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Ask any hockey player that is serious about getting better what they do to improve their quickness and you’ll get a variety of answers.

Some will say they do Olympic lifting. Others will say they do short sprints. And others will say they do plyometrics.

And of this last group doing plyos you’ll see some that do them as hurdle drills, some are box jumps and med ball throws with a quick response could be included in here as well.

The other day I watched some athletes performing a workout which included box jumps. Basically the athletes were stepping off the box, landing and then jumping right away.

Not a bad drill. Can be great for developing explosiveness.

In this case it was being performed all wrong. Here’s why.

1. The Nervous System is Fatigued - Plyos is as much, if not more, about training the nervous system as it is the musculoskeletal. By performing numerous repetitions in succession you begin to fatigue the nervous system and the rate of response to the ground contact is delayed. This delayed response results in a slower plyometric effect and ultimately a slower hockey player.

2. The Loads Were too Great – Plyometrics were once described to me as ‘getting off the brakes and onto the gas as quickly as possible’. When we step off a box and contact the ground our leg muscles are stretched eccentrically to reduce the force of gravity from stepping off the box. We then try to reverse this condition of force reduction to one of force production as quickly as possible. If the load we are attempting to reduce is too great there will be a delayed time effect until the force can be returned as a plyometric.

3. The Height Was too Great – Which force we be easier to reduce and absorb? Stepping off a 6″ or a 36″ box? The answer should be pretty obvious. Most hockey players should be able to step off a small box and jump up quickly again without difficulty. Put them on a really tall box and the time it takes them to get off the ground again will be delayed. So even if the load is the same as the previous example the height of the box will influence the capacity to generate power.

4. The Plyos were Noisy – I mean this in the literal sense that you could hear the landing of each effort. If you closed your eyes you could clearly hear the hockey player contact the ground and take off again.

But besides the sound of the plyos there was also a lot of ‘noise’ with respect to extra body movements. On contacting the ground the trunk flexed forward. The heels popped up. And the chin fell to the chest. There wasn’t a clean transition of movement and demonstration of stability.

5. The Arms Were Ignored – When striding or jumping the arms are a huge source of power. Sprint coaches will often have kids sit on the ground with straightened legs to learn proper arm action for sprinting. On the plyos I observed the arm action was weak. It was not balanced as extension to flexion. It was not through the shoulder. And it did not end with the arms in an athletic ready position.

6. The Order Was Wrong – Usually we’ll do power before strenth. And strength before conditioning. And conditioning before a static stretch. And sometimes there may be cause to alter the order and do something a little differently once in a while.

In this case however it didn’t make sense to have the hockey players complete a squatting exercise then perform plyos. This wasn’t a case of trying to ellicit a post-activation potentiation. This was simply a case of ‘hey let’s do some plyos because that’s what hockey players do to get quick’.

As you carry on with your hockey training keep these points in mind when performing plyos.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          onsidehockeytraining.com

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