Mar 312011
 

I am trying to update the blog as frequently as I can. It has honestly been difficult getting some posts up.   Our travel schedule has been hectic as we have been to Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, back home to Anaheim, Calgary, and now San Jose in the last week. I am actually typing this post on my Ipad as I am enjoying some down time here in San Jose.   I hope you liked the Shoulder Mobility article that came up this past Monday.

HockeySC is rolling along pretty good with awesome forum content including discussion on aerobic training and returning from concussion protocols. 

Here is what we have added since my last update:

–          Video of the Week- Stiff Legged Sled Drag by Kevin Neeld.  In this video, Kevin shoes a nice posterior chain exercise variation. 

–          Audio Interview with myself.  Anthony and I talked about what is going on with the Ducks from a strength and conditioning perspective at this time of year. 

–          Supplement Recommendations for Hockey Players by David Lasnier was up next.  David takes a look at supplements such as Vitamin-D, Beta-Alanine, and Greens supplement and how they are beneficial to hockey players.  Good stuff from David.

–          Next up is Hang Clean Videos by myself.  These are some videos of some local pros and major junior guys doing hang cleans. 

–          Hope you all are enjoying the site.  Any questions let us know. 

Sean, Mike, Anthony, Kevin, and Darryl.

Mar 282011
 

At the beginning of every season, we will do a Functional Movement Screen (F.M.S.) with each member of our team.  It has become a part of the whole overall testing and assessment process.  The process of using the F.M.S. has evolved as I have learned new strategies and techniques from season to season to help us incorporate corrective exercises into our program.  During the first few seasons that we implemented the F.M.S., we simply screened our team and then implemented our in-season program.  Now, we are taking a much more individualized corrective exercise approach as I felt that we needed to incorporate some corrective exercises to help the players with F.M.S. issues and prevent players from having problems. 

We have seen some trends in the scoring the F.M.S. over the past 5 years.  The hurdle step pattern has been one that has shown some asymmetries.  Mike Boyle has written and talked about this pattern and his hockey players for a few years now.  We have definitely benefited and implemented some of his ideas and progressions. 

Another part of the F.M.S. where we will see some asymmetries is the Shoulder Mobility Screen.  Every season, we will have some shoulder mobility asymmetries with some of our players.  Many times, these players may be new players acquired by our team through trades or through free agency.  With these players, it is not uncommon to hear them describe having a previous injury which may have been a separated shoulder, an AC sprain, or a dislocation/partial dislocation earlier in their career.  They may have undergone surgery to correct one of the previously mentioned injuries or they may have rehabbed it without surgery.  Either way, the injury has caused them to lose some mobility and/or stability in the shoulder joint and in the thoracic spine.  Therefore, we may have some differences in right versus left side in our shoulder mobility screen. 

The Thoracic Spine is an area that we are continuing to learn more about.  Many hockey players display some thoracic kyphosis and will also show signs of Janda’s Upper Crossed Syndrome.  Tight pectoralis major and pectoralis minors, combined with weak upper back muscles are common.   There are many factors that may of lead to these imbalances such as prolonged sitting, improper training programs, or simply playing the game of hockey.  Along with previous injuries, these imbalances are another reason why we may see some asymmetries in the shoulder mobility screen.

Something that I have learned from listening to and reading Gray Cook’s materials is that one of the biggest predictors for injury is previous injury.  The most important aspect of our jobs as strength and conditioning coaches is injury prevention.  It is important to try to ensure that a previous injury will not become a current injury.  Making corrections in faulty patterns by correcting tightness and/or weakness is beneficial to preventing further injuries.

With the shoulder mobility assessment and its corrective strategies, I’ve realized that making progress will not happen overnight.  These are not exercises that can be done once or twice and then forgotten about.  We have found that using the corrective strategies that have worked for us usually have to be done on a daily basis. 

How do we incorporate the corrective exercises?  With a long schedule consisting of many practices and games, players will develop their own routines to help them prepare on a daily basis.  We will simply have the players who have exhibited asymmetries on the Shoulder Mobility screen add some of the corrective exercises into their daily pre-practice and/or pre-game routines.  As a result, we have seen small increases in shoulder mobility as we go along.  It is not uncommon to hear our players say that their shoulders feel better. 

