May 302012
 

Tomorrow, I am heading up to Toronto for the annual scouting combine.  I believe that this will be my 7th or 8th combine that I am attending.  It is a good way to assess the top 115 or so prospects that may be selected in the draft.  They will be put through an assortment of physical tests in front of many team personnel.

I am often asked by other Trainers and Strength and Conditioning Coaches “How do prepare a hockey player for the combine?”.  Here is an article that I wrote a few years ago that addresses that:

Scouting the Scouting Combine

Also, who do you think will win the Stanley Cup?

May 252012
 

It’s been a while since my last update and much has happened during that time.  For me, it started off with a trip to Germany to teach strength and conditioning principles to a great group of coaches.  It was a very humbling experience for me as these coaches are at the top of the profession in Germany.  I got to teach 2- 2-day courses during my stay.  I did get a little time as well to check out some of the sites including seeing the biggest church that I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was so big that it took almost 500 years to build!  I was very grateful for this opportunity as I met some really great people while getting to see another part of the world.

After my trip to Germany, it was on to Boston where I was speaking at the BSMPG annual seminar.  It was another event that I was honored to be a part of.  Art Horne and Dan Boothby really do a great job with this conference on an annual basis.  The speaker lineup was outstanding as coaches like Cal Dietz, Joel Jamieson, Dan Boothby, and Pete Friesen all spoke in the hockey track while people such as Bill Knowles and Craig Liebenson were the keynote presenters.  While I am not a “basketball guy”, there were also some of the best Strength and Conditioning coaches in basketball with presentations from coaches such as Art Horne from Northeastern University and Andrea Hudy from the University of Kansas.  What was also really impressive was that the people in the audience featured some of the best strength and conditioning coaches in Hockey and Basketball as there were lots of coaches from the best programs in collegiate hockey and basketball and also a few from the NHL and NBA.

At HockeySc.com, we continue to roll along with adding great content to the site in addition to having some really good discussions on the forum.  It was also great to see many of the members at BSMPG.  We are excited about how the site is continually being the best in hockey training information on the internet.  Here is what we have added since my last update:

Videos of the Week:

Jump Squats by Darryl Nelson

Complex Lifts as Pre-Strength Training Warm Ups by Mike Potenza

Programming:

2012 Early Off-Season Training Program Phase 1 by Kevin Neeld

Summer 2012 Phase 1 Strength Training by me

Spring Training 4 Days per Week by Darryl Nelson

Articles:

What’s New in Regeneration Training by Mike Potenza

Training Overhaul: Making the Transition from Old School to Current Principles without Pissing Off the Coach (Part 2) by Kevin Neeld

Debit Card Strength and Conditioning: In-Season Account Withdrawals by Anthony Donskov

 

Thanks!- Sean

May 182012
 

(Originally Posted at www.Dragondoor.com)

I must say that I have been using kettlebells within my team’s training program in some capacity during the past 2 years.  During that time, we have incorporated the Swing, the Get-Up, and have used the kettlebell for other exercises such as 1-Arm/1-Leg Modified Straight Leg Deadlifts and Slideboard Split Squats.  I felt that since I have viewed some really good DVD’s and have read a few books on kettlebells, that I could add kettlebells proficiency.  The truth is, even though I can basically add any exercise that I feel is good for my athletes, it wasn’t until I actually became an RKC that I learned that I needed to change a few coaching cues and clean up some technical flaws.

The Swing

I have always believed in performing some kind of Olympic lift variation daily in the off-season.  Whether it is a Hang Clean, Hang Snatch, Dumbbell Snatch, or a Push Jerk, we were going to do one of those on a daily basis.  There is no question in my mind that there are benefits to Olympic lifting for a hockey player.  I think that explosive power development is crucial for the developing young hockey player.  The Olympic lifts can help a young player become faster, stronger, while also developing the ability to check more explosively.

The Swing has become a welcome addition to the menu of explosive lifts.  The swing is a ballistic lift where we are using maximum power of the posterior chain to accelerate the kettlebell with proper technique.  Where I am absolutely certain that the Swing is beneficial for hockey players is the fact that hockey players need to be better at extending their hips- plain and simple.  Hockey players spend an enormous amount of time in a flexed spine, hip, knee, and ankle position.  Whether they are playing the sport, sitting in their lockers during intermissions, sitting at home, sitting on the plane or the bus, hockey players are always in a shortened position.  The Swing helps us get full hip extension.

The Swing can also serve as an evaluation tool for those who really can’t extend their hips all the way through.  If we see some players who really can’t seem to get their hips through, we immediately go back to our Glute activation exercises.  Although we do spend a good amount of time performing exercises to prevent “Gluteal Amnesia”, the Swing can give us a better indication of who may need those exercises more.  With Glute activation exercises and a lot of time spent stretching out our hip flexors; we feel that we can get good results from our Swings.

