seanskahan

Sep 032018
 

I wrote this a while back and it was posted on StrengthCoach.com.  I may post some others that aren’t on this site. 

The goals of the pre-season strength and conditioning phase for hockey are 1- To help prepare for the demands of training camp and 2- To bridge the gap between the off-season and in-season strength and conditioning phases.  At the collegiate and professional levels, this is a unique time for the Strength and Conditioning Coach because it is when most of the players are present for strength and conditioning sessions.  With the fact that many athletes could be in different locations throughout the off-season, this a great time to get the entire team together and implement the program and help build team camaraderie.

The pre-season phase is usually 3-4 weeks in duration and occurs from late August through early September.  We will spend 3 days in the weight room and 4-5 days on-ice on a weekly basis.  Strength training will take place prior to skating on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while conditioning on the bike is completed prior to skating on Tuesday and Thursday.  Skating is Monday through Friday.

During this phase, more volume is implemented.  This is much different from the early off-season phase when training is primarily off-ice.  Some of the training methods that were done in the off-season will be discontinued.  This includes running and slideboarding.  The conditioning focus is on-ice speed and conditioning with the exception of 2 bike workouts per week.

Strength Training

The strength training philosophy during this period will consist of circuit training.  This is different from any other time of year.  Instead of doing 5-6 strength and power exercises, we will now do 12 exercises straight through.  When the circuit starts, the rest periods between exercises will be determined by how many athletes are present.  For example, if there are 24 athletes, we will partner up at each exercise and go at a simple I go-you go pace.  Each athlete and partner is assigned an exercise/station from 1-12 and then they will follow along.  There is a 1 minute and 30 second rest period when the circuit is completed.

I have found that putting the exercises in this order has worked best: double leg push, upper pull (vertical), upper push (horizontal), core/anterior chain, lower explosive,  1-Leg lower push, upper pull (horizontal), upper press (vertical), 1-leg lower (glute/hamstring emphasis), 1-arm upper pull, core/stabilization, and upper explosive.  We will perform these circuits 2 x per week on Monday’s and Friday’s.  The difference between the Monday and Friday circuit is that although the format of movements will stay the same, the selection of exercise will be different.  For example, on Monday we may perform a pull up (hands facing away) while we may perform a chin up on Friday (palms facing).  On Wednesdays, we will perform a plate circuit which is borrowed/stolen from Strength and Conditioning Coaches Mike Boyle and the Calgary Flames’ Rich Hesketh.

 

During the Monday and Friday circuits, each player will perform the prescribed number of reps for each exercise in the circuit.  Regressions are implemented for athletes who may not be able to perform a specific exercise due to reasons such as past injuries and/or biomechanical deficiencies.  For example, we may substitute a goblet squat for the front squat or a split squat instead of the 1-leg squat.

During the Wednesday circuit, each player will be given a 35-lb plate and complete the entire circuit without resting.  This will take place for each exercise until the steering wheel exercise in which all of the athletes perform it together.

Conditioning

The off-ice conditioning will take place on the stationary bikes Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays, the bike sessions will consist of 1-minute sprints at a high level of resistance.  During these sprints, we are trying to enhance the player’s resistance to fatigue- especially after the 30-40 second mark in which the average hockey shift ends.  At the end of the sprint, they will recover to 130 bpm while at level 1 on the bike.  We will start with 6 reps in week 1 and add one more rep each week.  On Thursdays, we will simply perform a steady state/cardiac output ride where the emphasis is on keeping the heart rate in the 130-140bpm range.  This ride is to help increase cardiac output and enhance our ability to recover.  We will typically go for 30-60 minutes.  Saturday bike rides will be prescribed based on how the player feels and what his needs may be.

On the ice, the players will run their own practices. They will perform 45 minutes of drills and then follow up with a 45 minute scrimmage. On Fridays during the preseason, players prepare for the training camp conditioning test at the end of practice.  The conditioning test is very demanding and requires serious preparation.  Not only do the players get prepared for the test, but they are getting some conditioning work in during the process.

