Will Going Slow Help You Grow?

In Strength Training, Tempo refers to the speed at which an exercise is performed. Many Strength Training movements have a Concentric (lifting), Eccentric (lowering), and Isometric (pausing) component. In a Barbell Shoulder Press, for example, the Concentric phase is the pressing of the bar overhead, while the Eccentric phase would be the lowering of the bar back to the start position. Per recognized Strength Coach Charles Poliquin (http://main.poliquingroup.com/), the Eccentric phase occurs when a muscle contracts while lengthening. Meanwhile, the Concentric phase occurs as a muscle contracts and shortened.

Tempo and Time Under Tension (TUT)

Recent studies have shown that a very deliberate Tempo might induce growth in stubborn muscles. One such study (1) reported that the leg extension exercise executed at 30% of maximum effort (a relatively light load) with a slow lifting movement (six seconds up and six seconds down) performed to fatigue produces greater increases in rates of muscle protein synthesis than the same movement performed rapidly (one second up and one second down). These results suggest that the time the muscle is under tension (also known as TUT) during exercise may be important in optimizing muscle growth.

Understanding that Time Under Tension (TUT) is directly tied to muscle protein synthesis can help a trainee build up an injured, weak, or underdeveloped muscle group, or help prevent the muscle loss that naturally occurs with aging. Using a Slow Tempo has been shown to be a viable alternative to increasing Intensity when adding more repetitions or weight is impractical.

Training with an exaggerated Tempo has been repeatedly shown to be effective in the rehabilitation of injuries. Askling et al (2) conducted one such study in which the group directly compared a protocol of conventional exercises with a protocol based on Eccentric exercises. The group found that Eccentric Training with a deliberate Tempo was very effective compared to conventional training that disregards Tempo.

Tempo Training has a lot of applications, one of which is to correct a dysfunctional firing pattern with a muscle group. For example, if your Glutes are stubborn to fire, the use of lighter weight and a deliberate Tempo can be very useful in getting them to activate.

Muscular Imbalances

The human body is geared for efficiency, and what tends to happen is that different muscle groups will compensate for weak or inactive synergistic muscles in given movements. Basically, your body will find the path of lease resistance in jumping, running, throwing, etc. If three of your muscles are doing work intended for four of your muscles, it’s only a matter of time until you incur an overuse injury. When one muscle group is doing a disproportionate amount of work, the condition is referred to as a Muscular Imbalance.

Here’s a visual of some common Muscular Imbalances, per Janda (3):

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A very common Muscular Imbalance, as seen above, is Inhibited Glutes combined with Facilitated/overused Iliopsoas. The Psoas will be discussed at length in a future article, but the takeaway is that the Psoas becomes chronically overworked, short, and tight while the Glutes become lax and weak from disuse. Aside from robbing someone of athletic performance, this condition also sets someone up for pain and eventually injury.

If your Gluteal muscles are inhibited or inactive, an undue burden will be placed on smaller or mechanically inefficient muscle groups in the surrounding area, such as the Hip Flexors or the Psoas. As you fatigue these smaller or alternate muscle groups, the burden will then be placed on the accompanying joints. The reason there is such a strong correlation between non-contact ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries and Glute Inhibition is because inactive glutes force a tremendous mechanical burden onto the quadriceps and the ligaments surrounding the knees.

In a study geared toward limiting the risk factors for ACL injuries in soccer players (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00167-009-0813-1), Valgus Collapse, a poor Hamstring-to-Quadriceps Strength Ratio, and increased hip internal rotation and tibial external rotation (with or without foot pronation) were among the main risk factors cited. All three of these conditions correlate very strongly with inhibited and weak Gluteus Maximus muscles. While an ACL injury is devastating to an athlete, no one wants an injury with a 4-8 month recovery timetable.

So regardless of your fitness goal, it would be in your best interest to make sure all of your muscles are firing properly. The catch is that your bigger, stronger, well-conditioned muscles will be apt to take over during movements, particularly as the intensity level increases. This is where advanced training techniques such as alterations to Tempo can help a trainee progress or rehab a nagging injury.

Get to Know Your Body: the Gluteus Medius and the Brachialis

Two particularly stubborn muscles that deserve special consideration in regard to Tempo are the Gluteus Medius and the Brachialis. Both of these muscle groups are critical to good form and function, and might be better stimulated by Strength Training or Rehabilitation exercises done with a very deliberate Tempo.

First consider the Gluteus Medius (also referred to as the Glute Medius), which is a small, thick muscle that rotates and stabilizes the hip:

Image result for gluteus medius

As a test, close your eyes and stand on one leg. Did you start to wobble? If so, the strength of your Gluteus Medius might not be up to par.

Here is a list of Strength Training and Rehabilitation exercises that are used to target the Gluteus Medius:

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These are all very effective exercises, if done properly. The problem is that most people tend to use incorrect muscles to complete the movements, and the result is at best ineffectiveness and time wasted. At worst, the consequence can be pain or injury. In the case of Hip-Hinge movements like the Dumbbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (pictured above), the lower back most often takes the brunt of the punishment if one or more of the Gluteal muscles aren’t firing properly.

You may be wondering, “how does someone target an under-active muscle such as the Gluteus Medius if the bigger muscle groups are apt to take over?”

There is a saying within the Fitness Community, “Isolate to Integrate”. This means that if a muscle is slow to fire or stubborn the grow, the best course of action is to work the muscle in Isolation, meaning as part of a single-joint movement.

A main way to work the Gluteus Medius in Isolation is Lateral Hip Abduction. The most basic way to do this is with a Side Lying Leg Raise:

Image result for lateral lying hip abduction

There are a number of ways in which you can tweak this movement to make it more effective, one of which is to emphasize the Eccentric/Lowering component. You can learn more about the benefits of Lateral Hip Abduction in this video.

Once you have located the Glute Medius, it may humble you to realize how weak or under-trained these muscles tend to be. Many trainees, even advanced weight-lifters and Powerlifters, will tell you their Glute Medius feels like it’s on fire after a bodyweight set of 30-40 Lying Side Leg Lifts. It’s certainly not a “macho” movement, and even when a person can squat or deadlift hundreds of pounds, the Glute Medius muscles remain woefully underdeveloped.

The Brookbush Institute, a physical therapy practice and online education forum, has an extremely comprehensive program for activating the Gluteus Medius available for free here. The trick is to train the Glute Medius muscles in isolation, and until a trainee becomes comfortable utilizing it, a very deliberate Tempo is likely in order.

Again per Charles Poliquin, while a deliberate Eccentric Tempo of four seconds or more may not induce growth in Type IIA and Type IIB muscle fibers (40 percent growth versus 10 percent growth), exaggerated Eccentric Tempos of four seconds or more still provided significant stimulus to the targeted muscle. As Poliquin notes, “Slower Tempos with lighter weights are a staple of programming when recovering from an injury to increase blood flow to the injured area, gain strength, and focus on getting the muscles to fire effectively”. (4)

Utilizing basic bodyweight movements such as Clamshells or Side Lying Leg Raises, under deliberate lifting/lowering Tempos of four or more seconds, would seem to be an excellent way to get a stubborn or inactive muscle group to fire properly.

Once you have located and gained a bit of strength in your Glute Medius muscles, it may astound you to see the gains you immediately make in muscular endurance or strength during lower-body movements. The Glute Medius is incredibly powerful in its ability to potentiate and stabilize the lower leg and in particular the Gluteus Maximus – likely the biggest, strongest muscle group in the body.

Even if you don’t have immediate athletic or physique goals, strong and functional glutes are potentially the number one way to alleviate lower back pain. Per the American Council on Exercise, “The Gluteus Maximus works to decelerate flexion of your hips to help counteract the downward pull of gravity and prevent your lumbar spine from over-rounding forward. If your Glutes are not strong enough to fully engage when your hips bend backward, your spine must round forward excessively to lower your arms to the ground”. (5, Price, J. and Bratcher, M. (2010). The BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Educational Program. San Diego, Calif.: The BioMechanics Press).

