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Recently we held a powerlifting competition at our training facility. Nothing too big but more of an intra-club meet for athletes and clients to see where they are at with their lifts.
We did four different lifts including deadlifts, squats, bench press and three rep chin ups. The first three lifts are probably pretty straight forward but the last one is unique. For the 3 rep chin up it was the most load you could strap to your body, with a vest or belt, and complete 3 chin ups. For what it’s worth the winner was 307 lbs.
But for this post I want to talk to you about deadlifting. And this is because a number of observations came through after the meet that are important to share with you. So here are 3
Not So Common Deadlift Considerations.
1. Your Body Type Matters
Some people are natural deadlifters and others are not. A big part of this has to do with the length of our limbs and our body type. If you are someone who has a long torso and long arms you won’t have to hinge as much as someone with a short torso. Having to move a weight less can be seen as an advantage.
Additionally certain body types are better suited for different type of deadlifts. Are you highly mobile through the hips and pelvis? You might be better suited for a conventional deadlift.
Or maybe you’re not that mobile and would be better suited to a trap bar deadlift which allows more play at the knee during the movement.
And if you’re somewhere in the middle maybe you’d benefit by trying a sumo-style deadlift.
The key here is to figure out what lift suits your body type and mobility. While there is benefit to changing up the routine and using a variety of lifts and set ups it’s important to realize that you will get the best results by going with what suits you naturally.
2. You Can’t Grip It and Rip It
I remember this a while ago where someone was talking about how inexperienced lifters will ‘grip it and rip it’ when it comes to their deadlifts. What this means is that they quickly drop down to grab the bar and stand up to complete the lift.
While this can appear impressive to the lay person what it tells me and that there is more potential to be had. And it also tells me that injury is just around the corner.
There is no squeezing of the lats. The neck is not packed. The knees are not dialed out. The chest is collapsed. The hips are too high.
And this is just on the set up to pull. Things quickly go south as the movement begins. But when the bar ends up held at the top of the thighs the athlete feels that everything must be ok as they ‘completed’ the lift. I use quotation marks for completed because a lift should always be with the best of technique. Unfortunately if we move the bar from A to B technique gets ignored and is replaced by high 5s from training partners for pulling a PB.
3. It’s Not Just a Pull
This point ties in with the last one. Inexperienced lifters will quickly grab the bar and pull.
And since the weight is connected to the bar through their hands they will pull with their arms. But if you think about it the lower body is stronger than the upper and is compromised when the arms attempt to move the load.
But besides the arms trying to do the bulk of the work it is important to remember that a deadlift involves extending the knee and hip. And one way to facilitate this is to imagine pressing the heels through the floor.
Not only does this help complete the lift it insures that the weight stays on the heels and gives you as much mechanical advantage as possible.
Deadlifts are a key component of all of our hockey players’ training programs. By considering their body type, ensuring proper set up and thinking of the lift as much of a press as a pull they will be in the best position to make the most gains.
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A couple of weekends ago we hosted the Okanagan Strength & Conditioning Conference.
This was an ambitious undertaking as we went out to bring in 5 of the top coaches and researchers in our industry to Kelowna for a few days. This was ambitious because there are fitness conferences in Canada already learning about Zumba insn’t going to help your on ice performance.
But learning from Sean Skahan probably will.
Sean’s the strength & conditioning coach for the Anaheim Ducks. He’s been with the team through a few different coaching changes, had nine players in the 2010 Olympics, three of which won gold for Canada. And he was with the team when they won a Stanley Cup in 2007.
So you could say Sean’s been around and worked with some successful hockey players.
Wouldn’t it be valuable to peak inside his training program? Wouldn’t you want to see what he considers important to the development of an NHL player? Wouldn’t it be helpful to ask him some questions as to what is working with him in his training?
Absolutely it would!
And Sean, like many top flight coaches, is a big proponent of the Functional Movement Screen. If you’re not familiar with the FMS don’t worry about it. It’s a tool used by coaches to screen movement patterns of players. From this screen the coach can then tell which movement patterns are deficient or unbalanced. And this then provides an appropriate starting point for helping offset potential injuries during the season.
The FMS involves 7 tests but I’m going to talk about one in particular which is the Hurdle Step.
This test looks at three things:
* stability of the stance leg
* hip mobility of the stride leg
* core stability
When scoring an FMS you can assign a score of 0 to 3 depending on the quality of the movement. A zero indicates pain when performing the movement and a 3 means the movement met all the desired criteria.
