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Tag Archive: hockey

  1. Fitness training for Field Hockey: Part 2


    How to get fit for Hockey

    Last week we looked at the fitness demands of hockey, now some tips on how to get fit for hockey.


    fit for hockey

    Anne Panter

    Strength training should be incorporated into programmes for all ages, this should be appropriate to the athlete and progressive

    Initially this should work on movement skills and injury prevention progressing to work capacity.

    Movement skills and Injury prevention can be worked on together, a system we use at Excelsior is the 5×5’s.

    These 5 exercises are performed for 1 minute a day with a different set of exercises each day.

    As discussed when looking at common injuries we need to work on back mobility & strength, hamstring strength, pelvic and knee stability. These are worked on during the 5×5’s but extra attention may be required, example exercises are below:

    Common InjuryExercise 1Exercise 2 (progression)
    KneeSingle leg squatSingle leg hop & hold
    PelvisHip Series 1Hip Series 2
    Back StrengthBent over rowPull ups
    Hamstring StrengthHip Series 3Hip Hinge


    hockey warm upThese weaknesses can also be affected by everyday activities for example sitting for prolonged periods at work or commuting, so this needs to be managed with effective warm ups prior to games and training sessions.

    (Picture of James Marshall leading a hockey warm up).

    Work Capacity

    Due to the variety of speeds and distances covered (as shown last week) we coaches need to work the players across the spectrum of intensity levels.

    Due to the shortage of time with athletes it is good to work with hockey coaches and utilise time effectively. One example is shown in this video of Maddie Hinch training.

    We can do this using small sided games. Within these games we must make sure we are working on the correct energy systems which can be done through medium, high and maximal intensity games.

    One problem that can occur is that we don’t allow enough rest in these games which can lead to players working through fatigue and injuries occurring.

    Type of Game Percent of Maximum Heart Rate

    Type of game% max heart rateSingle game durationWork: rest ratio
    Medium intensity85%5-10 minutes1: 0.5-1
    High Intensity85-95%5 minutes1: 1-1.5
    Maximal intensity95+%Upto 2 minutes1: 1.5-3

     Speed & Agility

    maddie hinchWith the high intensities of the current game speed and agility are extremely important for every position.

    In the past this training has consisted of repeated sprints and drills involving lots of equipment possibly without thought of if it is actually working and why not if it isn’t.

    When looking to improve speed and agility we first need to look at what areas contribute towards them. Other than technique which is essential we can also work on:

    We must first make sure the athlete is able to withstand the forces that are applied during training, they should be able to brake before accelerating


    With the speed of the game increasing due to rule and tactical changes players need to be able to cope with the new demands of what is now almost a professional sport.

    As athletic development coaches we need to look at a long term pathway for our athletes which incorporates working on all the demands of the sport.

    Want to get fit for Hockey?

    • See our training programmes here 
    • or our guide to pre-season here.

    Duncan Buckmaster    


    Conditioning for field hockey, Ian Jeffreys, NSCA Performance Journal October 2005

  2. Fitness training for Field Hockey: Part 1


    Hockey fitness: what is it?

    fit for hockey

    Sophie Jefferson England Under 18

    A season typically runs from September through to April in the domestic league system with internationals at various points throughout the year. Hockey fitness needs to be present for all this time.

    Pre-season is generally for 4-6 weeks prior to the start of season and consists of hockey skills practice and games, a level of fitness is sometimes included.

    This is either a circuit session or lots of running from my experience, but is that what is needed?

    Aerobic Demands

    Hockey can be classed as a Transition game sport, it requires efforts of varied intensity that occur randomly with varied rest periods. The game is 70 minutes in duration consisting of two 35 minute halves with 5 minute half time. A squad consists of 16 players, 11 are on the pitch at any one time in a variety of formations.

    With improved fitness levels of players and the use of conditioning being an integral part of training, tactics have evolved as the game has become quicker. Players are constantly rotated during games depending on position, some teams making in excess of 60 substitutions during the 70 minutes.

    Substitutions are occur more often with forwards and inside forwards whereas halves and fullbacks can remain on the pitch for longer spells. This has led to a more universal player being required with everyone being able to play and understand several positions.

