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.

Dec 282011

Here it is folks, the top 5 posts of 2011!  I know everyone has bee anxiously waiting for this list.

In all seriousness, I am truly aware that if it wasn’t for some of the other websites that these articles get read on such as, some of these articles wouldn’t be read.  However, I enjoy the writing process and sharing some of the information that has helped me in the training process of my athletes.

Also, a reminder that my 2 new DVD’s, Kettlebell Lifting For Hockey and Slideboard Training For Hockey are now for sale on the Products Page.

Here are the top 5 posts of 2011:

5- Improving the Crossover Step For Hockey

4- Scouting the NHL Scouting Combine

3- 5 Exercises that Hockey Players Should be Performing in the Weight Room

2- Alternatives For the Hang Clean

1- Improving Shoulder Mobility


Moving on to 2012, I am excited to write and share more with you, the readers.  If anyone has any suggestions or something you would like me to write about, please leave a comment below.  Thanks!

Nov 062011

My friend Kevin Neeld recently released a new book on hockey training a few weeks ago.  I was actually able to read and review it.  It is an excellent resource for anyone who works with hockey players.  It is definitely a book that anyone who trains hockey players should read.  Also, as a bonus in this package, you can get some examples of some warm up routines that I use with my athletes.

Check it out here:

Ultimate Hockey Training

Aug 262011

Part 1 of this was the why I did the RKC cert and what I did to prepare for it.  Now I want to cover the weekend.

I drove down to La Jolla on Thursday night so that I could check into the hotel and check in for the RKC.  I checked in, got my book, and then looked to see which team I would be on.  As I was registering, I bumped into Jim Hooper, RKC.  He is the owner of Balboa Fitness in Newport Beach.  Earlier on in the summer when I was first getting started in my training, I went to Jim’s facility and spent some time with him so I could work on my technique.   Jim really helped me establish a solid foundation so I could move forward with my training.  When I saw Jim on Thursday, he informed me that I was on team Dan John.  I can’t tell you how fired up I was to hear that.  I have been a follower of Dan for a few years now.  From his book Never Let Go, to all of his articles on the internet about strength and conditioning, I have pretty much read all of his material.  There is something about the way that he writes that really keeps me interested as the reader.  I have never met him in person, but I was definitely hoping to at least bump into him over the weekend.  Now, considering the fact that there is over 120 people registered for this certification and I believe 8 or so teams, I was lucky and very fortunate to land on Dan’s team.  Instead of just bumping into him, I was going to spend 3 full days with him getting coached by him.  To me, that is just awesome.

To be honest, and I think many of the attendees would agree, I thought we were going to do the Snatch test on Friday morning.  I think many of us really wanted to get it out of the way so that it isn’t hovering over us during the weekend.  I think we were all pretty surprised when we found out that we were going to do it on Sunday morning.  My first thought was how the heck was I going to be able to do the snatch test on the last day?  I could only imagine how sore I would be at that point.  Oh well, what are you going to do?

The first thing that we did on Friday was perform the chin up/pull up test.  I don’t know if it was the momentum and excitement around the group, but it really felt easy.  Then we were instructed to grab specific kettlebells and bring them to the field.  That’s when the process and outline of the weekend started to unfold.

I really liked how the certification was laid out.  What would happen is one person would speak to the whole entire group, and then we would go back to our individual teams and work with our team leader and assistants. I recall on Friday morning it was mostly Pavel.  Pavel first started to talk about the Swing.  As the weekend went on, you definitely know why the Swing is addressed first and foremost.  I was really impressed with Pavel.  He was very direct in his overall communication with us.  He also appears to have a very open mind.  Although he founded this organization, he is very open to new ideas.  What also really impressed me was that when
he was talking about people who couldn’t get their hips extended all the way through during the Swing, he has them do Glute Bridges or the “RKC Shoulder Bridge” in Pavel’s terms.  He also said words like “Glute Amnesia”.  This really impressed me because he is talking about some of the things that I want to always teach and correct with my athletes.  We do a lot of glute bridging.  Also, what does he prescribe for those who can’t extend their hips all the way up during the glute bridge?  Hip flexor stretching.  I just wanted to write that because to me Pavel is someone who I really admire and respect because he has been there and done that.  He has the beginners mind and he just wants to make sure his students and more importantly, their clients can do the lifts safely.  He doesn’t have a negative, grumpy attitude and disregard terms like “glute amnesia” like some others in this profession.

