Posts Tagged ‘core’

This is a continuation of the post The Top 15 Reasons to Dump Machines from Your Hockey Leg Training. Please see the previous post for Part I.

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One of my favourite exercises to use with the hockey players we train is the deadlift. We do all sorts of variations of this lift as well. We’ll do them with a wide snatch grip or regular grip. We’ll do with a straight leg or with more knee flexion. We’ll do them on two legs and on one. We’ll pull from the floor, from the rack and sometimes do deficit deadlifts.
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There’s an expression in sports that ‘you play, you pay’ meaning that injuries are bound to happen with enough time and at a high enough level. Obviously we want to prevent the non-contact injuries as much as possible but there’s still a chance that you may experience an injury.
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Last night I went to check out Karate Kid with my wife. If you grew up in the 80′s you had to have seen the original with Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio. It was a cool show back then and I was curious to see how Jackie Chan and the young Smith boy would do in the remake. And it wasn’t half bad. Chan still has a some moves left in him for this type of martial arts movie and Smith is well, let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He definitely has his dad’s charisma and mannerisms. But what does this all have to do with hockey training?

Well in the movie Chan accepts Smith as a student to train him for karate. And he quickly establishes a protocol for training. For example training is at a certain time, place and location. And before the student can enter for training he must ask permission. Once he is allowed to enter, the old master has him take off his jacket, throw it down, pick it, hang it up and repeat. He makes him do these tasks repeatedly with the right form and attitude. Flashback to the 80′s version and you’ll remember the student having to ‘wax-on, wax-off’.

Soon the student becomes frustrated and takes it out verbally on the master telling him he’s wasting his time and needs to start training for karate instead of hanging up and taking off his jacket. It’s at this point that the master demonstrates the ingrained skills the student has learned by performing these movements repeatedly for the past few weeks. And here’s where the connection to hockey training comes in.

Sometimes I’ll work with hockey players who feel they should be doing certain exercises and may question why they are doing others. This doesn’t happen a lot but sometimes it does.

Or you speak with parents who ask me if I use a particular tool for training or have a particular ‘hockey specific’ exercise. And after biting my tongue I’ll smile and gently say that I haven’t used the tool or exercise they are referring. And here’s why.

To some the following drill may appear to have nothing to do with hockey.

I mean they aren’t standing on a balance board. Nor do they have a stick in their hands. How can this drills translate to hockey? They aren’t doing anything that resembles the game of hockey.

What this exercise does produce however is ground-based strength and power. There is a triple extension at the ankle-knee-hip and the athlete completes the movement with a weight overhead requiring a stable core and balance on their feet. Remind you of any movements?

In this picture the hockey player is accelerating by generating ground-based speed. The left leg has just completed a push off and is in triple extension. And as the play heads up ice the core is stable and the chest is tall. Sounds almost exactly like what the exercise above develops, doesn’t it?

As you continue with your off-season hockey training program remember that ‘hockey-specific’ doesn’t necessarily mean the exercise or drill has to look like the game of hockey. In fact in most cases the most effective exercises that will improve on-ice performance the most may look nothing like the game. Think instead what it is you are trying to get out of the exercise or drill to decide how beneficial it may be to improving your game.


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.