NHL Fitness: Here’s How to Train Like Alex Ovechkin

Jets Capitals Hockey, Washington, USA Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, left, of Russia, celebrates a goal against the Winnipeg Jets with Capitals left wing Alexander Semin, also of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Washington 23 Mar 2012
Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is a beast on the ice. At 6’3” and 239 lbs, the goliath is a major offensive force, skating through defenders with ease to find his way to the net. Ovechkin has led the NHL in scoring six times over the first decade of his career—and with his commitment to working in the gym, that success is no accident.

Canucks Capitals Hockey, Washington, USA Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Edler Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, skates with the puck as Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (23), from Sweden, defends, in the first period of an NHL hockey game, in Washington 2 Dec 2014
Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

Ovechkin told Men’s Journal about the exercises he uses to prepare for the season and the most important thing to know about training:

How key is your fitness level to staying healthy through a full NHL season relatively injury-free?

It’s very important. You have to be in outstanding shape. I do work out in the summer, but during the season, I try to work out a little bit with my strength coach, Coach Nemish. He works with me all the time, he knows my body fat, he knows my body. I’m in good shape.

What are your workouts like? What do you focus on during your training?

First off, I focus on my fitness, on my conditioning. I like running all the time. When I run, I feel much better. I work out in the gym too with my personal coach back in Russia. Nothing serious, just strength and getting in great shape. During the season, I lose some weight because I play a lot of minutes a night so my weight is going down. That’s why I have a perfect body.

What kind of exercises?

I do a lot of squats, I do a lot of bench pressing. But legs are very important for me. It’s more important than arms and shoulders.

How do you approach workouts? Do you enjoy them? Think of them as work?

I ask my trainer all the time, ‘okay, what do we have to do today?’ He tells me something, I’ll say ‘yeah we’ll do it’ or ‘no lets do something different.’ I can feel my body perfectly, so I know what I have to work today and tomorrow.

How has your training made you better on the ice?

Without training, I’m nothing. If I’m not training, I’m done. Any athlete, they have to train and they have to practice to win games. For sure. One hundred percent. You have to be training.

You play a pretty physical style—could you play that way without working so hard in and out of season?

Not really. You have to get ready all the time. It’s a pretty tough league and everybody wants to hit you, so it’s better if you’re in good shape. If you’re in good shape, you’ll do better. On our team, we have lots of guys who are in great shape and we feel pretty good.

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How many miles are you running a day in the summer with your trainer?

Probably 3-4 kilometers. It’s not a lot, it’s just for conditioning. He’s a very astute guy. He knows what I have to do. He knows my body well. He knows what I need on each day. One day we have running. One day we have a little bicycle. Mostly it’s stuff for my conditioning. For running, it’s short periods: 1 km fast and strong, 1 km not as fast, 1 slow. After that, we take my pulse and measure what my shape is.

How long is your off-season?

Probably a month and a half. Before the season comes and the training comes, I start working before a month and a half, and I think it’s working. I’m still in good shape.

Do you recover quickly from workouts?

Yes. I know exactly what I need. I know exactly how many times I have to go to the gym. My coach from Russia tells me what I need to do all the time. It’s one of the most important things. My coach says what I have to do and I do it. Sometimes people are told they should do this and this and then they don’t do it. I do it all the time.

What do think is your biggest asset when you’re on the ice?

My power. And sometimes I have luck—I don’t know why.

What’s the most important thing when it comes to training for an athlete?

Just work out. Don’t be lazy. If you take a day off, you’re going to be fat and you’re going to look terrible.

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