Christmas is approaching, the year is ending, I’m going home for a couple of days, and I get to see my family; what can I say….I’m so excited I feel like doing a frog splash off the top rope!
Alright well that being said and my wrestling reference being out of the way, let’s get to the serious stuff. OK, maybe not that serious….I just felt like doing a random thoughts post before the holidays, so here we go.
1. The in-season training with all the Comcast teams is going really well at Endeavor. So far we have seen good results with the new implementation of an in-season triphasic training model with kids 16 and up. It is this time of year though where everyone is starting to get sick, tired and overwhelmed with exams at school. It’s also the time of year where some of the kids started high school hockey on top of playing club with Comcast. For those kids it means being on the ice 6-7 days per week, and sometimes even skating twice a day. Not exactly the best recipe to stay injury-free! All that being said everyone is just completely exhausted all the time, and we have been doing a lot of “recovery” workouts recently. That usually means skipping the lifting session altogether, lots of foam rolling, an extended dynamic warm up, and a lot of stretching. This is often what they need to reduce some of the stress on their bodies.
An athlete’s best friend during the season….the roller….not the chick.
2. On a different note, our baseball players have been getting after it pretty hard this off-season. I have been playing around a lot with their programs this year, and they have been kind of my guinea pigs. I have included a lot more conditioning in their programs than I typically do with my baseball players, and I’m really looking forward to see what the results will be once their season gets under way. The good thing is that they’re still getting a lot stronger even though the conditioning volume has been higher, and so far they seem to be responding pretty well to it. To be continued…
3. I’ve been on a quest to find new rap/hip hop material for my i-pod. I really like rap, but I’ve probably been listening exclusively to Biggie, Lil Wayne, and Busta Rhymes for the last 4 years. I figured some novelty wouldn’t kill me, and it turned out I found some really good stuff! –Thanks to my Comcast kids. Although some of the names were familiar I didn’t really know this newer stuff. If you’re into rap at all, I would recommend you check out Meek Mill, Wiz Khalifa, and Waka Flocka Flame. Really good stuff! I also re-discovered the Wu-Tang Clan. I haven’t really listened to that stuff since high school, and even back then I wasn’t into them much, but after listening to their greatest hits album I’m a big fan now! Here’s my favorite Meek Mill song to get you going (as a fair warning, there’s some explicit language). Wait ’til it gets to 1:42 in the song, that’s when it really kicks up a notch!
4. If you’re looking for a last minute Christmas present for a loved one involved in strength and conditioning, or even just a gift for yourself you should put your hands on Kevin Neeld’s Ultimate Hockey Training book. It goes way beyond training hockey players; it’s a complete training system to get athletes to the next level. For under $30, it’s more than worth it!
OK Kevin, I will promote your book!
5. OK I lied when I said my wrestling reference was out of the way…cause I’ve got another one! Actually it’s more of a rant. I have been a wrestling fan since I was about 5 years old. Generally people who have been wrestling fans at one point in their life, it’s usually during their childhood and early teen years– which is clearly not the case for me probably because there is still a 12 year old boy living inside of me! Anyways, people usually say stuff like: “wrestling was so much better back in the days”. My first comment is always: “Of course it was better when you were a kid because you thought it was real!”. I guess you appreciate things on a completely different level when you know it’s fake, but to me it doesn’t make it any less good. Yes there are probably some eras that were better than others because sometimes the WWE lacks highly charismatic characters that can carry the company. And a point could be made that following the attitude era (which was basically the prime of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and DX all at the same time) things weren’t as entertaining. But if you’re a real wrestling fan and still watch it regularly, you have to admit that right now John Cena and CM Punk are absolutely carrying the company on their shoulders. There is no doubt in my mind that in 10 to 20 years from now, they will be remembered with the greatests of all time along with the Hulk Hogan’s, Bret Hart’s, Shawn Michael’s, The Undertaker’s, and the Stone Cold’s. Cena and Punk have what all these guys have; it’s just a different era and a different generation. I personally really enjoy what’s going on in wrestling right now, and when you witness TV moments like the following (especially when you know everything that was going on behind the scenes when it happened) it’s hard to not feel like you’re 12 year old again. It is pure delight!
This has to be in the top 10 best promos shot in the WWE EVER! I seriously have goosebumps watching it!
6. Last but not least, happy holidays to each and everyone of you reading this! I hope you’re gonna have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I will be up in Canada enjoying some time off from work and spending time with my friends and family that rarely ever see since I moved to the US. Hopefully you will be spending time with loved ones as well, and enjoying a little bit of time off. Make the best of it, and best wishes!