What I really like about pre-season workouts is that there is full participation from everyone on the team.  The players believe in the program and the importance of training together for team building.  This is a great phase because it can help establish the culture of the strength and conditioning program prior to the in-season phase.  The Strength and Conditioning Coach can coach and interact with the athletes while making a smooth transition into the in-season phase.

As I continue my career in professional hockey, the process of getting your athletes to buy in and participate in the program is much more important than providing them with a “state of the art” program that not everyone will want to do.  I believe that when you provide them with a basic program in an environment where they are training hard together, the results can be positive from an on-ice perspective.

Aug 042018
 

I like to read books all the time- although I probably don’t read as much as others.  Here are some of the books that I have read recently and have almost finished:

The Five Minute Journal

Tough to say that this is a book that I am reading but I did purchase it and do read the words on the page on a daily basis.  I enjoy starting my day with gratitude writing.  I have tried a few of them but I wanted to try a new process.  So far so good.

Iron Works Preparation: The Best Way to Prepare for Football

I have really enjoyed listening to Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach Buddy Morris on several different podcasts.  I have also read some of his “Coach X” material on Elitefts.com. This book (which is co-authored by Ryan Williams)was another way to see how good strength and conditioning coaches organizes their thoughts and write programs. I am a nerd when it comes to this stuff and enjoy learning how other coaches write programs even if it isn’t for hockey.

Gift of Injury

This is a great resource for me because I have low back pain.  I am also always looking for methods that work in the prevention of LBP in my athletes/clients.  I have read lots of Stuart McGill’s work but this was different because it was written from Dr. Mcgill’s perspective as well as the athlete’- Brian Carroll. I had the opportunity to meet with Brian at the the annual PHATS meeting in Orlando.  It was pretty neat to hear his experience.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

I had a good start with this and I put it down because I found it to be a tough read.  I anticipate picking it up again soon.

Would love to hear thoughts and suggestions.

Jun 182018
 

This is another phase 1 exercise.  I like this because it allows us to get shoulder and arm work done with one exercise versus performing dumbbell curls and shoulder presses individually.

– The athlete is tall with their hips extended.

– The arms must be long at the start of the curl and the wrists are nuetral during the presss.

– I’ve found that the nuetral grip helps allow us to get a better anatomical position with less back extension and the pressing path in line with the ears.

Jun 052018
 

This is phase 1/Accumulation phase exercise that we do for horizontal pressing.

I’ve always like these because it allows us to get unilateral work in with dumbbells while also getting some shoulder stabilization work.

Week 1 we will start with 8 reps each side and progress 2 reps each week.  Ideally, we try to increase the load as well.  I feel that this allows for a smooth transition to barbell work in phase 2.

May 252018
 

We like to incorporate stretches to muscle groups that can be tight from prolonged sitting and simply playing the game of hockey.  We will stretch within our strength training sessions to ensure that stretching doesn’t become an afterthought and to utilize the rest periods in between sets of strength training exercises.

A muscle group that can become tight and restricted is the Quadriceps (more specifically the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis (VMO), and the Vastus Lateralis).

Years ago, I read this article by Charles Poliquin Question of Strength 22.  I’ve been using this variation ever since.  I’ve found more benefit with the addition of foam rolling the quads prior to this stretch.

May 212018
 

I like to post these random thoughts that pop up in my head from time to time.  Let me know what you think.

-I’ve been using a 1×20 program with my athletes as a Post-Season/Transition phase for the past 3 years.  Each off-season, I have found it to be a great re-introduction to the training process with the emphasis on GPP and restoring range of motion under load.  Thanks to Strength and Conditioning Coaches like Jim Snider at Wisconsin, Jay Demayo at Richmond University, and ultimately Dr. Yessis.


-I believe more dumbbells and kettlebells and no barbells in this phase.

