Sit ups and crunches are one of the most unproductive exercises you can do to work your core. If you think about the most important functions of the core muscles you’ll likely end up with these 2 answers:
- Stabilize and protect the spine from excessive movement
- Force transfer from the lower body to the upper body
That being said, you can now appreciate why exercises that encourage motion at the spine are not the most productive ones when you want to work your core for functional and sports performance purposes. That’s why exercises such as planks, belly presses, and chops and lifts variations are far better options.
But what if sit ups and crunches actually served a purpose?
Before you ask, no, I’m not crazy.
One of the big differences between exercises that recruit your trunk muscles isometrically (planks, etc), and crunches and sit ups is the shortening of the muscles during the exercise.
If you perform too many crunches and sit ups, there is a c0ncetric action on the rectus abdominis that will most likely shorten the muscle in the long run. Because of the rectus’ attachment on the ribcage, it might pull you into a bigger kyphosis.
The guy probably did too many crunches…
What might be beneficial with these exercises might be more in regards to the oblique muscles. During a sit up or a crunch, the obliques pull the lower ribs down via their upper attachment, and posteriorly tilt the pelvis via their lower attachment on the illiac crest.
For somebody who presents with a significant rib flare and an anterior pelvic tilt, it might not be a bad idea to include a low volume of these “evil” exercises with a rehab purpose to correct the issue. We’re not talking about doing 100′s of crunches per day here.
This really is the only situation in which I might consider using a couple sets here and there with an athlete, though.
For this purpose, I like the straight leg sit ups for the way it recruits the internal and external oblique.
But again, this is something I would use only for rehab or prehab purposes, and the bulk of my core work would still be variations of planks, belly presses, un-even carries, etc.
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Adding perturbations to an exercise basically means to manually disturb the stability of a given exercise. The goal is to make the environment more unpredictable and increase the stability challenge of the exercise, movement pattern or muscle groups used. I’ve been introduced to this concept a couple years ago at the Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar. This is a concept that Mike Reinold was (and still is to this day) using for rotator cuff exercises with his baseball pitchers.
A typical exercise would put the athlete in a given position and the coach or trainer would give manual perturbations to the arm to challenge the stability of the humeral head in the shoulder joint, and improve the stabilization ability of the rotator cuff muscles for injury prevention purposes.
I immediately embraced the concept as I thought it was a genius idea, and I’ve been using rhythmic stabilization exercises for the rotator cuff ever since.
The concept can also be applied with other types of exercises…
Any exercise with the purpose of improving stability could be a candidate for a progression using perturbations.
When you’re trying to improve stability, your body and your brain need to be challenged. This is why so many people use the stability ball; it increases the challenge of stability and makes you work harder. The thing with stability balls is that they’re not always used smartly, and not always by smart people. But I digress.
Hint: NOT the smart kind.
A lot of core exercises designed to improve stability can be progressed to manual perturbation. As I’ve mentioned above, the perturbation will help improve control and stability. When training stability, the important thing to remember is that motor control (which is the brain-to-muscle connection that works to improve stability) can not be improved unless it fails to succeed doing certain tasks. Your brain needs to be challenged beyond its own stability limitations. If you always work within your strengths, or your current level of stability, you’re not going to improve. This is a great point that Mike Reinold highlighted in Functional Stability for the Core.
How do you actually apply this?
It could be something as simple as adding manual perturbations to a front plank. A mastery of the front plank is in order before attempting any type of manual perturbation to your clients or athletes. The same concept can also be applied to other core exercises like dead bugs, belly press, glute bridges, bird dogs, etc.
Again the important thing is to follow the progression; make sure your client or athlete is efficient at the basic exercises and doesn’t compensate in any way. The logical progression for any exercise would be:
2. Stable with perturbation
4. Unstable with perturbation
Using this progression with a front plank, the progression might look something like this:
1. Front plank
2. Front plank with perturbation
3. Stability ball front plank
4. Stability ball front plank with perturbation
The idea with the manual perturbations is to make it challenging and push it just beyond the point where the athlete or client maintains perfect form, but it shouldn’t be unbearable- if that makes any sense.
