Posts Tagged ‘squats’

I haven’t caught much of the first few games of the Stanley Cup finals but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few opinions. Here’s one guy’s take on the first three games of the series. The first game was as good as it gets. Back and forth. Lots of lead changes and a one goal outcome. Not what any one expected I’m sure. The one thing that struck me in that game was when Leighton got pulled. From the couple of goals I saw the ‘Hawks scored on him it didn’t seem like he could be faulted. And the game wasn’t getting out of reach at that point either. So I’m not too sure what the thought process was there in yanking him but it was interesting.

The second thing that was interesting and got all the media going was Pronger collecting some souvenirs. At the end of game 1 and 2 Pronger skated down to the ‘Hawks end and grabbed the puck. A little unusual but really no big deal. It wasn’t like it was somebody’s 1st goal or a big OT winner. But Pronger being Pronger was probably just doing something to rile up the ‘Hawks and get them thinking about that. It probably didn’t do anything for either team but was kind of funny.

Lastly, what was with the ‘Hawks skating around after game 2 with their sticks in the air? I know it was to acknowledge their fans but this is usually reserved for a time when these fans won’t see the team again. Maybe the team has just been eliminated, has shaken hands and then does this. Or maybe they’ve just won game 6 of the finals at home and their last game of the season will be  on the road. This would be then the last chance to show some thanks to their fans. It almost seemed a little bit strange to do it after game 2. Were they suggesting a sweep and wouldn’t play in Chicago again this year?

Anyways, enough about the playoffs. Let me know how you feel and if you agree or disagree.

Today though I want to talk a little bit about what goes into designing an off-season training program for hockey. You see there are number of options hockey players take when they consider their training options. Maybe they hire someone to take care of all the details. Maybe their teams set them up with some type of a program. Or perhaps a friend has  a program of some type. I could go on. The point being there are endless options regarding what program to follow. Below are a couple of the key elements I always consider when putting together an off-season training program.

First of all the plan has to be based on results. If what we did last year worked we’ll probably continue doing it. But we don’t want to stop there. Instead what we do is try and examine from as many different levels if this decision is wise in terms of investment, efforts, potential risk, projected benefits and if any of these could be improved upon. A great example comes from a big time strength coach out of the states. He has advocated switching from traditional back squats to front squats and now to single leg squats. You see what he found was that the limit on 2 legs wasn’t leg strength but the back. And this isn’t what we want. So by switching from 2 to 1 legs on squatting he was able to overload the legs while at the same time diminish loading through the spine.

Another example of where we may tweak our programs is based on how we know the body to work. A few years ago during our outdoor training days we would use a scorpion movement as part of our warm-up. We felt this would activate the glutes and mobilize the hips. The problem was that the lumber spine is not meant to move a great deal. But performing the scorpion resulted in rotatatio through the lumbar, which we didn’t want to have. So what we’ve done since is remove this from our warm-ups and substitute in other drills to activate the glutes and mobilize the hips without compromising the integrity of the lumbar spine.

So as you proceed with your off-season training program ask yourself a few questions including:

What am I hoping to accomplish with this workout, drill, exercise, warm-up etc?  Is there a downside to proceeding the way I  have been previously?     Can I come up with an alternative workout, drill, exercise, warm-up that still accomplishes the desired goal without the associated downside?

Once you start thinking about your training in this way you will be more efficient in your time, safer with your efforts and realize greater performance gains in the end.

All the best.


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.


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?