All throughout the weekend, Brett Jones was the guy who was the one who was directing the order and flow of the whole entire group.  Although he prescribed many swings to us for disciplinary reasons, Brett was really funny.  This guy knows his stuff as well.

The weekend went on as we were instructed by many team leaders on the lifts.  From what I recall, Brett Jones spoke about the Get-Up, Dan John spoke about the Goblet Squat, Clean and Front Squat, Franz Snideman spoke on the Press, and Dave Whitley spoke on the Snatch.  These were the lifts that we are expected to know how to teach and also be able to do properly on Sunday morning (in addition to the Snatch test).  I really liked this format because we got the person who was known for being good at teaching those exercises.  For example, Dan John is very passionate about Goblet Squats, Cleans and Front Squats.  He would be the guy that I would go to right away if I wanted to learn to do them properly.

All weekend long, the main instructor would teach the lift and then we would go back to our team and practice.  This is where I think being on Dan’s team was unbelievable.  Dan is a great coach.  He made things simple for us.  What I really liked about his coaching was that we got Dan John’s coaching methods, not necessarily the “RKC” way or the way Pavel would coach it.  Although the methods are most likely pretty similar, Dan’s personality and coaching methods may be a little different.  This is just another reason that I was impressed with Pavel.  He empowers his team leaders to do their job as effectively as possible.

Sunday morning came real fast.  I can remember my hamstrings just being sore since Saturday morning.  I would imagine that we had performed at least 1500 swings at this point.  Also, my triceps were sore from pressing and my “abs” were sore from planks.  I wouldn’t say I was fresh for my strength testing.

First up was the Get Up.  I used a 24k kettlebell and it went very well.  Then it was double 24 kettlebells for the rest of the lifts up until the Snatch test.  I did 5 Cleans, then 5 Front Squats, and then 5 Presses (all with about
5-10 minutes rest in between).  Then it was on to the Snatch test.  At that point, the thought of being sore was long gone.  In the back of my mind, I knew I could get 100 reps in less than 5 minutes.  I was kind of nervous because on the day before, my grip was slipping a little on the decent in the Snatch technique section with Dave Whitley.  Would it slip during testing causing me to drop it and not pass?  When it was my turn to go, I just visualized myself being in my back yard at home which is where I did my Wednesday Snatch workouts.  10 reps each side followed by putting the bell down x5 was the plan as it was always done this way in my backyard.  I wouldn’t say that the Snatch test was easy, but it wasn’t as hard as the last time I did this.  The bell was flying up there for me and my grip wasn’t even an issue.  The reason is that my Swing got much better throughout the weekend. The last number that I heard before I put the bell down was 4:30.  I passed the Snatch test.

What I think is even better about this certification is that you need to show that you can teach the lifts to people.  They actually get local volunteers to come in and be taught how to use kettlebells appropriately by us the students.  I and fellow team member Taylor Lewis had an interesting person.  Our main issue was trying to get her from a squat style Swing to a hip hinge  type.  She learned the movement and Taylor and I passed.

The last part of the weekend was the Grad Workout.  This consisted of us finishing off the weekend with a really hard workout.   With 2 kettlebells (a 24k and a 16k) we did 5 presses followed by 10 swings.  When we were done, we took 5 big steps and then put them down.  We went for the length of a football field (probably more actually).

After the grad workout, it was back to our teams where were given our certificates in a little graduation ceremony with the other team members.  This is when I realized that I accomplished my goal.

This whole experience for me was life-changing.  I feel that I was pushed beyond limits in a real safe manner.  Also, Dan John is the real deal.  He is truly a great person and coach.  One of the first things that he said to us was that once you are a student of his, you are a student of his forever.

Dan John- A Strength Coach’s Strength Coach

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.