Forward Flexion is just one of the many roles the Glutes undertake, and inhibited or non-firing Glutes have an almost complete correlation with lower-back pain (6, McGill, S. (2002). Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics). So even if you’re not an active or aspiring athlete, getting your Glutes – and especially the mousy Glute Medius – to fire properly will go a long way toward preventing or resolving lower-back pain.

Another underappreciated muscle is the Brachialis, which serves as the strongest flexor of the elbow joint and comprises a sizable portion of the upper arm (https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/brachialis-muscle):

Image result for brachialis

While the Brachialis serves tremendous function within the body as the primary elbow flexor and strongest grip muscle, it also has great aesthetic value for the fitness-minded:

Image result for brachialis female

Image result for brachialis fitness

When seen from the side, the Brachialis adds depth to the upper arm, and separates the Biceps brachii from the Triceps. While the Brachialis provides both form and function, it can be a difficult muscle to target in training. This is another instance in which a Slow Tempo might aid a trainee with their performance or physique goals, or help someone rehab achy elbows.

The Dumbbell Hammer Curl is the most basic, effective way to train the Brachialis:

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The issue is that many people already have sore elbows or forearm flexors because the Brachialis is underworked or inhibited. This is where physical therapy-style training with a Slow Tempo and an exaggerated Eccentric has great value.

As recommended in the Leg Extension study noted above, a training recommendation would be to use about 30% of a one-repetition maximum with a very deliberate Eccentric of six seconds or more to mechanical failure.

While the Dumbbell Hammer Curl has stood the test of time as an effective way to train the Brachialis, there are other exercises that effectively target the Brachialis, such as the Reverse-Grip Straight Bar Curl, Cross-Body Hammer Curl, and the Neutral-Palm Rope Curl. The key is to find an exercise that you can feel working the targeted muscle, and a modality and weight that allows you to move painlessly.

How Slow Should You Go?

Assuming you want to give Eccentric or Deliberate Tempo Training a try, the next question becomes, “How Slow Should You Go?” in order to see optimal results.

Arthur Jones, an exercise scientist behind the famed Colorado Experiment, once recommended a Strength Training Tempo with a two-second Concentric phase and a four-second Eccentric or Negative phase. The goal of the Colorado Experiment was to see how much muscle mass an individual could potentially accumulate, and Jones used a bodybuilder named Casey Viator as his lab rat. Viator reportedly gained 63 pounds of muscle mass in 28 days, and Jones used a number of high-intensity training techniques such as eight-second Eccentrics and non-existent rest periods between exercises. The results of the Colorado Experiment, which was conducted in 1973, have never been duplicated. However, Arthur Jones’ use of Nautilus machines and Eccentric/Negative Training are Strength Training modalities that continue to be heavily relied upon over 40 years later.

Burd et al (6) recommended Eccentric and Concentric Phases of six seconds each at 30% of one-repetition maximum. Charles Poliquin recommneded Eccentrics of 4-6 seconds, depending on the intensity, the movement, and the health of the trainee. Ultimately, some trial-and-error will be involved depending on the trainee and the muscle group, but Tempo guidelines including Eccentric/lowering phases of four seconds or more have been repeatedly shown to be effective in activating weak or inhibited muscles.

Final Considerations

Dietary considerations are always a factor in muscle protein synthesis and injury recovery. Ketogenic Diets are gaining a lot of traction as being effective in promoting increased insulin sensivity, and thus muscle protein synthesis and optimal health. You can read about Ketogenic Diets and other dietary information at Dietspotlight.com.

Tempo and Time Under Tension are not the sole factors in muscle growth, but their importance is very well-established. If you are seeking to improve a lagging muscle group, expedite the healing of a muscle injury, or activate an underused muscle group, research suggests that Tempo Training is an ideal modality.

Shawn Farrell is a Diet Spotlight contributing writer. He has a B.S. in Exercise Science and has 15+ years of training experience. Concerns and questions can be forwarded to sfarrell11@outlook.com.

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Fall 2017 Off-Ice Hockey Training Program

A reader purchased the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual, and one of the things I include with the Manual is a personalized training program.

While the Manual contains plenty of diet and exercise recommendations, it’s been a few months since I’ve offered up a program with specifics. This is the program I created specifically for one reader, but I’m sharing it with the Reboot Hockey community in case anyone else is looking for a new program.

Questions can come to me at RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com.

These were the details I was given by the reader/trainee:

  • Trainee has recently implemented Negatives in an attempt to build strength. A Negative is an exercise done with an emphasis on the Eccentric or lowering component of the movement. In a Squat, for example, the Concentric component would be rising with the weight, while the Eccentric/Negative component would be lowering your body under control.
  • Trainee has used Bodyweight Isometrics such as Wall-Sits and Planks to build Muscular Endurance
  • Trainee has used a number of Lunge variations to build leg strength.
  • Trainee has opted for a fat-controlled, carbohydrate-heavy diet.

Program Recommendations

Diet

I’ve advocated and utilized lower-carbohydrate or even Ketogenic diets successfully, but I understand that approach isn’t for everyone. You can read about low-carb dieting here. If you wish to follow a carbohydrate-heavy diet, these are my recommendations:

  • Separate carbohydrate and dietary fat during meals, having meals with carbohydrates/protein or dietary fat/protein. The science behind this approach, which enhances Nutrient Partitioning, is well-covered here by Dr. John Berardi.
  • Dr. Berardi generally recommends less than 10g carbs or 5g fat during a fat/protein and carb/protein meal, respectively. A fat/protein meal might be steak/green vegetables with olive oil, while a carb/protein meal might be chicken/rice with very low dietary fat.
  • Rough protein recommendation is 1g/lb. of bodyweight. To convert to kilograms, multiply bodyweight in Kg x 2.2 for protein intake or divide bodyweight by 2.2.
  • Consider removing dairy from your diet. Pay close attention to how you feel after consuming dairy. It’s very possible to implement a higher-carbohydrate/lower-fat Paleo (no grains/dairy/refined sugar) approach under indicated parameters.
  • I always recommend trainees and readers look into acid/alkaline balance when considering diet. My favorite Strength Coach Christian Thibaudeau shares his thoughts here. Another take can be read here. Take a few minutes and educate yourself, as the ability to buffer acid has a major impact on both your health and your performance as a Hockey Player.
  • I would challenge anyone following a higher-carbohydrate diet to eliminate gluten and sugar as primary carbohydrate sources. I think rice and potatoes are cleaner sources of complex carbohydrates. and I think sugar is highly inflammatory in most individuals. I do not recommend that you use the insane calorie demands of Hockey to justify a high refined-sugar intake.

Base Strength Training (1-5 Reps Per Set x 3-10 Sets)

The core tenet of a good Strength Training program is gaining strength. This seems obvious, but a lot of trainees adopt bodybuilding-style programs in which they train in Functional or Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy ranges of 6-12 repetitions per set. This is not optimal for maximum strength gains.

I’ve written this before, but bodybuilding-style training has very little applicability in Hockey today. There are some undersized players who would benefit from a program that primarily focused on gaining size, but most players in Hockey today are aiming to be as lean, explosive, and strong as possible. Hockey has become a true Power-to-Weight sport. Most players do not want additional weight that does not come with a commensurate gain in strength.

There are many Rep Schemes to program for Strength. I think 5 x 5 is as effective as anything. Do not confuse simplicity with ineffectiveness. You can opt for one Strength day (maybe Saturday morning), or you can use 1-2 Strength movements per workout. I’ve opted for the latter in this program.

These are my favorite choices specifically for Hockey Players. E-mail me (reboothockeyhelp@gmx.com) if you want the science behind each selection:

Hip Dominant – Trap Bar Deadlift

 

Knee Dominant – Barbell Squat, Heels Elevated

Horizontal Pull – T-Bar Row

Horizontal Push –  Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press, Standard Grip

Vertical Pull – Pull-Ups with added weight

 

Vertical Push – Dips with added weight

Those are my favorite moves for Strength, specifically for Hockey Players. We could debate which are the most effective, but I believe in the big basics done consistently and properly (in tandem with appropriate nutrition).

