The Focus: Hockey Training

A lot of passion for sports comes from beyond the limelight, whereas I truly enjoy learning about an athlete’s preparation for competition. Even as a kid I would research my favorite athlete’s training routines and even implement it into my own.

Up until recently, most of the training advice for hockey players was inspired by body building. This mostly included isolated muscle training, stationary exercises and more focus on aesthetics than performance building. It has evolved since but you can still see many misconceptions among the locker room talk.

Recently, I came across

A hockey fitness program in which I have enjoyed from the start.

Impressed by their content I reached out to their head strength and conditioning coach, Dan Garner.  Dan was thrilled to answer my questions, I shared our conversation below.  


Dan Garner from Hockey Training


4LH: How did Hockey Training come to be? How did you get started with the program? Tell us about yourself.

Dan Garner (DG): Kevin McClelland founded the company 4 or 5 years ago when he realized there wasn’t much information on the web about hockey training and he knew there would be tons of young players searching online to improve their game.

Myself on the other hand didn’t come into the picture until around 2 years ago. When Kevin presented me with the opportunity to become the head strength coach and nutrition specialist for I hopped right on board.

I started my career back in London Ontario in a commercial gym setting but have since moved on to Calgary, Alberta where I now work at the Canadian Center for Strength and Conditioning. I have been working with high performance athletes for several years now and living in Canada my whole life, hockey athletes were who I primarily worked with in the sports performance field. As years passed, hockey athletic development and performance became my specialization.

As far as education goes, I have 6 certifications in training and nutrition. I am a graduate with a diploma in health, wellness and fitness and am also a graduate through the Functional Medicine University.

From an experience standpoint I have worked with over a thousand clients at this point in my career covering both training and nutrition in a 1-on-1 coaching setting. That number goes up much more though if you include all the hockey players running my online systems with success and giving me feedback along the way.’s ventures and goals at this point in time are to keep helping as many hockey players as we possibly can with the most up to date, accurate information. This year we had the goal of helping 10,000 hockey players this offseason.

A personal goal of mine is to bring some more real, concrete data into the hockey training scene. I feel as though a lot of the current information being provided by coaches is out dated in terms of training methodology, meanwhile nutrition is normally completely absent from the conversation entirely. I aim to turn this around and ensure hockey players are training and eating optimally to maximize their potential on the ice.

4LH: So how does a player train under your program? A competitive hockey player comes to you, to improve him/her.  How would their training look like?

DG: This depends on the route they would like to take.

I have created the full approach to offseason hockey development which is available for purchase at which includes everything that you need in order to cover all angles of development throughout the offseason. The eBook package also offers many suggestions and different options to where you can individualize it yourself. Additionally, myself and Kevin are available to our athletes through e-mail at any time should they have any questions.

But, if you’re referring to an athlete who wanted me as his/her 1-on-1 online coach then it’s a different story. In that case, yes everything is 100% individualized towards the athlete. It has to be.

I would be designing their training phases, meal plans and scheduling entirely based on their current situation. It all begins with me, sending them a series of questionnaires to give me a good insight on their current physiology and lifestyle factors. On top of this, if they have any lab work or medical records it is of great value into the approach I take with their meal plan design.

Once all of the paperwork is complete we book a Skype consultation where I go over the strategy that we are going to take for the rest of the offseason. The consultation also acts as a free for all Q & A for the athlete so we can go over anything they like.

After this, video analysis is done through a series of movements so I can gauge their structural balance and movement mechanics prior to designing their training plan.

Beyond that, I have everything I need in order to create a 100% customized system for the offseason for the athlete and I keep in contact with them throughout the whole process.

Right now Kevin and I are in talks and development of opening up a VIP package to make this 1-on-1 high level online coaching process available to the public.

4LH: Might have to look into this for myself. As far as training progress goes, what are the biggest mistakes you find in the athlete’s off-season? How can an athlete avoid these common mistakes?