Here is a sequence of exercises that we do with our players.  Each part of the sequence needs to be done in order and no parts can be missed.  The proper order needs to be followed to allow us the greatest chance of success. 

Soft Tissue Work- We will use many different methods to address thoracic spine mobility including the foam roller, the Stick, and 2 tennis balls taped together.  We will address the posterior shoulder girdle, the upper back, the pectorals, and the lateral aspect of the rib cage.  Sue Falsone, Physical Therapist from Athlete’s Performance, gave an outstanding presentation at last summer’s Perform Better Functional Training Summit that covered the Thoracic spine.  She discussed several methods of increasing mobility in the t-spine.  We have successfully borrowed and implemented some of her ideas from her talk.

One thing I remember learning from a Gary Gray course that I took 7 years ago was that he said “Use the other 2 planes of to help get more motion in the less mobile plane.” In the case of the thoracic spine, increasing mobility in the sagittal and frontal planes will help with gaining mobility in the transverse plane, while increasing mobility in the transverse and frontal planes will help with gaining mobility in the saggital plane.  We will look to increase mobility in all 3 planes of motion using the easiest and most efficient methods.  We will also work on flexibility for muscles that can become shortened and tight including the Pectorals Major and Minor, latisimus dorsi, and subscapularis.

Here are some of the exercises and progressions that we have used to help us gain more mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint: 

Standing T-Spine Rotation- This exercise is borrowed from Michol Dalcourt.  I really like this one because we are standing. 
 

Quadruped T-Spine Rotation- This is another exercise that we have used to help prevent the lumbar spine from moving so that the rotation is primarily at the t-spine level. 

 

Standing Wall Slides- This is the easier progression of the wall slide.  The back of the head, shoulder blades, and butt are touching the wall.  We are simply keeping them against the wall as we slide our arms up the wall until our hands and elbows can no longer stay in contact.  A much more difficult version of this exercise is also standing, but in addition to the head, shoulder blades, and butt, we try to keep the lower back flat as well.

Seated Wall Slides- this is a more difficult version of the standing wall slide as we are now in a position where the lower back is flat against the wall which will allow for a more kyphotic thoracic spine to take place.  This will put the athlete in a position where the anterior muscles need more length and the scapula retractors more strength to get the shoulder blades to touch the wall.

Integration-  
 
One of the aspects of the F.M.S. that I like is that asymmetries in one of the screens can result in an issue in another screen.  For example, with an athlete with shoulder mobility 1’s and 2’s, it is common to see a 1 or a 2 in the Deep Squat assessment. We will try to correct the Deep Squat after we have seen some positive results from our Shoulder Mobility exercises.   Sometimes by just working on shoulder mobility, we have seen positive changes in the deep squat.   If we still have some issues with thoracic spine extension, we will incorporate this: 

Toe Touch Squat With Alternating Arm Reach- 
 

With hockey being a collision sport, injuries to the shoulder joint are not 100% avoidable.  However, if we can make positive changes by helping our players feel better, I am all for it.

Mar 232011
 

Here is a recent interview that I did with the New England Hockey Journal. I am excited as this was published back home in the printed edition as well. I will also be submitting articles to them on a monthly basis.

A special thanks goes out to my friend Sean Glennon who arranged for the interview to take place with Eric Beato, the editor for the magazine.

New England Hockey Journal Interview

Mar 212011
 

This is my favorite time of the year as the days are getting longer and it is getting warmer outside. Personally, my family and I are preparing for our new addition this May.  We are really looking forward to it as parents and brother.  Professionally, the team is making what seems like to be an annual playoff push.  Every game is important as we try to climb the standings for a chance at making the playoffs.

What I also like about this time of year is that all of the information on all of the strength and conditioning, physical therapy, fitness, and coaching seminar information is being published.  There are many to choose from all across the country.  For myself, I am going to be going to at least 2 as an attendant and 1 as a speaker.  Maybe I will see you at one of them?

As a speaker, I will be at the Roger Neilson Coaches Clinic. This is will be held June 10th through June 12th in Windsor, Ontario.  I am truly honored and humbled to be speaking at this event.  If you look at the list of the past speakers who have spoken at it, you can see why.  My topic is on In-Season Strength and Conditioning for Hockey.  With the fact that I am with our players for a good 8-10 months out of the calendar year, this phase of training is very important for injury prevention and performance enhancement.

