It’s been a long time since my last post to this site. For those who know me, you know that I am in the process of a change within my career. As I make the transition from one coast to the other, I wanted to revisit and update the blog with something current.
A big reason why I haven’t been posting as consistently as I would like to is because I’ve been working on something else when time permits. One of my goals has always been to write a book on training for hockey. Well, it is now starting to become a reality. I also want to clean the dust off this blog and start posting again.
Total Hockey Training is due to be released by Human Kinetics in February 2016. To say that I am excited is an understatement. I really enjoy the grind of writing and re-writing as we go along until the finish. It will be available both as paperback and e-book.
I wanted to share a post that was written by my friend/mentor Mike Boyle on his blog StrengthCoachblog.com. Mike has been posting really good content in regards to his thoughts against year-round specialization in youth sports. I think it’s important to help spread the message all over North America- including here in Southern California.
It just seems that the more that I read what Mike has been sharing along with the fact that I continually speak to professional players about what additional sports they played as youths- the more I am convinced. A multi-sport approach as a kid is beneficial in the long run when/if they decide to specialize on 1 sport. For the record, I have spoken to only a few hockey players who didn’t play any other sports. Most “put the bag away” at the end of their hockey seasons.
Personally, in the past I have been guilty of putting my oldest son through the the concept of year-round hockey. Whether it was spring selects or in-house hockey, more games were being played after a 7-month season. (Yes- 7 months at age 8). This spring/summer, after a few weeks off, he will be playing lacrosse while also still skating 1-2 times per week in non-competitive situations and competing in 2 weekend tournaments in May. Probably not a complete off-season, but a drastic change from the past.
On the forum, we have had some good discussions ongoing such as a discussion on training 8-10 year olds and some of the recent articles written about today’s off-season training done by some of today’s NHL players. What is great about the forum is that there are always good questions and discussions about all different kinds of topics in regards to performance training for hockey. Make sure you check out the forum when you log on.
Remember, if you are not a current member, you can try us out for $1 for 7 days. If you don’t like it, you can cancel during that time.
Tracy says to write down 10 specific goals every day in the present tense like you have already accomplished them. For example, “I weigh 185 pounds” vs. “I will lose weight”. Write your 10 goals down every day for 30 days straight. When you write down your goals, then come up with a plan for each of them to be accomplished, then take action, you will have a really good chance of completing them. At the end of the 30 days, you will be amazed and you will also note the positive changes in your life.
Although it may sound a little cheesy and far-fetched, I really believe in this method and it only takes 5 minutes per day.
2012 was a good year at SeanSkahan.com. I made an effort to improve my content by focusing on the quality of my writing. Although I think I can improve greatly, I am happy with how far I have come since I started this site.
I was able to increase the number of views to the site by 35% from 2011. Not too bad, but I can still try to improve the total number.
All being said I thank you very much for stopping by. I hope to continue to post more frequently with better content in 2013.
Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley has a quote in his book The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players, “If you’re not getting better, you are getting worse”. I love this quote because I believe it’s true. I always want to see myself as a beginner in the Strength and Conditioning/Sports Performance profession. Honestly, there is so much that I don’t know. Which has just dawned on me that I think this is why I am not the biggest fan of some of the internet gurus who- A- really aren’t coaching anyone and B- really haven’t been doing this for a long time.
2012 was another good year that brought about some life learning experiences both personally and professionally. Here are 3 things among others that really stood out:
1- I really enjoy coaching on the floor in the weight room and on the field/ice. Professionally, this is what I love doing. Interacting and coaching my athletes while they train is what I am passionate about. This is what keeps me going. When something is taken away from you for reasons way beyond your control, you realize how much you love to doing it. Hopefully, I’m back to doing it soon.
2- The diaphragm is a really important muscle to ensure that is functioning properly. While I am still in the infant stages (no pun intended) of learning about its roles in breathing and in spinal stabilization, the reality is that I really didn’t give it the time of day up until a year or two ago.