If you want more ideas on how to incorporate perturbations/rhythmic stabilization you should definitely check out Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold’s Functional Stability for the Core.
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Last week I wrote a post about the importance of the external obliques in pelvic control. If you missed it, check it out HERE. Now I wanted to give you a couple drills and exercises you can use to improve the recruitment of the external obliques in pelvic control.
The exercises that follow are not all extremely difficult to perform. It’s more about focusing on performing them the right way. The pelvis should be neutral throughout the entire movement and as you as you feel your back arching, it’s generally a sign that you’re losing the external obliques engagement. These exercises are by no means the only ones that exist to attain better recruitment of your external obliques in pelvic control, but it’s definitely a good place to start if you have no clue how to achieve that.
The first one is probably the most basic one. It’s a variation of an exercise that comes from Shirley Sahrmann’s book Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. The goal is maintain a very slight arch in your lower back throughout the whole movement. To engage your external obliques as much as possible, you can keep your fingers above your illiac crest on both sides; palpation always helps to feel the right muscles doing their work.
The second one is a little similar, and also a variation of the deadbug exercises. My colleague Matt Siniscalchi posted this one on his website last week. I believe that Craig Liebenson or Bill Hartman might have come up with this one. Again, the goal is to maintain a very slight arch in the lower back and make sure the arch is not increasing as your lowering your legs. The press against the wall will also favor some inner core activity throughout the movement.
The last one is definitely much harder than the previous two. I don’t recommend you try it until you’ve mastered the first 2. It’s basically a leg lowering exercise, but because of the weight of the lower extremities it makes it much harder to keep the neutral pelvis and the external obliques activation. Again the goal is to maintain a very slight arch in the lower back and make sure yo don’t lose it.
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I will admit that sometimes I like to use catchy titles for my blog posts, so it makes people curious and catch their attention. But this one might just be accurate, and nothing else! The credit goes to my friend and colleague Kevin Neeld for coming up with this one. This is probably THE hardest exercise ever!
RFE (Rear Foot Elevated) Split Squat + Belly Press Hold with Perturbation:
So what this do (beside making you want to throw up)?? It definitely improves single-leg stability (and possibly endurance, depending how long you hold it for) because of the rear foot elevated position. There is also a pretty big core strength/endurance involved since your resisting the rotation from the band, and the added manual perturbation just makes it insanely harder on your core! If you’ve been looking for an extra challenge for your single-leg stability and core training, this is exactly what you need. A good place to start is 20 second holds per side and you can work your way up to a minute, if you dare!
A quick warning though: anybody who wants to try the RFE split squat + belly press hold with perturbation should have a significant level of experience with the split squat iso-holds (for time) and the belly press. Anyone trying this exercise without mastering the split squats iso-hold and the belly press first will fail miserably. I think it really is THAT hard!
Give it a shot if you’re game!
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Well that’s a very revealing blog post title, isn’t it? You now know that breathing is important. You need to breathe in order to live (you might want to read that last phrase again, it’s very philosophical). And I also just came across some research stating that breathing might even be associated with brain function and physical performance.
All joking aside, breathing is an important part of any training programs. I have been guilty as charged for way too long for ignoring the importance of breathing in training. When I first started in this industry and was working in a commercial gym in my hometown, I would often have questions from the older crowd about what the right breathing pattern is when they lift weights:
“- Am I supposed to breathe out when I lift the weight and breathe in when I lower it? Or is it the opposite?
- Who gives a shit. Just use heavier weights, anyway. Passing out while lifting is overrated.”
OK, I didn’t really say that ever, but for a lack of better understanding of how the breathing system works, I just didn’t think it was that important. And when I got much stronger (relatively speaking, of course) I realized that holding your breath in can be more than useful to lift heavy weights and it can improve core stability (when you brace and hold your breath), I was ready to be done worrying about any type of breathing other than just bracing when lifting heavy in my training and the ones of my clients. Big mistake! I still don’t think I ever jacked up any of my clients for not teaching them proper breathing patterns, but I do realize that it has its place in any training program.