I’m programing two of these moves into a 3-day per week program at 5 x 5. This can be adjusted based on results/schedule.

Functional Hypertrophy (6-8 Reps x 4-6 Sets)

Strength moves with enough duration to add size. Recommended rep scheme is 6-8 reps x 5 sets. Add weight when you can complete nine reps in a set. Recommended tempo: 4-X-1 (lower the weight to a four-count, then accelerate the weight cleanly with minimal pause at the bottom of the movement).

I’m programming three of these selections per day into a three-day per week program. More volume can obviously be added.

Elevated Reverse Lunge

DB Split Squat – Foot Elevated

Barbell Crossover Step-Ups

(Notes: keep weight reasonable, add box height very gradually, keep toes of plant foot as close to 45 degrees as possible. This exercise should work the Glute Medius if done properly.)

Single-Leg DB or KB Romanian Deadlift

(Note: focus on proper hinge and Glute Activation. I have the best results with a slight knee bend, shortened range of motion, and toes pointing out. Also, I do this as a Hockey Player, not a fitness model, so exercise-science nerds can be quiet about my form recommendations. K thanks.)

Heavy Back Extensions

(Notes: most people do these with bodyweight or 25-45 lb. plates. I didn’t get much value out of this movement until I really ramped up the weight. Don’t hurt yourself, but push the amount of weight you use on this movement. Make sure your glutes fire hard.)

Dumbbell Hammer Curls (Grip Strength)

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

(Note: please pay extra attention to this video. In fact, watch everything by Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean-X. He’s the best.)

Cable Lat Pulldown – Overhand/Pronated or Commando/Neutral Grip

Muscular Endurance/Partials (15-25 Reps or More Per Set)

Hockey Skating is an incredibly-unnatural position. An issue I see among most amateur players is that they lack the muscular endurance to keep themselves in hockey-skating position for extended shifts or deeper into a shift.

A few recommendations for building muscular endurance as a Hockey Player:

  • Keep yourself “between the joints” for a prolonged set of 60-90 seconds on a Squat or Hinge movement. This means don’t lock the movement out at either the top or the bottom so the tension is constantly on the muscles. If you are shooting for reps rather than time, I’d aim for 20-30 reps.
  • You can use the boring/awful cardio machines (elliptical, stepper, etc) if 1) you can get your feet comfortably to 45 degree angles, 2) you utilize “intervals” in which you go unnaturally-low to simulate a Hockey shift. Go low for 40-60 seconds, then come up to recover for 40-60 seconds. Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
  • When doing Plank movements, go more maximum contraction versus time. Pull your abs/belly button hard into your spine for 10-30 seconds. A hard 15-second plank is much more effective than a sloppy two-minute plank.
  • Wall-Sits are effective if 1) the tension is placed on the muscles and not the joints/ligaments, 2) an emphasis is placed on the posterior chain.

I think a better alternative to a Wall-Sit might be a Swiss Ball Curl partial. Elliott Hulse goes nuts for five minutes before explaining SB Curls well. I would consider doing these in the middle third of the range of motion so that the tension constantly remains on the muscles. Do them until your hamstrings/glutes are burning badly. Build up to 60-90 seconds of Time Under Tension.

  • Do other Endurance Movements (such as DB Scarecrows) in the 12-15 or 15-25 repetition range in a lowered position. You should be low enough that your legs start burning halfway through the set. Always remember that you trying to develop your legs so you can skate better. The goal isn’t to win a bodybuilding contest.
  • You should do abdominal movements constantly. Athletes, especially Hockey Players, don’t have “Abs Day” like bodybuilders do. For us, every day is Abs Day. The minimum should include 3-4 sets of Decline Crunches, V-Ups, or Cable Crunches. I’m not going to divert into an article on Abdominal Work, as there’s plenty of good information available online.
  • By the same token, for a Hockey Player, every day is Leg Day. Yes, you have days in which you add weight training, but you should be conditioning your legs daily with bodyweight movements or energy systems work, unless you have a game or practice. This goes double if you have an office job in which you sit a lot.

These aren’t the sort of recommendations you’ll find on a fitness website, but I’m a Hockey Player making training recommendations to other Hockey Players. I know what works to make Hockey players better at Hockey.

Lastly, there is an endgame here, and that’s to improve your skating stability. I hope that you’ve heard the term “10 and 2” to describe the position of your toes in an optimal skating stride. If not, this position is well-demonstrated by decidedly-average NHL Player Sid Crosby.

My view as both a Strength Coach and a Hockey Player is that 10-and-2 is optimal for both agility and power production because it properly incorporates the Glutes and Calves. I think a very common amateur/conditioning mistake is that players stay too high due to poor local muscular endurance, and their hips/feet become too narrow as they fatigue.

More science: there is a very strong correlation between Glute Funciton/Strength and the ability to resist Hip Adduction. Gym-goers have probably seen someone with a great ass doing Banded Squats or X-Band Walks. This is to build up the Glute Medius’ ability to resist Adduction, which in turn potentiates the power potential of the Glute Maximum. Got all that?

All of this concerns you in that these are the exact strengths you want to be an elite Hockey Skater. You need to be able to hold your legs in that awkward bow-legged stance for an extended period of time, and produce power while you do so, in order to be a great skater. The Muscular Endurance recommendations I make are in the interest of accomplishing that.

Your Program

Tuesday

Trap-Bar Deadlift 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

Weighted Pull-Ups (Supinated Grip) 5 x 5-6 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 2-X-1

Elevated Reverse Lunge 6-8 x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM

Single-Leg DB RDL 6-8 per leg x 5 @75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

DB Hammer Curl (Standing) 6-8 x 5 – 4-X-1

Empty-Bar Partial Squats 60-90 seconds or max time x 3

X-Band Walks 60-90 seconds or max x 3

Abs – Planks

Thursday

Squats! (Back or Front, Your Choice) 5 x 5 85-90% 1RM 3-X-1

Weighted Dips 5 x 5-8 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 3-X-1

DB Split Squat 6-8 per leg x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

DB Shoulder Press (Standing) 6-8 x 5 – 4-X-1

Heavy Back Extensions 6-10 x 5 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 4-X-1

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl Partials 60-90 seconds x 3

DB Goblet Squat Partials 60-120 seconds x 2-3

Abs – Planks

Saturday

BB Snatch-Grip Deadlift 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

T-Bar Row 5 x 5 @85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

Bench Press Variation 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

DB Snatch 6-8 per arm x 5 @ 60-70% 1RM – Controlled Eccentric, Explosive Concentric

Commando Cable Pulldowns 6-8 x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

Leg Extension Partials 60-90 seconds x 2-3

Leg Curl Partials 60-90 seconds x 2-3

Abs – Planks

I hope this is enough to get you started. If you have questions about any of the exercises, please e-mail me and don’t injure yourself. If you would like help reorganizing this program or have additional questions about Hockey Conditioning, you’re welcome to e-mail me.

Have a great start to your season,

Jack

Tips for Lengthening Your Hockey Stride

Image result for long hockey stride skating

In the quest for more speed, a factor some players may overlook is getting optimal Length and Extension from each stride.

What I commonly see amateur players doing – and this extends to myself – is churning their legs faster and/or harder in an attempt to generate more speed.

A player is after Economy, meaning maximum efficiency and power with minimum effort. This is the premise of Power Skating, which is taught by experienced coaches across the globe.

An amateur or even professional Hockey Player’s stride can shorten over time, if the Player becomes de-conditioned or fatigued. The Player ends up working twice as hard for half of the result, as outer ends of the stride (lower back/lower legs) are forced to take on an undue burden. This leads to a loss of speed and eventually injury, if steps aren’t taken to correct the problem.

