Posts Tagged ‘speed’

Skating is a huge part of the game of hockey. Everyone has heard the stories of players who were gifted in certain aspects of the game or who had all the other requisite tools but didn’t go far or didn’t get drafted. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently I presented a nutritional seminar to a hockey team. And although not the topic for that presentation one of the questions was how to put on weight.

And it’s important that we make the distinction between putting on weight and putting on lean body mass. Because it’s really easy to put on weight.  A few extra meals through a window everyday and you’re set.

But putting on quality lean body mass (think muscle) is more of a challenge. Especially when you play a sport where mobility, speed and agility matter as they do in hockey.

Because if we were talking about bulking up a lineman playing football this is a lot easier. But hockey players can’t afford to carry extra mass that doesn’t contribute to increased performance.

So that’s the first rule of putting on weight for hockey. If extra weight slows you down it’s not good weight. If extra weight diminishes your athleticism it’s not good weight. And if extra weight causes you to become fatigued more easily during a game it’s not good weight.

And putting on extra lean body mass is not easy. I don’t know how many times I’ve had athletes, particularly males, come in for training and tell me one of their goals is to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

Ha! As if it were that easy. Consider what an eight ounce steak looks like…

Now know that it takes 2 of these to make one pound of muscle protein. And for 20 lbs of muscle it would take 40 eight ounce steaks slapped all over the body. But since hockey relies so heavily on lower body strength and power we’ll say that the majority of these steaks are going to be applied to the legs, hips and low back with a small amount through the upper body and arms.

That’s a huge amount of muscle protein and should make you appreciate how hard it would be to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

But it gets better.

An increase in lean body mass is the result of a increase in energy intake. In other words we need to eat more. And this increased consumption in quality, nutritious calories will help contribute to the synthesis of lean body mass.

But we don’t simply put on muscle mass when we increase our calories. While the goal is to put on as much of this weight as muscle the truth is that we may increase our bodyfat as well.

When we are talking about the reverse situation, weight loss, we don’t simply lose fat. There is a loss of lean body mass as well as a loss in fat mass. But the losses aren’t the same for everyone.

People with more fat mass will lose more fat, and retain more lean mass, on a weight loss program than lean people. And it would seem intuitive to assume that the reverse condition would also apply. Lean people will have a more difficult time putting on mass than larger people will. Yeah, I know. Life isn’t fair.

In part II of this article I’ll share some tips to putting on lean body mass without compromising your performance on the ice.



I’m always intrigued when an article comes out with a position that goes counter to what we normally believe when it comes to training, nutrition and recovery. 

I think it’s good when we hear things that challenge our conventional wisdom. It makes us think about why we do certain things. Do we simply select certain exercises because they are the ones we’ve always done? 

Or do we look for new ways of doing things that generate better results, or take less time or both. 

I’d like to think I’d fall into the second category. I know what my training philosophy is and I know what has worked for the hockey players I’ve worked with over the years. And when I come across something new I ask myself: 

* What is the purpose of this new ‘thing’, whether it be an exercise, a warm up, a recovery technique, a nutritional approach etc? 

* What about it is better than the old way of doing things? 

* Does it lend to better performance or reduced chance of injury? 

* Can we safely, effectively and morally implement this new ‘thing’ into our current programming and reap the benefits? 

Because when you think about we are exposed to new options every day. 

There are new pieces of training equipment. New types of shoes and apparel. New nutritional programs. As well many other options to do the job you are trying to with your hockey training. 

Recently the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) held meetings where a lot of buzz was created by the concept of training in a fasted state. 

This goes counter to what most coaches and trainers would advise their athletes to do. AIS nutritionist Louise Burke explains the interest is related to cell signalling. As the proteins of interest are locked up carbohydrate stores, depleting the body may free up these proteins to send the signal related to the demands of training. 

I’m not entirely sold on this idea just yet. And here’s why. 

A summary of the benefits of this type of training included reduction in levels of body fat and making the body less reliant on the use of carbohydrates as an energy source. 

I could brush my teeth with a screwdriver but I’d rather use a tooth brush. What I mean is that although we might be able to achieve an end goal (lower body fat) there are better ways to do this. 

