Posts Tagged ‘recover’

If there’s one thing I seek to apply to every hockey training program regardless the goal, level or phase of the training program it’s to make the training as efficient as possible. You see all training is cumulative meaning what you do during one workout affects the subsequent workout. Gone are the days of marathon workouts and the ‘more is better’ attitude. Instead we want to be a little bit smarter with our training so that our efforts during training don’t compromise our ability to recover after.

One way we ensure that we will recover optimally is by learning what our work capacity is. What are the various thresholds to the different training stimuli? Knowing these and staying just ‘under the radar’ allows for the best possible scenario in terms of the most return of improvement related to investment made.

But there is one other strategy we utilize with our hockey players that has proven extremely beneficial in terms of achieving the desired outcome without extra investment in training. The strategy is to use the test as the drill. I’ll explain what this means below.

One of the assessments we use when meeting with a hockey player for the first time is to determine the rotation around various joints. For example popular bodybuilding programs include a disproportionate amount of exercises that internally rotate the shoulder. How does this happen? Well imagine as part of a workout performing bench presses, cable cross overs and flys?

Over time we’ll see the shoulder become pulled forward and internally rotated. This results in poor postural alignment, impaired core function and increases the likelihood for injury.

As the shoulder becomes tighter with respect to internal rotation the ability to reach up behind the back is decreased.

Now that we know what the limitation is we also know what the fix should be. The answer involves positioning the right arm, as in the picture, to the end range behind the back as positioned. Next place the left hand on right wrist and press down gently with the right arm. The left arm should resist this pressure.

As you press down with the right arm remember to keep a few points in mind. The first is to ensure as close to perfect posture as possible. Sit with the head tall, the chest up and the shoulders down and back. Breath  normally through the diaphragm rather than by lifting the chest and shoulders on each breath. Perform 3 or 4 reps on each side with a gentle 10 second hold. There should be no discomfort at all when performing the exercise.

Use this exercise during your warm-up to improve the external rotation of your shoulders. Put the emphasis on the side with the greater deficiency. So if the right arm is significantly tighter than the left start with the right and work to balance it out with the left. Continue as long as their is a deficiency or more importantly there is a difference between the left and right sides of the body.

This is just one example of how the assessment can become the drill. Stay tuned for future examples of determining your weak links, how to use that same test as an exercise and to improve your hockey performance as a result.


sleeping athlete

As the first round of the playoffs wraps up the match-ups for round two are being set. Having eliminated the Kings in 6 the Canucks now look forward to a rematch of last year’s playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. But rather than look ahead to the next round I want to take a step back and look at something from the previous series.

After game 4 in LA, which the Canucks won 6-4, Vancouver took the unusual decision of over-nighting in LA after the game. This might seem as unusual for some as game 5 would be back in Vancouver. Wouldn’t the Canucks want to get home as soon as possible for their next game? Wouldn’t they feel more comfortable in their own beds? Don’t teams normally fly out right after away games? The answer to all of the these is probably yes. Or at least it used to be.

For the past couple of years the Canucks have been consulting a sleep doctor and they base their travel and accomodation schedule on his recommendations.  So as  a result, the Canucks opted to stay Wednesday in LA and fly back to Vancouver Thursday. Here are some of the possible reasons why.

A typical west coast game starts at 7 pm PST and goes at least until 930 pm PST unless there’s overtime. Once obligatory post-game media interviews, showers and post-game business are completed it’s probably closer to 11 PM. Even flying from a private terminal without the same security, line-ups and delays of commercial air travel probably means an arrival into Vancouver no earlier than 2 am and bed time closer to 3 am. Once there is disrupted and incomplete sleep we start to see the following repercussions.

When we are sleep deprived we will have delayed response times. Quick reflexes and responses is such a key to winning face-offs, to beating an opponent to the puck and for Luongo to make an opportune save. Take away somebody’s sleep and they don’t make the same, quick plays as they would if well rested.

Sleep is when we recover. And the playoffs can be a very taxing time of year, both physically and mentally. If the demands are that high and the need for recovery is that great than you wouldn’t want to minimize your team’s ability to be fully recovered for the next game by restricting their sleep.

There is also a strong correlation between various hormones in the body and the amount of sleep we get. When we are sleep deprived we notice that the messages that tell us when we are hungry and full are out of whack. So we feel hungry sooner than we should and we feel full later than we should causing us to over eat. Add to this that the stress hormone cortisol is elevated with sleep deprivation whereas testosterone and growth hormone are lowered and we can quickly see how important missing a few hours of sleep can be on our hormonal status.

Lastly, if there’s one thing hockey players like it’s consistency. It’s beyond ritualistic and to the point of superstitious. They have a particular pre-game meal. The get dressed the same way with the same lucky socks. They are lead out for warm-up by the same player every game. The list goes on. In keep with these traditions and rituals it make sense for teams to want to establish the same consistency with respect to the rest and recovery schedules of their players.