The diaphragm is an important muscle in function because of its importance in creating deep abdominal pressure (in conjunction with other muscles including the pelvic floor and other abdominals) prior to movement of the upper and/or lower body limb(s) in function. From an injury prevention perspective, I think this a huge area of importance because if there is insufficient intra-abdominal pressure, dysfunction can easily occur in a part of the chain of events that occur in movemdddddent. Maybe I’m wrong, but I do know that I will learn more about this. Thanks to my learning about breathing and my recent attendance at the DNS-A course, this has been brought to my attention and will soon be part of my daily coaching strategies.
3- I really like USA Hockey’s long-term American Development Model which is I am pretty sure is going to be instituted at the mite level next year in Southern California. One of the main components of this model at the mite level is that kids will be playing cross-ice games instead of full ice.
What I have learned is while that I agree with the change overall, I am not sure that I agree with it when it comes to my own son. Please let me explain. In his situation, he is now playing in travel mite full-ice game hockey at the age of 6. Prior to this season, he played cross-ice mini games when he was 4 and then played full-ice In-House at age 5. All of the time however has been spent practicing in mostly station-based drills and cross-ice mini games. My question is, does he then spend the next 2 years (mites are ages 8 and under) playing cross-ice while he is now capable of playing full ice because he is as big, if not bigger than most of the kids in the mite age group while also being an average- above average skater? Would this take him backwards as I feel that he can play full ice? Maybe in my eyes, his progression is going good, however he could benefit from the small area games to develop his skills. I’m not sure, but I’m sure there will be some other kids with same questions.
As many of you know, I find myself with lots of free-time due to circumstances WAY beyond my control. As a result, I find myself trying to utilize this time the best way that I possibly can. Whether it is reading articles or books, watching training DVDs, writing blog posts (such as this) and an e-book, or visiting other Strength and Conditioning Coaches/Trainers, I am trying to use this time to get better. Of course, I would rather be doing my day job and trying to find the extra time to squeeze this stuff in.
The book is a Navy SEAL’s autobiography that also contains what happened during the planning and accomplished mission of taking down Osama Bin Laden.
I have so much respect for Navy SEALS. Why? They are the last people on earth that I would want to piss off. Which makes me feel safer knowing that these guys are the ones carrying out missions like the one talked about in the book. Also, I think SEALS are the ultimate athletes. When you look at what they are tested in both physically and mentally, no one in the whole world is as tough as these guys. From the time that they decide to become a SEAL through all of their boot camps which includes the “Hell week” in which they sleep for 4 hours total during an entire week, these guys are the cream of the crop. It is no wonder why the drop out rate is so high. From a training perspective, what is really impressive about these men is that they must be able to always complete their physical assessments even after they officially become SEALS. They are also pretty much on call 24-7. They must be ready to go at any time. There is no set schedule as to when they are on missions.
What was also impressive in the book was the attention to detail that these men have in the planning process for any mission that they set out to accomplish. It is all scripted right down to packing their gear properly and rehearsing the missions over and over again. This really sounds familiar when you think of the deliberate practice concept and why successful coaches teach their athletes about the importance of the smallest of details. Coach Wooden teaching his players how to put their socks on properly comes to mind.
“We are not superheroes, but we all share a common bond in serving something greater than ourselves. It is a brotherhood that ties us together, and that bond is what allows us to willingly walk into harm’s way together.”
Obviously, I really liked the book and was really surprised that I crushed it 2 days. Check it out here
I thought that the title of the post was appropriate because I guess I would consider myself to be a beginner still in the whole information product marketing world. I’ve always seen myself as a Strength and Conditioning Coach who made the DVDs because I believe in the content and I strongly believe that it can help any hockey player and/or coach. However, the reality is that not that many people are talking about them on-line. I now get the power of marketing and the impact of more people talking about your products. All I can do is appreciate the learning experience that this has provided me with.
