Posts Tagged ‘agility’

Recently I presented a nutritional seminar to a hockey team. And although not the topic for that presentation one of the questions was how to put on weight.

And it’s important that we make the distinction between putting on weight and putting on lean body mass. Because it’s really easy to put on weight.  A few extra meals through a window everyday and you’re set.

But putting on quality lean body mass (think muscle) is more of a challenge. Especially when you play a sport where mobility, speed and agility matter as they do in hockey.

Because if we were talking about bulking up a lineman playing football this is a lot easier. But hockey players can’t afford to carry extra mass that doesn’t contribute to increased performance.

So that’s the first rule of putting on weight for hockey. If extra weight slows you down it’s not good weight. If extra weight diminishes your athleticism it’s not good weight. And if extra weight causes you to become fatigued more easily during a game it’s not good weight.

And putting on extra lean body mass is not easy. I don’t know how many times I’ve had athletes, particularly males, come in for training and tell me one of their goals is to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

Ha! As if it were that easy. Consider what an eight ounce steak looks like…

Now know that it takes 2 of these to make one pound of muscle protein. And for 20 lbs of muscle it would take 40 eight ounce steaks slapped all over the body. But since hockey relies so heavily on lower body strength and power we’ll say that the majority of these steaks are going to be applied to the legs, hips and low back with a small amount through the upper body and arms.

That’s a huge amount of muscle protein and should make you appreciate how hard it would be to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

But it gets better.

An increase in lean body mass is the result of a increase in energy intake. In other words we need to eat more. And this increased consumption in quality, nutritious calories will help contribute to the synthesis of lean body mass.

But we don’t simply put on muscle mass when we increase our calories. While the goal is to put on as much of this weight as muscle the truth is that we may increase our bodyfat as well.

When we are talking about the reverse situation, weight loss, we don’t simply lose fat. There is a loss of lean body mass as well as a loss in fat mass. But the losses aren’t the same for everyone.

People with more fat mass will lose more fat, and retain more lean mass, on a weight loss program than lean people. And it would seem intuitive to assume that the reverse condition would also apply. Lean people will have a more difficult time putting on mass than larger people will. Yeah, I know. Life isn’t fair.

In part II of this article I’ll share some tips to putting on lean body mass without compromising your performance on the ice.


Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images for the NHL)

So the NHL draft is coming up at the end of the month from the Staples Center in LA.  Teams will use a variety of criteria to determine who they select.  Players hoping to be drafted will have gone through a number of interviews, psychological evaluations, medical examinations as well as a fitness evaluation. 

Just about a month the top prospects  were in Toronto for the NHL Combine.  This is where the players are put through the physical tests that help teams evaluate the players they have in mind. 

The players will have their height, weight and wingspan recorded.  They will perform a variety of strength and power tests such as the hand grip, push ups, sit ups, bench press, standing long jump, vertical jump, med ball throw, a balance, an agility and a couple of energy system tests.

Each of the tests provides particular information both about the physical abilities of the player, the potential for continued improvement and in the case of the hand grip strength test some information about bilateral asymmetries.

So which ones should you focus on and which ones really matter?

I’m a big advocate of eliminating weaknesses before adding positives. This applies to all areas related to your preparation for hockey. With your nutrition you’ve got to get rid of the processed, high sugar and low-nutritional value foods before you start shopping for healthier options. You need to get your rest in order rather than worrying about an ergogenic aid in the gym or an energy drink to get you going. And you need to eliminate any areas of compensation with the body’s movement patterns before looking to increase load on any of your lifts.

So before you rush off to improve your bench press score look to increase the mobility of your shoulder blades and stabilize the shoulder. As well look to stabilize the core, specifically your ability to resist flexion, prior to increasing your bench. And once you are ready to work on your bench start with the push-ups first and then proceed to the bench.

Prior to getting into your lower body training look to get the frontal plane muscles of the lower body turned on. Before you take that big wind up to test your vertical and long jump abilities ensure that you have spent some time working on your landing mechanics. Very few hockey players ever got hurt from the take off portion of a jump but whenever an injury does occur it’s almost always during the landing.

And lastly, before you begin looking for the energy system workout that will have you emptying your gut make sure you develop the systems in the right order. While you may impress your workout buddies, and unfortunately some coaches, with efforts that exceed your body’s threshold and thus cause you to puke, know that this is your body’s way of saying ‘too much’. You will get greater gains and peak at the right time during the season by training hard but respecting your body’s limits to training.

And the second part of the question above ‘which tests matter’ is they all do. The only one I don’t care for a lot is the bench press but they do all provide valuable info as to the size, strength, power and energy system development of the players. To really stand out however make sure you eliminate your weaknesses first, work to your capacity and perform your training in the proper order.


In the last post, Common hockey power training mistakes, I outlined 5 common mistakes hockey players will make when attempting increase their power through their weight room workouts. But simply because we adhere to the rules of this previous post doesn’t mean we are set to go with our training. The reason we aren’t quite ready is that there a continuum of training where we are working on developing different athletic abilities at different times.

When one season of play finishes it makes sense to take some time, relax and reflect on the previous season. At this time it’s important to reflect on how the season went. What worked and what didn’t? What areas need extra attention during the off-season? What injuries pose potential weak links left unaddressed? What would your coaches say you need to work on? If you are hoping to play up a level next year what areas of your game next to improve to make for a smooth transition? Answering the above questions allows the off-season training program to be specific and dialed in to your particular needs.

When you are ready to begin training you must realize that the body responds better when the training follows in a particular sequence. For example it makes sense to condition, to strengthen, to add power and finally to make the training sport-specific. And there’s a rationale to this sequence.

You see when you focus on conditioning first you can establish a good base for the rest of the training. As well, as you are trying to correct movement patterns or teach a technique you can get in number of repetitions to coach the movement which also serves as a conditioning stimulus.

From there to proceed to a strength goal is logical as a better conditioned muscular system has the potential to become a stronger muscular system. Think about it. If your fitness is poor this may be the weak link in your training as opposed to the resistance on the bar.

Next, a stronger muscular system has the potential to become a more powerful muscular system. Power is the product of force and velocity. Two ways to become faster are to move a heavier load or to move the same load faster. The stronger a hockey player is the more capacity there is to generate power.

Lastly, the most sport-specific an athlete can get is by practicing the sport itself. And the off-season training program winds down the hockey player is usually looking to get in some more ice sessions and quality scrimmages prior to training camp. As well, the drills in the weight become more intensive and powerful and agility sessions take on more of a chaotic and competitive nature.

This progressive and sequential approach to training is supported in the literature. A recent study coming out in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise tried to answer the question of what was important to an athlete’s muscular power, strength or power training? What they found was that strength training should be the emphasis, for less training athletes. They concluded that a distinct focus on power training would not be warranted until a threshold of strength had been achieved.

So although power plays, pun intended, in hockey often make the highlight reel it is important to follow the sequence of training described. This allows for further gains, helps prevent overtraining and transfers more effectively to hockey performance.