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Off-Season Training

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
An NHL season lasts at least a minimum of seven month, not including what’s hoped to be a grueling two-month battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

It’s almost expected and reasonable that professional hockey players take time to rest, heal and enjoy time off and away from their profession… and throughout the summer will get you up to speed on where and what our players have been up to.
But for now, we checked in with the Flyers’ Strength & Conditioning Coach/Athletic Trainer Jim McCrossin on what a typical summer workout regiment is for the players.
“Everybody has a specific plan. What we try to do is sit down with the players and let them know their strength and weaknesses, and when we say weaknesses it means what we feel they need to improve upon,” said McCrossin. “It could be speed, power, lower-body and upper-body strength. When they go for their workouts, wherever that may be, they’re coming back [to training camp] a better athlete and the hope is a better hockey player.”
McCrossin will enter his 14th season with the Flyers and 21st overall with the organization having spent seven seasons with the Phantoms, the club’s AHL affiliate. He is both a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Claude Giroux and Darroll Powe work out at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.
With all of the vacation time for each player occurring at all different times throughout the summer, it becomes a full-time task just to keep up with what each Flyer is doing.
“I would say throughout a week I talk to our players at least once or twice,” added McCrossin. “I touch base with them just to see how they’re feeling or if there’s anything else we can be doing for them.”
Like most team training staff, McCrossin works very closely not only with the coaches, management and player, but also any player that has a personal trainer in the off-season.
“As much as you would want them to follow a program, they don’t need to follow your program. A lot of the guys go back [home] and have their own personal trainers and I stay in touch with them as well. Many of them have become very good friends of mine because I respect them and they are very, very good.”
Perhaps the most important element to off-season training is communication between the player and trainer. When a program is laid out it’s not just a one-way decision.
“It’s a happy medium. Players know they’re bodies. They’re like thoroughbreds, they know if they need to work on their speed or acceleration, lower-body strength or if they get knocked off the puck their core might be weak. They see it just as well as we see it, but they feel it. They know what’s going on so it’s really no surprise when we sit down and say ‘this is what we need to work on.’”
You would think that the summer months are different for a player in the gym than during the season. And they are just that. However with limited amount of time, McCrossin explained that the preparation for the season comes in three phases.
“Right now we’re in our building phase. Then we go to what we call our complex training phase, which involves heavy lifting and plyometrics for speed and agility through around mid-August. After that we’re back down to our maintenance phase because you don’t want to burn out before [training] camp.
“Then we get into more on-ice cardio and more functional drills out on the ice. Once camp begins it’s a whole new ball of wax.”
Because of rules and regulations from the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association, training camp has a so-called “three-hour rule”. Players can only be at a club’s practice or training facility for three hours. A short time that typically needs to involve conditioning, testing and practices to make way for pre-season games.
“Once the exhibition season is over we settle down and we get into our in-season conditioning program, which is completely different from the off-season because you’re not doing heavy lifting or plyometrics because everything is dictated by your game schedule.”
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