    PositionSpell Duration (min)Total Duration
    Inside Forward7-945
    HalvesUpto 2050-60
    Full BackUpto 7050-70


    Rule changes such as the introduction of the self-take free hits have also increased the speed of the game and tempo at which players move. Players are looking to catch opponents off guard and so will sprint straight from the hit to beat retreating players, therefore a players ability to change direction, change speed and accelerate from a stationary position is crucial.

    A study by Spencer et al concluded through motion analysis that on average a player would spend the following percentages of time at different speeds.

    • walking (46.5 % of time)
    • jogging (40.5 %)
    • standing (7.4 %)  
    • sprint take 1.5 %

    A more recent study looking at Polish players by Jan Konarski states that the sprint percentage is now higher at around 3%, I believe this figure could be higher in the top international teams.

    Studies have shown that players can travel on average between 8-11Km in a 70 minute game, this varies depending on position and now with constant rotation of players how much time spent on the pitch. The study by Jan Konarski recorded the distances covered at which speed (Table 1 )

    Table 1

    SpeedDistance Covered (Km)Variance (plus or minus)


    hockey fitnessHeart rate measurements that have been taken show that a players maximum rate can reach 180 bpm indicating hockey being an extremely intense game, average heart rate was around140 bpm .

    These results along with distances covered and varying speeds of the game show that an overall endurance needs to be increased, as 60% of a players effort is aerobic.

    But, due to the maximal heart rate measure and sprints being required an athletic development coach also needs to work on the anaerobic system.

    Common Hockey Injuries

    Many injuries occur through impact with either a hockey ball or stick, we can only attempt to prevent these by using protection such as gloves, facemasks, shin pads and gum shields.

    With all games now being played on synthetic pitches the loading has considerably changed from when games were on grass. Loading has increased during running with the harder surface, this means that more stress is being placed on the skeletal and muscular structures.

    hockey agilityThe use of synthetic pitches has also meant a more unstable surface, which in turn means more injuries through twisting and straining ligaments and muscles within hip, knee and ankle complexes.

    (Picture of James Marshall coaching the correct braking mechanics).

    The one sided nature of hockey if not managed can lead to muscle imbalances and skeletal dysfunctions.  Poor posture during playing can result in the body compensating by using other muscles, for example you can rely heavily on your quadriceps and have weak hamstrings when in a squat position, this leads to your back compensating by flexion of the spine.

    how to get fit for hockeyThese imbalances can be seen in older players when you look at musculature, one side of the back will have larger muscles while the opposite side will have smaller weaker ones.

    These imbalances can lead to further problems like rotated pelvis and functional leg length discrepancies due to muscles becoming tight or weak within the hip complex.

    Strength for Hockey

    Strength has in my experience been an optional part of training, players get told to go for long runs, do sprints or doggies. This old fashioned approach has led to injuries and many hours spent trying to correct imbalances.

    Hockey is technically a non-contact sport, however there is requirement for the body to cope with low impact forces of running and an element of upper body strength to assist with hitting a ball and holding your ground when in a tackle.

    When hitting a ball from a stationary position the feet are planted or with a slight step into it, knees should be bent, back should be straight (similar to deadlift position).

    As the stick is pulled back there is a rotation about the hips, spine and shoulders. During the hit the previous rotation is uncoiled creating a powerful rotation from the hips up through the spine to the arms.

    A player will need to work on holding positions statically and dynamically in order to make him stronger for the requirements of the game, working on running technique and assisting muscles will also be beneficial.

     Duncan Buckmaster

    Read Part 2: The hockey fitness training tips that really work                 


    2. SPENCER M, LAWRENCE S, RECHICHI C, BISHOP D, DAWSON B, GOODMAN C. Time- motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. J Sport Sci. 2004; 22:843-850.
  3. 5 ways to keep your hockey team fit all season

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    “The best way to stay in shape is not to get out of shape”

    Jim Radcliffe.

    As coaches we are here to help our athletes improve their skills and enable them to play as much as possible. Keeping hockey team players fit for the whole season can be a hard task and we often have to deal with injuries throughout the season.

    how to get fit for hockeyThe Christmas break is an ideal opportunity to reflect on how training has gone, if you’ve had any injuries and where you need to improve.

    In previous blogs we have looked at the fitness demands of hockey and given examples on how to improve your hockey players’ fitness.

