Posts Tagged ‘exercises’

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I did a workout on some sand dunes. And part of the workout involved wearing a weighted vest. Since that post I’ve had the chance to throw the vest on a few more times and have noticed something interesting that I hadn’t considered earlier. I learned that running sand dunes helped fix my shoulders.

At this point you might be wondering ‘what did I miss?’ He was talking about running sand dunes and now is switching over to talking about improved shoulder function. How the heck are these two related? Let me explain.

In my younger days I used to train as a bodybuilder. I bought the magazines, took the supplements and performed the isolated, single joint exercises bodybuilders love in order to feel the muscle. After a few years of this my joints weren’t loving me so much. Particularly my shoulders and my AC joint specifically.

You see I was in the habit of doing ‘mirror workouts’. Biceps, chest, traps, abs, quads etc or anything you could see when you looked in the mirror. As a result I had a pretty unbalanced physique with way too much open-chain pressing motions, too many upper trap exercises and too many internal rotation exercises.

And as long as I continued with my ‘mirror workouts’ I continued to have issues with my shoulders. I’m not sure which came first but eventually I realized I wouldn’t be 250 lbs and 4 % bodyfat and that there was a smarter, safer and more effective way to train. I start to balance out the back side of physique and added in some external rotations to realign my shoulders.

And things improved quite a bit. I could press heavy weight. There was no soreness or discomfort but I learned something that showed me I wasn’t all the way there. And it had to do with how I was breathing.

You see all the years of upright rows, shrugs and basically anything that lifted the shoulders to the ears was stimulating my upper traps and levators. So I developed over active ‘shrugging-type’ muscles. And when I was fatigued I would take deep breaths and my chest would rise and fall. Since I had over-active traps and levators when I need to get air I would fire these muscles first, as I had trained them so often, and consequently my chest would lift and fall. But this isn’t the way we should breath.

If we take a deep breath properly our chest and shoulders shouldn’t move. Instead we should notice the movement at the stomach as the diaphragm pulls down as we inhale and rises as we exhale.

When I was wearing the weighted vest I secured the vest as tightly as possible around my torso. And since the vest is pulled on over the head it rests on the shoulders. As I began to fatigue I realized I needed to get air but couldn’t do so by lifting my shoulders and expanding my chest due to the constriction of the vest. The only alternative to me was to relax my chest and breath properly through my stomach and diaphragm.

Before you rush out to throw on a vest and experience this yourself practice breathing through your stomach and diaphragm. Look to minimize and eliminate the involvement of the chest and shoulders. And lastly, pay attention to the impact this new breathing style has on the health of your shoulders.


The other day I had a little down time and was flipping around the dial while replying to emails. I came across a program that was showing parts of a UFC fighter’s training program. Some of you may be big fans of the UFC and be able to figure out which fighter I’m referring. But if you don’t, no problem. You’ll still be able to get the point of the article.

For this episode they showed aspects of the training from the grappling, to muay thai, weight room workouts as well as some chiropractic treatments. And a number of things struck me about his workouts that I thought ‘I hope none of our hockey players make these mistakes with their training’. Here’s what I saw.

The first part that I didn’t agree with was the structure and style of the workout. This fighter’s workout revolved around performing a number of machine-based stations non-stop for an hour. Although UFC is vastly different from hockey there are certain elements that are common to both. Both sports require being in a standing position. Both sports involve trying to beat an opponent. Both sports require well developed energy systems to be both explosive and last the entire match.

On the program a number of the exercises were performed sitting, lying or if standing were performed in the sagittal (forward and back) plane. Imagine trying to skate or get off a shot in hockey without any side to side or rotational movement. It’s pretty much impossible. Many of the exercises when seated or lying down do not require stabilization of the core muscles in order to perform the lift. Again try and imagine playing hockey without a strong and stable core. Lastly, the exercises were performed non-stop for one hour. Imagine playing the game of hockey for one hour with no shifts? Your intensity would surely drop if you never came off the ice.

This last point has actually been proven in the research. When you focus too much on the aerobic aspect of your game there is the potential to compromise the power aspect of your game. Think about it this way. If you take a long distance runner and have then perform some power training they become a better long distance runner as they develop more of a power base. However if you take a power athlete and incorporate long, slow steady-state aerobic training you may result in a less explosive athlete. And guess how many hockey player over the years have come to me asking to help them improve their aerobic conditioning? Zero. But I have yet to have a hockey player who doesn’t want to be quicker and more explosive.

The reason this show had so much impact on me was that it was very evident the mistakes this fighter was making with his training. And I was thinking how much better this athlete could be if he trained for power, fully developed his core and used some land-based movement drills and lifts. Instead he limiting himself and stepping into the ring with a less than adequate training program. But there was a bigger problem than this.

The bigger problem was that many young hockey players would be watching this program and see of their UFC favourites training. And they might assume, incorrectly, that if a big-time UFC star used these training methods than this must be the best training style available. And these young hockey players might look for a way to adapt this training style to their own program and suffer the same short-comings as this fighter.

Whenever you are considering incorporating something new into your training program ask yourself a few questions. Ask ‘why would you add it in?, would anything else be eliminated?, is this the best way to accomplish this goal? and is this method proven?’

If you have questions about a training style or program for hockey you’ve come across post them below and I’ll address them in a future post.


There are a number of components to having success on the ice and performing as a hockey player. Besides the on ice practices, skates, video sessions and meetings there is also all of the dryland training that needs to be done. And when you ask most players what comes to mind when they think of training for hockey certain lifts and exercises are envisioned.

Since hockey is a striding sport it makes sense that we need to develop strength that allows us to become stronger on our skates and quicker when we have to move. So right away, we probably think of all of the leg exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups  and any other type of compound lift that is done from a standing position and has a lower body emphasis.

While these lifts would generally be a great idea they aren’t always what we want to be doing for our weight room training. And this may sound contradictory unless you  realize that all training is cumulative. This means that everything physical we do takes a toll on our bodies and requires time to recover. The cellular energy we have to train and play is of a finite quantity and is not endless. So if we do countless sets and reps of squats and deadlifts before a busy week of games how will our legs feel? And how will we play when the puck is dropped?

This is where good intentions can work against us. We want to be our best in every game. We know certain movements and muscles are vital to performance in hockey. So we spend our time trying to develop our abilities in these areas. Unfortunately as the season wears on and the intensity of the games builds the need for rest and recovery between games becomes even more crucial. We can use the time in between games to regenerate for the next game or shoot for PBs in the weight room and be less than 100% come game time.

So as the season wraps up and playoffs begin look to see where you are putting your resources and energy. Is it on the ice allowing you be your best and perform at your highest potential? Or was it left in the training room the day before the big game?

Let me know what you think. And what do you do the day before a big game? Or if you have multiple games in a row on multiple nights what strategies do you use to get ready?