by Leslie S.
To compete at the NHL level, players have to be in immaculate physical condition – a result of hours spent in the gym and on the ice outside of scheduled practice sessions. On Frozen Blog recently chronicled the grueling off-season workout regimen of the finely-tuned Brooks Laich.
We wanted to get an idea of how the Capitals training staff works to maintain the conditioning of the players both in and off-season so we consulted the training master, Capitals Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Nemish. Nemish got into the business of training as a result of a hockey injury in his 20’s that required major rehabilitation and sparked his interest in the field. Prior to joining the Capitals organization, Nemish was on the staff of the Nashville Predators. He holds a Masters in Exercise Science from the University of North Dakota and owns his own training business (training many of the youth hockey teams in the NoVa area) in addition to his many hours working with the Caps.
During the season, he focuses on strengthening players’ legs with squats or leg presses. He also emphasizes work on the lower back with push exercises such as bench pressing or pull exercises (rowing) with a lot of core and injury prevention exercises mixed in as well. The philosophy is to keep muscle mass consistent during the season (maintaining strength) while keeping the core activated and various body parts flexible.
In the off-season, the recommended regimen depends on the length of the off-season and at what point of the off-season the players are in. The beginning of the off-season needs to progressively ease the player into working out at higher levels of intensity. Nemish likes cross- training exercises such as racquetball and tennis to constitute the players’ conditioning in the beginning of the off-season. As the off-season progresses, the workouts increase in intensity and volume and shift focus to increasing strength, power and conditioning levels. In the last 5-6 weeks, conditioning shifts to more on-ice work and less work in the weight room. In the crucial days leading up to training camp, players typically skate 4-6 times per week while training 3 -4 times per week in the weight room.
In addition to the extensive hours of training, players have to watch their diets to maintain optimum athletic performance. According to Nemish, the needs of each players varies greatly so there is no “prescribed” diet to follow, however fast food and high sugar, low-caloric choices such as cookies and cake are obviously not ideal choices at any time, especially for players who have to really watch their body fat. Some players (many prospects and rookies) have to put on more weight (in my book, that would be a nice problem to have, right) so supplementing their diets with high calorie (protein and carb) shakes at the right time is important. His primary advice to everyone is to center calories around their training so as to maximize training gains and recovery between workouts.
Nemish even has some advice for non-athletes looking to either lose weight or just increase their strength. “The best advice I have is to look at your activity versus your accomplishments. Try to accomplish something every time you are in the gym. This could mean doing more repetitions with a particular weight or lifting more weight at a specific number of repetitions or range in repetitions,” he said.
“To see results, don’t adhere to the concept of “toning”. You must train hard to make gains. You won’t turn into a body builder. Many women just perform activity in the gym. Train with higher intensity for 3-4 weeks, trying to make gains every week and then train lightly for 1 week as a means of recovery. After 4 weeks of this, mix up the exercises and start the process over. The variety in training will function to be both physically and mentally motivating thus pushing you to make further gains. The worst thing you can do is train with the same exercises, with the same number of reps/sets and loads for months on end. “
So while we’re busy putting his advice to work in our own gyms, Nemish will be planning his routines for players during training camp – which will be here before you know it!