    Here Duncan Buckmaster gives 5 tips to help your team stay fit for the season:

    1. Make effective use of warm ups and warm downs

    Warm ups are an easy and effective place to introduce athletes to injury reduction exercises. Simply playing small sided games is very limited, while it warms the body, it tires the players it fails to improve any of the core pillars. Here, we discuss how to design a warm up

    2. Continue training through the season 

    Athletic development is more than a 4 week pre-season training block. Players are generally busy with school or work we need to help them find time. Players need to work on all areas of athleticism: strength, speed, agility & power.

    This can be done within skills sessions or as separate sessions depending on the athlete. As little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference, over a year this equates to over 20 hours, the same as a 4 day training camp. 

    3. Factor in the effects of skills training 

    The current directive from England Hockey is constraints based coaching, this leads to improved decision making as there is always context to training. It also means players spend more time in a hockey position, creating muscle imbalances on top of already imbalanced bodies due to poor posture.

    This extra work in a hockey position needs to be countered; warm ups, warm downs and continued athletic development is vital to reduce the injury risk bought on by this coaching style.


    • 10 mins skill block
    • 3 mins “conditioning aspect”: lateral movement and control
    • 10 mins skill block
    • 3 mins conditioning: acceleration and braking drills
    • 10 mins game.

    Your players will benefit from the shorter focussed sessions, they will try to apply skills whilst fatigued.

    Compare this to: 5 mins jogging, 2 mins of exercises, 45 mins of skills, 10 mins of games, 4 sets of doggies at the end!

    4. Know your athletes as people 

    For both young players and adults we need to get to know our athletes, this helps us motivate them and understand them. Several times I have got part way through a session and found out that an athlete got injured at the weekend or feels ill. Building the relationship with them makes it easier
    to find information out and then sessions can be adjusted accordingly. 

    5. Make sure players get a break from hockey 

    hockey in season fitnessField hockey is now played almost all year round. Younger players have county and regional training scheduled in the summer. Adults have summer and indoor leagues.

    While many younger players will play multiple sports at school, they will be pressure in to specialising in one.

    We need to encourage as wide a variety of sport and free play as possible so our athletes are adaptable, rather than confine them to structured sessions.

    I have found adults also need time away from their main sport, the winter break is one opportunity for this, it allows them to recharge their batteries and see friends & family.

  4. Exercise to Music

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    Is exercise a means to an end, or a purpose in itself?

    chimps dancingDo athletes engage in the session they are involved in, or is it something they endure? What are they concentrating on? Why is the gym different from sports practice?

    These are questions that should be answered before considering the use of music when training.

    Part of people’s general disengagement from their environment can be linked to their obsession with ear phones- “it is my space I will do my own thing.”

    The difference between running and using senses to stimulate one’s own mind and body by properly observing the environment and being part of it and just sticking to earphones an internally reflecting is massive.

    One is healthy, one is anti social.

    Some practical considerations:

    Safety- running with earphones outside is plain dangerous, it minimises awareness of traffic, and for female exercisers especially, the potential for attackers.

    In the gym if an athlete has earphones in they can not hear the Coach’s instructions, nor respond to other users.
    The volume of music is often so loud that the Coach has to shout to be heard, this is not safe.

    Engagement- if music is loud, and athletes are dancing in the gym (not in my sessions but I do witness what can only be described as chimps’ tea parties where the athletes are concentrating on dancing rather than training) then they are not thinking about performing the exercises correctly.

    When running or lifting a heavy weight- your attention is better focussed on the movement pattern and feedback from your body, music distracts from this.

    Why create a different environment for training than from competition?

    Now I know some geeky sports psychologist will point to some study they have conducted on recreational athletes that shows that music is a motivator and aids performance- well done, you have conducted a study that has allowed your name to appear in a journal.

    But the athletes don’t listen to music when they compete, so why when they train?

    I am not talking about warm ups/ cool downs and such where the ability to use music as an aid to arousal control is helpful, as well as blocking out distractions from Coaches, competitors and spectators.

    I like music, but as background, it is quite nice during rest periods to have music on, but I use that time to rehearse other aspects of performance.

    Those who have to have music on are probably not aware of their training priorities, or the sessions they have to do are so dull and monotonous that they do need a distraction.

    As to mirrors, well they are worse for an entirely set of different reasons….