Jun 272011

What is with the title?  Let me explain. 

First, here is some background information for those who are reading this blog for the first time.  I am scheduled to do an RKC workshop in San Diego in August.  I am currently training with Kettlebells so that I can make it through the weekend (which I hear is brutally challenging) and pass the Snatch test.  My training is going really well.  My sessions are spread throughout the week where I am doing h1-arm swings with a 32k on Monday, snatch prep with the 24k bell on Wednesdays, and high rep snatch work with the 16k bell on Fridays.  Each day I am also doing Turkish Get Ups and Presses.  This is a routine that I picked up from reading another one of Brett Jones’ articles and getting some practical instruction from Jim Hooper RKC who owns and operates Balboa Fitness here in Newport Beach, CA.  I was fortunate to spend a few hours with Jim where he critiqued my form and gave me some pointers.  We both agreed that the program I am following will be beneficial to me as I build up strength and endurance for the weekend and the test. 

For those wondering about my snatch progression, I am on the 7+7 reps each arm on the minute for 12 minutes.  I just finished 11 minutes last Wednesday; however, my form was breaking down on my left arm.  I really didn’t think that another set would look or feel good. I am going to get another week of 7 reps before I head to 8 reps each hand in 10 minutes.  I am going to own each stage before I progress to the next.  On a different note, one thing that I was concerned about was my hands.  I have experienced torn calluses now a few times.  Each time, I had no clue they were torn until I looked at my hand when I put the bell down.  Now I feel that I have figured it out as I have been obsessively shaving them down and smoothing them out.  Now they feel better and I can grip the bells pretty good.  The 100 rep goal will be attainable when I head down to San Diego. 

What does this have to do with Hockey?  I think as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, you owe it to your athletes and yourself to be in the possible condition you can be in.  Many times when I tell someone what my training routine is, I usually get a response “what else are you doing” or “what are you doing for cardio/conditioning?”  I probably don’t need to be doing anything else besides the work with the kettlebells because all of the endurance work with bells is probably sufficient enough.  However, I really can’t train 3 days out of a possible 7. 

One thing that I really enjoy is playing hockey.  I have been playing in an adult league now for the last year.  When I play, I really enjoy the competition.  I really want to win no matter if it is a league game or a pick-up game that I play once per week.  I actually just played a 10:40 pm game this past Saturday night.  On the way to the rink, I thought back to when I was in my early twenties which was when Saturday nights were for other activities.   If you asked me then if I could ever picture myself at age 35 playing a hockey game at 10:40 pm on a Saturday night, I would say you were crazy.  Actually, the toughest part was that I am usually in bed an hour before the start time!  It is just amazing how life changes right in front of you. 

I really never skated until about 4 years ago here in Anaheim.  I would started skating with the injured players to help them get their on-ice work done.  It was difficult at first as I was absolutely terrible out there.  However, our guys were more than helpful when it came to the small technical instructions that have helped me along the way.  (By the way, I am still terrible when in comparison to the pro’s.)  I know that my experience with our injured players and by playing in a league has helped me do my job better on a daily basis.  My perspective has changed when it comes to designing workouts for strength and conditioning sessions for our players. 

So when I am asked what I do for conditioning besides work with kettlebells, I say that I play hockey 2-3 times per week.    Playing hockey is a really good conditioning tool.  Several times, I will wear a heart rate monitor and I will usually see my heart rate in the 175-182 bpm range. 

For now, this is what’s working for me.  I feel great as I think the kettlebell work is helping my hockey performance and the hockey skating is helping my conditioning in the kettlebell work.

Jun 242011

The off-season is going by quickly. I can’t believe that we are already at the annual NHL draft weekend as it seems like it was yesterday that the regular season ended.  Next week is also our annual prospect conditioning camp.  I really enjoy the prospect camps because we get to teach young players how to train what we feel is proper.  Most of the teams in the NHL are incorporating these camps now as I think everyone is starting to see the benefits of them to their success. 

As we prepare for the camp and I roll along with working with some of the roster players who are in town during the summer, it is time to give an update on what’s happening on HockeySc.com.  We have had some really great content added over the last week or so. 

The HSC Roundtableis a new feature to the site.  In this segment, myself, Mike Potenza, Kevin Neeld, and Darryl Nelson give our thoughts and opinions on setting up a training facility.  Although some of our answers are very similar, there are some differences as we each have had different individual issues that we had/have in setting up our facilities.

My Barbell Complex video was up next as I added a complex that we use with a barbell during the last phase of the off season.  We will also use this as an exercise in-season as well. 

