Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How To Pick A Hockey Conditioning Program?

Looking for An Off-Ice Training Program For Your Children?  Buyer Beware!
By Lorne Goldenberg BPE, CSCS, CEP
If you are like most parents with young hockey players, with the season starting to wind down, you are probably starting to think about a hockey specific fitness program for your player.  With the concept that whatever makes the pros better, should make my child better, has resulted in many “hockey specific” programs that are available city wide.  A good solid science based program, will be able to bring your child to another fitness level by providing sound fundamental fitness principles such as progression, and age appropriate programming.

The challenge for parents is attempting to select the program.  As you would select any other professional service i.e. lawyer, dentist, doctor, etc you seek a qualified professional who has obtained recognized credentials in their area of specialty.  The challenge as it relates to sport conditioning programs, is that the field in itself is not regulated.  There are a variety of levels of personal trainers who you can hire for this service.  Some individuals are just active fitness people who love working out, some are former athletes, some are group fitness instructors who have ventured out into the sport conditioning area, and some are “certified personal trainers” who have participated in a weekend course. There are many trainers in Ottawa who are excellent marketers, but lack the real education necessary to provide the safe direction you are looking for your young players.

The trainers who fit into the above categories may provide an excellent service, but the area where they are lacking is a formal education in the field of human kinetics or physical education.  Without a 4 year degree in this area, there is very little understanding as to the biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology behind exercise.  Without this education your child’s safety, progress, and success in their fitness program may be at risk.  I have seen countless examples of programs whereby young kids are being coached through drills that are more appropriate for professional athletes.  The result in all cases of this are the kids cannot perform the drills with good execution and are setting themselves up for chronic type injuries in the knee, hip and ankle.

In this point in time there are very few organizations that provide certification that requires a pre-requisite of a formal degree before you can write their exam or participate in their course.  This problem is magnified by the numerous organizations that “certify” personal trainers with course content that can be considered very weak.

With the above in mind some of the questions you should ask before investing in a hockey specific conditioning program for your child would be:

  1. What is your formal education as it pertains to this field?
  2. What certifications have you obtained since graduating with your degree or college diploma?
  3. Do you possess liability insurance?
  4. What is your experience in dealing with musculoskeletal injuries?

One of the most significant problems I have seen are hockey fitness programs that provide their clients with a workout that “feels great & is hard work”.  The problem begins a few weeks later with the onset of knee or back pain as a result of improper exercise program development.  Some trainers use exercises they have seen in muscle magazines, or picked up at a lecture.  The issues arise as they do not understand the foundational work that must be completed before going on to these “great” exercises. 

Exercise is a drug, and like a drug you need a proper prescription provided by a qualified practitioner.  Some of the most recognized organizations in the industry are certifications from the National Strength & Conditioning Association, and the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology.  Don’t let someone over prescribe the wrong drug for your child’s fitness development.  Off season training is about getting better, not rehab for an off-season overuse injury.

For more information check out