Posts Tagged ‘CAP’

Have you ever suffered an injury and were surprised at how easily it happened? Or maybe it wasn’t as serious as an injury but you’ve simply noticed that one side of your body feels tighter than the other? Or maybe one side is slower to recover than the other? What about feeling stronger and more dominant on one side of the body? Have you ever noticed any of these things?
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Grip Muscles

In the last post I talked about how during a conditioning session with a returning NHL player we identified some goals for his off-season training program. In this article I’m going to share with you what some of those goals are, why we chose them and how you should go about choosing your goals.

The first thing I should mention is that I’ve worked with this player for a few years now. I know what his work capacity is like. I know what his motivation is to train. And I’ve had the opportunity to watch him play over 40 games over the last few years. This last point really helps as I can see which areas of his game are working for him and which areas we can improve on.

So the first area we establish for some training goals is directly related to his on-ice performance. We’ll evaluate his performance in terms of his energy systems (aerobic, lactate and ATP-PC), his strength levels, his power production and his movement ability on the ice. We’ll both know where he excelled relative to the competition and where he’d like to do better.

But even before we address any of these elements that lead to improved performance we want to do a kinetic chain evaluation. I like the FMS and have been using this for a number of years with great success. This allows me to pick up on any compensations in the kinetic chain as well as bilateral asymetries before we begin loading the athlete on the weight room floor.

Once we’ve cleaned up all the movement patterns we can then proceed to working on some of the goals. One goal in particular for his off-season is improved grip strength. There are three major types of grip strength which include pinching, crushing and supporting. Think of these as these as the types of strength necessary to pick up a sheet of plywood, to shake someone’s hand or to hold the handle on a farmer’s walk. But how does this relate to hockey training and ultimately to hockey performance?

Well grip strength is a great measure of upper body strength. If you have a strong grip you most likely are strong through the arms, chest, shoulders and back. Think about people who work with their hands on a daily basis such as brick layers. These guys usually have incredibly strong upper bodies.

The other benefit of training grip strength is that it is a form of CAP. See the previous post  to learn more about CAP. Basically as you develop strength in another part of your body the area doing work gets stronger. For example, crushing the bar during a bench press competition will allow you to recruit more muscles and bench more than if you have a loose relaxed grip.

This last point leads into the next one and it has to do with you the connection to the nervous system. The more focussed you are mentally on a lift or effort the better the effort. There are more nerves in your finger tips and hands than there are through the forearms, biceps, shoulders and chest. By strengthening your grip you are able to recruit more of the muscles through the upper body. To test this  try and flex all of the muscles in the upper body with a relaxed grip compared to when you squeeze your hand closed tightly. It’s not even close.

Better grip strength increases your your game performance in a number of ways. First of all with increased grip strength you will be able to get a harder shot off more quickly. Secondly, when you need to throw a check you will able to transfer the power generated from your skates, through the legs and hips and to the upper body more effectively as a stronger grip results in a stronger upper body. Lastly, if you ever end up in a fight you will have a stronger grip to control your opponent, throw them off balance and your blows will land more quickly and with more force.


***Just as a quick aside, I’m not advocating fighting for leagues and levels of play that do not allow it. However if the level you play at has fighting and you may be required to drop the mits then you may as well come out on the winning side.*** 

In future posts I’ll show you some of the drills we’re using to build up and develop grip strength for our hockey players.


STEVE STAMKOS scored his second goal of the game for Canada at the expense of MARTIN PRUSEK of the Czech Republic at the 2009 IIHF World Championships in Switzerland. Canada defeated the Czechs 5-1 in the qualification round match.

If you’re watching hockey this time of year most likely it’s the NHL playoffs. Occasionally I’ll catch an update on what’s happening at the world championship but it’s hard to match the intensity and excitement of the NHL.

One of the updates I did catch about the world championships was that Steven Stamkos got injured in the game against Switzerland. It’s bad enough Canada lost 4-1 but they also lost a 51 goal scorer along the way. Here’s what happened.

Stamkos went in to throw a check and caught the elbow of the Swiss d-man in the mouth. Normally Stamkos wears a mouth guard when playing in the NHL but it was hard to tell if he had one in during the hit or if it fell out. So what does this have to do with hockey training?

In 2008 I was down to Colorado for the International Conference on Strength Training hosted by the NSCA. I remember seeing a presentation talking about something called ‘concurrent activation potentiation’. What this study looked at was the difference clenching on a mouthguard had on vertical jump performance.

What they found was that when they compared clenching on a mouthguard versus maintaining on an open mouth when performing a vertical jump , the mouth guard made a big differenece.  The group that clenched was able to generate a force 19.5 % more quickly than those with an open mouth. As well the time it took to generate a peak force during the jump was 20.15% less for those that clenched than those that didn’t.

So what exactly is concurrent activation potentiation (CAP)? Well CAP simply means that the muscles that perform movement are more effective when muscles not directly involved in the lift are engaged. A few other examples include squeezing the grip or bracing the core. As you use one of these methods the ability to generate  force more quickly is improved as is the time to reach peak force development. And in the case of the previous study 20 % more.

Now, I’m not suggesting that by clenching on a mouth guard you will increase all of your lifts 20%. What I am saying though is that you will put up bigger numbers in the gym by doing so. And this shouldn’t come as a surpise. Imagine someone stepping up to the bar to perform a deadlift that looks as though they just woke up. Their eyes are barely open. Their body position is slack and lazy. There is no conviction in the person’s body language that they will perform a successful lift. And even if they do succeed the chances of injury are probably greater. Compare this to the following situation.

The athlete performs 2 or 3 tucks jumps before stepping up to the bar. They position their feet under the bar and imagine their feet to be like those of a monkey and are gripping at the floor. As the hands grasp the bar they envision the bar being made of chalk and so could be crushed in their hands. They inhale and hold a deep breath creating intra-abdominal pressure and a strong brace through the core. Lastly as they bite down on the mouth guard the lips separate slightly into a snarl as the eyes turn evil and squint slightly. There is no doubt this athlete will pull the bar from the floor with ease.

Ok so I had a little fun with the imagery on the second one. Honestly I almost got goose bumps just writing that paragraph. But seriously using a mouth guard doesn’t have to just be for on the ice. Incorporate clenching, gripping, bracing and other CAP techniques into your training to take your strength training to the next level.

Here’s the citation for anyone that would like to read up on this study.

Ebben WP et al. Jaw clenching results in concurrent activation potentiation during the countermovement jump. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Nov;22(6):1850-4.