As an attendee, I will be attending Kevin Wilk’s Recent Advances in the Treatment of the Shoulder and the Knee July 15th through July 17th in San Diego.  This is a seminar that I really wanted to get to last summer.  Now, it looks like the dates and the location of the course line up perfectly.  I really think we can learn from smart physical therapists.  Shoulders and Knees are definitely areas that we want to reduce the chances of injury with our players.

The Perform Better Functional Training Summit returns to Long Beach August 26th through 28th.  This is one seminar that I really haven’t missed in a long time.  With the number of quality presenters to choose from, this is a can’t-miss.  I am really looking forward to seeing people such as Dan John, Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Todd Wright, and Vern Gambetta speak.

Along with going to seminars, it is important to go and visit other coaches who are doing things better than you in some areas.  With the NHL scouting combine being June 3rd and 4th in Toronto, I will try to visit with some people in the Toronto area who will be in off-season training mode with the players that they train.

Mar 182011
 

We added some great content this week at HockeySc.com.:

–          Improving Shoulder Mobility by myself.  In this article, I talk about the Shoulder Mobility screen from the Functional Movement Screen.  I list some of the exercises and progressions that have worked well in my coaching situation.

–          Teaching Circuit Phase 1 by Mike Potenza.  This is an article with several videos showing examples of what Mike does with youth players.  It is a teaching circuit as technique and coaching cues are critical to help the young player establish a low athletic position with proper posture and technique. 

–          Training Around an Injured Arm by Mike Potenza.  These are the types of articles that I really enjoy.  These are real-world programs that are being administered under situations that are different for everyone who is working with hockey players.  This is a simple 3-day program that will help a player with an injured arm stay strong and healthy everywhere else in his body.  Good stuff from Mike. 

–        Beginner Off-Season Strength Training by Darryl Nelson.  This is a good program for a beginner.  I really like the simplicity of these program as it features many good “bang for your buck” exercises.  I like to follow a similar template to this. 

Hope you all are enjoying the site.  Any questions let us know. 

Sean, Mike, Anthony, Kevin, and Darryl.

Mar 142011
 

The NHL Scouting Combine takes place during the last week of May every year at a hotel in Toronto.  It is conducted by the NHL Central Scouting Division.  They bring over 100 of the top prospects from all over the world who are eligible for the entry draft.  Throughout the week, all 30 NHL organizations are allowed to interview the prospects as well as evaluate them through the physical testing process.  For the prospects, it can be a long, grueling week where they may have to visit with each organization.  The testing part of the combine is the time when each teams’ management, scouts, and strength and conditioning coaches get to observe the prospects complete physical tests.  It is done on the last 2 days of the week (Friday and Saturday). 

Although The NHL combine is definitely not as publicized as the NFL combine, I think it’s important to highlight some of the key differences between the both of them for those who may not be familiar with the NHL combine.  Unlike the NFL combine, the NHL combine is mostly made up of 18 year olds.  Most of them are not fully physically developed because of the fact that they may have never trained before or they may be late bloomers who may not have matured yet physically.  They could be high school seniors, underclassmen in college, or junior hockey players.  NFL prospects are 4-6 years older and most likely have been through organized strength and conditioning programs in college.  Another factor to consider is the number of days that the NHL prospects have been removed from their last game played.  It is possible that some of the NHL prospects may not have played an actual game since March while some of the junior players may have played only a few days before.  Some guys will be better prepared for the combine with several weeks of training for it while others haven’t had the time to prepare due to them still playing.  With the NFL combine being conducted in February; most of the NFL prospects get at least 2 months to train after their last game.  NFL prospects also get the opportunity to prepare for the combine by participating in strength and conditioning programs that are geared to help them prepare for the specific tests at the NFL combine. 

The challenge of each NHL organization is to take all of the testing data into consideration when comparing scores from one prospect to another.  However, what is most important through it all is if the player can play.  Each organization’s amateur scouting staff has invested many hours and lots of money in observing these prospects play hockey.  They know how good a player is or isn’t. The strength and conditioning coach’s job is to evaluate the overall fitness of the prospect and more importantly, try to predict where a player could be in a couple of years.  Does he look like he could add a few more pounds?  Can he get quicker?  More explosive? 