The diaphragms (yes I put an ‘s’ because you have 2, one on each side) are the most important breathing muscles in the body. And one thing that’s really important to acknowledge is that the diaphragm is part of a bigger picture. Through fascial connections, the diaphragm connects with the psoas muscle, which attaches to your vertebraes of your lumbar spine and also crosses your hips. Through other fascial connections there are other muscles that “connects” to this same line all the way down your legs. This is part of what Thomas Myers would refer to as the deep front line.
Because of all these fascial connections, the diaphragm muscles and training breathing patterns are both very important. Stability can be gained through proper core activation. And I’m not just talking about bracing and holding your breath when lifting heavy weights. Of course being able to brace your core, create intra-abdominal pressure and holding your breath is part of getting maximum stability under heavy loads and I believe this is something that you need to learn to do. But this can also create other problems when this is the only way you know how to stabilize your core muscles and your trunk. When bracing hard, you have a maximum engagement of your rectus abdominis, your external and internal obliques and your spinal erectors. Your inner core muscles don’t necessarily get activated in those circumstances. Your inner core muscles, which includes your diaphragms, your pelvic floor, your multifidi and your transverse abdominis are also important stabilizers of your spine. Under heavy loads and brace your outer core muscles (rectus, obliques and erectors) can take over and your inner core muscles can get shut down. That’s why these muscles need to be trained.
There are many different ways to attack this. Addressing breathing patterns is one. A general concept you want to keep in mind when training your diaphragms and inner core muscles is the one of a neutral spine. Whatever drill or exercise you use, you want to maintain a neutral spine from your pelvis all the way through your skull (the neck/cervical region often gets neglected, but needs to be in line with the rest of the spine). That will put your body in a position that will facilitate proper breathing patterns. When you’re able to maintain a neutral spine through different movement patterns and breathing through that neutral spine, you can start incorporating these breathing patterns into low load core exercises. The most basic one is obviously a simple plank. Trying to maintain a neutral spine and breathing through a plank might be harder than you think. The goal is really not to brace hard nor get maximum core activation, but rather just owning the position, breathing deeply into it and letting the inner core muscles do their job. Same thing applies if you incorporate the concept with any other core exercise, you’ll want to keep the load relatively low.
There might be more to this position than you might think…
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Debatable, I know…Putting up a title like “the greatest exercise ever” or “the best exercise” label on something is hard and can brings you a lot critique because there is just so many factors to account for depending on who you train, the set up of your facility, clients’ injuries, etc. And let’s face it we all have different opinions. But before I start to elaborate on the hows and whys we may have different opinion, I’ll get back to the essential of today’s post! (and I assume you get the point!)
The Belly Press (also called the Pallof Press) is, in opinion, the most versatile core exercise out there because it has so many uses and so many variations. The standard Standing Belly Press is typically an anti-rotation exercise for the core muscles. The exercise is so simple and at the same time so effective, that it really is one of the best exercise out there. Usually, the exercise needs very little coaching cues, and people feel very easily in the right place. Mike Boyle has mentioned before that an exercise that requires little coaching and gives you the outcome you’re looking for is basically something that should be in your program. And depending on what variation you use, you can use more component than just anti-rotation for the core.
If you’ve been using the Belly Press for a little while, use the following variations to add some variety in your programs. And if you don’t use it, start using it today!
- Standing Belly Press (the basic exercise):
- 1/2 Kneeling Belly Press:
- Tall Kneeling Belly Press:
- Split Stance Belly Press:
- Belly-to-Overhead Press:
- Belly Press Iso-Hold Walk Out:
And if you want to add more challenge to any of these variations, try the perturbations, which creates an unpredictable environment and require more stabilization:
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I’ve written a lot about core training and different core exercises in the past. But one thing that’s really important to consider with core exercises is that you just can’t use anyone randomly with any athlete or client. It is fair to say that we should use progressions with our core exercises, at least with beginners; start them with more simple and basic exercises and progress them to more challenging variations. You should do that with all your core exercises from the different groups: anti-flexion, anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion and inner core exercises. Today, I want to focus on anti-extension, or the anterior core group.
