While the Sharks season is prematurely over with four teams still battling for the Stanley Cup, San Jose’s preparations for next year have already begun.
When it comes to offseason training, San Jose Sharks Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Potenza is a man with a plan. Now that the Sharks are done for the summer, Potenza is giving the team their summer vacation: 14 days off. Then the training regimen begins.
“I encourage the guys to take two weeks off,” said Potenza. “If they are going to do anything workout related, I encourage them to do something fun like tennis or swimming. If they go out and do a light program, it will help their body becomes more acclimated to the hard work out that is coming in mid June.”
Part of Potenza’s plan for Stanley Cup success next season is to build muscle stamina now to avert injuries later. The Springfield College graduate, who started working as the Sharks Strength and Conditioning Coordinator last September, has already laid the ground work with rehab and proactive exercises.
“They’re going to focus on rehabbing any injuries and doing some preventive exercises so that the common injuries of hockey don’t haunt us during the year,” Potenza said.
Potenza focuses on rotator cuff exercises to amend shoulder problems, lower back and core training to improve balance and strength and groin work to make sure players don’t suffer from groin pulls in the future. After that, he transfers the Sharks into a cardio workout to prepare them for the lengthy 82-game regular season.
“We focus on cardio, which isn’t cardio like we imagine at a gym where you get on a machine for an hour,” he said. “They’re going to get on a track and run sprints for 30 seconds and then rest a minute. They’re going to use interval training to train for their shift lengths. We can do it with bike sprints, ground sprints, sprint boards and lots of different tools we have in the gym.”
Starting June 4, Potenza likes all his players to be working out five days a week for a couple of hours per day. The ideal training sessions would consist of a warm up, hip training, speed training, jump training, core training, strength training, skating exercises, conditioning and stretching. Over the course of a week, players can incorporate different exercises in each category to keep their bodies from becoming complacent.
“For all of those little components, you dedicate eight to ten minutes each,” said Potenza. “So each day we’re never doing the same thing back-to-back. Everyday is a different focus.”
Outside of getting the Sharks in shape, Potenza must make them strong. Weight training is as equally important as cardio in building a hockey player’s physique. However the regimen implemented for veterans and rookies is actually quite different.
“The older guys focus to maintain strength with weights,” he said. “We don’t need them to lift huge amounts of weights; we just need to make sure they can get through the season.
“The younger guys however, they need to lift and train so that they can get bigger and compete. Their weight training is going to be a lot harder than the older guys in terms of amount, repetition and intensity, but they’ll probably spend about the same amount of time in the weight room.”
Cardio and weight training aren’t the only work outs Potenza hopes the players will implement. Pilates and yoga can also work their way into the schedule. The players would use these age old exercises to increase core strength and flexibility while lengthening the spine.
“I’m planning on having a Pilates consultant and yoga consultant regularly,” Potenza said. “Pilates and yoga are rooted in year and years of research and it’s terrific in terms of injury prevention. And the guys like it too.”
Nutrition also plays a big role in preparing a professional athlete for their season. Potenza echoes the importance of eating three balanced meals a day, and encourages his players to have breakfast at least one hour before a morning work out. Snacks of a protein shake, power bar, or fruit and yogurt are allowed between lunch and dinner, however late night meals are off limits.
Entering his first Sharks season last September, Potenza was incredibly impressed by veteran leadership he witnessed within the team. During training camp drills and testing, the older players came in not only prepared, but fired up. When asked which vets impressed him the most, Potenza gave credit to all the elder Sharks.
“I thought our veteran guys came in with a good attitude and good energy,” he said. “They are very talented strength wise. When we were testing, we had people cheering each other on and I know it sounds corny, but you need that when you’re trying to win the Stanley Cup.”
Working with the Sharks has been a smooth transition for the new strength and conditioning coordinator. Prior to joining the Sharks organization, he served as the strength and conditioning coach for the 2006 NCAA Champion University of Wisconsin men’s and women’s hockey teams. One of his Badger players was current Shark Joe Pavelski
. Before that, Potenza worked with Kyle McLaren, Mike Grier and Bill Guerin while perusing his Masters Degree at Boston University.
Potenza’s off-season plans should have the entire roster ready when training camp rolls around in 15 weeks. Between all the cardio, weights and nutritional advice, he will have plenty of ways to make the Sharks sweat. Out of all of their coordinator’s options, it’s very clear that the players have one exercise that they prefer over all the others. When asked which of his drills the players enjoyed the best, Potenza was quick to respond.
“Stretching,” laughed Potenza.