Posts Tagged ‘NSCA’

A few years ago I was working with a junior hockey player during the off-season and he mentioned that his team would be doing some fitness testing in the middle of the off-season. He mentioned they would be doing some VO2 max tests. And I quickly thought back to a presentation I had attended at the NSCA conference that winter.

The presentation at the NSCA conference covered a few different sports but there was some research related to hockey. One of the points that stuck with me was that there is an optimal level for VO2 max in hockey. Exceeding this threshold results in detriments in power production. He made this point during the presentation because he spoke of an NHL team with a coach that was notorious for bag skating his team the day after a loss. The presenter argued that this would do more harm than good and would result in a slower, less explosive team.
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STEVE STAMKOS scored his second goal of the game for Canada at the expense of MARTIN PRUSEK of the Czech Republic at the 2009 IIHF World Championships in Switzerland. Canada defeated the Czechs 5-1 in the qualification round match.

If you’re watching hockey this time of year most likely it’s the NHL playoffs. Occasionally I’ll catch an update on what’s happening at the world championship but it’s hard to match the intensity and excitement of the NHL.

One of the updates I did catch about the world championships was that Steven Stamkos got injured in the game against Switzerland. It’s bad enough Canada lost 4-1 but they also lost a 51 goal scorer along the way. Here’s what happened.

Stamkos went in to throw a check and caught the elbow of the Swiss d-man in the mouth. Normally Stamkos wears a mouth guard when playing in the NHL but it was hard to tell if he had one in during the hit or if it fell out. So what does this have to do with hockey training?

In 2008 I was down to Colorado for the International Conference on Strength Training hosted by the NSCA. I remember seeing a presentation talking about something called ‘concurrent activation potentiation’. What this study looked at was the difference clenching on a mouthguard had on vertical jump performance.

What they found was that when they compared clenching on a mouthguard versus maintaining on an open mouth when performing a vertical jump , the mouth guard made a big differenece.  The group that clenched was able to generate a force 19.5 % more quickly than those with an open mouth. As well the time it took to generate a peak force during the jump was 20.15% less for those that clenched than those that didn’t.

So what exactly is concurrent activation potentiation (CAP)? Well CAP simply means that the muscles that perform movement are more effective when muscles not directly involved in the lift are engaged. A few other examples include squeezing the grip or bracing the core. As you use one of these methods the ability to generate  force more quickly is improved as is the time to reach peak force development. And in the case of the previous study 20 % more.

Now, I’m not suggesting that by clenching on a mouth guard you will increase all of your lifts 20%. What I am saying though is that you will put up bigger numbers in the gym by doing so. And this shouldn’t come as a surpise. Imagine someone stepping up to the bar to perform a deadlift that looks as though they just woke up. Their eyes are barely open. Their body position is slack and lazy. There is no conviction in the person’s body language that they will perform a successful lift. And even if they do succeed the chances of injury are probably greater. Compare this to the following situation.

The athlete performs 2 or 3 tucks jumps before stepping up to the bar. They position their feet under the bar and imagine their feet to be like those of a monkey and are gripping at the floor. As the hands grasp the bar they envision the bar being made of chalk and so could be crushed in their hands. They inhale and hold a deep breath creating intra-abdominal pressure and a strong brace through the core. Lastly as they bite down on the mouth guard the lips separate slightly into a snarl as the eyes turn evil and squint slightly. There is no doubt this athlete will pull the bar from the floor with ease.

Ok so I had a little fun with the imagery on the second one. Honestly I almost got goose bumps just writing that paragraph. But seriously using a mouth guard doesn’t have to just be for on the ice. Incorporate clenching, gripping, bracing and other CAP techniques into your training to take your strength training to the next level.

Here’s the citation for anyone that would like to read up on this study.

Ebben WP et al. Jaw clenching results in concurrent activation potentiation during the countermovement jump. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Nov;22(6):1850-4.