- The first most basic progression for most would be, with no big suprise, the front plank.
The front plank is a basic bodyweight exercise that requires to maintain a straight line throughout your body and keep a neutral spine position. This is also the goal of most other progressions, but the front plank plank does that without additional challenges.
- The second progression would be the stability ball front plank. Once someone has mastered the front plank and can hold it for over a minute, you can progress them to the stability ball version. The biggest difference with the stability ball front plank is that the surface on which you place your elbows is unstable, which in turn will require a greater activation from your core muscles to maintain the proper position.
- The third one is a similar variation from the stability ball front plank. Once that position is mastered, you can incorporate mini-rollouts with the same position on the ball to make it more challenging. Once again the goal is to maintain a neutral spine and keeping the belly tight even if we added movement.
- The slideboard bodysaw would be the next progression following the stability ball minirollouts.
The effect is pretty much the same because your points of contact on the ground further away from each other (elbows and feet), but this time since your moving your whole body away it makes the slideboard bodysaw much more difficult.
- The last one, but not the least, is the ab wheel rollout. This implement has been around forever, but I fell like it is not appreciated enough. When done correctly the ab wheel rollout is one of the most difficult anterior core exercise of all. You need to be really strong in order to maintain a neutral spine throughout a full range of motion. And to push things a little further, when you’ve mastered the ab wheel rollout, you can do it band-resisted:
There are many other variations of anti-extension core exercises we use with our athletes at Endeavor, but hopefully this gave you an idea of how progress anterior core exercises.
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2010 is coming to an end, and I must say it has been an incredible year for me! In the spirit of the holidays and as we’re wrapping up 2010 by the end of the week, I’ve decided to do the first ever DavidLasnier.com Best of 2010 Awards. So without further ado, here it is:
Best Website: HockeyStrengthAndConditioning.com . This website contains all the information you need from the top guys in the business. If you train hockey players, or if you’re a hockey player yourself, the information on this website will be of great help.
Best New Exercise: Standing Belly-to-Overhead Press. I got this one from my colleague Tony Gentilcore, and I simply love it. The Standing Belly Press was already one of my favorite exercise, especially because it’s so functional and also because there are so many variations you can use. Here’s the latest variation; it adds an overhead/anti-lateral flexion component to an already great core stabilization exercise.
Best Blog Post (from me):Keep Your Goal in Mind. This was definitely one of my favorite blogpost, because I feel so many athletes are studying for the wrong test when it comes to training for sports peformance.
Best Blog Post (from someone else): The Case Against Conventional Dairy by Brian St. Pierre. Technically, Brian wrote it in 2009 (December 21st, to be more specific), but it is by far the blog post that had the most impact on my life in 2010. Brian raises many interesting facts on conventional dairy; the way it is produced, the way the cows are raised and how it affects the quality of dairy, and how low fat dairy products are linked to different types of cancer. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not just Brian’s opinion; there are enough scientific proofs to support his point. Simply put, if you are still consuming dairy products, you NEED to at least make the switch to the organic kind.
Best Quote: “We judge others by their behaviors. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” by Stephen Covey. I read that quote for the first time on Kevin Neeld‘s website a couple of weeks ago. Think about it for a second. We all judge people around us by the way they act, even if their intentions might be different, but NEVER will we ever judge ourselves by our actions; only by our intentions. This is a very powerful quote that impacts all of the relationships we have with other human beings.
Honorable Mention: On a funnier note, this is the most hysterical quote EVER: “Arguing over the internet is like the special Olympics; nobody wins and you’re still a retard” by Tony Gentilcore. Hahaha…I have nothing else to say!
Best Sport Moment of the Year:
Best Training Related Product: Show And Go by Eric Cressey. If you have been reading my blog consistently this will come to no surprise for most of you. The Show and Go program have been tested and approved by the whole Endeavor staff; and the results speak for themselves. If you’re looking for a great training program that’s been proven effective without taking any guess on the results, Show and Go is what you need.