Sean mentioned that he believes hockey players need a 3 on the FMS in this test. This is because the test challenges the stride mechanics. And striding is an integral part of the game of hockey. It also provides feedback on the coordination and stability of the hips and torso. Lastly it is a test performed on a single leg which is sport specific to hockey.
When looking at the hockey player performing the Hurdle Step we want to look for a number of things.
1. Stability of Stance Leg
One of the aspects of the Hurdle Step is that we want to assess the stability of the stance leg. Are the toes and knee pointed forward? Are the pelvis and hip neutral? Are they balanced on this stance leg or wavering?
If they are scoring less than a 3 it may be due to a weakness of the muscles providing the base. Think of your hip abductors such as glute medius. Sean mentioned he likes to use side lying leg lifts to activate this muscle group.
2. Mobility of Stride Leg
While one leg is supporting the body the other knee lifts the leg up and over the hurdle. A common issue for hockey players is psoas weakness.
With this test you want to make sure lifting the knee is not accompanied by lumbar flexion. In other words in order to get the knee up the low back should not round.
3. Core Stability
You can think of core stability as the ability to maintain proper alignment in the presence of movement. In this case the movement would be the lifting of the stride leg. Does the body dip towards the side of the unsupported leg? Does the hockey player get shorter when they lift one leg off the ground? If they had lasers coming out of their hips would the laser light move when the leg lifts?
There are a number of ways to assess core stability on this test. Use the previous cues if you like. The key is to be able to generate movement in the extremities without moving the rest of the body.
In our hockey training program, Premier Hockey Training, we give you a cheat sheet to be able to correct any of the movement dysfunctions you may have. Give it a try and see the impact in has on your ability to stay healthy and play at your highest level.
Here’s a look at the cheat sheet I put together in Premier Hockey Training.
Corrective Exercise Treatment Table ‘Cheat Sheet’ (sample)
|Compensatory movement||Tight/over active muscles||Weak/under active muscles||Treatment|
|1. Foot turns out – externally rotates in anterior view||
|2. Knee moves inward – adducts||
|7. Upper body – arms fall forward||
Pick up a copy to get your own cheat sheet for correcting your movement dysfunctions.
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Yesterday I played in the Kelowna Rockets Alumni Golf Tournament. This is a definitely a fun event to participate in as it’s at a great course and involves some great people. Director of Marketing for the Rockets Anne-Marie Hamilton does a great job to make sure everyone is well looked after and has a great experience.
The Rockets have a great tradition going here so it’s no surprise that NHL players like Josh Gorges, Duncan Keith, Blake Comie and Shea Weber come out year after year to support the Kelowna General Hospital. You’ve heard about this Weber guy, right? He just re-signed for $110 million for 14 years with Nashville. Way to go Shea!
As for the golf this a great tournament. It’s definitely fun to play in a every pairing includes at least one current or former player. And these guys know their way around the course and tend to get out fairly often. As a coach I enjoy this as you can pick up little tricks here and there as to what works for them.
And even if they aren’t the most technically sound golfers they excel for a number of reasons primarily due to their athleticism.
For example, when they tee off they are very effective at finding a balanced position on their feet from which to generate power through the upper body. And if they can become effective at doing this standing on a narrow blade and a slippery surface it only makes sense they are going to be able to do that much better a job at generating power on a stable ground.
Now I realize a snap or slap shot are different from a golf swing. But there are a number of things that are similar to both movements. And if getting off a harder shot is one of your goals then look to apply the following to your training. By the way you can find a complete core training guide in Premier Hockey Training if you would more detail as to how to incorporate this into your training.
So here are the five keys to increasing the speed of your shot.
1. Ensure Everything Lines Up -
Before you even think of movement you need to know your body is properly aligned. One colleague likes to say that the joints stack one on top of the other. Why is this important?
Well if the joints don’t align stress is placed on the joint rather than transferred through the kinetic chain. So in other words you put more force on the joint, which could lead to in injury, and less force is transferred up through the body.
The picture below shows what this looks like with a valgus (or knee caving inwards) stress.
2. You Need Optimal Mobility -
Certain joints in the body need to move. Think of the ankles, hips and thoracic spine. If any of these are limited in their ability to move a couple of things can happen. First the body may try and achieve this range through an alternate joint. For example, if the hips are tight a player may move the low back in order to rotate the torso. Or the player may move only as far as the hips allow and thus not create the pre-load tension needed for a booming shot.