DG: I basically smash this question home in a recent blog post I did titled “Top 5 Offseason Training Mistakes” over here:

But if I had to choose just 3, it would be:

 - No structured periodization

 - Too much mobility work

 - Not focusing on their nutrition as much as they are on their training

Breaking these three down goes beyond the scope of this interview but it’s important to note that without periodization you’re not training anymore, you’re just exercising in my opinion. Training is doing controlled physical activity to create a desired stimulus to gain a desired adaptation. Overtime and with proper phase potentiation, hockey players can make leaps and bounds towards their physical development in the offseason.

If you’re pin balling between different popular training programs or magazine workouts and you’re not following a systematized training offseason training regime for hockey you’re doing yourself a very large disservice.  

4LH:   Agreed.  If you had to pinpoint the 1 thing all hockey players should focus on in the off-season, what would it be? I understand each player has an individual need or desire but is there any common ground between each person’s programs, whether they are a junior or a professional?

DG: From a training perspective there is a lot of common grounds as people aren’t so different from one another as they would like to think. The deeply rooted training principals in sports science theory apply to everybody.

Specificity work for everybody.

Overload works for everybody.

Fatigue management works for everybody.

Variation works for everybody.

Phase potentiation work for everybody.

If you have these scientific training principals lined up accurately towards your offseason development, you’re doing a hell of a job. These principals contain very little individual difference. Where individual difference normally comes into play is mainly towards lifestyle and behavior.

"What's best" isn't always the best approach. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, I would encourage you to ask yourself "What's worst" for the best progress.

What I mean by this is; health and fitness heavily revolves around three main pillars:

- A well designed training system
- A well designed nutrition system
- Consistent high quality sleeping patterns

Have a look at these; ask yourself from an unbiased viewpoint which one has the most room for improvement. From there, you have your answer in what's going to be the next most effective thing you do to get you to your goal. No matter what they are.

Beyond this, individual differences can be brought up in the case of physical qualities. For example, speed.

Remember speed requires many things. You have to first look at yourself and say “Ok, speed requires total body relative strength, mobility, power, good body composition, structural balance and conditioning.”

From here you need to ask yourself which area has the greatest room for improvement and then you have your answer. I cannot give a blanket answer here because some people may need power where others may need structural balance. Whichever one currently has the most room for improvement is going to be your personal focus.

4LH: What is the difference between off-season and in-season hockey training? Where do the athletes make mistakes during the season with their training?

The differences between offseason and in-season hockey training could be discussed in depth for a long time so to keep things readable and manageable for the viewers I’ll touch on some of the priorities.

The purpose of the offseason is to maximally development strength, hypertrophy and power. You can think of the offseason like taking a step up the stairs in your development as an athlete and each offseason you properly train you are taking another step up the stairs to reaching your athletic potential.

Physical development is incredibly important because it allows you to express the skills that you have. Without the proper development, you are not able to maximally express your athleticism and skills out on the ice.

This development is primarily built in the offseason because fatigue management takes too much of a toll if you try to do it during the season. Traveling, practices, conditioning, games plus other factors during the season create a lot of wear and tear on the body where trying to put them through a tough strength/hypertrophy phase would be a defeating technique. Recovery would not be adequate and performance will suffer.

In another analogy, while the offseason is about taking one step up, the in-season is all about ensuring you stay on that step and don’t step back down.

This is done through proper training periodization and understanding physical quality fitness decay rates and the minimum required dose that’s necessary to maintain or even build upon that quality.

For example, hypertrophy can be maintained indefinitely so long as training loads during the season include 75% + 1RM of that athlete. Whereas speed and power have a much more sensitive decay rate in that an athlete’s power output can decrease if they do not revisit power training within 2 weeks of their last session.

Understanding these rates and incorporating them into your in-season plan is vital to ensuring you stay on the step you’re currently on so that next offseason you can take another step.