Best Song: Sitting on top of DavidLasnier.com’s Billboard for the past 3 months, none other than No Love, featuring Eminem and Lil’ Wayne:
Best Supplement: Vitamin D. I have blogged many times in the past HERE and HERE about the positive effects of supplementing with vitamin D, so I won’t go over all the benefits in details again. I will simply say this; with all the scientific proofs piling up, vitamin D is now considered an ESSENTIAL supplement. It has been proven to increase levels of awesomeness and decrease the risks of everything that doesn’t make you awesome.
Best Conditioning Modality: Split Squat Iso-Holds Into Slideboard. I will admit that this is very hockey-specific type of conditioning, but 80% of our athletes at Endeavor are hockey players, so did you expect anything else?! My colleague Kevin Neeld came up with this idea this past summer, and I’m still amazed at how great that idea was! Hockey is exactly that; iso-holds positions (when just gliding on the ice) alternated with short powerful bursts of acceleration (when skating).
Best TV Show: Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets. That show featured on HBO was simply awesome!
Rex Ryan is the freakin’ man!
2010 was a great year, and honestly I’m sure 2011 will be just as exciting, if not more! I wish to all of you nothing but the best for 2011; may this upcoming year bring you health, love and joy! I will see all of you in 2011!
P.S. I have postponed my special announcement and my surprise to you, my readers, after New Year’s day, as I’m sure most of you will have something more interesting to do than read strength and conditioning blogs on December 30th and 31st.
Today’s post, which I’m pretty pumped up about, is an interview I did recently with fellow strength coach Bret Contreras. For those of you who don’t already know Bret, he’s a very smart and well read coach who has been in the research field quite a while. He is now a well established strength coach, training clients in his own gym. He’s also been under the bar for quite a while himself. Bret is actually moving to New Zealand in the next couple of months to pursue his PhD, so that will make him even smarter! Bret was kind enough to let me pick his brain for a couple of questions on how he views strength and conditioning. So without further ado, here it is:
DL: Bret, your name has been around for quite a while now in the strength and conditioning world. You have been writing for T-Nation and on your own blog, but most importantly you have actually been training clients and been under the bar yourself for quite a while now, which I think are two very important things to do in order to become a successful coach. You have mentioned to me that you think coaches and trainers should possess a variety of skills to better serve clients and athletes alike. Would you mind naming a few and telling us how they impact the way we deal with clients and athletes?
BC: First off David, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity. I appreciate the fact that you’re interviewing me. Here are some of the skills that will help coaches and trainers be more successful:
-Critical thinking: Strength training is an art and a science – an arta scienza.
Training really IS an art
Coaches should put a ton of thought into their athletes’ and clients’ programs, and each program should differ based on a myriad of factors:
-Knowledge of autoregulation: Coaches should never completely stick to a pre-set plan with their athletes and clients. Coaches should adapt their programming on the fly based on their verbal feedback as well as their biofeedback.
-Psychology: Coaches should try to be good motivators, to “believe” in their athletes and clients, to have high expectations, to figure out what makes their athletes tick and adapt their approach accordingly, and to push them hard while still having fun.
-Knowledge of the history of strength & conditioning: Coaches should try to develop an appreciation for the evolution of the iron game and should be able to rattle off the training philosophies of many different experts.
-Ability to discern the truth: Coaches should possess a sound understanding of the workings of the human body so they will intuitively know what works and what doesn’t.
DL: That is definitely why it’s so important to have a good educational background in this field. I know you have been involved quite a bit in the research world and in particular with muscle EMG for a variety of muscles in different movements, especially with the glutes (and on a related note you’ve been named The Glute Guy, which is probably the coolest nickname ever for a strength coach!). That being said, for the glutes, do you find any difference between open chain and closed chain glute exercises as they correlate to performance in different sports and activities?