For the Swing, we can use it as a power exercise where we are doing 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.  We will also use it as a conditioning tool for those who may be injured and may not be necessarily cleared to skate.  An example of this may be a player who has sustained an injury to a hand, wrist, or shoulder.  We would simply do 1-arm Swings with the good limb.

The Get Up

As a Strength and Conditioning Coach in a team sport setting, I admit that I was hesitant about the 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 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 perform core/hip 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.

 

The Goblet Squat

The Goblet Squat has become a really good in-season lift for us.  During the last few years, I have grown to dislike loading my players’ spines through other double-leg squatting exercises such as the Back Squat and Front Squat.  The risk vs. reward benefit of these lifts simply doesn’t make sense to me as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in a professional sport setting.  What the Goblet Squat allows us to do is get a really good double-leg strengthening exercise done in a safe manner.

Honestly, I haven’t seen too many Goblet Squats done poorly.  However, I can’t honestly say that about Front Squats and Back Squats.  With the Goblet Squat, we are coaching our players to sit into the squat by imagining themselves sitting on a curb.  I view this exercise as not only as a good strength exercise but also a good hip mobility exercise.

The Overhead Press

Developing shoulder strength and stability is an absolute must in a strength and conditioning program for hockey.  With the addition of the Get Up, the Overhead Press has been another great addition to the program.  In fact, I think that the kettlebell press is superior to the dumbbell press.  It just feels like a more natural movement pattern.  When you focus on using tension to provide a better base of support to press from, the press is much more than a shoulder exercise.

We will progress from a half-kneel position to a kneeling position, to a lunge position, and then to a standing position.  This is done so that our players can help achieve strength in these positions and help correct some deficiencies from their Functional Movement Screen Scores.

My thoughts on the Snatch

Personally, in my own training, I really love the kettlebell snatch as a conditioning tool.  I really think that this would be a great tool for hockey players as well because we are getting more high velocity hip extension over and over again.  However, what I don’t like about the snatch is that it really beats up the hands.  I think back to my RKC prep and the fact that I really tore my hands apart when I was doing my high rep range snatches.  I can’t afford to have my players hurt their hands during the training process.  If a player has learned how to do them properly and takes care of his hands properly, I wouldn’t hesitate at all.  However, until then, I will save the Snatch for my own training.

May 072012
 

There has been tons of great thought processes shared about the role of the foot in regards to function and sports performance.  For example, I immediately think of people such as Todd Wright (Strength and Conditioning Coach at University of Texas Basketball) and Gary Gray when it comes to people who are passionate about it.   I find it fascinating how important the foot is in regards to function and the chain of events that happens to the whole entire body once it hits the ground.

As a strength and conditioning coach who works with hockey players, I could make a case for ignoring the movements of the foot. Why?  An aspect to consider in regards to hockey players is that the game is played on/in skates.  The foot never hits the ground.  Hockey skates are supportive and they lock the foot and ankle into place with the firmness of the boot and the tightened skate laces.  There is not much movement available in the foot when it is in a skate.  However, there has to be movement so the foot can feel the skate blade below it- especially when accelerating, stopping, starting, turning, and crossing over.

When hockey players are participating in strength and conditioning programs (I really don’t like the term “dry-land”), they are wearing athletic footwear.  Their feet have to be able to move and produce ground force reactions.  As for footwear, we are always suggesting that our players wear the barefoot/minimal concept shoes.  This past season, we ordered a pair of New Balance Minumus for all of our players.

Something that I continue to see is that when some athletes are move, whether it be during warm up, or while strength training (especially single leg exercises), the foot that is on the ground may move.  Sometimes, I may observe eversion of the ankle and foot.  Most of the time, I see inversion where it looks like the athletes’ foot rolls to the outside.  I commonly see this with the front foot of a forward lunge walk, during a 1-leg modified straight leg deadlift, and versions of some of our single leg squatting exercises. When this happens, it is obvious that the big toe isn’t pushing into the ground the way that it should be.   I can actually see the part of the shoe that covers the big toe come off the floor.

Why is this important?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

With the foot rolling to the outside during most single leg strength exercises, this may be occurring inside the skate when they are skating. It is imperative for a hockey player to be able to use the muscles of the big toe while skating.  The final phase of the push off in skating is referred to as the “toe flick” which is accomplished by pushing the big toe into the ice and pushing off.

What can happen with players who’s big toe doesn’t hit the ground is that the toe flexor muscles can become weak/underactive.  The specific muscle would be the Flexor Hallucis Longus.  This muscle originates at the lower 2/3 of the back of the the fibula.  The tendon goes under the foot and attaches to the base of the big toe.  Its action is plantar flexion of the big toe.

I am not advocating the addition of seated calf raises to strengthen the Flexor Hallucis Longus into a hockey player’s strength and conditioning program.  However, I am advocating for strength and conditioning coaches to be aware of their players and their ability to use their big toe muscles.  Have them pay more attention and keep their foot flat on the ground while warming up and performing strength training exercises.  They also need to think about pushing their foot into the ground/ice and finishing off the push off with the big toe flick when running or skating.