Although this could be discussed much more, the main emphasis the put across is that physical qualities are developed in the offseason and maintained during the in-season.

As far as mistakes go, I feel too many athletes and coaches make the mistake of periodizing their training to peak for hockey camps and/or tryouts instead of periodizing to have performance peak at playoff time. Although I have also just wrote a comprehensive blog titled “Top 3 in-season training mistakes” that will be coming out soon for all to check out.

For more information on in-season hockey training you can visit this page on our website:

4LH: You touched upon recovery, how important is this for an athlete? What are three things all athletes should work on in terms of recovery?

DG: Recovery is absolutely required. Those who don’t know this always find out the hard way, either they get zero results or they enter an over trained state and actually regress in performance.

You can only make progress based on what you can recover from. You can picture recovery like a digging a ditch. Every time you have a stressful event, get a bad sleep, fall off your meal plan or train you are digging a hole.

But, every time you get a great sleep, follow the meal plan, per iodize your training accordingly to include de-loads + active rest phases you are refilling that ditch. If you aren’t recovering properly, you will just keep digging the whole and digging a deeper and deeper fatigue debt that you will eventually have to repay. Until then, progress will not be made

Again, you can only make progress based on what you can recover from. If this weren’t true, pro athletes would be training 12+hrs per day and making progress. But, that’s not how things works because that would be impossible to recover from.

The three most important components to proper recovery are:

 - Sleep

 -  Nutrition

 -  Proper periodization

4LH: Here is a scenario: One of your athletes did not get the best sleep the night before and the training session the day before has left the athlete extremely tight and sore. Should the next training day be skipped or how would you guys go about it?

DG: There are far too many variables at play in order to give a straight forward answer. There is no real black and white in strength and conditioning, the truth is its all grey.

All there is, is things that happen and the variables you are presented with that you need to have the knowledge and expertise with which to turn them into the most favorable option for progress with the athlete.

Most likely though is your scenario, the training session would not be scrapped and instead alterations would be made to total training volume, but not intensity.

4LH: Are the rest days included in your routine?

DG: Rest days are always implemented into a training system, as well as programmed de-loads and once a year active rest phases.

4LH: What are three exercises you believe hockey players are not working on enough off ice?


 - Bulgarian split squats

 - All forms of sprints

 - Medicine ball throw variations



4LH: What is your opinion on mobility? Do athletes work too much on it; do they work too little on it?

DG: To be honest I think mobility work is a fad that is getting overused at this point. I have wrote extensively already about mobility from several different angles on my blog and in my one blog titled “Top 5 Offseason Hockey Training Mistakes” I list “Too much mobility work” as one of my top five mistakes.

It’s simply overdone. There is no prize for the most mobile hockey player and beyond a certain (and basic mind you) point there is a point of diminishing returns. Does a hockey player need to be as mobile as a gymnast? No.

Does a hockey player need to be more mobile than a couch potato? Of course.

But there is definitely a line drawn where it becomes a waste of time in my opinion. If you’re only allotted X amount of hours per week you should be doing the things that give you your maximum return based on time invested as far as carryover to performance out on the ice.  

4LH: Does offer any On-Ice training advice/programming routines?

DG: Yes, all of our programs can be found on this page of our website:

4LH: What are your thoughts on fitness programs like P90X, Crossfit and other general fitness programs outside of the hockey specific model?

DG: I did a video on this that you can find here: #1 Mistake Hockey Players Make

4LH:   And finally, what is your advice on game day preparation?

Hockey players should be focusing on their nutrition, and I would guess that a lot of players (especially the young players) don't think twice about what they eat leading up to games and practices.  You can find our full take on game day nutrition here:


Dan, thank you for your time. This is a lot of great content and I am definitely here to support your site. I hope all of you guys enjoyed this and check out!



Dan Garner:

Thanks for the interview guys.  If you are ready to take your game to the next level and want to learn more about training to become a faster, better hockey player connect with us at any of the platforms below:



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