This article is a quick guide on How to Lengthen Your Hockey Stride. A longer stride is something most players should strive for, as it will ultimately give skaters a major competitive advantage within the game.

Off-Ice

Image result for sitting glute inhibition

I’m a very common example of why a player’s stride might shorten over time:

I drive from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and back multiple times per year. As much as I like seeing my family and going to Sheetz, the 12+ hour drive from Wilmington, NC to my mother’s house is grueling. I would honestly rather run for 12 hours than sit for the same length of time, as prolonged sitting really messes up an athlete’s body. This concept is well-covered here by performance coach Kelly Starrett.

Back in late 2013/early 2014, I began to notice a sharp decline in my athleticism. This was because I was forced to sit for 4-6 hours every day for five months in my firefighter/EMT classes.  I remember going into the courses as an athletic specimen and completing them as a physical train wreck.

At the time, I was far less educated on what was happening with my body, but in retrospect, here are the hormonal/physiological pitfalls I hit, which took me from moving like a tiger to moving like a geriatric:

  • I fell into a negative Nitrogen Balance, meaning my body was Catabolizing my muscle mass. This was because I didn’t have the opportunity to eat frequently, as my instructors would often power through the courses for 4 or more hours at a time without a real meal break.
  • The Stress from the courses was overwhelming. I am in the part of the population that starves themselves (rather than overeats) when under duress, and this greatly contributed to a major loss of Gains.
  • I made the stress situation worse by coping with crazy amounts of Caffeine, which crushed my metabolism and further promoted the release of stress hormones (notably Cortisol) and promoted muscle-wasting.

If you would like to really get into nutrition/supplementation, e-mail me RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com, and I’ll blister you with information. Just understand that I, like lots of working adults, fell into a Catabolic trap. In short, if you want to continue to Play Hockey and move well as you age, it’s crucial that you maintain a positive Nitrogen Balance and mitigate the effects of Cortisol.

From an orthopedic/muscular standpoint, here’s what happened:

  • I was forced to sit for hours on end, which deactivated/inhibited my Abdominals/Glutes and further shortened my Hip Flexors. Hockey itself tends to shorten the Hip Flexors, and this condition tends to artificially shorten the Hamstrings. If your Glutes aren’t firing properly, you know which body part picks up the slack? Your Lower Back, which isn’t equipped to handle the dynamic movements of Hockey by itself.

Here’s a visual of what happens as one’s Hip Flexors shorten due to excessive sitting:

Pulled Hamstrings treatment Bellevue, NE

 

Image result for short hip flexors sitting

Pelvis falls into Anterior Pelvic Tilt, Hip Flexors become short/tight/prone to strains, Hamstrings artificially lose length, Abs/Glutes go to sleep, Lower Back muscles take on way too much of the mechanical burden.

The average person might not notice this dysfunction, but this combination is both devastating and highly-apparent to a Hockey Player. Again, the average amateur Hockey Player already has relatively-short Hip Flexors/APT, and chronic sitting only worsens the condition. Fortunately, this problem is correctable.

Cues/Drills

Your Glutes are often “sleeping giants”, and they don’t tend to fire unless the intensity is really high (i.e. Sprinting). Even then, they tend to go back to sleep if you aren’t going all-out every day.

Image result for sit bones

The Cue that works best for me to re-activate my Glutes and take some of the strain off my Hip Flexors is “tap down on your sit-bones.” Nerds will refer to the sit-bones as the ischial tuberosity.

Lots and lots of people, including elite Hockey Players, don’t use their Glutes properly during Hinge/Lunge/Squat movement patterns. People like this are often said to be Quadriceps-Dominant or Slow-Twitch Dominant. I am very quadriceps-dominant, and my tendency in Squats/Skating is to make my Quads to most of the work. As you try to optimize your skating or squatting, this overuse of the Quads – and the underdevelopment of the Posterior Chain – becomes a major limiting factor.

So, it’s important to get the Glutes, especially, firing and uninhibited while minimizing the contribution of the already-overused Hip Flexors and Quadriceps. To limit the use of my gargantuan Quads and fried Hip Flexors, this is my favorite drill:

Pistol Squat Progression

The key is to not get competitive with yourself, and to focus on using your Glutes to do the bulk of the work. I’ll often start with a higher box that only forces me to lower myself 4-8 inches. I get the most value from 6-8 reps x 4-5 sets, beyond which point I will A) add weight, and then B) lower the box/platform.

Keep your Hip Flexors out of the equation, and try to think of this as more of a physical therapy or rehab drill. This will be tough for some of you gym-rats who routinely squat six plates or more, but the goal here is to correct this dysfunction before it gets worse, and to lengthen your Hockey Stride. Don’t get caught up making this an ego drill.

A lot of coaches love Bridging and Barbell Hip Thrusts as Glute Activation Drills, but to be honest, I don’t get as much value from them as some do. I do recommend you read up on the subject, and try them yourself. The go-to for all things Glutes is definitely Bret Contreras, AKA The Glute Guy.

Once your Glutes are firing well, the next step is to focus on lengthening the stride and incorporating this additional power into the movement.

One of my favorite strength-training drills to combat shortened Hip Flexors, tax the Glutes, and work on adding length back into your Hamstrings is the Foot-Elevated Lunge:

Related image

Image result for foot elevated lunge

There are numerous ways to do this drill: forward lunge onto box, reverse lunge, with Dumbbells, Barbell, Goblet-style, etc. My suggestion is to play around a bit and find the variation that works best for you, as long as you are accomplishing the following:

  • Primary goal is to add missing length to your Hockey Stride. I would keep the weight relatively-light and try to add depth and distance to the lunge. You will be working some relatively-small muscles near your pelvis as well as trying to add length/strength to one or both of your Hip Flexors. No need to put 225 on your back.
  • Since your Hip Flexors are likely trashed, I recommend a slow Eccentric of 4-5 seconds, a one-second pause at the bottom of the movement, and a powerful Concentric in which your fire the working Glute hard and allow the antagonist Hip Flexor to take some of the recoil.
  • You are training both sides (Glute/Hip Flexor) of the front leg, but you want to condition your Glute to do most of the work. The Hip Flexor serves as more of a “brake” in this movement, which will be very similar to a quality Skating Stride.
  • I like to do this drill “Goblet-style”:

Image result for goblet front lunge

Doing a Goblet Front Lunge 1) takes my sizable ego out of the movement and forces me to focus on form, 2) encourages an upright spine, 3) encourages me to move forward/down rather than forward/forward.

Quad-dominant types and fellow Hockey Players will want to lean forward as they descend into a lunge or squat, bringing their heels off the ground and excessively driving the knees forward. While this is fine to a degree, the focus is on lengthening/strengthening the Posterior Chain (back part of the leg), and that includes the muscles near the calf (including the Anterior Tibialis/Dorsiflexion muscles) as well as those near the Achilles Tendon.

I recommend you keep your weight back a bit on your front leg and keep your heel locked down. This will work the musculature around the hip, and not continue to overtax the Quads/Knees/Lower Back.

Lastly, do some work on your Abdominals. If your Hip Flexors/Lower Back are shot and Sit-Ups are out of the question, I recommend you start with Stability Ball Diver Crunches:

Image result for stability ball diver crunch

These will take a ton of strain off the Lower Back/Hip Flexors while allowing you to work the Abdominals. I recommend you accelerate through the Concentric (without bouncing) and return the start position under control. I generally do sets of 20-30 reps, adding weight after I clear 30. To make the movement more challenging, keep your arms straighter and bring them further behind your head (but don’t tear your Rotator Cuff overloading beyond a stable Range of Motion). Crunch up toward the ceiling, not forward.

On-Ice

Image result for carl hagelin skating

On-Ice (or on Inline Skates), the goal is simple: reinforce the proper (longer) movement pattern. Focus on striding during games and build length into your stride rather than continuing to dart around with a choppier stride.

Carl Hagelin, seen above, is known as one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He also has a noticeably-long stride, on display here.