-With my young athletes who can’t complete a set of 8 chin ups on their own; I’ve had them use assisted pull up variations with bands.  I am now going back to adding eccentrics after their last successful repetition.  We don’t use the band anymore.  For example, if a an athlete can’t execute 8 chin ups, but can get 5, I have them perform a :30 eccentric after their 5th rep.  This occurs for all 3 sets that we do in the training session.  I  feel that the band assisted method doesn’t produce results.  The goal is 30 seconds on the eccentric contraction.  This will continue even though we aren’t in an “eccentric” phase.

-Tempo is the forgotten variable sometimes in training.  Beginners and those in the return to training phase need more time under tension

-For continuing education this summer, I recently attended Charles Poliquin’s Advanced Program Design seminar.  I thought it was outstanding.  I go to seminars to learn.  I’ve never gone to train.  However, the practical portion of this seminar was equally beneficial to the knowledge picked up in the lecture portion.  It was awesome kind of going back in time for me as I haven’t been to one of his seminars since 2001.

-Charles said something on the lines of a Strength and Conditioning Coach isn’t doing a good job in-season if 90% of strength isn’t maintained.  I believe that.

-I love working with youth and high school hockey players during the summer.  I believe that consistent work and effort with an emphasis on the basics works.

-I have some requests for off-season program design/on-line training.  Please email me a sean@seanskahan.com if interested.

Feb 272018
 

I like the random thought posts because it allows me to share what I am thinking when I sit down to write.

  • I’ve been taking an active approach on social media (or more active approach). I’ve always felt that maybe my content stinks and no one will like it or maybe some would think that I don’t actually coach. What I’ve come to realize is that if someone doesn’t like what I put out- who cares?  I actually do coach and lots of folks find the content beneficial.

 

  • I’ve been helping out some high school hockey teams this season (which has been fun). We had a few training sessions on the day between games.  For example, if the team played Thursday and Saturday- we trained on Friday.  We have done some strength training exercises such as body weight step ups and push ups but most of the sessions were tempo running, diaphragmatic breathing, and stretching. Each time they won the next day.  Not saying what we did helped them win but it didn’t help them lose.

 

  • I’ve done a consistent job of establishing a morning routine. I’ve become obsessed with personal goal setting over the last few years.  Each morning, I get up, make coffee, and write in my Full Focus Plannerread the Daily Stoic, and then hit my Wim Hof inspired breathing exercises and push ups.  Something to be said about having a routine that you stick with in the morning before you do anything else.  Funny how only a few years ago, I would probably call myself a nerd for doing this kind of stuff.

 

  • Working with pro athletes is both fun and challenging. Having fun while overcoming the challenges makes me a better coach.

 

  • Recovery Facilitator is a large part of the responsibility of the Strength and Conditioning Coach in-season.
Feb 162018
 

I am trying to wake my blog up from a period of inactivity.  Here is something I wrote 6 years ago and was still in the “draft” category.  When I re-read it and think about what I think now- If I was training a team in the off-season, I still believe in this.

We use traditional exercises to build both strength and power with our athletes. One way we look to increase total body power is by performing Olympic lift variations. We will utilize lifts such as the Hang Clean, Hang Snatch, and Dumbbell Snatch for the purpose developing hip and leg power. In these types of lifts, we are actually borrowing the methods from what you may see at the Olympic Games where the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch are the competitive lifts. Olympic lifters are some of the most powerful athletes in the world. Athletes can benefit from the same methods that develop power in the Olympic lifters. However, unlike the Olympic lifters who pull the barbell from the floor, we modify them by performing them from the hang position.

As I progressed in my career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I was exposed to Olympic lifting both from the hang position and from the floor. While working in environments where athletes lifted from the floor, I always knew what I would do when I was able to design my own programs. In the back of my mind, I knew that my athletes were going to do Olympic lift from the hang position. The reason is that I had seen far less inadeuqatge form from the hang position versus from the floor.  I never saw the benefit of lifting from the floor versus the hang position. To me, the perceived benefit of lifting from the floor simply wasn’t worth the risk of potential injury.