No matter athletes from what sport you train, chances are their strength training will all have similarities. After all in the weight room you’re training qualities (speed, power, strength), not sport-specific movements. Sure there should be differences whether the sport is more linear, lateral, or rotational in nature, and there should also be differences in injury prevention strategies and conditioning. But overall there might be more similarities between programs for different sports than most people would think.
That said, training hockey players requires some very unique considerations because of the nature of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, hockey players still do reverse lunges, RFE split squats, deadlifts, chin ups, and chest presses. There are however things you should know when designing hockey strength training programs and training hockey players.
1. FAI. That stands for femoroacetabular impingement. This is something I have wrote about in the past, but is worth mentioning again. It’s basically a bony overgrowth of either the the femoral head or the acetabulum that restrict the range of motion, especially in hip flexion and internal rotation. It looks like this:
There are 3 types of FAI as you can see in the image above; Cam, Pincer, or mixed. Cam is when the overgrowth is on the femoral head, Pincer is when the overgrowth is on the acetabulum, and mixed is when there is a combination of both. The reason why this is so important is that it’s a limitation in range of motion that is non-modifiable– unless you get surgery. And it’s not like this is something uncommon; a previous study revealed the presence of FAI in over 70% of asymptomatic professional hockey players. You read that right, 70%! It’s over 2/3 of the whole hockey population at the professional level. If you train hockey players, and ignore this, or simply don’t know anything about it, you’re putting your players at greater risk of injuries. Athletes with FAI who force range of motion that they don’t have risk serious labrum damage. This is why assessing your players, and modifying their program accordingly is one of the top priorities.
2. Concussions are growing into an epidemic in hockey. I have also written about this in the past, and have wrote a full blog post on the subject, so make sure you check it out HERE. Not having any data to support this, I would guess that concussions are the number 1 most common injury in hockey players. Most concussions are largely unpreventable since it’s a traumatic injury. Concussions often times get worse and linger around for way longer than they should. One of the reasons: the neck. The poor posture (forward head) that most hockey players walk around with, which creates overly tight occipital muscles, and weak and often inhibited anterior neck flexors is a perfect set up for recurring headaches following a concussion. The rectus capitis minor specifically attaches to the lining that encapsulates the brain, and can be a very probable source of headaches if it’s overly tight. What’s the take-home from this point? Address the posture of your hockey players, and spend some time working on anterior neck strength and deep flexor stability.
3. Skating puts a tremendous amount of stress of the hips. It’s probably one of the most unnatural motions that the body can go through. And sure enough hockey players have a tendency to overdo it– showcases, clinics, summer leagues, etc. This is probably one of the reasons why structural problems such as FAI develop overt time. But even for players who don’t have FAI, it’s still very important to take care of the hips by foam rolling (and lacrosse ball), do a lot of mobility work, do prehab exercises and get manual work done on a regular basis to prevent further hip problems.
If you train hockey players and want to learn more, make sure you get Kevin Neeld’s book Ultimate Hockey Training. It’s by far the best hockey specific book out there.
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Continuing education is one of the most important things to pursue when you’re in the strength and conditioning industry. We are in an ever evolving industry, that quite frankly has a lot of gray areas. That means that a lot of things are changing, new studies come out every day, things you thought were true sometimes turn out to be not so true, and new training methods turn out to be more effective than old ones you were using for some time.
You get the point. Things change. You can’t be satisfied with your current level of knowledge because it will catch up to you sooner than later.
No time to sit back!
This is something that I’ve found especially true if you’re training hockey players. The nature of the sport puts a very unnatural stress on the hips (think about the skating stride for a minute; there’s a constant external rotation at the hips, combined with a hip extension and abduction. Then the recovery stride is going in the exact opposite direction; flexion, adduction, and internal rotation). Although a lot of high velocity sports like football put high stress on the hips, I don’t know of many sports that place such a “weird” stress on the hips, if I could say that.
Not exactly the most natural movement for your body
This exact skating stride is reproduced thousands, and thousands of times over the course of a season, year after year, and more often than it should be, all year round as well. That leads to structural adaptations taking place as the kids grow up. Some of those structural adaptations are bony in nature, and are becoming more and more common, as we live in a world of early specialization in sports. If you have ever heard of femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, that’s exactly what it is.
