Strength and Conditioning for Field Hockey
Field Hockey is an intermittent team sport with a wide range of physical requirements.
When in possession, players need to be explosive in order to gain separation and beat defenders. The ability to accelerate rapidly and change direction is vital, to maximise goal scoring opportunities.
In defence, players need to be able to track opposition attackers and get into low shapes, often staying in these positions for extended periods. They also need to be able to decelerate quickly in response to attackers’ movements. All outfield players need high levels of aerobic fitness to repeat these actions over the duration of a game (or multiple games during a tournament).
“The ability to accelerate rapidly and change direction is vital, to maximise goal scoring opportunities.”
Goalkeepers need to be quick off the mark, in order to close down space to minimise the risk of conceding goals. They also need to be explosive in multiple directions, whilst being able to get back off the floor as fast as possible.
What is Strength and Conditioning?
Strength and Conditioning (S&C) is the physical preparation of athletes, which aims to bridge the gap between an athlete’s current capabilities and the demands of the sport they play in order to maximise health and performance.
Why is it important for Field Hockey?
As the sport is characterised by repeated high intensity actions such as sprinting, changing direction and shooting, it presents certain injury risks. S&C can help to mitigate the risk of these injuries by increasing an athlete’s robustness.
In simple terms, injuries happen when the demand placed on the body exceeds the athlete’s capacities. For example, a joint being taken through an extreme range of motion that it is not prepared for.
One of the most common injuries in Field Hockey are ankle sprains. By increasing the capacity of the muscles which stabilise the ankle (including the calf and soleus), an athlete is more able to handle the forces experienced during high speed changes of direction, and therefore is less likely to get injured!
Shots on goal is a big predictor of success in Field Hockey for obvious reasons. The faster a player can accelerate, the better the chance of this happening, by creating separation between themselves and the defender.
A well prescribed S&C programme will increase the amount of force and power that an athlete can produce, which translates into better acceleration and top end speed.
A combination of regular sprint training and strength training is the best approach for developing these qualities. Multi-joint strength exercises such as squats and loaded jumps are a fantastic way to develop the strength qualities needed to enhance on pitch performance.
Over the course of a season, an athlete will play a large volume of Field Hockey, in both training and matches. A well structured S&C programme will prepare you for this, by increasing your ‘work capacity’.
The more work you are able to complete without fatiguing, the less likely you are to break down during a long season.
This can be achieved through tissue capacity exercises, which aim to increase the capacity of a muscle group to tolerate repeated loading. Some examples include calf raises, hamstring bridges and trunk exercises, aiming to complete 15–20 repetitions per exercise at a time.
- If you are a youth athlete, then ensure that any training programme you complete is appropriate for your age. You should begin by mastering basic bodyweight movements.
- Find a suitably qualified S&C practitioner who can provide you with a programme that is tailored to your own individual needs and capabilities. The gold standard is the UKSCA Accreditation.
- Be consistent. If you chase quick progress you may injure yourself in the process. Keep to a consistent programme which you enjoy and are likely to adhere to for a long period of time.
Field Hockey is a demanding sport which places high physical demands on players. S&C is beneficial for hockey players, as it can mitigate injury risk, increase performance and enhance tolerance to training load.
The most beneficial way to access high quality S&C is to seek out a suitably qualified practitioner who can provide you with a programme tailored to your specific needs.
Being consistent with your training is the best bet for long term returns.
Barboza, S.D., Joseph, C., Nauta, J. et al. (2018) Injuries in Field Hockey Players: A Systematic Review. Sports Med. 48,849–866.
Bishop et al. (2015) A needs analysis and testing battery for field hockey. Professional strength and Conditioning. 36. 15–16.
Murtaugh (2001) Injury patterns among female field hockey players. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 33. 201–7.
Sharma et al (2018) Effects of 6-Week Sprint-Strength and Agility Training on Body Composition, Cardiovascular, and Physiological Parameters of Male Field Hockey Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32. 4. 894–901.
Spencer et al. (2004) Time-motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. Journal of sports sciences. 22. 843–50.
Originally published at https://www.strengthconditioning.co.uk on March 11, 2020.