BC: I won’t pretend to know the answer to this, but I will tell you that the more I research the more I realize that I don’t know everything I once thought I knew. There’s so much we don’t know about strength training, and our understanding about what transfers best to sport performance is seriously lacking.
I will tell you this – open chain glute exercises render surprisingly high EMG levels. When the thigh can move freely with no ground-communication the glutes seem to contract very hard. Some individuals have trouble activating their glutes in a closed chain environment, but if you put them in an open chain environment they do much better in terms of glute activation. I think it’s wise to make the focus of lower body training on closed-chain movements – squats, deads, lunges, Oly lifts, hip thrusts, ghr’s, back extensions, and hip rotational work. But I also think it’s wise to supplement with open chain hip isolation work – band or cable adduction, abduction, and flexion, reverse hypers, and quadruped hip extensions.
DL: What I really like about your blog and your articles is that you always bring up new ideas and you think outside the box, which I think many coaches and trainers (including myself!) are not very good at. One of the new concepts you brought up that I really like are the ‘Load Vectors’. I find it very interesting and I don’t think many people understand this concept yet. Could you elaborate a little bit on what Load Vectors are and tell us what their practical applications are in strength and conditioning.
BC: The best coaches were already incorporating load vector training into their programming long before I came around. I just came up with a naming system. I’m absolutely amazed that no one came up with this model before I did. The model, which involves axial, anteroposterior, lateromedial, and torsional components, ensures:
-optimal multi-directional strength development
-optimal multi-directional power development, and
-optimal structural balance
This way, the client performs better and stays healthy. Coaches and trainers need to understand the various exercises that can be performed for each vector and which are best for various portions of the force-velocity curve.
DL: A topic that’s hot right now in the training world is core training. I think core training will probably always be a controversial topic as as we understand the core more and more from a functional standpoint, and (thank God) begin to move away from the “just do 100s of crunches mentality” that was so typical of the past. What is your take on core training? And what are you doing differently in that regard?
BC: My take is that we still don’t have it all figured out. Here are some questions that coaches should be thinking about in regards to core training:
-what are the different categories of core exercises?
-is there an optimal amount of volume for the core?
-should the core be trained specifically or does it get worked just fine from compound movements?
-should the core be trained for strength, power, endurance, or all three?
-what rep ranges work best for the core, and are those rep ranges uniform for all types of movements?
-should we train the core for movement, stability, or both?
-are there any advantages and disadvantages to training with dynamic spinal movements?
-are there any advantages and disadvantages to training with static-based stability movements?
-should specific core training be placed before or after the strength component of the workout?
I won’t pretend to know all the answers to these questions either, but I will tell you that the research gives us incredible clues as to how we should train the core. To understand the answer to these questions, you really have to have a sound understanding of spinal biomechanics.
DL: I know you train a lot of female clients; the way we train females has been another hot topic lately. What do you think we should do differently with females clients and athletes compared to males, and also, what should we NOT do differently?
BC: I love training women, and I believe that I’m one of the best in the biz at getting women to look good. Of course, getting clients to look good has more to do with coercing and motivating them to be strict on their diets than it does with sound training. However, in terms of training there are some important considerations. Women are weaker – especially in the upper body, less powerful, and have a tenth of the testosterone that a man has.
As to what we should do differently, women have a higher ratio of type I to type II hypertrophy than men. In fact, their type I fibers are often larger than their type II fibers. This means that higher rep training should be interwoven with lower rep and medium rep training. Furthermore, women recover in strength quicker than men. This means that increasing the frequency with your female clients is a wise strategy. Finally, women often have different goals than men. Listen to their goals and plan accordingly. Most really appreciate a routine that includes tons of targeted glute-work.
What doesn’t change, assuming that the woman has a goal to improve the shape over her entire body, is the emphasis on progressive overload for the big basic compound movements from the primary movement patterns – quad dominant, hip dominant, horizontal press, horizontal pull, vertical press, vertical pull.
DL: Good stuff! Bret, thanks a lot for your time!
