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7 Hockey Specific Running Conditioning Session Ideas

Conditioning for hockey needs to prepare players for the demands of the sport, whilst addressing the positional needs and individual requirements of players too.

Given that it is a running-based, intermittent team sport with a large repeat sprint ability demand, players need aerobic fitness to perform a large volume of work, and also the anaerobic capacity to perform high-intensity bouts of work (Spencer et al., 2004; Bishop et al., 2015).

I have written at length about my philosophy regarding the hierarchy of needs for the sport of hockey, with aerobic fitness being the first and foremost concern before shifting the priorities to more intensive physical demands such as repeat sprints. The reason for this is that without first establishing a ‘base’ of aerobic capacity players will struggle to cope with the overall volumes of training during the week. This is even more important for international players performing ‘back to back’ days of tournament hockey.

With that in mind, here are 7 hockey-specific conditioning sessions that will provide you with a range of different benefits. These progress from lower intensity/higher volume to higher intensity/lower volume, in other words, progressing upwards through the conditioning hierarchy of needs in a logical manner.

Before completing these sessions, to establish individual running distances we need to know what your maximal aerobic speed (MAS) score is. To do this, complete a 16 pitch lengths running assessment.

This is a 1600 yard (or 1462m) running test, performed as quickly as possible. Be careful not to go out too fast though - this needs to be a consistent pace throughout with a sprint to finish in the last length. A good time would be around 5 minutes 30 seconds, which would give you a MAS score of 4.43m/s (1462 metres / 330 seconds).

Ideally, we could calculate the more intensive running sessions using top speed as well, to give us anaerobic speed reserve. However, for most people who don’t have speed gates or the time to do lots of testing, a simple MAS test will suffice.

Disclaimer: please only complete these sessions if you have been medically cleared to do so. These are not individualised and are not designed to be a blanket prescription. Rather, they are general guidelines to give you some ideas for conditioning sessions.

Session 1 - 3 minutes on, 3 minutes off

  • Purpose: Increase aerobic capacity

  • Format: Run for 3 minutes in a straight line, or on a hockey pitch

  • Running speed: 90% of MAS score e.g. 718m target if your MAS score is 4.43m/s

  • Volume: Perform 4 to 6 sets with 3 minutes rest between sets

Session 2 - 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off

  • Purpose: Increase aerobic capacity

  • Format: Run for 2 minutes in a straight line, or on a hockey pitch

  • Running speed: 95% of MAS score e.g. 505m target if your MAS score is 4.43m/s

  • Volume: Perform 5 to 8 sets with 2 minutes rest between sets

Session 3 - 1 minute on, 30 seconds off

  • Purpose: Increase anaerobic capacity

  • Format: Run for 1 minute in a straight line, or on a hockey pitch

  • Running speed: 100% of MAS score e.g. 266m target if your MAS score is 4.43m/s

  • Volume: Perform 4 to 6 sets with 30 seconds between reps and 3 minutes rest between sets

Session 4 - 30 seconds on, 10 minutes off

  • Purpose: Increase lactate buffering capacity

  • Format: Run maximally for 30 seconds in a straight line or on a hockey pitch

  • Running speed: 100% best effort for 30 seconds (all out!) - this might look like 2 pitch lengths or 200m

  • Volume: Perform 3 or 4 sets with 10 minutes rest between sets

Session 5 - 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off

  • Purpose: Increase aerobic power

  • Format: Run for 15 seconds in a straight line or as a shuttle sprint

  • Running speed: 115% of MAS score e.g. 76m target (¾ pitch length) if your MAS score is 4.43m/s

  • Volume: Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps with 3 minutes rest between sets

Session 6 - 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off

  • Purpose: Increase aerobic capacity

  • Format: Run for 30 seconds in a straight line, or as a shuttle sprint

  • Running speed: 105% of MAS score e.g. 140m target (1.5 pitch lengths) if your MAS score is 4.43m/s

  • Volume: Perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps with 3 minutes rest between sets

Session 7 - 5 seconds on, 25 seconds off

  • Purpose: Increase anaerobic power and repeatability

  • Format: Sprint for 5 seconds in a straight line, or as a short shuttle sprint

  • Running speed: 100% effort (all out!)

  • Volume: Perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps with 5 minutes rest between sets

Pick the right session based on your needs, whether that is high intensity or low intensity. If you would like to know more about this, contact me.

If you enjoyed this article sign up to my email list where I share weekly insights into hockey training and performance not shared anywhere else!

Comment below to let me know what you think!

Henry

 

References


Bishop, S Lawrence, M Spencer. (2003) Predictors of repeated-sprint ability in elite female hockey players, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 6, Issue 2, 199-209, ISSN 1440-2440.

Bishop et al. (2015) A needs analysis and testing battery for field hockey. Professional strength and Conditioning. 36. 15–16.

Gabbett, TJ. GPS analysis of elite women's field hockey training and competition. J Strength Cond Res 24(5): 1321-1324.

Ihsan, Mohammed, Yeo, Vincent; Tan, Frankie, Joseph, Ranald; Lee, Marcus; Aziz, Abdul Rashid. (2021) Running Demands and Activity Profile of the New Four-Quarter Match Format in Men's Field Hockey, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 512-518.

McGuinness A, Malone S, Petrakos G, Collins K. Physical and Physiological Demands of Elite International Female Field Hockey Players During Competitive Match Play. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Nov;33(11):3105-3113.

Sharma et al (2018) Effects of 6-Week Sprint-Strength and Agility Training on Body Composition, Cardiovascular, and Physiological Parameters of Male Field Hockey Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32. 4. 894–901.

Spencer et al. (2004) Time-motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. Journal of sports sciences. 22. 843–50.

Spencer M, Lawrence S Rechichi C, Bishop D, Dawson B, Goodman C. (2004). Time-motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. Journal of sports sciences. 22. 843-50.

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