Posts Tagged ‘warm-up’

In Part I of this article I talked about the rationale for off-ice hockey training. And this always has to be geared towards improving your on-ice performance.
Read the rest of this entry »

It’s pretty much accepted in athletic training circles to go through a thorough warm-up prior to training or competition. I mean other than the meat heads that do their beach workouts, most athletes will spend some time warming up. In the industry we are all aware that warm-ups are beneficial for a number of reasons but until you actually compare a workout with and without a thorough warm-up it can difficult to tell the difference. This was the case last Saturday when I met some hockey players for a sand dune conditioning workout.

One of the players had asked to leave early for a previous commitment. It was a family commitment and he did ask ahead of time so I thought I would allow it this time. Now we wouldn’t have a lot of time to workout so we got right to it.

Before I carry on I have to say that I definitely don’t advocate training without a complete and thorough warm-up. And by warm-up I mean foam rolling, general warm-up on a bike or a light jog, a dynamic warm-up, some mobility drills for the ankles, hips and t-spine, some core activations and anything that may be necessary to get everything ready to do some work.

As well, we went straight into the workout because I know this athlete, I know how his body moves, I know his fitness level and his training history. Combine this with the fact the sand dunes would be uphill and thus take out the effects of gravity. As well the soft, deep sand cushions his strides as he climbs the hill.

So we proceeded into the workout. Again we are in a conditioning phase of the training so nothing was explosive or high tempo. Basically just an early morning workout that is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I say that because at the bottom of the dune the heart rate begins to climb before we’ve even taken one step. The sympathetic nervous is doing its job and heart rate begins to climb as a result.

As we round the top of the dune I make of the players’ time and we begin the descent down gravel path back to the start. The one player heads off for his function and we meet up with the rest of the group just showing up.

So some of players in this first group are going to do the climb a second time. They didn’t know this was the plan. And they don’t like the idea of doing it a second time. They did the first climb as though it was the last difficult training task for the day and weekend. Now they find out they have to do it all over a second time.

For the second attempt we run back up the gravel path for a few minutes. For there we get into a dynamic warm-up, some leg swings, a few skip drills and finish with some acceleration drills. After walking back to the start it’s time for a quick sip of water and ascent number 2.

On the second attempt the group averaged 15% faster than the first attempt. I was shocked! I didn’t expect the effects of a proper warm-up to transfer so effectively to a conditioning workout. Especially on a pre-fatigued group. Usually in the literature the benefits are portrayed as the ability to generate power. For example, a quick check of the recent research articles put out by the NSCA looks at the effect of dynamic warm-ups on jumping, agility, sprinting or anything else that is powerful and of short duration. Basically the exact opposite of a sand dune workout.

So what’s the point of all this? Well basically it reaffirms what we are doing. And it reinforces the necessity of dynamic warm-up prior to all training. I’d also go so far as to say that if pressed for time I would ensure a thorough warm-up at the expense of cutting a set or two on the training room floor rather than vice versa.


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.


Have you been following the Olympics? Specifically the hockey. Both the men’s and women’s tournament in underway and already there have been some great games. I’ve been following more of the men’s games then the women’s for the simple reason that it’s hard to get excited over an 18-0 game. On the men’s side the competition is wide open. The US is definitely strong, the Swedes are the defending champs, the Russians are considered favourites by many, Finland could surprise and the Czechs always seem  to come together at international tournament time. And of course there’s Canada where the goal is always gold. It’s going to be interesting couple of weeks for sure.

In between action I have caught a few of the commercials. Nike in particular is running a series along the themes of destiny and and with the tag line of ‘force fate’. It shows a number of Canadian hockey players training as they explain what destiny doesn’t do and how they will force fate. These are all supposed to be examples of the cutting-edge methods these hockey players are applying with incredible intensity and focus. At one point an athlete says ‘destiny doesn’t run a 5 k before every practice’.

So you’re thinking ‘what’s the big deal?’ Well the thing is hockey is a game of speed, power with many changes of direction and collisions. And there is something in training known as the Principle of Specificity which basically means the training should relevant and appropriate to the sport. Well how relevant to hockey is it to run a 5 K?

Not very relevant at all really. But what about as a warm-up you may be asking? I think there are better ways to warm-up and prepare the body for training for hockey than to spend 25-30 minutes doing a steady state 5 K run. You see a 5 K run  doens’t do a lot to get the hip extensors turned on. It doesn’t do a lot to activate the scapular retractors. And it doesn’t do a lot to get the body going in the frontal (side to side) or transverse (rotational) planes.

But what if you address all of these concerns after performing a 5 K run? Then it should be ok to go for the run right? Well you have to consider that all resources are finite whether it be time or energy. So knowing that their are limits on both of these we need to be a little more careful how we spend our time training and energy. However this isn’t even the most important reason going for a 5 K run may not be a great idea.

Noted strength and conditioning coach Al Vermeil once said ‘train slow, be slow’. Everthing we do has an impact on our nervous system, our motor programs and our ability to call on the appropriate muscles, quickly. While there is a definite need to have a certain aerobic capacity to succeed in hockey we can over do it with our aerobic training. Additionally, there may be better ways to go about improving our aerobic base then by going for a 5 K run.

So while I give Nike credit for some of the gear and appareal they make I’m not sure if I’d resort to their commercial when selecting the components of my hockey training program.