Off-Ice Games by Darryl Nelson is a video showing some simple, fun games that Darryl has used with some youth players that he has worked with.   These are ways to make the drills exercises fun with the benefits of gaining some speed and agility.

There were 2 programs added this week in 4 Day Off-Season Training Phase 2 by Kevin Neeld and Speed Strength Phase of Training by Mike Potenza.  Both of them are good programs that work well in Kevin and Mike’s system.  I always read the programs to look at the coach’s template and workout flow.  These are some really solid programs from these guys.

Next up was a link to an interview with Mike Babcock.  This was submitted by Kevin Neeld and it was originally on NHL Network.  Mike is one of the most driven to succeed person that I know.  He is someone who approaches everything with intensity, including continuing his own education and getting better.  This is worth a listen for some extra motivation to seek constant improvement in whatever your profession may be. 

Last up was Darryl Nelson’s Core Training.  In this article Darryl explains his philosophy on core training. Like me, Darryl is a believer that we should not be performing flexion and rotation.  We should be performing ant-flexion/extension and anti-rotation exercises in our core programs.  In the article, Darryl references Dr. Stuart McGill who I have read about and seen speak several times.  This is article is a must read if you are still doing crunches or sit ups with your players. 

That’s it for the last week or so. 

Thanks for your continued support,

Sean, Mike, Anthony, Kevin, and Darryl

Jun 202011

I am a huge John Wooden fan. I completely admire and respect the way that he conducted himself as a basketball coach. He won several national championships as the coach at UCLA and left an unbelievable legacy.

I have read several books about him during the last 5 years or so. When I read these books (or any other book for that matter), I always try to learn something that I can apply in my situation. Not only as a strength and conditioning coach, but also as a person.

One of my favorite books about coach Wooden is Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization. The book actually contains copies of several of his own private notes that he kept when he was coaching. This is one of the books that I continue to re-read over and over again.

Here are some quotes and thoughts that I think are good for strength and conditioning coaches, coaches, or anyone else who leads people.

“The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher. He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct). He must be continuously exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that maybe helpful to him.”

– You must teach your athletes and clients to do things correctly all of the time and continue to learn and evolve so that you can help them get better. To me, this is what I love about the profession I am in. This is what it is all about. We continue to teach the little things over and over again on a daily basis and I am always looking for ways to get better.

“Develop the same sense of responsibility in every player regardless of the amount of time they may get to play. The varsity squad is one team, not regulars and substitutes.”

– This is a key for strength and conditioning coaches working in team sports. Although it is probably more difficult at the professional level, every player needs to get their work in. It requires a really good job of communicating the importance of it to them.

“Success is not a destination, it is a journey.”

– I love the simplicity of this quote. It is actually on a sign on the wall in our weight room.

If you are a coach or a leader and haven’t read any if John Wooden’s books, you should. I would love to see John Wooden coach today. I really think that he would be successful. Some may disagree, but I think he would do a great job in today’s game.

Jun 112011

I just had an amazing experience presenting on In-Season Strength and Conditioning for Hockey at the annual Roger Neilson’s coaches clinic.  I was absolutely honored to be involved in this clinic.  I met some really nice people who are involved.  I hope to be a part of it again someday. 

Some have been asking how my preparation is going for the RKC.  I feel like it is going really well.  I am progressing nicely with building up the necessary volume of snatches while my strength and technique is improving on my swings.  However, what I have been struggling with is that my hands get pretty ripped up.  Most of the time, I don’t even know it until I put the kettlebell down after the last rep on my last set.  I think I now have figured it out though as I have been working with a pumice stone and an emery board to get my hands smoother. 

As for HockeySC.com, we have had some great content added during the past week.  The forum is busy as well with discussions on playoff training models, sled training, and having a strong stick on the ice. 

Here is what was added last week:

Kevin Neeld added Youth Hockey Program.  This is a good program that doesn’t require  any equipment.  I really like these programs because in reality, this is what youth coaches are faced with when designing programs for their players.  You can really accomplish a lot with minimal space and equipment. 

I added the Using The Get Up in Team Sports article which was posted here on my blog.  Check out my last post. 

Next up was the International Hockey Panel from the USA Hockey Symposium with Igor Larionov.  This is actually a webinar on youth hockey.  Igor Larionov gives his own perspective on the current state of youth hockey development. 

Last was Darryl Nelson’s  Beginner Phase 2 Offseason.  I really love the simplicity of Darryl’s programs.  This is totally what young athletes need- a program with the intention of getting stronger at the basic lifts.

