Posts Tagged ‘ground-based’


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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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It’s kind of interesting the training programs that different hockey players follow. Some will do the basics in terms of ground-based powerlifting such as the squat, deadlift and bench. Others will  lift no iron at all and perform every movement and exercise on a balance implement of some type. And lastly you’ll get the players who do a bodybuilding style workout that includes a few elements for the ‘show muscles’. These would be exercises such as crunches, biceps curls and other isolation favourites where you can feel the burn and then run and flex in front of the mirror.
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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.


The other day I was working with an athlete and he was doing some complexes. Complexes are when you use the same load on a bar and rotate through a number of exercises before putting the bar down. For example on this particular day he was doing dead-lifts, to bent-over rows, to cleans, to military presses, to good-mornings and finishing with back squats. He would complete all the movements of one exercise before proceeding to the next exercise. If you’ve never used complexes in your training before start slowly. They are very taxing and you’ll need to select a weight based on the weakest movement of the sequence. For example if the military press is the weakest movement of the six listed you will select the weight based on your ability and strength for that exercise.

So what’s the big deal with complexes? Why would we look to incorporate them into our workouts? Well, for a number of reasons.

First of all I like the amount of work that can be accomplished in a particular time. This is referred to as training density. If we use a load of 100 lbs and perform 6 reps of each exercise, for a total of 36 reps, then each set results in 3600 lbs of work. Each set takes approximately 75 seconds to complete when you use a smooth tempo of one second for the eccentric and one second for the concentric. Performing 5 sets takes less than 15 minutes with 90 second rest breaks.Not a bad investment in time for 18,000 lbs of total work.

Secondly this style of training works really when training two athletes of equal strength. The work to rest ratio is 1:1.2 or a little more than a 1:1. If you’re worked with athletes, specifically younger ones, you know there are times when they may become distracted either by the young blonde on the elliptical or just as an excuse to lengthen their rest breaks. When using complexes in this way as one is performing a set the other is resting. As the one performing the set finishes there are exactly 18 seconds for the other athlete to address the bar, get themselves set and begin. There are no opportunities to slow down.

Thirdly, this is much preferred method of conditioing our athletes than performing long, slow steady-state cardio. Our better conditioned athletes will almost be able to stay aerobic throughout the drill whereas the lessor conditioned ones will be huffing and puffing a bit more. But with this work to rest to ratio ratio we can get some conditioning work while still addressing their lifts and technique on these lifts.

Lastly I like using complexes because they are ground based. The athlete is doing the work from a standing position and requires stability in all planes as the bar moves through a sequence of movements. From a standing a position the athlete is developing ground-based strength. They are on their feet and become more in tune with their position and balance relative to the ground while handling load.

One thing I think we’ll try next time will be to mark the outline of the athlete’s feet in chalk the next time we perform our complexes. Why would we do this? Well the feet provide the cues to what is happening through the rest of the kinetic chain. Is one foot externally rotating more than the other? Is one foot advancing ahead of the other? Does the athlete take a half step as they transition from one movment to the next? Where do both feet end up at the end of the movenent?

With complexes you will see a pattern more quickly because you will have 36-42 or 48 reps to monitor the movement. If you did the same test with a 3 rep squat set you may not see much of an effect. After a 48 rep complex you simply look at the ground before you rack the bar and check the final position of your feet relative to the chalk outline and you will quickly and easily see which side is compensating, in what way and by how much. Your job then is to address this compensation.

The more we train hockey players to generate ground-based strength and power the better. If you’re going to give complex training a shot start slowly. Use 50% of the load of your weakest lift in the sequence and try 2-3 sets. And if you’re gym will allow it, trace the outline of your feet in chalk. And if your gym doesn’t allow chalk find a new gym.