Posts Tagged ‘grip strength’

This is Part II on Why Hockey Players Should Do Turkish Get Ups. For reasons #1-5 see Part II below this post.

#6 – It Develops Grip Strength

Have you ever shaken the hands of a top level NHL player? It’s like grabbing a meat hook.

It’s never a weak, limp wristed hand that reaches out to you. It’s a strong firm grip that gets your attention without trying hard to act tough.

Why does this matter?

Well besides the fact that you’ll get off a quicker, harder shot it also allows you to develop more strength and power.

There are more nerves in your hands than most other places in the body. Developing your grip strength innervates these nerves and allows for stronger contractions and more force to be developed through the rest of the body. Turkish Get Ups are great for developing this strength.

#7 – It Is a Self Limiting Exercise

Have you heard this term before?

It means that you can’t overdo the exercise. Think about chin ups for example. It’s pretty hard to do too many. You can either do a complete rep or you can’t. There’s no in between.

The same applies for Turkish Get Ups.

There are a few variations on technique but in the end what matters is whether or not you can get from a position on your back to standing and back down again. All while stabilizing a load overhead.

#8 – Great for Thoracic Mobility

Thoracic mobility is key for hockey players.


Because it allows the torso to dissociate from the hips more effectively. And this separation of torso and hips allows for more power generation on the skating stride as well as greater degree of shoulder rotation on slap shots. Or the tee box in the summer.

Plus from an injury prevention stand point thoracic mobility is important as it helps take strain off the low back and shoulders. In other words if the thoracic spine doesn’t move the body will seek out this mobility elsewhere. And often times this movement is transferred to the low back or shoulders resulting in injury.

#9 – Easily Progressed or Regressed

I like exercises that can be made easier or harder depending in the situation.

For example if a player lacks the strength to perform a TGU with a particular load a lighter one can be used. Or for more challenge the exercise can be performed with the bell up.

And when the situation arises where there is an injury the exercise can be modified. For example with a lower body injury, perform a TGU to the sitting position. Or maybe as far as hip extension. Lastly, with a hand injury substitute a sandbag on the shoulder to eliminate the need for gripping.

#10 – It Develops Toughness

Hockey is definitely a game of toughness. Both physical and mental. Lacking either puts you at a disadvantage.

I’ve worked with some hockey players who have complained about the placement of the bell on the back of their arm. Now I understand this can be adjusted and a neutral wrist will help the bell in place. But really?

You play a sport where 100 mph pucks fly past your head when you set up in front of the goal and you’re complaining about a little discomfort on the back of your arm?

I think it’s good to do some things that are a little bit uncomfortable. I don’t mean stupid circus act training but exercises that are physically challenging enough to make you want to stop.

The question is, do you?

Can you persevere when others would stop? How bad do you want the end goal? Are you willing to pay the price?

Many will say the right things in an interview and may even through in a cliché or two. But fewer will save their breath for the efforts they make on the training room floor.

#11 – Simple Set up

Sometimes I’ll watch videos of hockey training programs. And in the videos they are using the most high tech equipment available and doing some really cool things.

But that’s not the real world.

Most people don’t train where budgets don’t matter, where facility size doesn’t matter and where the expertise of the coach is among the best anywhere.

So we need a better option.

Kettlebells are great in that they are relatively inexpensive, are widely available, can be transported easily and can be used to perform a number of exercises.

There is no maintenance required. No special storage. And there is no set up required is order to use them.


The Turkish Get Up is an excellent exercise choice for hockey players. It develops so many things at once from strength, to core stability, to 3D movement awareness as well as grip strength that it is hard not to include this one in your training arsenal.

If you are going to give this exercise a try start slowly. In fact get used to basic swing first before you progress to the TGU. And if you have an RKC in your area hire them to learn the safe and proper way to perform a Turkish Get Up.


In the last post I opened the discussion on Turkish Get Ups.

And I played the Devil’s Advocate by asking if this simply wasn’t an exercise that in a year or two we’ll all be looking back on wondering what were we thinking.

But I don’t think so.

Instead I see this exercise as sticking around for a while when it comes to hockey training because it offers so many benefits to the development of the complete hockey player.

So with that in mind here are my Top 11 Reasons Hockey Players Should Do TGU.

Reason #1 – It Facilitates Shoulder Stability

Quick question…what’s one of the most common injuries a hockey player will suffer if they get hurt? If you’re talking about the whole body you’d have to think of the groin and hips. And if you think of the upper body this would have to be the shoulders.

In a game where the first part of the body to take the impact against the boards is often times the shoulder this makes sense. Add to this the fact you are dealing with the joint with the greatest range of motion but doesn’t have a hinge or socket to hold it in place and you’re asking for trouble.

By holding a kettlebell overhead you are developing the stability of this joint which helps minimize potential injury down the road.

Reason #2 – Increased Fat Loss

Do you remember the recent research article that examined which fitness and athletic parameters correlated most closely to performance in hockey?

If not, that’s ok.

One of these was how lean the player was. Lower levels of bodyfat equated to higher levels of performance.

The TGU is an excellent whole body exercise that works the upper and lower body, in all planes of motion while challenging the cardiovascular system. Athletes have realized heart rates in the 180s from as little as 3 reps of this exercise.

All of this metabolic disruption makes the TGU an excellent choice for fat loss.

Reason #3 – Full Body Exercise

Hockey isn’t a lower body game. Nor is it an upper body game.

It is a whole body game that requires strength, power and coordinated movement throughout the system.

The TGU is a great exercise because you can’t rely on only your upper or lower body to complete the exercise. As such you quickly learn and develop whole body strength to translate to on ice performance.

#4 – Excellent Core Development

We all know the benefits core training has on hockey performance.

But after that there are many choices.

What the TGU offers is a little bit of everything.

You need core stability and core strength. You need to be able to flex and rotate through the core through one part of the exercise while resisting flexion and rotation at another point.

You move through all planes, from your back to standing and can be modified to regress or progress the exercise as needed.

#5 – Excellent Neural Development

If you watch young kids play hockey you may notice that their eyes are on their feet when skating and on their stick when the pucks is theirs.

However watch the pros at the highest level and their eyes are anywhere but at their feet or stick. Instead they are looking at their teammates, an opening to shoot or where there is open ice. In other words they are able to perform complex coordinated movements without looking at the ground.

Turkish Get Ups are very similar in that they require you to look up at the kettlebell while you perform them.

While your arms and legs are moving in multiple planes and the body changes from a supine to a standing position the nervous system must learn to coordinate these movements in a similar way that a hockey player can take a pass off his skates and kick it to his all while looking ahead to see the play developing.

Stay tuned for Part II where I give you Reasons #6-11.



Photo source:

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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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.