The different types of FAI
The thing with FAI, is that not a lot of people in the hockey community, including strength coaches and physical therapists, are aware of what it is. It wouldn’t be a big deal if this wasn’t a common issue, but according to a recent study, 64% of asymptomatic hockey players present with some level of hip structural abnormality(1). Yes, you read right, 64%!! FAI usually limits range of motion in hip flexion, and internal rotation. From a practical application standpoint, this means that range of motion would be limited for a lot of lower body exercises including squat variations, deadlift variations, lunge and split squat variations, just to name a few. Think of the implication of not knowing about FAI and training hockey players for a living. You would pretty much be putting your athletes at risk of a serious potential season-ending injury! And still, only a handful of strength coaches are aware of FAI and its implications.
Believe it or not, this is not a post about FAI. This is just to make you realize how important it is to stay on top of new information coming out. Sometimes it’s more than just new training methods or a new revolutionary supplement coming out. Sometimes it’s about the health and security of your athletes!
The good thing is that with the age of the internet, it’s very easy to have access to high quality information. If you’re involved in the hockey community in some way, things are even easier. Some of the greatest minds in hockey run a hockey specific continuing education website. Sean Skahan from the Anahiem Ducks, Mike Potenza from the San Jose Sharks, Darryl Nelson from the USA National Team Development Program, and Endeavor’s own Kevin Neeld have joined forces to create HockeyStrengthAndConditioning.com.
It is the biggest hockey specific resource you’ll find on the web where all these great strength coaches post new information, videos, and programs every single week. There is also a lot of material from contributors (including me!), and great forum discussions that are just as valuable as all the articles on the site. Again, if you’re training hockey players, you need to get a membership for this site. It’s less than 15$ a month, and it’ll be the most valuable resource you’ll have access to!
(1)Silvis ML, Tosher TJ. High prevalence of pelvic and hip magnetic resonance imaging findings in asymptomatic collegiate and professional hockey players. Am J Sports Med. 2011 Apr;39(4):715-21. Epub 2011 Jan 13.
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Static stretching is an important part of any training program to help improve or maintain elasticity in muscles and range of motion around the joints. Depending on the sport you play, some stretching might be more important than others. In other words your post-workout stretching circuit might be different depending on what sport you play.
Hockey players, for example, usually have pretty stiff hip flexors (especially the TFL), posterior hip muscles (glutes, piriformis, etc), and posterior neck muscles due to the way they skate. These will be areas that you’ll want to focus on in their stretching circuit.
Here is the post-workout stretching circuit that we use at Endeavor with most of our hockey players at the end of every session:
1. Lateral Hamstring w/ Band
2. Prone Glute
3. Lying Knee-to-Knee
4. Rectus Femoris w/ Internal Rotation
5. 90 Degree Pec
6. Cross-Body Lat
7. Diagonal Neck
Notice how their is no groin, or adductor stretches. The reason is that it’s an area that hockey players are already overly flexible in. In fact, they need a little more tightness in the groin/adductors area, and more tissue elasticity in the posterior hip muscles.
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Groin pain, adductor strains and sports hernias are becoming an epidemic among athletes today, and especially among hockey players. Playing the same sport year-round, poor training protocols (or simply no training at all), over-training and faulty movement patterns are all perfect set-ups for groin pain, especially for hockey players because of the nature of the sport.
Before I go any further with my recommendations, I will say this: it is very important to clear out any other possible underlying issues in the first place. Groin pain may be caused, for example, by Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI), which would warrant the subject of a whole book in itself. In short FAI is an abnormality (usually a bony lesion) on either the femoral head or the acetabulum itself that creates impingement and may translate into groin pain. But I digress. What I’m saying is to get checked out first to make sure the issue is not coming from somewhere else.
The first step to take with groin pain problem is to stay away from anything that hurts for a little while. If you’re a hockey player and have some groin pain while skating, the first step to take is to stop skating, and I mean completely. I know it sucks being forced to stay away playing, but this is a necessary process to follow, and it will all be worth it in the long run. If you think the injury is not that bad and you’re just going to suck it up and keep playing until it goes away, it’s a BIG mistake. First of all, groin pain, groin pulls and adductor injuries don’t magically disappear, especially if you keep doing the same thing that’s been causing the pain (skating, in this case), and first thing you know is the pain is going to get worse and worse and you’ll have to suffer for months. So as much as it sucks, you need to take that time off.
Foam roll your adductors and your hip flexors. Most of the time, athletes will have scar tissue built up in their adductors and some kind of soft tissue limitation in their hip flexors.