While Carl has tremendous efficiency/recovery, what jumps out to me is the way he lunges with every stride. I think a common mistake among amateur players is that they are overly-strong through a shorter Range of Motion (maybe through the mid-top of the Quads) and don’t stay low enough to the ice through the duration of the shift or game.

Training the smaller muscles high around the Pelvis, Glute-Ham fold, Ileus, etc. for both endurance and power will help keep you low as fatigue sets in. Strength Training and Corrective Exercise is a good foundation for this, but ultimately you will need to reinforce this longer movement pattern while you’re skating.

A great skating drill is the Drag Touch by Laura Stamm. This really hard-wires the proper movement pattern. Here is a video from Laura on the Forward Stride, if you’re more visually-inclined.

Dynamic Strength through the small muscles of the lower core, Hip Flexors, and Pelvis will enable the player to maximize knee bend and Quadriceps power. While a common cue from Hockey Coaches is to bend the knees more to get low, the Player needs to have adequate stabilizing strength through the muscles near the Pelvis and high leg. The drills at the top of the section will help develop those muscles.

Start slow. Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast. Practice long, smooth lunges on-ice or on Inline Skates, using a drill such as Ms. Stamm’s Drag Touch. Focus on extending the back leg maximally and generating power through a snap of the ankles and flick of the toes.

A few other players, in fact two of my favorites, who really maximized the length of their stride (and thus their power/efficiency) are Sergei Fedorov and Marian Gaborik.

Marian created tons and tons of breakaways for himself by pulling away from opponents with long, powerful strides. This is a great shot of Marian scoring in-stride on a breakaway:

Related image

There isn’t a defender in-frame because Marian pulled away from everyone. Look at how low he is compared to the net. His skating stride sits at 90 degrees.

Equally fast was Sergei Fedorov, who is best appreciated on film. Here’s an hour of Sergei Fedorov highlights, during which he uses his incredibly-long stride to power around opponents and create space for himself:

Here’s Fedorov vs. Pavel Bure in Fastest Skater competition. Notice how wide of a base both players take even while decelerating, a sign of great core/upper leg strength:

And thanks to Getty Images for this great shot:

Image result for sergei fedorov fastest skater

You can see that Fedorov is churning forward, rather than driving his weight down and into the ice as in a Squat. I think a misconception among a lot of amateur players is that skating is like running or like squatting, and thus you see many amateurs working twice as hard for half of the result.

Getting more length, and eventually more power, out of every stride is the most-efficient way to improve speed.

Additional Resources and Final Thoughts

Image result for taylor hall skating stride

This is a great, very technical article by Kevin Neeld that covers some topics I glossed over:

http://www.kevinneeld.com/a-3-step-approach-to-improving-stride-length/

I think between Kevin’s article and mine, there is plenty of information to get an amateur player started on adding length to her or his stride.

As always, questions can be directed to RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com, and it’s always appreciated when you Like Us on Facebook.

Thanks for Reading,

Jack

 

 

Optimal Strength and Conditioning Training for Hockey Players

Hockey players of all skill levels can greatly improve their on-ice performance by optimizing their athleticism through a well-constructed Strength and Conditioning program. While athletes on college and professional teams have access to quality Strength and Conditioning Coaches, recreational and adult-league players are often shooting in the dark as far as their physical development goes.

If you have a desire to be competitive in the modern game, it’s tremendously important that you develop your athleticism. While there are rare players with God-given talents who can afford to cut corners on their off-ice work, most players should be putting a major emphasis on developing their physical capabilities away from the rink so that they can concentrate their efforts on developing their skills when they can get on the ice.

This is a lengthy article, and I’ve divided it into two parts: Energy Systems (forms of unweighted/low-weight Cardiovascular Conditioning such as running and swimming) and Strength Training (which encompasses weight training, plyometrics, and similar Set-Rep movements that build explosiveness, strength, lean body tissue, etc). At the bottom, I make a few dietary and supplement recommendations, based on my own experience. I recommend you absorb the article in chunks, and refer back to it as needed.

Key Concepts

I am not going to get into the “Whys” of sport-specific training very much, and instead focus on the “Hows”. I am writing this under the premise that you are an amateur player looking to excel in your respective league, and that you currently are not doing much off-ice training. I am also writing this under the impression that you do not have access to fancy equipment seen at elite Performance-type facilities, but have access to the equipment seen at most commercial gyms (barbells, dumbbells, treadmills, etc).

First, consider a physical specimen and elite athlete such as Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. Most would consider him to be an exceptional athlete in a League full of elite athletes. For much of his career, Iginla has represented the prototype of the contemporary Power Forward, and an optimal blend of size, strength, and speed.

Jarome pointed out once that his game really took off when he stopped training like a conventional bodybuilder and started training more like a sprinter. Here is an overview of one of his training templates:

http://www.muscleprodigy.com/jarome-iginla-workout-arcl-1245.html

There’s a good chance that you train like a conventional bodybuilder because that style of training is so pervasive. Legions of gym-goers mindlessly do three sets of 10-12 reps, with no regard for Tempo, just because they read it in a magazine or a friend told them to do it. As a Hockey player, if you want to optimize your results, you are going to need to train in a specific way.

As a player myself, over the years I have used a variety of training modalities to various degrees of success. Here are the Key Concepts I’ve come to adopt in my own training:

* Optimal Strength distribution between Hip Dominant (HD) and Quadriceps/Knee Dominant (KD) muscles.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. After years of drastically over-developing my Knee Dominant muscles (primarily the Vastus Medialis), I eventually incurred a severe knee injury. The Good News was that in the process of my recovery, I was forced to rebuild my stride so that it was better balanced between Knee Dominance and Hip Dominance. I now have a better, faster, and more-economical stride due to the development of my Hip Flexors, Hip Abductors/Adductors, and Glutes.

* Athletic Cross-Training

Playing baseball or tennis is going to improve your game in a distinct way that Strength Training will not. Sports are reactive; something happens, and the Athlete responds to it. The methodical nature of Strength and Conditioning Training does not improve an athlete in this regard.

If you have the option, a session at the batting cages, a boxing class, or a game of soccer is going to improve your athleticism in a way that Strength Training cannot. If traditional sports are not available to you, General Physical Preparedness training such as Sledgehammer Swinging, Tire-Flipping, Jumping Rope, and similar work can be an adequate substitute if executed properly:

* Combination Anaerobic/Aerobic Conditioning

While Jarome’s program emphasizes explosive power and Anaerobic Conditioning, Aerobic Conditioning has gone somewhat under-appreciated in many recent conditioning programs. While a well-conditioned Aerobic athlete may lose a fraction of a second on his blue line-to-blue line sprint time, she or he can also continue to perform throughout the progression of the shift or game at 90-95% of her or his capacity (whereas a purely Anaerobic athlete tops out at 60-70 seconds and gradually fatigues as the game progresses).

Unless you are a professional-level player on strict 40-second shifts, it will behoove you to develop your Aerobic system in tandem with your explosive power.

* High-Performance Mass Only

Jarome noted that the inflated muscles of a bodybuilder are largely useless on a Hockey player. While a Hockey player may want extra-large legs (to allow for optimal power output), adding size without strength makes a player cumbersome, plodding, and slow. It benefits a Hockey player to train Limit Strength, but training for Non-Functional Hypertrophy like most gym-goers is counter-productive. Any size a player adds should come with a commensurate increase in Strength.

* Emphasis on Muscular Control and Slow-Twitch Muscle Development

While developing fast-twitch muscles like the pectorals, biceps, and hamstrings can be selectively useful to a Hockey Player, the development of the slow-twitch muscles (triceps, shoulders, quadriceps) has much more applicability from a skill perspective. Excellent muscular control of the triceps, for example, allows for precision in passing and puck control, as the muscle group acts as a stabilizer for your hands and forearms. Development of muscular control of the quadriceps allows for better precision in skating.