This is it folks. Make sure you check Bret’s blog, as he has some great content each and every week! It is definitely one of my favorite websites to visit to get good information on strength and conditioning.
Today being the last the day of August and most of our hockey players going back to their respective team, I can definitely feel like the summer is coming to an end. I must say that it has been an incredible summer; we had a lot of guys busting their ass in the weight room making tremendous progress during the last couple of months . They got stronger, faster and became better athletes, and I must say that I am really proud of each and everyone of them for what they accomplished this summer.
That being said, coaching athletes for 9-12 hours a day for over 12 weeks is gonna make you a better coach and it will make you learn a lot of things. Here is what I learned during this awesome summer of 2010:
1. There is no limit to how much you can load single-leg exercises to increase strength. I actually wrote a post about the case for single-leg training a couple weeks ago, but it never ceases to amaze me how strong you can get with single-leg lifts. This is Endeavor athlete Charlie Vasaturo doing 6 reps on a reverse lunge with a front squat grip with 255 pounds:
2. On a related note, younger athletes can get strong pretty quickly. You just need to make sure their form is perfect and you can start loading them up pretty good. It is very common to have athletes under 16 get to 60lbs dumbbells for reverse lunges for multiple reps within 3 months of dedicated training. Here is Endeavor athlete Conor Landrigan, 14 years old with 65lbs dumbbells:
3. This is no breaking news for anyone that speed development through sprints is great to help athletes get faster. But one thing equally important, if not more than linear speed is transitional speed. Sports are all about quick transitions, changes of direction and reacting quickly to what’s happening on the ice/field/court. I, myself, was focusing too much on linear speed and not enough on transitional speed. My good friend and colleague Kevin Neeld has been doing a good job of including all sorts of start positions (2 point start, push up start, tall kneeling start, side standing start) in the sprint work we have our athletes do, as well as including different transitional drills later on as progressions. We have seen tremendous results with our athletes using these transitional drills. Here is an example:
4. By now, I abandoned the idea that I would eventually be able to get rid of that french accent! So why not just laugh about it. Our athletes absolutely love it anyway as it can give them a good laugh. On this video, you can hear Endeavor athlete and Colorado Avalanche prospect Colby Cohen impersonating me in the back (telling Jeff Buvinow doing the stability front plank with perturbation to squeeze his butt and keep his chest up):
2 notes on that video: First, this is a tremendous core exercise as it is very specific to the demands of contact sports like ice hockey.
Second, Colby likes to have a good time when he’s around at Endeavor, but he also means business when it’s time to work hard, especially when he hang cleans; here he is smoking 230lbs for 2 reps.
5. Hockey players have a lot of problems with their hips, and I mean A LOT. Whether it is sports hernia, groin strains, hip flexor strains or hip capsule problems, hockey players will have a lot of problems with their hips for 2 main reasons: First, skating is a very unnatural movement pattern for the human body and it puts a lots of stress on the hips for different reasons, mainly because your hips spend most of the time in external rotation. Second, hockey players spend way too much time on the ice, even in the off-season where they should take some time off and focus more on training. These 2 ingredients are a good recipe for hip injury. That being said, hockey players need a lot of soft-tissue work (foam roller, massage, ART) done on their hips especially on their TFL (tensor fascia-latae), adductor magnus and hip external rotators (mainly piriformis). They also need a good balance of mobility, flexilibity and strength in their hip muscles (more on that to come in an upcoming blog post).
6. I have to give ALL the credit to Kevin Neeld for coming up with that one, but this might just be the most specific form of conditioning hockey players can do off-ice:
When you think about it, hockey is played the exact same way: holding an isometric position for a couple of seconds (while they just glide on the ice and follow the play) followed by a short burst of speed consisting of a couple quick strides. This is also one of the hardest form of conditioning you can do. Coming up with that was just a brilliant idea from Kevin!
In conclusion, summer 2010 have been amazing and made me a better and more knowledgeable coach. All of this would not have been possible without the hundreds of athletes that trained with us and were so dedicated to becoming better hockey players and athletes in general. To all of them, the best of luck for their upcoming season!