3. You Need Adequate Stability -
There are a couple of key things to make note of here. One is I mentioned you need mobility first. Remember this order and apply it in your training. Secondly the term ‘adequate’ stability was used. Why do I say adequate? Well because your core stability can be thought of as the body’s brakes.
Now which type of race car would bet on? The one that uses just enough brakes to control speed going into a corner? Or the one that hammers the breaks as hard as possible at each corner?
Even if you don’t race cars you’d know that it’s faster to apply only as much braking as is necessary to control the car and prevent it from slamming into the wall.
When loading up for a shot you want your core to fire. But you don’t want to fire your core so aggressively that the body cannot move as quickly and freely as possible. This is common mistake of hockey training where players practice training their cores with high threshold drills and exercises and wonder why their speed doesn’t improve. It’s like wondering why they are slow out of the corner when the brakes are still applied in their race car.
4. Appreciate Weight Transfer -
This is easier to appreciate in hockey than it is in golf. In hockey there is a weight transfer from rear to front leg during the shot. This is evident when the trail leg kicks up on the follow through.
In the same way on the golf course there needs to be a balanced position and a weight transfer to the front leg. In your training you want to make sure to incorporate lower body training that is unilateral, acceleratory and deceleratory to develop these weight transfers.
Want to find the short cut to a faster shot? Pick up a copy of Premier Hockey Training and you’ll have access to all the mobility and stability drills plus lower body exercises to add speed to your shot.
Chris Onside Hockey Training
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Well our hockey players are entering the final phase of their off-season training program. Some of the guys playing in Europe this year have booked their flights and are heading overseas in the next couple of weeks. And the junior guys have about another month to go.
As this point in the training there should be certain changes that take place. Drills and exercises become more intense. Volume is scaled back at this time. And conditioning drills should become more specific such as starting out with low impact, more aerobic based activities such as riding the bike, progressing to land based shuttles and tempo runs, moving to slideboard work and eventually culminating with on-ice sessions.
These things shouldn’t be new to any hockey player working with a competent strength & conditioning coach. They should understand the concepts of periodization and how your training should change throughout the off-season.
But that doesn’t mean we do everything the same as any other strength coach would. And we also do other things other gyms and trainers don’t.
Here are a few things we do differently at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. where we train our hockey players in Kelowna. And many of these principles carry over to the programming in Premier Hockey Training.
The first thing we do differently is send our hockey players for a physiotherapy appointment before we dive into the training. Just as the absence of illness does not equal health so too the absence of pain does not mean optimal joint function. I’m always reminded of the study in the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine that found 70% of hockey players studied presented with abnormal hip and groin MRIs although they were asymptomatic.
And when you consider the tough nature of many players it’s not uncommon for them to downlown injuries and joint pain. This becomes even more problematic when nothing hurts or appears to be an issue.
So we make sure we send them for an assessment at the beginning of the off-season.
Another thing we do is arrange for weekly massage appointments. This allows for quicker and more complete recovery between training sessions. And it always helps to follow up with the therapist later to see what they discovered during the appointment that may go un-noticed during training.
The hockey player also learns which areas of their bodies are chronically tight and need extra attention at the start of the training session. When players show up for a training session they are always directed to grab a lacrosse ball, slip off their shoes and begin rolling out any trigger points they may have. Going hand in hand with this is rolling out with a foam roller.
One of the other unique things we do for our players is to get in contact with the team they plan to play for in the fall. Usually this involves an email or phone call to the team’s coach and strength and conditioning specialist. This does a number of things.
First it lets the team know the player is serious about the upcoming season. Secondly, it gives confidence to the team that this player is doing the right thing to prepare. Lastly it lets our team of coaches and trainers in Kelowna know what the expectations of the team will be for this player. And this last point cannot be understated.
Recently we had the coach of an NHL team want to see a particular score on an aerobic test for when this player would return in the fall. It didn’t matter that this test is not relevant to success in hockey. It didn’t matter than aerobic fitness may be less important than anerobic power. All that mattered was that this coach wanted to see success on this test and the success of our training program would be partly tied to this test. Had we not talked to this coach we would have not put the same emphasis on preparing for this test.
While some of these benefits are only available for the hockey players we work with in person we still apply the same methodology for all of our training programs. And the same offer of contacting a player’s team is available for all our hockey players, even the ones who follow our Premier Hockey Training program.
If you like to benefit from our training style and the benefits listed above give Premier Hockey Training a try. We can get on skype and figure out which teams and coaches you’d like me to talk to for you.