Stretch your hip flexors, glutes and hip external rotators. Because of the nature of a sport like hockey (repeated hip extension, abduction and external rotation), athletes will have a loss in adduction and internal rotation, as well as hip extension range of motion.
Rectus Femoris Stretch (Hip Flexor)
Prone 90/90 Glute Stretch
Strengthen the adductors and the psoas, which is usually the weakest of the 3 hip flexors. These 2 muscles usually are very weak because they are underutilized in different sporting motions, especially the skating stride.
Lying Med Ball Crush
Seated Psoas Lift (make sure the thigh is above 90°)
Using this approach, you want to make sure to use these strategies at least twice a day, everyday (foam rolling, stretching and activation drills). We’ve had hockey players (and many of them) with pretty bad groin pain getting back on the ice totally pain-free in as little as 2 weeks after they start applying those exact recommendations. The key is really just to stay away from anything that hurts and be consistent with the exercises, and chances are you’ll be back on the ice (or the field) in no time.
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It’s this time of year at Endeavor where our hockey players are slowly coming back for the off-season training. During the next 2 months or so, we’ll progressively welcome back our players, and by the time June rolls around we should be at full capacity and be extremely busy throughout the summer.
In the meantime, the current phase of the off-season is what we call “the early off-season” for the guys that are already back with us. These guys have the advantage of having a long off-season and plenty of time to not only improve their performance, but undo the damage they’ve put on their body throughout the season. And God knows how much damage a long hockey season can put on your body, especially on your hips. That’s why our early off-season phase focuses a lot more on re-establishing balance than it is about improving performance.
Hockey is a rotational sport, just like baseball, football (for quarterbacks), lacrosse, tennis and golf. One thing to understand is that the rotational movements occur almost exclusively in one direction. Over the course of a season, this accounts for many rotations when making passes and taking shots during all the practices and games the athlete takes part in. Rotations in the opposite direction are almost non-existent, and if you want to ensure better symmetry and balance throughout the body, there is definitely a need for rotational work on the non-dominant side.
The core exercises in a training program can be a good tool to help re-establish better balance. Even though our exercises are not purely rotational in nature (actually they are just the opposite; anti-rotation), the movement pattern and the muscles recruited are the same; they just happen to work in an isometric fashion.
That being said, instead of working both sides equally, we’ll double or triple the volume on the non-dominant side for all the anti-rotation core exercises we’re using. Just about any anti-rotation exercise can be used, but 2 of my favorites are the Belly Press and the Chop, both in the 1/2 kneeling position.
I really like the 1/2 kneeling position, especially in the early off-season because you get some lengthening of the hip flexors and some hip stability in the end range of motion. We’ll usually do 3 sets on the non-shooting side, and only one on the shooting side.
The concept can also be expanded with the rotational power work, with medicine ball throws and the like. Adding more sets on the non-dominant side will help re-establish some sort of balance around the hips, the shoulders and the core.
The early off-season is a good time to work on major imbalances and the damage done during the season before getting into heavy strength and power work throughout the summer, so it’s important to take advantage of it.
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I’m currently working on a project at work where I need make a detailed plan of our training system at Endeavor, which I could explain to someone who has no idea what we’re doing. Getting started on that project, I struggled just putting something down on paper, simply because I didn’t know where to start. I was trying to think: “What do you cover first? How do you make someone understand all the subtleties of how you build a training program? Why we do the things we do? etc.” After brainstorming for a little while and exchanging some ideas with Kevin Neeld, I was up to something.
But what are the steps to detailing a complete training systems?
To me the first step is to highlight the philosophies behind the system. This is what’s going to guide you in building programs and knowing what components to include in your training programs. Your philosophy doesn’t have to be extremely detailed and it doesn’t have be 5 pages long. It’s really just knowing what your goals are and what the underlying concepts of your systems are. To me, these are 3 ideas behind a good philosophy:
The priorities of a good training program are, and always should be:
The Joint-by-Joint approach to training
The Anatomy Trains concept; everything works together in the body and isolation doesn’t exist
Those 3 concepts help shape a mindset of what you’re trying to accomplish and what the general directions of your training programs is. Once a background philosophy is established, you can put the building blocks of a training program in place and develop the tools to use for each component:
Self-myofascial release (foam rollers, lacrosse balls, the stick, etc)
Dynamic warm up (mobility exercises, activation drills, corrective work, etc)
Power training (plyometrics, Olympic lifts, med ball throws)
Injury prevention strategies
Once this is established, the next thing to do is to incorporate all of these things in a structured training program, or what you may call the art of program design. Managing volumes, loads, recovery periods and the like is a task that’s not easy. This is something that is totally dependent on your athletes, their sports, training background, phase of the season, recovery capacities, genetics, and much more. Although the basics of program design can be taught, only will you become better at that with experience and by listening to your athletes.