As the combine takes place in the hotel ball room, each prospect enters the testing area where all of the exercises and measurement stations are set up in a successive, almost circuit like fashion.  Usually there are 6-8 prospects per hour.  The stations include-

  • Height and Weight
  • Body Composition
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Sit and Reach Flexibility
  • Push/Pull Isometric Strength
  • Maximum Number of Trunk Curl Ups
  • 150lbs Bench Press repetition max test on a slow cadence
  • Maximum Number of Push Ups
  • Seated Medicine Ball Chest Pass with 4K Ball
  • Standing Long Jump
  • Vertical Jump with pause and Vertical Jump without pause with Vertek
  • 4 Jump Elasticity on Just Jump Mat
  • Hexagon Agility Test
  • 30 Second Anaerobic Power Test (Wingate)
  • VO2 Max Test on Bike

It usually takes each prospect about an hour to complete the full battery of tests. 

Many times I am asked by personal trainers and/or collegiate strength and conditioning coaches, “How do I get one of my players/clients prepared for the combine?” My general advice is to help the prospect get as “fit” as possible.  Work on their strength, power, and conditioning.  Get them used to benching 150lbs on a slow tempo, get them used to jumping up to a Vertek, get them used to the Wingate and VO2 tests on the bike, etc.  I will also usually tell them that I think it’s important for them to know that different NHL teams look at some tests more than others.  While talking to other NHL strength and conditioning coaches who are at the combine over the years, many of them have a different area where they may focus on when watching the prospects go through the battery of tests.  Some will watch anthropometric measurements, some will watch the bench press, some will watch vertical jumps, some will watch the Wingate, and some will watch the V02.  I guess it all depends on what test each strength and conditioning coach and/or organization values the most. 

What I think maybe the most important measurement of what all organizations look at is the effort level and the character of each prospect.  Here I am not just saying “work hard” and be a nice person.  They will need to work as hard as they possibly can on each test.  For example, I remember 2 years ago when a young defensemen came in and really looked like he dominated every test from his effort alone.  His effort was outstanding and was the talk all over the room.  He ended up being a top 5 pick and is currently a really good player in the NHL.  He probably would have been picked that high anyways, but I think that his performance at the combine helped him move up a few spots.  Also, each prospect should show good body language when being instructed on how to perform the tests and when completing each test.  They should be nice to the people administering the tests who are college students that are doing it for free and are probably very nervous around the prospects.   

I always look back at some of my notes and evaluations since I have been attending the combine to see if they make the NHL.  Usually, the prospects on my note pad with “worked hard on this test” or “seems like a real good kid” next to their names are the guys who are playing professional hockey.  The names of the guys who had “bad body language”, “wasn’t ready for the vo2 test when it was his turn”, or “ripped off the face mask during the VO2 max test” are unrecognizable.

Mar 042011
 

We had another good week of content at HockeySC.com.  The content continues to be great as we got some newe videos and programs added.  The forum has also been going good with discussions on conditioning, treadmills, and nervous system fatigue this week.  Make sure you log on to check out what’s going on.  We are really putting together a good site for Hockey Strength and Conditioning. 

First Up was Kevin Neeld’s 2-Day In-Season program.  This is a good program from Kevin.  It maybe a little more volume than what I would do with my guys, but in Kevin’s situation, it makes sense.

Next up was my ACL Rehab phase 1.  This is an older program that I used with a player.  I think what is important and is mostly not mentioned with these programs is the fact that a program can be good, but if the athlete isn’t willing to work hard at it, then it isn’t a good program.  I know first-hand that this athlete worked his ass off during this program (which was 5 phases total).  In this situation, the proper progressions combined with the hard work that the athlete put in, contributed to him coming back completely healthy.

Darryl Nelson’s Olympic Lifts from the Hang Position was up next.  This is 2 videos showing the Hang Snatch and Hang Clean.  Darryl does a great job with his coaching.  I know this because I have seen several of the players who have been through the National Development Program lift.  With some of our recent prospects coming from there, I have had to do minimal coaching with them as their Olympic technique is real good.  Darryl has made my job a lot easier.

Last was Mike Potenza’s Abduction and Adduction Exercises.  These are great videos from Mike showing how he isolates these important muscles in the injury prevention process.  I am going to give them a try as we are always looking for new ways to progress our abduction and adduction exercises.

Again, I hope you log on to check out the newest content.  Thanks!

Sean, Mike, Anthony, Kevin, and Darryl