Among trainers there are varying opinions about whether or not goalies ought to train differently than skaters. In my opinion it depends. I know. You’re thinking what a cop out, but let me explain a few things. Training to improve performance is never a straight line. There are many variables that you have to take into account and I believe one of the first ones is your training age.
Training age and chronological age are not the same thing. Your training age in the simplest of terms is how long you have been training. A 34 year old who has just started training has the same training age as a 15 year old that has just started training. The younger your training age the less time you have had to develop specific training qualities like strength, power, speed, agility, etc. These qualities are skills that need time to be developed and they have to be developed in a hierarchy or structured way. For example, in order to increase your power you have to increase your strength first. The two are not the same thing. Are you confused yet? Let me explain. If you have two goalies that can squat 225lbs, but goalie A can do it in 1.5 seconds and goalie B does it in 3 seconds both goalies are equally strong, but goalie A is twice as powerful. So when you look at an athlete’s training age you have to consider where they are in the development of these skills and the hierarchy and structure of the training program they may need to progress.
The younger your training age the more you should focus on basic training skills. I like visuals so I use the image of a performance pyramid. Start with a base of quality movement, core stability and strength. Use that base to build a level of power and speed and finish it off with position specific skill and agility. Each skill takes time to develop. As your training age matures your ability to master skills will improve. As I said earlier, no training program progresses in a straight line, but you should have a plan and structure that is appropriate to your training age and ability. This is the philosophy that I’ve seen used by many good trainers and I’ve used with my clients with success.
It’s all about return of investment. If you’re going to invest your time training then you want the biggest bang for your buck. So at younger training ages goalies will get a benefit from training the same as skaters because they should all be working on developing their basic training skills. Everyone will improve because there is so much ground to be covered, but as your training age increases and you begin to master basic training skills then you will benefit from more position specific training. If you look at young goalies they all need to improve the same basic skills, movement, core stability, strength and should spend most of their time off ice training to improve these skills. As they begin to become proficient or master these skills then they need to move on or they risk become stagnant and plateauing. They should start transitioning to higher skills like speed, power and more dynamic training to continue to build their skill set.
If you look at the position of goalie it involves a lot of quick up and down, lateral and rotational movement. There really isn’t a lot of forward or back movement that skaters use. The energy system needs for goalies is also different then skaters. At higher playing levels the gap in skill set is so small that specialization is necessary to continue to advance. At higher training ages there ought to be some differential in the way goalies and skaters train.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to when this should happen because progress doesn’t happen in a straight line. But in an attempt to put it all together in a format that gives some soft guidelines I’ve included a chart below to help define training age.
Training Age: The training age of an athlete is determined by the number of years consistently performing a strength-training program with progressively increasing loads; e.g., a 15-year-old athlete who has been successfully lifting weights for two years would have a training age of 2, not 15.
Beginner: less than 1 year of consistent strength training experience.
Intermediate: 1-3 years of consistent strength training experience.
Advanced: 3 or more years of consistent strength training experience.
As I stated earlier, these are soft guidelines not strict rules. There are still a lot a variables to consider, age, genetics, maturity, etc. Each goalie will progress at their own rate. With that said, I think some differential in training should start during the intermediate age. Starting with small and slow deviations in training from skaters and progressing at an appropriate rate for the goalie.
Let’s get back to the question should goalies train differently than skaters? I think the answer is yes and no. It’s not a simple question because there are so many things to consider, but with the information I’ve given you can more easily assess your training efforts off the ice to become a better goalie; make more saves with less injuries.