To develop Muscular Control, I recommend higher reps (15-25 or more) at a very deliberate Tempo. The Eccentric or “lowering” portion of the lift should last 4-8 seconds. This type of training works best with Isolation (single-joint) movements on the Slow-Twitch muscle groups (Quadriceps, Tibialis Anterior, Triceps, Latissimus, Spinal Erectors, etc.)

A Brief Word on the Strength-Endurance Continuum

Here is a very brief overview on the different Strength Capacities people possess:

Limit Strength – The absolute-most weight a person can move. For training purposes, Limit Strength is defined as Greater than or Equal to your five-repetition maximum (5RM), or 87.5% of your one-rep maximum (1RM)

Functional  (Myofibrillar) Hypertrophy – A repetition range in which you develop strength commensurate with size gains. This repetition range is generally defined as 6-8 reps, or 80-85% of your 1RM. This type of Hypertrophy is commonly seen in elite-level anaerobic athletes, such as gymnasts, boxers, and sprinters.

Non-Functional (Sarcoplasmic) Hypertrophy – A repetition range in which you increase size without additional strength; the “bodybuilding” repetition range. This range is generally denoted as 8-12 reps, or 70-80% of your 1RM. While there is debate about distinguishing between the two branches of Hypertrophy, this higher-volume repetition range generally does not boast the same gains in strength as the Functional Hypertrophy repetition range/intensity level.

Strength-Endurance – Strength-Endurance is localized muscular endurance (as opposed to general Aerobic/Anaerobic endurance, or  Cardiovascular Endurance; “lung power”). This is the ability of a muscle to contract repeatedly or hold a contraction under tension. Strength-Endurance is generally defined as anywhere over 12 reps (70% 1RM), with a terminal limit around 30 reps (25% 1RM). Within this repetition range, Speed-Strength (loaded movements), Strength-Speed/Plyometrics (explosive movements), and localized muscular endurance can be trained.

Aerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to efficiently operate in a Heart Rate Zone (HR) of 70-80% of maximum. Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is generally defined as 220 minus your age, but this number can go up in well-conditioned athletes.

Anaerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to operate in a HR Zone of 80-90% of MHR. Anaerobic Conditioning can involve Anaerobic Endurance (the ability to stay above 80% MHR for time) or the ability to maintain an Anaerobic Ouput at or near the 90% MHR mark. The HR Zone above 90% is generally defined as the VO2 Max Zone (Maximum Oxygen Uptake), and it’s a given that a person cannot operate in this zone for time periods beyond 30-40 seconds (thus the nature of the 40-second NHL shift).

This is a very brief overview of big-chunk exercise science concepts. It is only meant to inform you of which systems you will want to develop as a player. Most people reading this will not need to get so technical, but feel free to ask me questions in the Comments section if you want to really get into the science.

Optimal Energy Systems Training

Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) for time: This is non-stop running or swimming for a set duration (usually 25-60 minutes) within the Aerobic Heart Rate Zone. For me, this is about 133-162 Beats Per Minute, though I err on the high end because I’m fairly well-conditioned aerobically. This is the most standard way to improve Cardiovascular Conditioning, which improves overall on-ice performance on a number of levels. The key is not fall into a comfort zone. Try to challenge your body and perform at higher levels for extended duration to increase your Cardiac Output.

My sentiment on Aerobic Training is that You Are Stronger Than You Think. Jogging or lap-swimming at a comfortable pace is not going to really help a Hockey layer, but pushing the Aerobic Threshold (working at or near 80% of your MHR) improves your body on a number of levels, which I won’t get into here.

You do not need a Heart Rate Monitor, but if your treadmill is equipped with one, it may be useful in giving you an idea of what 160 BPM feels like. If you do not have one, just keep asking yourself, “Can my heart work harder?” Chances are, it can.

400 Ms: Quarter-mile “sprints” at maximum intensity. This is an excellent way to train Anaerobic Endurance. For me, a 400 M sprint takes about 90-120 seconds (which runners will note is a 6:00-8:00 minute mile). The goal is not to hit your absolute maximum speed, but the maximum speed you can sustain at the upper time-limits of your Anaerobic System. You could also implement 90-120 seconds’ worth of “weighted” strength training to a similar effect, if you understand how to do so.

I would equate a quarter-mile sprint to 75-100 M of maximum-effort swimming (which is 3-4 “lengths” in most swimming pools). The key is to work as hard as you can for 90-120 seconds, recover for 60-90 seconds, then go again. This will greatly improve your ability to maintain level of play at the end of a shift.

If you wish to train the upper limits of your Anaerobic Endurance, running at a pace that you can only sustain for 2.5-3 minutes is also an effective way to train. This is slightly different from a 400 M, as you must pace yourself in a different manner. You are training the threshold between Anaerobic and Aerobic work, and amateur-league shifts tend to run more in the 2-3 minute range than the 45-second range. This is one training method in which a treadmill, with an incline and a timer, can be more effective than running outdoors.

15-Minute Timed Walk: This is a technique taught to sprinters to teach them how to recruit their hip flexors preferentially to their quadriceps. The goal is to walk as far as you can in 15 minutes. This is easy on Day 1, but as you progress it will become quite challenging to better the Distance you can complete. Your stride will naturally lengthen, and your body will involuntarily start developing more hip-drive. If you are a very quad-dominant skater (or if your skating posture is “aggressively-forward” or the majority of your bend comes at the knees), balancing your stride with hip-dominant work will help prevent injury and develop more overall power.

True Sprints: the best way to develop maximum speed is the True Sprint. Treadmills unfortunately do not allow for a True Sprint because you are not working from a dead stop, and many agree that treadmills take away the necessary stabilization of the antagonist muscles, robbing you of the maximum benefit. If your goal is maximum speed (such as improving blue line-to-blue line speed for a time-trial), you probably need to take 1-2 training days and do legitimate sprints on a track or field.

I would start with 50-yard sprints x 5-7 on a football field, if possible. The aim is to constantly be Accelerating, or trying to accelerate (much like a lifter does under an extremely-heavy weight). On longer-duration sprints, your acceleration reaches a Terminal Limit or plateau where you cannot accelerate any more. Shortly thereafter, you may experience a loss in acceleration, at which point your body starts training Anaerobic Endurance as in the 400 Ms drill.

If you can run a 400 M (quarter-mile) in 90 seconds, you should aim to do a 200 M in 40-50 seconds (much like an NHL shift). Again, the goal is Constant Acceleration – shorten the distance, if needed.

Energy Systems Training Plan

This will vary with your goals as a player. A Power Forward-type may want to improve his acceleration, while a Sniper may want to improve his Anaerobic Endurance.

I recommend incorporating some of each of the above techniques into your training, based upon the areas you need to improve or wish to Optimize. Less-conditioned athletes may have to start with more Aerobic Conditioning and Timed Walks before progressing to True Sprinting or 400 Ms. Also, do not be afraid to take “Active Recovery” days in which you do lower-intensity work. Listen to your body, and tailor your training program to your Hockey schedule.

Optimal Strength Training Program

There may not be an Optimal Strength Training Program for all athletes, but there certainly can be a program that is optimal for you.

Let’s whittle down the areas of Strength Training to the ones that are most applicable to a hockey player:

* You Will Do Squats of all shapes and sizes: Back Squats, Box Squats Front Squats, Overhead Squats, Dumbbell Split Squats, etc. There is a reason Squats are the linchpin of NHL Strength Training programs: no other exercise develops Leg Power and stimulates Growth Hormone release as effectively. However, you should Squat intelligently: because muscle mass is not your primary goal, you are going to keep the Repetition Ranges either extremely low (3-8 Reps per Set) or fairly high (15+ Reps per Set). All Size gains must come with a commensurate gain in Strength. Accelerate the weight, and lower under control but not deliberately.

You are also going to focus on Glute Activation, balancing out what I suspect to be slow-twitch and quadriceps dominance with a plethora of Deadlift and Glute Bridge Variations. I am not going to get into Deadlifting 101, other than to repeat that the reps are to be kept around 3-8 per set. Five sets of five reps is an excellent, time-honored Rep Scheme that you could adopt and expect rapid results from.

