Posts Tagged ‘stomach’

I just got back from a trip to Hawaii. My wife and I like to go at this time of year as it allows me to refresh before the busy summer begins and all the hockey players roll into town.

While I was away I did a lot of snorkelling.

And this got me thinking about hockey and training.


What does tropical weather, warm water and snorkelling have to do with hockey and training? It’s the breathing actually that makes me think of how this could improve training and performance.

If you’ve never tried snorkelling it may be a little un-nerving to have your nose inside the mask and then to only be able to breathe through the snorkel.

First timers may panic in this type of set up which leads to:

* increased respirations

* increased gasping

* increased thoracic breathing

* decreased diaphragmatic breathing

The list goes on.

To really enjoy snorkelling you need to relax. You need to slow your breathing down to a comfortable rate and then move. You need to relax your chest and shoulders and let your belly expand and contract as you breath diaphragmatically.

And being in water really facilitates this in one regard. The buoyancy of the water helps reduce tension on the upper body and arms and makes it easier to just  focus on belly breathing.

So how do we apply this your hockey training?

Well you don’t necessarily have to grab some fins and a snorkel but we do want to start with the basics. Below are four progressions you can try.

1. Supine

This would involve learning to breath from the diaphragm while on your back. Place one hand on your navel and one on your chest. Take 10 breaths making sure that your chest does not rise. As you inhale your stomach should rise and fall as you exhale.

2. Lateral

On your side put your fingers in your side just above the hips. Now as you inhale try and get lateral expansion of the abdominals. As in the supine position you want to minimize or control chest breathing.

3. Prone

Flip over to face down. Some will cross the arms and rest the head on the forehead. The goal now is to get the back side of the trunk to rise and fall. This is a little more difficult and we’ve found it easier to cue by placing a foam roller across the low back. This provides a physical cue of where to push against to get expansion.

4. Training

You don’t need to go straight from the ground to standing with all these drills. You can go from tall kneeling, to half kneeling and eventually to standing.

But the goal remains the same regarding of how you position your body. Neutral posture, breath properly and brace when necessary.

In the picture above, notice the elevated chest and shoulders. When we breath we want as much distance between the shoulders and the ears. In this picture it looks like his right shoulder is almost tough his ear.

Because as breathing breaks down in training or in hockey we see:

* changes in posture

* changes in technique and movement

And with just these two changes there are a couple of other side effects that accompany breakdowns in posture and improper technique. These side effects would be reduced performance and increased chance of injury.

I’ve always liked simple things which enhanced performance. And nothing is as simple or basic as breathing. But it has to be done properly. Give these drills a try to work on improving the quality of your breathing and ultimately your on ice play.





A few weeks ago I wrote about how I did a workout on some sand dunes. And part of the workout involved wearing a weighted vest. Since that post I’ve had the chance to throw the vest on a few more times and have noticed something interesting that I hadn’t considered earlier. I learned that running sand dunes helped fix my shoulders.

At this point you might be wondering ‘what did I miss?’ He was talking about running sand dunes and now is switching over to talking about improved shoulder function. How the heck are these two related? Let me explain.

In my younger days I used to train as a bodybuilder. I bought the magazines, took the supplements and performed the isolated, single joint exercises bodybuilders love in order to feel the muscle. After a few years of this my joints weren’t loving me so much. Particularly my shoulders and my AC joint specifically.

You see I was in the habit of doing ‘mirror workouts’. Biceps, chest, traps, abs, quads etc or anything you could see when you looked in the mirror. As a result I had a pretty unbalanced physique with way too much open-chain pressing motions, too many upper trap exercises and too many internal rotation exercises.

And as long as I continued with my ‘mirror workouts’ I continued to have issues with my shoulders. I’m not sure which came first but eventually I realized I wouldn’t be 250 lbs and 4 % bodyfat and that there was a smarter, safer and more effective way to train. I start to balance out the back side of physique and added in some external rotations to realign my shoulders.

And things improved quite a bit. I could press heavy weight. There was no soreness or discomfort but I learned something that showed me I wasn’t all the way there. And it had to do with how I was breathing.

You see all the years of upright rows, shrugs and basically anything that lifted the shoulders to the ears was stimulating my upper traps and levators. So I developed over active ‘shrugging-type’ muscles. And when I was fatigued I would take deep breaths and my chest would rise and fall. Since I had over-active traps and levators when I need to get air I would fire these muscles first, as I had trained them so often, and consequently my chest would lift and fall. But this isn’t the way we should breath.

If we take a deep breath properly our chest and shoulders shouldn’t move. Instead we should notice the movement at the stomach as the diaphragm pulls down as we inhale and rises as we exhale.

When I was wearing the weighted vest I secured the vest as tightly as possible around my torso. And since the vest is pulled on over the head it rests on the shoulders. As I began to fatigue I realized I needed to get air but couldn’t do so by lifting my shoulders and expanding my chest due to the constriction of the vest. The only alternative to me was to relax my chest and breath properly through my stomach and diaphragm.

Before you rush out to throw on a vest and experience this yourself practice breathing through your stomach and diaphragm. Look to minimize and eliminate the involvement of the chest and shoulders. And lastly, pay attention to the impact this new breathing style has on the health of your shoulders.