In the hang position, the chest is up, the hips are back, and the shoulders are in front of the bar, with the wrists rolled under. All we are asking the athlete to do is jump, shrug, and sit to get to the front squat rack position. Pretty simple to do, but like any other exercise, it does take some coaching.

When we perform power exercises such as Olympic lift variations, we will do them twice per week during the off-season and 1-2 times per week in-season. In the off-season, we spend 1 of those days performing the Hang Clean, while on the other day, we are either doing Dumbbell Snatches or Kettlebell Swings.

In the last few years, I have strayed away from the Hang Snatch. Now, I believe that they are in the must-do category. When it comes to the reasons why we don’t Hang Snatch, I have always thought of these:

– When I think of hockey players, I immediately think of the sport demands. Hockey isn’t an overhead sport so why should we use overhead lifts for a sport in which they never have their arms overhead?

– I am afraid of my athletes suffering injuries in the weight room. In the case of Hang Snatch, my primary concern here are shoulder injuries. I don’t like the wide grip position on Hang Snatches. I think we would be asking for trouble if we did large amounts of volume with that version.

– The Hang Snatch is a technical lift. I would not be 100% comfortable with the players following our program at home by themselves. The reality is that most of our players leave the area during the off-season.

Now that I have given a few reasons why we don’t Hang Snatch, a recent training session with one of my athletes has let me know that I could also look at why it is a great exercise. In this situation, the athlete had been training around a previous back injury for the past 2-3 years. One off-season, I discontinued the Hang Clean and several other double leg squatting and hinging exercises for this guy. We inserted alternatives such as Squat Jumps and Vertimax Jumps for power development. At the beginning of this past off-season, we discussed what he liked to do for explosive exercises. Immediately, he said he wanted to Hang Snatch. When I was done watching him perform a set, I said “Why did I stop doing these with my athletes?”

What did I see that was so good? I saw an exercise that was really hard to do wrong- once you got into the proper start position. These are the types of exercises that I really like- simple and effective with limited risk of injury with proper load. In this situation, he picked up the bar and slid it down to the position above his knees while simultaneously pushing his hips back. At the same time he had an arched back, his hands were rolled over the bar, his chest and shoulders were over the bar, and his hands were a tad wider than shoulder width and his eyes were up. From there, he proceeded to jump, shrug, and sit while extending the arms up in the finished position. It was really good technique.

Looking at the reasons I gave above for not using the Hang Snatch, I simply thought of the opposite of the reasons to determine why I would use them again.

Hockey is indeed not an overhead sport. However, I see the benefit of the Hang Snatch for the sport. Finishing the lift while holding the bar overhead under load is a great way to train the scapula-thoracic and rotator cuff musculature as stabilizers. The Hang Snatch is also a good exercise for hypertrophy and strength, specifically in the upper back and posterior shoulder girdle region. More importantly, although the load is lower than in the Hang clean- the velocity is higher in the Snatch. Every athlete who is trying to improve power and who don’t have physical limitations.  However, like any other exercise, there are some athletes who should not do them at first. For example, we don’t use the Hang Snatch with athletes who have shown asymmetries on the shoulder mobility part of the Functional Movement Screen. We will try to correct the asymmetries with corrective exercise strategies with these individuals. Once they can demonstrate symmetrical scores, we would start teaching them the Hang Snatch.

In regards to load selection during the Hang Snatch, lighter is OK. Especially at the start when we are learning. The proper start position along with the movement has to be dialed in. Like any other exercise in our program, we will add weight to the bar progressively as the athlete gets stronger.

Like I mentioned, the Hang Snatch can be a great exercise for power development. If I can prescribe an exercise that requires less load and can be done right, I am all for it.