The key is to use any means necessarily to get your glutes firing and powerful. Deadlifts and their accessory exercises are some of the best ways to accomplish this.

Your concern as a Hockey player is Force Production. If you push yourself into the ice harder, you will propel your body away from the ice with more power. This is basic concept of physics, which you can research elsewhere. As it pertains to your training, you want to drive up your Strength numbers on Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift variations, Single-Leg Squats, and so forth. I assure you this will lead to speed gains, especially if you can whittle away your excess body fat.

* Balancing out Knee/Quadriceps Dominance seen in slow-twitch athletes is critical. The Timed Walks will help in this regard, but you should aim to include certain Glute Activation Exercises, as well as Hip-Dominant movements such as American Swings, Deadlift variations, and Bridging movements.

High-Rep Posterior Chain movements, like Stiff-Leg Deadlifts and weighted lunges, are going to leave you extremely sore; these need to be implemented on days in which you have a 2-3 day break before your next game or important practice. Low-Rep movements such as Deadlifts can be placed on a “Heavy” day, in which the goal is increase Maximum Strength.

* With upper body movements, again the optimal performance protocol will center around Force Production along with Injury Prevention. The upper body movements that involve the most Force Production are the Olympic lifts, the Bench Press, and standing Barbell Shoulder Press variations. These are all movements in which you can Accelerate the weight, and are thus most applicable to sports.

(Note: I realize the Olympic lifts are not upper body movements, but most players are not going to utilize them without experience or an experienced trainer. I included them with the Presses just to illustrate the type of Strength movements that one can Accelerate, as opposed to most Pulling movements or Isolation movements.)

To help prevent injuries, counter-balancing all of these pushing movements with some quality Pulling movements is crucial. To cite one example, Weighted Chin-Ups are one of my absolute favorites. They protect your shoulder girdle by conditioning you to retract your scapula, which in English means that they offset the caveman-shoulder look that excessive bench-pressing can give you. Other favorites include Dumbbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, and Farmer’s Walks. I prefer Rep Ranges of 5-8 for these movements.

Injury Correction would be another article onto itself. If you are reading this with an ailing shoulder or knee, I suggest you save this article until you have rehabilitated yourself. There are plenty of free articles all over the internet that cover all areas of the body at-length.

Lifting weights under Tempo is optimal for bodybuilding, but not as much for Hockey player. If you have a lengthy break between games, it may help to balance out your body with a more-traditional program in which you lift and lower the weight with extreme control, but this is most likely going to add size without strength. Unless you are severely underweight, this is not an optimal way to train while in-season.

If you are like me and have a narcissistic desire to look good naked while performing well at Hockey, I recommend Christian Thibideau’s Star Complex protocol. It incorporates most of the Strength Training principles I have described above:

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/6_weeks_to_superhero_how_i_build_muscle_and_strip_off_fat_fast&cr=

Combined with the Energy Systems and Nutritional Guidelines I’ve recommended, this program has been the most-effective for me. It allows me a large volume of work without excessive Eccentric training that bodybuilders prefer, and is very useful for increasing Force Production.

Finally, a Sample Program

Putting together the above considerations, here is a sample of a program I might construct for myself as an in-season adult-league player (albeit a very dedicated one):

Player: Jack

Height/Weight: 6’1/195 lbs.

Athletic Developmental Goals: Emphasis on Endurance, Durability and Agility, with secondary work on Speed and Acceleration (I want it all). Strength Training emphasis should be on development of muscular control (especially in slow-twitch muscles) rather than maximum explosiveness. Emphasis should be on Performance Work/Compound movements rather than machines.

Personal Notes: I have a tendency to put on size very easily, so heavier strength training should be kept extremely heavy (5Rm or less with selective Functional Hypertrophy work); Glutes/Posterior Chain do not naturally fire as well as Quads – emphasis on Glute Activation and Posterior-Chain recruitment/development.

In an ideal world, here is what my Training Schedule looks like:

Saturday AM: True Sprints on football field (50-60 yards x 6-7 reps)

Saturday PM: Limit Strength weight training (Thib’s Star Complex A) followed by Pick-Up Hockey

Sunday AM/PM: Active Recovery or Game

Monday AM: Strength Training (Thib’s Star Complex B)

Monday PM: Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) + light weight training

Tuesday AM: On-Ice Skills Training

Tuesday PM: Game

Wednesday AM: Thib’s Star Complex A

Wednesday PM: Hockey Skills Training

Thursday PM: True Sprints or 400 Ms, Thib’s Star Complex B

Friday AM: Hockey Skills Training

Friday PM: Aerobic Training + light weight training or Pick-Up Hockey

That’s in an ideal world in which I can train myself twice-per-day while meeting my personal Calorie Demands. Work, school, man-whoring, significant others, etc. tend to interfere with this. The point is that I try to Strength Train four times per week, sprint twice per week, and jog twice per week if I can work it around Hockey and my other commitments.

On Nutrition for Hockey Players

Most templates I have seen assume a lot of things about the athlete. Many look like something a Strength Coach would write that could be generically implemented on a group of 25-30 people. The plans I have read both online and in books on the subject do not take into account food allergies or sensitivities, body type or body composition, and so forth.

For example, one book on the subject is The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain. While a paleo-type diet built around lean meats, fruits, and vegetables would benefit most people, Loren also recommends foods that I generally do not believe to be beneficial to most people, such as milk products, fruit juice, commercial breakfast cereal, etc.

Diets like these assume the athlete has optimal body composition, and does not desire to gain fat or lose muscle. Many diets written for Hockey players are carbohydrate-heavy, with the rationale being that carbohydrates are imperative because they tend to readily be converted to energy, While these diets think “Performance first, Physique second”, they also do not consider how much improved Body Composition (muscle: fat ratio) will improve performance. Excessive amounts of refined carbohydrate have not improved my Performance noticeably, but they have led to wild swings in Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and sluggishness, not to mention increased body fat and decreased metabolic output.

Having said that, I personally have swung too far the opposite direction and completely omitted carbohydrates from my diet. While this has led to a much better hormonal profile, decreased body fat, and improved muscular size/strength, this has not led to optimal performance on the ice.

So, my recommendation to start with Protein Intake. I am going to suggest that a hockey player err on the high side and aim for 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. I am suggesting this because Hockey is so calorically-demanding and metabolically challenging that a player is rapidly breaking down her or his lean body tissue.

Take for an example a player such as Danny Briere, who is slightly-built. Danny rapidly loses weight, and likely muscular weight, throughout the season, to the point that he has to choose lighter Stick Flexes as the season wears on. Being a rec-league player, I do not have the luxury of unlimited sticks via Easton or Bauer, so it behooves me to maintain (or ideally, improve) my muscle:fat ratio and strength through a season.

Here is an excellent article featuring New York Islanders’ Strength Coach Jesse Demers:

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030811p40.shtml

While Jesse recommends a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for his NHL players, he also notes that he recommends a ratio close to 1:1 for players entering training camp:

Early in the off-season, Demers recommends a 2:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. As the workout intensities increase, he says the ratio needs to be closer to 1:1 to provide extra protein for muscle growth and repair. However, he says players can become overly focused on protein, so he must ensure they don’t skimp on carbohydrates. “A lot of guys are scared of carbohydrates; they think they make you fat,” says Demers. “My biggest thing then is getting guys to not be scared of eating a carbohydrate, according to certain rules, throughout the season and throughout the off-season.”

He and I independently come to some of the same conclusions:

1) The calorie and nutritional demands of a Hockey player are extreme.

2) Protein Intake needs to be increased to keep a player Anabolic, or at the very least anti-catabolic, as training demands increase

3) As Jesse writes, “Carbohydrates according to certain rules.” This means adequate amounts of rice, potatoes, and possibly oats and gluten products if you elect to keep them in your diet. It does not mean reaching your carbohydrate requirements via Sour Patch Kids.