Secondly, as the intensity of exercise goes up I want my body to well trained to use carbs as a fuel source. As I lower my intensity, the body uses less carbs and more fat as a fuel source. Hockey is an explosive, anaerobic sport where I want to be able to derive energy quickly from carbs. 

Thirdly, is it fat loss one of your main goals with your hockey training? Unless you’re Kyle Wellfed this probably doesn’t apply to you and many other hockey players. 

Further, one of the main reasons we encourage a pre-workout or game meal is to provide fuel for the efforts but as well to be glycogen sparing. As you deplete the muscle and liver of glycogen you impair the ability of the body to recover post-workout. 

And to hammer the point home further this is from the ACSM bulletin by Louise Burke. 

‘Follow-up studies using TL strategies in well-trained athletes have not found any performance benefits over TH, although the muscle chemistry adaptation in the TL condition has often shown superior gains. Importantly, TL strategies have interrupted the capacity of athletes to train at high speeds or high power outputs. 

Just to summarize Burke’s view on this topic: 

* there are no performance benefits 

* high speed and high power training is interrupted 

when applying a low carbohydrate approach as recommended per the AIS discussion. 

So what should you take out of all this? 

Basically, for now I would not recommend this approach for hockey players. Even if your goal involves losing bodyfat there are better ways to accomplish. 

Plus we should wait and see if other, independent labs can reproduce the same results and demonstrate benefits to training in a fasted state. 


So what do you think about all the talk of head injuries in the media lately?

Are head injuries on the rise? Or are we simply getting better at diagnosing when someone has an injury? Or maybe as the salaries of the players keep getting bigger teams are realizing the need to protect their investment?

Case in point…

Reebok recently sponsored a conference on head injuries attended by the NHL, AHL, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey. Reebok coincidentally has a $10 million endorsement deal with Crosby who’s been sidelined with an injury since January.

But besides the increased imaging technologies to detect head injuries and the monetary value of the contracts associated with the top tier hockey players why are we seeing more head injuries?

Part of it has to do with the speed of the game.

Right now old-time players around North America are flipping over in their rocking chairs as I make the claim the game is faster today than it has ever been.

Here’re 4 reasons why.

1. The players are bigger, stronger and can generate higher levels of force than they could a generation ago. A stronger player has the capacity to generate force in less time and thus is more powerful.

2. The tactical aspect of the game has changed. Think back to the time of Bobby Orr or even Paul Coffee. Players used to be able to wind up around their goal and then go all the way weaving through the opposition.

Now it’s more of a game of dump and chase. Or a long pass from the red line that is deflected into the opponent’s end in order to get in a chance. Or a shoot in on a powerful to control the perimeter and set up a scoring chance.

3. The energetics of the game have changed. Not so many years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a star player to be on the ice for one or two minute shifts. And this wasn’t because they were caught out there during a penalty kill. Instead this was the regular length of a shift.

Now how fast do you think you can go if you had to last for 2 minutes. 80%? 90%? Maybe 95%?

Whatever that top end time limit was it definitely wasn’t your 100% and meant going much less than your top speed. Compare this to today’s shifts where players are looking to head to the bench after 40 seconds. Can you see how a shorter shift lends itself to being able to go faster than a longer one?

4. The rules of the game have changed. Previous to the last collective bargaining agreement defencemen used to be able to clear opponents out from in front of the net. And players skating through the neutral zone would feel the tug on on their jersey or a slight hook of a stick to disrupt their timing.

Not anymore. All of the tricks that were previously used to slow up an opponent have been dealt with as a result of new rules for officials to call any attempts to impede the flow of the game.

So in the end you’ve got bigger, faster players that are using a dump and chase style of play where the refs are looking to ensure the speed of the game is not disrupted.

Is it any surprise head injuries are on the rise?

Especially when you consider one of the young stars of the game never uses a protective device that would help absorb much of the force of a head injury if he ever suffered one.

Unfortunately for these reasons head injuries are here to stay and will only increase in severity and number.


One thing I really enjoy about working with hockey players is that no two are the same. You never get the same experience twice.

You could have two players of the same age, height and weight but score completely differently on their assessments and therefore need to address different issues.
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