of anaerobic metabolic characteristics, so that any recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers will lead to increased anaerobic energy expenditure. Intense exercise lasting upwards of 4 minutes or more (e.g., a mile race) may still have a considerable anaerobic energy expenditure component. Anaerobic energy expenditure is difficult to accurately quantify yet several reasonable methods to estimate the anaerobic component to exercise are available.

In the past and yes, even NHL coaches fell for certain elite physiologist training programs that have made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on aerobic training.  What happens with extended periods of long aerobic training is we are actually training our bodies to become slow!  

As you can see after reading these two definitions Anaerobic exercise is what a hockey player undoubtedly needs to practice.  Reason being Hockey players need fast twitch skeletal muscle which relates to most activity displayed by a player throughout a game, this compared to slow twitch muscle which is seen in most endurance athletes like long distant runners.  

We must however not totally ignore Aerobic exercise although it serves a different but essential purpose for a hockey player.  As a hockey player training aerobically can extend the period that your body can withstand a high intensity anaerobic shift. Also it can increase the recovery time between anaerobic shifts in a hockey game.  Another words the resting time between shifts is greater utilized by a player that has a good aerobic capacity.  For reasons unknown injuries are far less common for hockey players that have trained aerobically.  Lastly, immune function increases with aerobic activity meaning that a long season can be better tolerated by a player with a high aerobiccapacity.

Therefore coaches when emphasizing an exercise program for your hockey team make sure there is a definite concentration on anaerobic training.  Which can consist of a variety of different exercises, some of my favorites are hill sprints and stairs.  But remember we must not forget or aerobic work as well, I suggest long distance runs lasting 20-30 minutes.  Also concentrate on higher speed aerobic intervals to elevate the heart rate to near maximum rates and improve the muscular endurance needed to sustain speed late in a shift.

Let me conclude with a good hockey player must be “well positioned and conditioned.”  A player that can effectively conserve and therefore can balance their aerobic and anaerobic systems can effectively in return achieve maximum recovery after each and every shift throughout the duration of a hockey game.  Also effectively having a reserve of these sources can allow the player at the end of a shift to have a burst of speed to get to a loose puck in front of the net for a goal or a burst of speed to block a shot in the defensive zone.  

Thank you,

Nick Parillo

Any questions on this subject please feel free to email  Nick Parillo at

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