Very important to note that Jesse estimates a player’s caloric expenditure to be 1800-2500 Calories per game:

Demers measures calorie expenditures by measuring the players’ metabolic heart rates. He starts by establishing a baseline for each player’s VO2 max—the amount of oxygen he can process—at four different work rates. Using these data, along with a player’s height, weight, and age, he can calculate the number of calories that player burns during a game. Depending on the player, calorie expenditures can range from 1,800 to 2,500 per game.

While you might not be an NHL player, you are placing relatively-similar Caloric Demands upon yourself. That means you may be drastically underestimating how many calories you need, or trying to make up the caloric deficit with post-game trips to Taco Bell. Both courses of action are going to lead to trouble, as well as less-than-optimal performance.

While Jesse thinks carbohydrate intake is paramount, I think the base of any athlete’s diet should be protein, rather than carbohydrate. This view is unconventional, but there are many who will support it, particularly in the fitness community.

Assuming a 200-lb Hockey player is getting 300 g of protein throughout the day (again, for optimal performance), I would suggest the player aim for 3-5 whole food meals and 1-3 protein shakes. Egg or even Beef protein powder is an option if a player notices any kind of lactose sensitivity or intolerance.

The continued inclusion of dairy in an athlete diet remains a topic for debate. Currently, I am omitting dairy due to the estrogenic effects that seem to come from drinking the pasteurized milk of fattened, pregnant cows. Personally, I have always responded better to meeting my Protein needs via lean protein food sources such as chicken and beef, but I admit that meeting my Protein Intake goals this way can be a challenge.

You can decide for yourself if you wish to keep dairy/gluten in your diet. There is plenty of information on both on the internet. After you make a determination on those foods, you can move forward with diet program design.

I suggest most people follow Dr. John Berardi’s suggestion of separating carbohydrates and fats in given meals. Around the workout or workouts, a player would optimize Protein Synthesis by combining a protein source with a carbohydrate source. During less-active times, a player would combine a protein source with healthy forms of dietary fat (fish oil, coconut oil, animal fat, olive oil, avocado, mixed nuts or nut oils and butter, etc.)

My preferred carbohydrate source is white rice or potatoes. For an athlete, I do not see a huge difference between opting for brown rice over white rice, since the goal is to temporarily use an insulin surge to drive dietary protein into the muscle cells.Brown rice also is heavy in something called Phytic Acid, which mimics the effects seen with gluten.

I am definitely against high-sugar sports or energy drinks, unless an athlete is at optimal body composition. Not to start another brainy nutritional discuss, but I also believe Glycemic Index is far less crucial than Glycemic Load in determining how severe an insulin spike might be.

For you, this means that you do not need to justify the intake of Sour Patch Kids as a means of more-efficiently delivering dietary protein to the muscle cells. A natural carbohydrate source such as banana, corn, white rice, or white potatoes will accomplish the same principle more effectively and without dousing your body chemistry with unwanted additives.

Former NHLer Gary Roberts has a lot of great suggestions for a player looking to get adequate calories while ingesting quality foods rather than Sour Patch Kids and nachos. This article provides a nice overview, but a routine internet search will bring up a lot of additional information on his nutritional views.

My ideal diet for a day in which I have a game might look like this. I weigh 190-200 lbs, depending on activity levels:

Waking (8AM): 50 g egg whites cooked in coconut oil or organic/pasture butter (such as Kerrygold), 1/2 cup walnuts

Mid-Morning (10:30 AM): 40-60 g protein powder

Mid-Day (1PM): 60-80 g chicken, 1-2 cups broccoli, 1-2 cups brown rice

During Workout (4-6PM): 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Workout (6PM): 50-60 g protein powder, possibly with 1/2 cup applesauce

Pre-Game (7:30 PM): 30-40 g chicken or fish, 1 cup green vegetables (I personally do better without rice before games)

During Game: 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Game (10:30 PM): Chicken or fish and Potatoes or Rice/Vegetables as desired

That seems like a lot of eating, but it’s really just breakfast, lunch, two shakes, and a meal before and after the game. On non-game days, I am probably eating one less whole food meal and swapping out the rice for healthy fat such as olive or macadamia nut oil on a salad and ample amounts of coconut oil or animal fat.

Beef, chicken, and fish have about 6-8 grams of protein per ounce, and medium whole eggs have about 6 grams per egg. One scoop of protein powder generally yields 25 grams of protein. Omitting a powder makes it very difficult to keep yourself in a positive Nitrogen Balance (think of it as “Protein Plus/Minus” – you want to be as far into the positive as possible, and you accomplish this by ingesting more protein than your body can catabolize, which keeps you Anabolic. This is a great thing.)

All of this will lead to some unusual dietary habits, such as eating two dinners sometimes. If I have a typical day in which I swim laps, weight train, use the treadmill a bit, and then go play Hockey for 90 minutes, I might pound chicken and rice afterward and then have a huge protein shake an hour later. Staying Anabolic, and thus keeping your body from feasting upon itself for Energy, is paramount. If you are going to continue to play Hockey, you are going to need to adapt to meet your ongoing Metabolic needs if you want to maintain a high-level of performance.

I realize this reads very neanderthal, but my on-ice performance was actually best in college and shortly after, when I was eating copious amounts of animal flesh to promote my Physique/Man-Whoring goals and back-loading all of my carbs in the form of tequila and whiskey. But I digress.

Worth repeating: this is what works well for me. I seem to have moderate-to-severe sensitivities to both Gluten and Dairy products, as well as a family history of Diabetes. Ensuring a positive Nitrogen Balance while being smart about carbohydrate intake (and thus controlling insulin) is what promotes optimal Body Composition for me, which in turn promotes optimal performance. If you are 160 pounds and 7% body fat, you obviously metabolize carbohydrate more efficiently and probably want to scarf down as much food as possible. But the principles of maintaining a positive Nitrogen Balance and meeting Calorie Demands remain.

If you get your protein intake optimized, the carbohydrate and fat will likely take care of itself, especially if you swap out gluten-laden or sugary carbohydrates (fruit juice, soda, Sour Patch Kids, white bread, brownies, etc) and bad fats (baked goods and the like) for rice, potatoes, and quality fats. If you’re like me and refuse to give up alcohol, ditch beer, wine, and sugary mixers. Drink your Vodka like a Man, and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.

Another issue is Water Consumption. Back in college when I was a complete meat-head, I strolled around with a gallon jug most of the time, usually filled with BCAAs and Glutamine. As fitness magazines informed me, an optimal water intake was around 1 ounce per pound of body weight, and again weighing around 200 lbs, this was about 1.5 gallons for me.

As I’ve aged, I’ve fallen into a lazy, more socially-acceptable habit of drinking coffees, zero-calorie energy drinks, etc. in lieu of water. I think this has hurt my on-ice performance to a degree.

So, my recommendation is to ensure a daily water intake of 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight. This is going to seem like a lot, but I think the rewards are worth the effort.

If you have a 32 ounce water bottle and weigh 200 lbs, you would need to drink and refill the bottle six times per day. It’s a hassle, but again this is an article on optimizing your performance. Even if you doubled your current water intake, you would likely see a noticeable jump in performance and stamina.

Final Remarks

You can agree or disagree with my recommendations, but I do have the unique vantage point of having experience in both Performance and Physique protocols. Just as Physique-obsessed gym-goers could stand to learn from athletes, Performance specialists could stand to implement some of the dietary and nutritional approaches advocated by meat-heads.

This is one program written by a lifelong Hockey player who has taken a keen interest in Fitness. I have worked for a lengthy amount of time as a Personal Trainer and I am well-read on most Fitness topics, but I am not the ultimate authority on Strength and Conditioning.

In fact, I rarely implement this program as written. It’s an Optimal program, not necessarily a practical one. Hopefully, I have given you a starting point or a few things to think about as you design your own programs or work with your trainer to create a program.

Jack