And last but not least, is the coaching itself. This is an area that might seem pretty simple, but you really need to understand the fundamentals of functional movements in order to coach even the most basic exercises the right way. Athletes need to learn to move the right way before anything else; it doesn’t matter how good your program looks on paper if your athletes move like crap. Because in the end it comes back to the first 2 goals of the whole program: do no harm, and decrease the risks of preventable injuries. Such concepts as the neutral spine, the packed shoulder blades and the packed neck are just some the concepts of coaching that need to be understood in order to make your athletes move better.
There are many things to go over when detailing a whole training system. Sure there are probably things I haven’t mentioned that might be important, but in the end I feel like those are the basics to understand to build a good, efficient training system. This is how we do things at Endeavor.
Interestingly this is all stuff that Kevin Neeld goes over into his book Ultimate Hockey Training. He goes into great detail about every aspect of a complete training system that has been proven effective for years. And please don’t be fooled by the title; this book could’ve simply been called Ulitmate Training System because it goes far beyond the concept of training for hockey. No matter what sports you’re coaching, it is an invaluable resource to have.
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Guys, this is just a quick blog post to let you know that my good friend Kevin Neeld is still offering his Ultimate Hockey Training book at the introductory price (which, unbelievably is less than 35$!). If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy before Kevin decides to bump up the price of the book.
If you ever buy strength and conditioning resources, you know that the books and DVDs that are sold usually don’t sell for less than 50-100$. Kevin set up that intro price to make sure that it could be available to anyone who wants to read it. Think about it. He refused to put more money in his pocket because he wanted as many people as possible to afford it.
Take advantage of his generosity before it’s too late!
I just wanted to write a quick post today to let you know that my friend and colleague from Endeavor, Kevin Neeld just posted a free webinar on transitional speed for hockey players. Kevin will be releasing his long awaited book, Ultimate Hockey Training next week, and he put up a webinar about speed training for hockey for you to watch completely free. This video will be leading up to his book launch next week. In the webinar Kevin discusses:
· Why most hockey players are doing the right speed training for the wrong sport
· Why hockey players shouldn’t do “agility” training ever again
· How to progress speed training exercises to make them more hockey-specific
· How speed training fits into a complete training program
You can check out this FREE webinar by clicking on the link below:
I’m working with Kevin on a day-to-day basis, and I can tell you he put an incomparable amount of work in the writting and publishing of his book. The results will speak for themselves when you see the book when it comes out next week. It is something like I’ve never seen before when it comes to hockey training. It will definitely raise the bar in terms of hockey products out there. I’ll just put it this way: the information you’ll find in that book will blow your mind away!
In the meantime, Kevin is offering you a free webinar that will get you thinking about the speed and agility work you do with your hockey players. Definitely a must watch! Here’s the link again:
This week I’m on vacation and will give you links to stuff you should definitely read! There has been some great material on the internet the last couple of weeks, and I think you shouldn’t miss out on it. So without further ado, there it is:
Lose Tension to Get Quick – Kelly Baggett. To be quick, the focus is often on stiffness and rate of force development, but in this blog post featured on Eric Cressey’s website, Kelly touches an important, yet almost always forgotten point, on the importance of being able to relax to be able to get quicker. Confused? Read Kelly’s post!
In-Season Hockey Training – Kevin Neeld. My friend and colleague Kevin Neeld wrote a great piece about in-season training for hockey players. Now is a great time for everyone involved in hockey to read this post because hockey players across the country are starting training camps and getting ready for the next season. Kevin addresses what should be the focus of an in-season program.
Getting Into Your Toes – Charlie Weingroff. Yet another brilliant post from Charlie on the importance of the foot/toes complex. It is a very overlooked area of the body among the strength and conditioning crew. In this one, he talks about foot and toes position during various exercises, namely exercises that are performed in the 1/2 kneeling position.
Inverted Face Pulls – Ben Bruno. Just another creative exercise from Ben Bruno. Ben has been posting many new innovative exercises through his blog and his YouTube channel. He deserves some recognition for that! Aaand he’s been linking to my blog for a long time now, so I kinda owe him too!