Posts Tagged ‘work capacity’

Grip Muscles

In the last post I talked about how during a conditioning session with a returning NHL player we identified some goals for his off-season training program. In this article I’m going to share with you what some of those goals are, why we chose them and how you should go about choosing your goals.

The first thing I should mention is that I’ve worked with this player for a few years now. I know what his work capacity is like. I know what his motivation is to train. And I’ve had the opportunity to watch him play over 40 games over the last few years. This last point really helps as I can see which areas of his game are working for him and which areas we can improve on.

So the first area we establish for some training goals is directly related to his on-ice performance. We’ll evaluate his performance in terms of his energy systems (aerobic, lactate and ATP-PC), his strength levels, his power production and his movement ability on the ice. We’ll both know where he excelled relative to the competition and where he’d like to do better.

But even before we address any of these elements that lead to improved performance we want to do a kinetic chain evaluation. I like the FMS and have been using this for a number of years with great success. This allows me to pick up on any compensations in the kinetic chain as well as bilateral asymetries before we begin loading the athlete on the weight room floor.

Once we’ve cleaned up all the movement patterns we can then proceed to working on some of the goals. One goal in particular for his off-season is improved grip strength. There are three major types of grip strength which include pinching, crushing and supporting. Think of these as these as the types of strength necessary to pick up a sheet of plywood, to shake someone’s hand or to hold the handle on a farmer’s walk. But how does this relate to hockey training and ultimately to hockey performance?

Well grip strength is a great measure of upper body strength. If you have a strong grip you most likely are strong through the arms, chest, shoulders and back. Think about people who work with their hands on a daily basis such as brick layers. These guys usually have incredibly strong upper bodies.

The other benefit of training grip strength is that it is a form of CAP. See the previous post  to learn more about CAP. Basically as you develop strength in another part of your body the area doing work gets stronger. For example, crushing the bar during a bench press competition will allow you to recruit more muscles and bench more than if you have a loose relaxed grip.

This last point leads into the next one and it has to do with you the connection to the nervous system. The more focussed you are mentally on a lift or effort the better the effort. There are more nerves in your finger tips and hands than there are through the forearms, biceps, shoulders and chest. By strengthening your grip you are able to recruit more of the muscles through the upper body. To test this  try and flex all of the muscles in the upper body with a relaxed grip compared to when you squeeze your hand closed tightly. It’s not even close.

Better grip strength increases your your game performance in a number of ways. First of all with increased grip strength you will be able to get a harder shot off more quickly. Secondly, when you need to throw a check you will able to transfer the power generated from your skates, through the legs and hips and to the upper body more effectively as a stronger grip results in a stronger upper body. Lastly, if you ever end up in a fight you will have a stronger grip to control your opponent, throw them off balance and your blows will land more quickly and with more force.


***Just as a quick aside, I’m not advocating fighting for leagues and levels of play that do not allow it. However if the level you play at has fighting and you may be required to drop the mits then you may as well come out on the winning side.*** 

In future posts I’ll show you some of the drills we’re using to build up and develop grip strength for our hockey players.