Posts Tagged ‘explosive’

Hi there: The other day I had a session with a number of younger athletes. And we were working on some plyometrics. But plyometrics are a funny thing. Because what we normally think of as a plyometric is a much narrower inclusion of all the movements we perform during the day which actually are plyometric.
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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.


It is becoming more common to see hockey players realize the importance of power training for their sport. Traditionally, of the four major North American sports it was football teams that embraced the necessity of power training and incorporated this into their weight room workouts. Hockey players have more recently turned to addressing the need for power production. And when you think of this addition to the program it makes sense.

If you think about it what do all the ‘plays of the day’ have on the sports broadcasts? They usually involve a demonstration of power. In baseball this may be the game winning home run. Or in basketball it may be a slam dunk. Football and maybe hockey as well will involve a huge hit or explosive play. So unless Morgana the Kissing Bandit sneaks past security and plants a wet one on an unsuspecting pitcher, the play of the day usually involves a demonstration of power.

And so players look to increase their power. The start doing med ball throws, plyometrics and Olympic lifts. But unfortunately as with any tool unless the proper instructions are provided there may be poor habits developing or worse, injuries happening.

One of the most common mistakes I see with respect to power training involves the use of the Olympic lifts. Whether it be the clean or the snatch, or variations of either there are common mistakes occurring far too often. Here is a quick list of the Top 5 hockey power training mistakes.

Photos: China's Liao Hui wins Olympic Men's 69kg Weightlifting gold

Mistake #1 – The weight is being muscled up. Bodybuilding, as opposed to Olympic lifting, is about isolating muscles and focussing on the part doing the work. For example when performing a biceps curl a bodybuilder will focus on the weight in their hands and originate the movement proximally or close to the weight. With Olympic lifts we want to generate the force through the ground, or distally from our attachment to the weight. This ensures that the big muscles of the body are involved and pull the weight up.

Mistake #2 – The weight drifts out in front of the body. Power training involves moving a load as quickly as possible. The way to generate more power is to increase the load or the velocity or both. When performing an Olympic lift we want to ensure that the bar travels as close to the body as possible. If the bar drifts out in front of the body this increases the distance the bar must travel. Greater distance means greater time to travel that distance and thus less speed.

Mistake #3 – The catch phase involves a reverse curl. With this example I am referring to a clean. Upon receiving the bar the arms should rotate under the bar to allow the bar to complete its path at the top of the chest near the clavicle. Unfortunately, some hockey players complete the movement by performing a reverse biceps curl which causes the bar to drift out and away from the body. This replicates mistake #2.

Mistake #4 – The elbows bend. This is tied in with #1. Too often I see hockey players performing Olympic lifts and the elbows start to bend too soon. As a colleague was fond of saying ‘when the elbows bend, the power ends’. Here why.

Think back to high school physics. Never took physics? No problem. Newton’s third law tells us that for every force there is an equal and opposite force. So if I push my legs hard into the ground to perform a vertical jump the earth pushes back equally hard so that I can leave the ground.

Now consider if I’m trying to do a vertical jump but I start pulling a weight on the floor just before I can push my feet into the ground. When my elbows bend from beginning the pulling the bar upwards with my arms this creates an upward force on the bar. At the same time this creates an equal and opposite force at my feet.

So while I’m trying to drive my feet through the floor (not really, just a visualization technique) by pulling the bar too soon I am working against myself and driving my feet down. So this is why when the elbows bend, the power ends.

Mistake #5 – Using too much load too soon. The Olympic lifts are about developing a timing and a rhythm for the movement. It is about training the nervous system to fire quickly. Unfortunately, hockey players, sometimes under the misguidance of their trainers, are using too much load before they have mastered the movement. The hockey player begins to develop poor habits. They will do whatever it takes to get the bar from A –> B regardless of whether this involves the development of power or not. As was stated earlier, power is the product of force and speed of movement. As soon as technique is compromised, poor motor habits are ingrained, speed is limited and power production minimalized.

While power training is a vital component of the complete training program of a hockey player it is important that it be coached properly, that loads be appropriate and that progressions be introduced only once mastery has been demonstrated. If these conditions are not satisfied the hockey player who makes the above mistakes will not only not be getting more powerful but may actually be getting slower.