Obviously there is huge merit to ensuring a hockey player is well rested and fully recovered prior to each game. The same applies to your off-season hockey training as well. Ensure that you get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night and strive for the consistency of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. While you may not be competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup you can steal a page out of the Canucks program and apply it to your own hockey training.


On the weekend I joined a couple of friends and we ran some sprints on some sand dunes here in town. Now running sprints are hard to do at the best of times but these dunes were crazy. There were three of us doing the workout and after warming up properly we set out to climb to the top. We took turns with the first guy going as far as he could, then the second guy to the same point and the third guy joining the pack. You may advance 30-50 meters at a time depending on which segment of the climb we were on, the steepness at that point plus how deep the sand was. You have to picture a very fine, silty sand where your entire foot sinks with each step. And as you fatigue and the time your foot is in contact with the ground lengthens your foot sinks more.

As you are doing the climb the discomfort is divided between your lungs and legs. It’s hard to distinguish which is more compromised between your fitness and your strength. As you finish each segment your lungs are on fire and your legs have difficulty doing what the mind is requesting.

So what does this all have to with hockey training? What lessons can be learned here that can help you? Well here are a couple of insights I gained which should help you as you begin your off-season training program.

1. Your off-season training program is about you. When we arrived at the dunes my friends were pulling on weighted vests to do the workout. When I saw this I decided I would pull out some of the weights from my vest. Why would I do this? Well I had never done this climb before. Actually I hadn’t done any hill, stair or sand dune climbing of any kind yet this off-season so I wasn’t about to do the first one as the most aggressive one with the added load of a weighted vest.

Could I have done the climb with all the weights in the vest? Maybe. Might it have been too much? Hard to say. What I do know is that by easing into this training I will give my body a better chance today, tomorrow and the next time I challenge the dunes.

2. It’s better to do 10% too little than 1% too much. Training is about creating a stimulus that the body reacts to and improves as a result. We have thresholds related to the amount of stimulus we can handle. Too much stimulus and the body reacts in negative way and impairs future training. Not enough of a stimulus and there is an insignificant response which results in minimal improvement or none at all. We need to be smart about our training to determine what our thresholds are. We can do this objectively through assessments such as a lactate threshold or VO2 max or subjectively through a rate of perceived exertion.

Determining your threshold is a difficult thing to do because it involves assessments, tracking workouts and being honest with yourself during training. There is a difference between holding up during training because you don’t like hard work and want the easy way out and holding back on a set because you know it is simply too much for you at that time.

That’s where the concept of 10% too little and 1% too much comes from. By doing 1% too much you will exceed the capacity of the system. You will push the training to the point where the physical demands exceeds the ability of the body to recover. As a result the body will respond accordingly which will compromise future days of training. And with off-season training you are looking to accomplish the bulk of your gains, growth and improvement during this time so any interruptions in training are that much more costly.

So as you begin your off-season training remember your training is about you, your needs and goals and your abilities. There are times where competition during the training process can be healthy and bring out the best in you. But remember to listen to your body, take some time for thorough assessments, chart your progress and to push to the limits your body will allow.


There are a number of components to having success on the ice and performing as a hockey player. Besides the on ice practices, skates, video sessions and meetings there is also all of the dryland training that needs to be done. And when you ask most players what comes to mind when they think of training for hockey certain lifts and exercises are envisioned.

Since hockey is a striding sport it makes sense that we need to develop strength that allows us to become stronger on our skates and quicker when we have to move. So right away, we probably think of all of the leg exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups  and any other type of compound lift that is done from a standing position and has a lower body emphasis.

While these lifts would generally be a great idea they aren’t always what we want to be doing for our weight room training. And this may sound contradictory unless you  realize that all training is cumulative. This means that everything physical we do takes a toll on our bodies and requires time to recover. The cellular energy we have to train and play is of a finite quantity and is not endless. So if we do countless sets and reps of squats and deadlifts before a busy week of games how will our legs feel? And how will we play when the puck is dropped?

This is where good intentions can work against us. We want to be our best in every game. We know certain movements and muscles are vital to performance in hockey. So we spend our time trying to develop our abilities in these areas. Unfortunately as the season wears on and the intensity of the games builds the need for rest and recovery between games becomes even more crucial. We can use the time in between games to regenerate for the next game or shoot for PBs in the weight room and be less than 100% come game time.

So as the season wraps up and playoffs begin look to see where you are putting your resources and energy. Is it on the ice allowing you be your best and perform at your highest potential? Or was it left in the training room the day before the big game?

Let me know what you think. And what do you do the day before a big game? Or if you have multiple games in a row on multiple nights what strategies do you use to get ready?