Posts Tagged ‘movement’

A couple of weekends ago we hosted the Okanagan Strength & Conditioning Conference.

This was an ambitious undertaking as we went out to bring in 5 of the top coaches and researchers in our industry to Kelowna for a few days. This was ambitious because there are fitness conferences in Canada already learning about Zumba insn’t going to help your on ice performance.

But learning from Sean Skahan probably will.

Sean’s the strength & conditioning coach for the Anaheim Ducks. He’s been with the team through a few different coaching changes, had nine players in the 2010 Olympics, three of which won gold for Canada. And he was with the team when they won a Stanley Cup in 2007.

So you could say Sean’s been around and worked with some successful hockey players.

Wouldn’t it be valuable to peak inside his training program? Wouldn’t you want to see what he considers important to the development of an NHL player? Wouldn’t it be helpful to ask him some questions as to what is working with him in his training?

Absolutely it would!

And Sean, like many top flight coaches, is a big proponent of the Functional Movement Screen. If you’re not familiar with the FMS don’t worry about it. It’s a tool used by coaches to screen movement patterns of players. From this screen the coach can then tell which movement patterns are deficient or unbalanced. And this then provides an appropriate starting point for helping offset potential injuries during the season.

The FMS involves 7 tests but I’m going to talk about one in particular which is the Hurdle Step.

This test looks at three things:

* stability of the stance leg

* hip mobility of the stride leg

* core stability

When scoring an FMS you can assign a score of 0 to 3 depending on the quality of the movement. A zero indicates pain when performing the movement and a 3 means the movement met all the desired criteria.

Sean mentioned that he believes hockey players need a 3 on the FMS in this test. This is because the test challenges the stride mechanics. And striding is an integral part of the game of hockey. It also provides feedback on the coordination and stability of the hips and torso. Lastly it is a test performed on a single leg which is sport specific to hockey.

When looking at the hockey player performing the Hurdle Step we want to look for a number of things.

1. Stability of Stance Leg

One of the aspects of the Hurdle Step is that we want to assess the stability of the stance leg. Are the toes and knee pointed forward? Are the pelvis and hip neutral? Are they balanced on this stance leg or wavering?

If they are scoring less than a 3 it may be due to a weakness of the muscles providing the base. Think of your hip abductors such as glute medius. Sean mentioned he likes to use side lying leg lifts to activate this muscle group.

2. Mobility of Stride Leg

While one leg is supporting the body the other knee lifts the leg up and over the hurdle. A common issue for hockey players is psoas weakness.

With this test you want to make sure lifting the knee is not accompanied by lumbar flexion. In other words in order to get the knee up the low back should not round.

3. Core Stability

You can think of core stability as the ability to maintain proper alignment in the presence of movement. In this case the movement would be the lifting of the stride leg. Does the body dip towards the side of the unsupported leg? Does the hockey player get shorter when they lift one leg off the ground? If they had lasers coming out of their hips would the laser light move when the leg lifts?

There are a number of ways to assess core stability on this test. Use the previous cues if you like. The key is to be able to generate movement in the extremities without moving the rest of the body.

In our hockey training program, Premier Hockey Training, we give you a cheat sheet to be able to correct any of the movement dysfunctions you may have. Give it a try and see the impact in has on your ability to stay healthy and play at your highest level.

Here’s  a look at the cheat sheet I put together in Premier Hockey Training.

Corrective Exercise Treatment Table ‘Cheat Sheet’ (sample)

Compensatory   movement Tight/over active muscles Weak/under active muscles Treatment
1. Foot   turns out – externally rotates in anterior view
Calf complex:  gastrocnemius,
peroneals, soleus


Gluteus medius, gluteus
maximus, medial hamstring
(posterior tibialis)


SMR (foam roll) calf complex,
static stretch calf complex,
lateral band walking


2. Knee   moves inward – adducts
Adductor complex: (peroneals,
lateral gastrocnemius)


Gluteus medius and gluteus
maximus (posterior tibialis)


SMR adductor complex, calf
complex, lateral band walking, supine     bridging


7.   Upper body – arms fall forward
Latissimus dorsi, pectoral
major and minor


Mid-lower trapezius,


SMR back and lats, foam roll
on length of spine with arms
outside, pull overs, prone cobra


Pick up a copy to get your own cheat sheet for correcting your movement dysfunctions.


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.


When I’m working with any of our hockey players I always want to make sure that at minimum we accomplish two things. The first is to ensure that we have addressed any of their compensations which may be from previous injuries or simply from having repeated a poor movement pattern over and over. The second thing we always want to do is ensure that we are arming our players with the physical tools and abilities they need to succeed on the ice. By adhering to the above two criteria I am confident that everyone who steps on the ice after working with us will have minimized their potential for injury and be in a position to win battles during the course of the game.

One of the things every player needs when it comes to having the ultimate success on the ice is to have a sound nutritional strategy in place. A friend of mine who is a registered dietitian has a great saying that I have now incorporated into all of the nutritional programming that our hockey players follow. The saying is that you if you consider the dose, quality and timing of your food selections you will do a much better job of fueling your body which will translate into improved performance on the ice. Here’s what he meant by this saying.

The dose refers to how much of a food item or drink you are consuming. This is important to know. If I quiz a hockey player on what he ate before practice and he said eggs is this a good choice? Depends doesn’t it. We kind of need to know how many eggs he had. Or in the past I’ve asked some of our players that like to drink beer when they go golfing how many they will have. It makes a huge difference if it’s one each on the front and back nine or more than that.

Lastly, consider the following regarding the dose of your foods to see how this is important. A lot of people are familiar with the glycemic index. And they may select foods that have a particular rating on this index. Let’s say a player wanted to preferentially select a low glycemic food such as a cantaloupe. Well, while a cantaloupe may have a low glycemic rating for a serving of this fruit the impact on our blood sugar will obviously be different it we were eat multiple servings.

The next aspect of your nutrition to consider is the quality of the food item. It makes no sense to calculate to the exact calorie how much you should eat every day to reach or maintain your ideal weight for hockey if you ignore the quality. Let’s say your daily caloric requirement to be at your best weight for hockey is 3160 calories. It would make a huge difference if you get all of those calories through a window as opposed to preparing quality proteins and combining them with colourful and fibrous vegetables. So it’s not just how much you eat that matters but the quality of the food. Let’s look at this example one more way.

Consider again the glycemic index. Generally people with insulin resistance or those who are trying to eat more healthily will opt for foods that are lower on the glycemic index. These will have less of an impact on our blood sugar and therefore are preferred in certain situations. Well consider that peanut M&Ms have a low glycemic rating and parsnips have a high glycemic rating. Here is an obvious example of where the quality of the food item should tell us what is the better choice.

Lastly, we need to consider the timing of our nutrition. This applies to not only to our peri-workout (pre and post) nutrition but also throughout the rest of the day as well. Going back to the example of our daily caloric intake, it makes a huge difference if we were to have all of our calories in the morning, all of the calories in the evening or if we spread them out throughout the day. And it also make a difference what type of nutrients such as carbs, proteins and fats we are consuming at particular times of the day.

How we fuel our bodies when training for hockey may make the difference between adequate and exceptional performance. And when you consider the importance of hydration and electrolyte balance it can be argued that a properly fueled and hydrated hockey player is doing their best to minimize the potential for injury in the weight room and on the ice. Take some time and evaluate your nutritional plan in terms of the dose, quality and timing of your food selections and you will find ways to increase your off-ice training and improve your on-ice performance.