TThank you very much for your interest and response in the hockey teaching series. Many of my hockey friends urge me to write about styles of play including different types of defense such as pressing, zone vs. man vs. man, possession, breakaways and counterattacks, and a few words about layups. We will discuss all this in the last part of the series.
Once you’ve perfected your basics and learned the different aspects of the game, you need to reach peak fitness. All successful hockey players have an excellent level of aerobic fitness that allows them to last throughout the game. They warm up and cool down before every practice or match and eat well with good sleeping habits to keep themselves in peak condition.
You might be wondering what kind of fitness do you need to be in to play hockey? It totally depends on the level of hockey you want to play. To be a good hockey player, you should be able to keep up with the pace of the game on the field. Stay on the pitch, injury and fatigue free and available for selection and make a strong case for selection so you can earn your minutes to go on the pitch and show your skills.
Can all this be done by playing hockey every day? Let’s see what Denise Jennings, Physical Training Coordinator at the Victorian Institute of Sport and former elite hockey player, has to say on the subject of speed, aerobic and anaerobic capacity and the agility aspects of hockey.
According to Jennings, it is unlikely that many players on the team are lightning fast over all distances. Some can be very explosive at a distance of 10 meters, while others have the ability to accelerate to a great distance and maintain that speed. Both abilities are valuable assets, but the value of each depends on the position you play.
Short, sharp speed is essential in midfield when players want to break lines in tight spaces, but forwards and defenders need to be the fastest in both short and long distances. Speed in modern hockey is just as important for forwards as stickwork and tricks. Speed is critical for attackers who want to disengage from their immediate opponents and for defenders who need to catch a forward break or drop back into cover.
To maximize the specificity of hockey training, you should repeat the distances covered in the game in training. Most high-intensity sprints are done over distances of 5 to 15 meters. Longer efforts do occur, but are the exception rather than the rule. When you develop speed, the first two or three steps are critical.
Incorporate sprint drills and dynamic stretching to improve speed. Practice 4 sprints of 20 meters at 100% effort with 1-2 minutes between each sprint. This should be followed by 6×10 meter sprints with different starting positions with a minute break between efforts followed by cool down and stretching.
Strong aerobic fitness is essential for hockey. Strong aerobic fitness will allow you to run long distances on astro grass as well as maximize your ability to recover between each sprint and help you execute your skills with precision in the later stages of a well-fought game.
To improve your aerobic fitness, train at a constant elevated heart rate between 140 and 160 beats per minute. More experienced and elite athletes will be able to better feel their specific training zone from their own experience and years of training.
Fartlek training and interval sessions also help develop aerobic fitness. If you are not interested in world class methods to improve your aerobic fitness, the least you can do is run fitness camps at high altitudes like Abbottabad or Murree and that will help you a lot. The key is to get out of your comfort zone and meet international fitness standards if you want to play serious competitive hockey. Remember, there is no shortcut to success.
Fartlek training is a continuous workout, usually running, but also includes different intensities of effort that replicates the effort required to play hockey. Fartlek training includes agility drills, circles, running backwards and forwards, and skill training. Fartlek training is much more specific to hockey than long continuous running because it more accurately replicates the physical demands of the game.
Remember, a field hockey player may be required to run more than 5 miles in a typical 70-minute game. Good physical condition for hockey emphasizes core strength, muscle stabilization in the hips, legs and knees; development of trunk and posterior shoulder blade.
Ballistic activity and functional flexibility exercises that progress from slow to high speed form the second part of the fitness program after the dynamic warm-up. Ballistic exercises consist of dynamic, rapid movements of the lower body. Two types of ballistic exercises are usually recommended.
In the first exercise, you perform straight leg swings across the front of your body, 10 reps with each leg. Stand facing a wall, fence, or goal cage and place your hands on an object to help keep your balance. Move the leg in front and across the body while balancing on the opposite leg.
Then swing your legs back and forth. Ten repetitions with each leg. Maintain balance and control of your torso without bending at the waist or moving your head. Move the foot against the wall forward and backward while balancing on the support leg.
Ballistic drills improve explosive movements and speed of hockey skills. Because field hockey requires intense explosive and reactive movements in passing and receiving, ball control, and dribbling and tackling, it is very important for hockey players to focus on ballistic exercises.
Later, use the mini band routine with the help of an elastic mini bandage or surgical tube around the ankles. Make sure the belt stays taut, stretched to about shoulder width. Do not put your feet together. Grab the hockey stick and complete the following exercise.
Take a balanced defensive stance and move to the side while maintaining a defensive stance. Then perform a side slide for 02 yards and take three power steps forward. This should be followed by a monster walk of 10 yards back and forth. Stay in a slightly crouched position and walk like a monster with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. You can add speed skaters and ice skaters by sliding on the grass.
Finish the workout with a standing hip flexor exercise. Do 10 repetitions with each leg. Place the miniband around both ankles. Begin by lifting your left knee. Turn the knee to the left side at hip height. Balance on the right powerpoint and repeat with the right knee.
You must add eight to ten minutes of medicine ball training, a hip flexor and claw routine, a roped medicine ball routine, and a plyometric routine to your hockey functional training. Remember that whether you’re dribbling the stick, changing direction or speed while moving, or tackling the ball, you’ll need a lot of body coordination.
Jump rope activities improve agility and plyometric exercises allow the muscle to reach maximum strength in the shortest possible time. Plyometric training consists of jumps, hops, jumps, jumps and skips performed with great speed and intensity during a planned progression.
By now, you must have realized that modern hockey is not just about aimless match practices, but about a very careful training and conditioning routine that requires dedication, scientific preparation and modern coaching, without which it is impossible to reach the top four in the world.
Remember, a player with poor condition will play poorly, lack confidence and make poor decisions. Successful performance depends on physical preparation and technical excellence. Whenever possible, include a ball and stick in warm-up exercises to incorporate skill training.
I propose that our players compete with the Australian, Argentinian and European women’s hockey teams. This will certainly help them in building morale and significantly improve their physical condition and the basics of modern hockey.
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