If a player is already playing at a high level with weak toe flexors, how better might they be if they were able to push that big toe into the ice harder to generate a better toe flick while skating?  Sometimes every little bit of difference helps.

May 042012
 

I hope everyone has had a good week.  For me personally, I am still in shut-down mode here as far training hockey players.  Also, I always tell myself that I won’t watch too much hockey, but I find myself watching most of the games with my son Will.  This year’s playoffs have been so hard not to watch.

As for HockeySc.com, things are going pretty well.  We have had some great additions to the site since my last update:

First up is Slideboard Training Ideas by Mike Potenza.  In this article/program, Mike breaks down his slideboard conditioning very specifically.  Mike uses the number of foot contact on each side of the board and board length to measure and add volume to his conditioning program.  I like this.  However, we just go on the board for a certain amount of time.  Maybe I will look at this more.

Next up is Sport Specific Leg Press by Carrie Keil and Darryl Nelson.  In this video, the hockey players are using a sled on the ice while working on skating patterns.  The sled is called the Pavesled.  This is a really interesting video.  I really like resisted sled work in our acceleration/speed program, but have never really taken a close look at it on the ice.  This is a great post from Carrie and Darryl.

Last ups is Seated T-Spine Extension by me.  I am starting to use this one more as I recently learned this variation from Charlie Weingroff.  The key is getting the hips above 90 degrees and getting the elbows touching one another.  Our guys certainly “feel it” when they use it.

That’s it for now.  I am really looking forward to my trip to Germany next week followed by a trip back to Boston.  I hope to see some you!

May 012012
 

I want to do more book reviews on my blog.  Similar to when I go to seminars, I like to take notes, highlight the best takeaway information, and then organize them into a review.  Like a previous blog post, I write these reviews and descriptions to help me get some of my thoughts about the subject on paper (or computer).

The first book I want to talk about is Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson.  Before I get into the book, I wanted to take the time to mention Cal.  I’ve known Cal now for the past 12 years.  Back in 1999, Cal graduated and moved on to the University of Findlay from his Graduate Assistant position at the University of Minnesota.  I was fortunate to be able to replace him at Minnesota.  Cal was then re-hired as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Olympic Sports at the University of Minnesota a few years later right after I graduated and departed for the University of North Dakota.  Since then, Cal has done an unbelievable job with U’s athletic department.  The teams and individual athletes that he has coached have been very successful.

Along with being a successful strength and conditioning coach, Cal is a very bright and is also a really good person.  Most of the time when I speak to Cal about strength and conditioning or what he is doing with his athletes, I honestly feel dumb.  There are times when I really have no clue what he is talking about and things are just way over my head.   When it comes to being a good person, I know from a personal perspective. I will never forget being at the Rochester Mayo clinic in Minnesota for a major surgery that I had to have done back in 2005.  It was a scary time for me and my family.  Cal and his wife Karyn, a former USA hockey Olympian, made the trip down from Minneapolis to come visit me as I was recovering.   I thought that was really neat and it is obviously something that I will never forget.

Triphasic Training is a really good detailed description on the methods of Cal’s strength and conditioning philosophy.  What I like most about the book is that the information is laid out in a very comprehensive manner that even I understood.  Cal tells stories and makes comparisons to some of the athletes that he has coached to make points more clear.  What is triphasic training?   From what I am taking away from the book, it is how Cal manipulates the “tri phasic” actions of applying stress to the body.  Eccentrically, Isometrically, and Concentrically.  There are so many ways that the strength and conditioning coach can apply stress and you will learn several of the methods that Cal uses.  Not only will you learn the methods, but more importantly, the why.

To be honest, there are times when I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole Russian training methodology.  Sometimes I feel that I need to read up on all of the author such as Verkhoshansky, Medvedev, etc.  Or, just read Supertraining over and over again.  For me, Triphasic Training has made understanding what those guys are talking about a little bit easier.

The concept of block periodization is something that I could see working in the collegiate setting or in an Olympic training type environment.  Having your athletes available to train with you for up to 48 weeks per year makes such a difference.  The more time that you have with your athletes, the more you can do.  From my understanding, block periodization is spending more time on one fitness quality over others.  For example, in a strength block, the athletes would be spending more time with higher loads and less volume.  In an endurance type block, there would be more of an emphasis on higher volume with lighter to medium loads.

I guess I am more of a concurrent periodization coach while also alternating strength and accumulation phases.  We always work on getting stronger, getting faster, getting more powerful, and getting in better condition. For my situation, the reality is that I don’t get the opportunity to train my athletes year round.  With the exception of 3-4 of our players, our guys are gone from season’s end to the next season’s beginning.  So, I don’t get to spend 48 weeks per year with them.

Our job as strength and conditioning coaches is to apply stresses to our athletes in the safest and most effective ways as possible.  Triphasic Training is a great resource for learning the way that one of the best in our industry does it.  Get Triphasic Training here.