May 042011

Here is an example of a leg circuit that I use with hockey players.  I learned about the leg circuit years ago from Vern Gambetta videos and from Mike Boyle.  It is still a great tool for us today.  I really like it because it really focuses on developing leg power, strength, and endurance- both bilaterally and unilaterally.  It serves as a good transition from or conventional strength and power work to more circuit based work.

What I also like about the leg circuit is that it is a great tool for youth players.  When  I begin working with a youth team or individual, we will start with the leg circuit.  I am always coaching proper form and technique with each aspect of the circuit.

When we have the ability to perform the leg circuit properly with body weight, we will then add resistance.  We will progress to a weight vest or dumbbells and then progressd to a bar with added weight as necessary.

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 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.

Feb 072011

The crossover step in hockey is an important component of skating for any hockey player at any level. It is a movement that is necessary for turning, stopping, and changing direction. It is a technique that is also used when players are turning up the ice to start offensive breakouts. Many times I have heard players refer to “blasting off” when referring to the crossover. Since it is such an important aspect of the game, I felt it was important to develop some progressions and strategies to help us improve in this area.

In hockey, the ability to accelerate is something every player should look to improve. The first 2-3 steps are more important than the ability to skate at top speed- which rarely happens in a hockey game. As a result, we have always done acceleration drills where we emphasized the first 2-3 steps instead of running longer sprints. Drills such as Lean Fall Runs, ball drops, and push up starts to sprints, have always been part of our linear speed program and will continue to be. Since hockey is a multi-directional sport, we’ve always done acceleration drills to improve both linear and lateral speed. For our lateral speed progressions, we have always done drills where we push off the outside of our foot to create enough force to push off the ground and go in the other direction. Drills such as 1-knee side starts, shuffles, 1-2 cuts, and pro-agility drills have always been part of our lateral speed program. Now, since I have been observing our guys and their frequent use of the crossover in games and practices, I have changed my thought process. I now think it would be more beneficial to incorporate crossover movements into our lateral speed program. As a result, we are now incorporating a crossover step to the beginning of our sprints on lateral movement/speed days.

From a coaching and technical aspect and what’s important to note is that when crossing over is taught on the ice, one of the most important aspects is the ability to shift your weight and lean in the direction you want to go. In our acceleration drills, this is very similar to the lean fall and run where we coach our athletes to be tall, lean, fall, and run straight. I’ve noticed that the further our players lean, the better the drill is for them. In our crossover acceleration drills, we are incorporating a body lean to the side that we want to go. For example, if we want to go left, we will have them lean to the left and actually shift their weight to the outside of their left foot. When they reach the point where if they fall anymore, then they may fall to the ground, we will then cross the right foot over the left and push off of the right foot. Here is the progression we will now use on our lateral speed days in our off-season program:

Phase 1- Tall Lean Fall Crossover Run- Again, like the linear Lean Fall Run, we will lean almost to the point where the athlete will fall down and then they crossover and push of the foot crossing over to help us get into our sprint. We will do 3 crossovers each leg. The emphasis is getting a hard push, then 3 hard steps, and then coasting.

Phase 2- 1- Leg Lean Fall Crossover and Run- This is the same as the lean-fall-run except for now being on 1-leg in a hockey stance.

Phase 3- Lateral Crossover Ball Drops- These are different from the linear ball drops because we are actually getting the person who is dropping the ball to drop it when the running athlete starts to lean. What we find is that the ball drop helps the athlete crossover a little quicker.

We also incorporate the crossover to other aspects of our program. We will do crossover lateral sled marches. We will start these early in the off-season program with athletes who are training with me in the off-season or who have access to a sled at home. The emphasis is on the lean and the crossover.

Another aspect where we incorporate the crossover step is in our conditioning program. When we are running 150-yard and 300-yard shuttles, we will instruct our players to crossover when we break down at the lines when we change direction.

Honestly, if I had never started skating with our injured players during the last few seasons, I may have never known how important the ability to crossover is in skating. There are hundreds of drills on-ice that are used to promote better technique when it comes to crossing over. When I realized how important it actually is, then I decided that we may have to incorporate some drills to help improve this part of skating and being a better hockey player.