Posts Tagged ‘energy systems’

In Part I of this article I talked about the rationale for off-ice hockey training. And this always has to be geared towards improving your on-ice performance.
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Hi there: Chris Collins here. I’ve got a funny story I’ve got to share with you.

The other day I had the cable guy up to our new house for an installation. As he was leaving he yelled back in the house ‘Chris, there’s an animal in your car!’. Well, my wife and I don’t have any pets.
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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.


In the last post I talked about how more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to performing conditioning workouts during the off-season. To continue with this series we’ll look at the how the type of surface factors into your off-season conditioning program.

As a hockey player imagines performing an off-season conditioning workout what type of workout comes to mind? Do you envision riding the bike? Is it running at the track? Or maybe it’s doing drills on a soccer field? What about getting some on ice sessions? Is there anything else you do to develop your energy systems and improve your fitness for hockey?

With each of the options listed above there is a different surface from grass, to track to ice. And you know from a previous post I’ve also mentioned the possibility of running sand dunes. So is one surface better than the other? Does it matter which surface you train on? And what about the order of surfaces used, does that matter?

When we structure our off-season training programs we want to consider certain factors. These include the health of the hockey player, the rate of response when the foot contacts the ground as well as the specificity of the movement. When we consider these factors we then have some rationale as to the type of training surface.

The health of the athlete is an important consideration when selecting the training surface. If an athlete has a lower body injury they are rehabilitating at the beginning of the off-season we may not want to do a lot of high impact conditioning. In fact we may want to minimize loading through the vulnerable joint and put the athlete in the pool.  Being in the water takes much of the load off the body yet still allows for some non-specific conditioning. As the athlete rehabs to 100% they progress from loading in the pool, to riding the bike, eventually running in sand, grass and then the track.  Each of these surfaces add progressively more loading to the joint in question.

In terms of the rate of response when the foot contacts the ground we want this to increase over the course of the off-season. What this means is as the hockey player moves through the various phases of their training we want the rate of contraction to increase.  In other words the foot speed should increase through this continuum.

When we consider the previous example of pool, sand, grass and track the surface is firmer in each condition. While the bottom of the pool is the hardest the surrounding water provides support as well as resistance to slow down the foot speed. If you visualize someone performing tuck jumps in each of these conditions you can see how the ground contact time is lessened in each and the foot speed thus increases.

Lastly we must consider the speficifity of training.  Early with the off-season training program the training may be quite general.  There may some time spent correcting compensatory movement patters.  While these drills may look nothing like what a hockey player needs to be doing during their off-season training they are vitally important.  Compare this to the ice sessions many players try and schedule towards the end of their off-season training program and you can see how the training becomes very specific.

With this in mind the surfaces selected should also progress from general to specific.  The continuum in this regard would be water, to bike to land to ice.  With aquatic training the hockey player doesn’t have to support their body weight if swimming or standing in deep water.  On the bike, again there are not the same ground reaction forces that are developed when striding on solid ground.  And lastly the progression to skating on ice loads the hockey player very specifically and allows development of the skating stride.

Whatever you select for your off-season conditioning drills for hockey keep the above points in mind so that you make the healthiest, most effective and specific choice possible.