Jun 062011

As a strength and conditioning coach in a team sport setting, I admit that I was hesitant about the Turkish Get-up when I first started to learn about it.   I viewed it as an exercise that would be too difficult to implement in my coaching situation as it looked like an exercise that seemed too complicated to teach to a large group of athletes.  (We have 23 players on our hockey team). 

I first learned and practiced the Turkish Get-Up at a Perform Better 1 Day Seminar in Los Angeles a few years back.  To say that I was humbled by an 8k kettlebell is an understatement.   Dr. Mark Cheng was my instructor during the hands-on portion of the seminar.  I was coached by him through all of the 7 steps of the Kalos Sthenos method.  From my 5 minutes spent with Dr. Cheng, I realized that this was an exercise where proper form was critical.  Dr. Cheng was critiquing my every move as I tried to do a Get Up successfully.  This was the first time that I realized that our players needed to be doing the Get-Up.  I felt that this was a total body exercise that would be beneficial for our team.   What I really learned during my learning experience was that performing the Get Up with less than adequate technique really exposes issues such as weakness and tightness to some of the muscles that are involved. 

Along with learning from Dr. Cheng at the seminar, another resource that I have found helpful in learning the Turkish Get-up is “Kettlebells From the Ground Up” by the previously mentioned Dr. Mark Cheng, with Gray Cook and Brett Jones.  This is a great manual that outlines the 7 steps of the Get-Up in a specific way.  One of the quotes from Dr. Cheng in the manual is “Get-Up is an all-purpose strength and stability exercise, as a corrective exercise, and as a movement screen”.   I agree with him 100%.  An all purpose strength and stability exercise that is a corrective exercise and a movement screen at the same time?  This is an exercise that our players need to get really good at, just like any other exercise in our program.  

In our off-season program, we have added our progressions for the Get-Up into our program twice per week.  We will do a progression during each of the 3-week phases of the program as part of our workouts on days 1 and 3.  We will start the off-season with phase 1 of the Get Up and we will be performing full Get-Ups by the end. 

During the in-season phase, we do core circuits 2-3 times per week.  These consist of 6-8 hip and abdominal exercises done twice in a circuit-like fashion.  We have added the Get Up progressions to the core circuit.  These are done in a progressive format over the course of the season in 5-6 week phases which start with the easiest version in phase 1.  By the end of season, we are doing full Get Ups. 

Along with the Turkish Get Up, we have been implementing kettlebells with other traditional exercises.  Exercises such as Swings, 1-Leg Straight Leg Dead lifts, Goblet Squats, and Slideboard Split Squats have become parts of our program.  I must say that although we use kettle bells as a tool, I am not certified by a kettlebell organization as I write this article. However, I am registered to attend the RKC in August of 2011 where I know I will benefit from more coaching.  Most importantly, my athletes will benefit from me learning more about kettlebells as well.  I feel that what I have learned from resources such as the “Kettlebells From the Ground Up” and other publications such as “Kettlebells From The Center” have given me enough confidence in implementing these lifts with my athletes. 

In our situation, I felt it was necessary to break the Turkish Get-Up down into 4 steps instead of 7.  This is what works for us in our situation. 

Here is how we progress:

Phase 1- Get Up to Hand.  We are really focusing on stabilizing with the lats and “packing” the shoulders down.  We will also emphasize movement from the thoracic spine.  We can really see lack of thoracic spine mobility during this phase, especially on one side compared to the other. 

Phase 2- Get Up to Hip Extension. This is a phase that is beneficial from a screening perspective.  With some hockey players having tight hip flexors and rectus femoris’, the inability to extend the hips is visible right away during this phase.  From here we can identify those players who need some extra soft tissue work, stretching, or both to the hip flexors, rectus femoris, and TFLs.  This part of the Get-Up, combined with all of the glute bridging and hip flexor lengthening that we do, is imperative for our guys in maintaining healthy hips. 

Phase 3- Get Up to Kneeling Position.  This phase requires coordination, balance, and stability all throughout the body.

Phase 4- Full Get Up. This is the last phase and the finish to the Get-Up.  By now we have established a base and have progressed to this. 

One of the key aspects of the Get Up is returning to the starting position during each phase.  We must exhibit proper body control and eccentric strength to complete the movement. 

From a practical perspective, over the course of the season, I have seen the progressions listed above help our players tremendously.  When we started, the form during each phase didn’t look so good across the board.  Now, as we have put all the parts together, our players have been figuring out strategies to be more efficient.  For example, they have figured out that the movement is easier with a locked-out elbow versus a slightly bent elbow.  Our guys now look really smooth performing the Get Up.