I do promise to get the word out more when I do complete my book which is now 40,000 words and 150 pages deep. I find myself at the stage where I am updating more of the content as I learn more.
The title of this post includes “Re-visit” because I attempted to write about how I was using the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) back in 2004 or 2005. At the time, I was using the FMS with my team in a different manner than how I am now. Although I was screening each member of the team, I wasn’t clear on what to do with the scores. I tried to correct different parts of the screen by incorporating corrective exercises within the team’s strength training sessions. For example, if a player had scored a “2” on the Deep Squat, then they would perform a corrective exercise such as the Toe Touch with Alternating Arm Reach to Stand in between sets of a strength training exercise. For example, they would perform a set of an exercise such as the Hang Clean and then proceed to do a corrective exercise before their next set. We would also insert other corrective exercises which were specific to other parts of their screen into other parts of the team strength training session.
While I am not saying that this was the wrong approach, or that any other way to use the FMS and correctives is wrong, it was really difficult to implement this method. One, I have 20-25 players on the team. Trying to individualize FMS scores into the team training program this way was time consuming and not logistically efficient. Second, I thought that each player should be able to get a total score of 21. As a result, I would look at the scores and then try to correct each pattern going from top to bottom in the order of how the screen is conducted. This would put the Deep Squat first, followed by Hurdle Step, In-Line Lunge, Shoulder Mobility, Active Straight Leg Raise, Trunk Stability Push Up, and Rotary Stability.
Fast forward 8 years, and the reality is that I still don’t have a comprehensive system for using the FMS and its accompanying corrective exercises. However, there have been many screens and correctives done since. In reality, what it came down to was that even though I was using the screen, the screens weren’t actually getting better. Whether that was taking a part of the screen from a “2” to a “3”, or getting symmetrical “2’s” instead of “1-3”, we weren’t seeing it happen.
What could I do better? It certainly wasn’t from a lack of learning. I’ve attended the FMS course, I’ve purchased all of the “Secret” DVD’s, I’ve seen Gray Cook speak several times, and I’ve read Movement (1). It wasn’t until I attended the CK-FMS course which is a 4-day FMS course that is held in conjunction with RKC community, that I really felt like I got it. What I learned during the course is that there is a system for interpreting FMS scores and a protocol for corrective exercise strategies.
What the system does is give a hierarchy of which parts of the FMS to address according to the scores. I also learned that the system of using correctives doesn’t start with the Deep Squat. It starts by looking at the Active Straight Leg Raise. It turns out that the Deep Squat is screened first because it is easier to administer the standing parts of the screen first when screening somebody.
Since I now know the hierarchy of the parts of the screen, what about the scores? First, if there is a score of zero in any part of the screen, then that should be referred out. Any pain during any part of the screen should be scored as zero. This goes for all 7 parts of the FMS, not just the clearing exams after Shoulder Mobility, Trunk Stability Push Up, or Rotary Stability. When there is a score of zero, I would let our Athletic Trainer know and he would mostly likely then follow a proper examination protocol or let our doctors know. If there are no zeros, we would then look at the FMS hierarchy and the Algorithm. Any asymmetries in any part of the screen would be prioritized over any 2’s. For example a screen with an ASLR of 2 right, 1 left would be addressed before the 2 on the Deep Squat. (It is important to note that I’ve also learned that 2’s are actually good. A FMS score of 14 with 2’s and symmetrical 2’s isn’t bad at all.)
What do we do now?
In my opinion, the FMS is now easier to implement. The number one priority is to identify the weakest link. In order to do this, we follow the FMS algorithm and identify what is the most important part of the screen to address first. When we prioritize the one weak link, we are going to spend more time on correcting that part of the screen. In my opinion, this is better than the approach in which we may prescribe 1 corrective exercise for each of the 7 parts of the screen. If we spent the same amount of time that we would spend on using the shotgun approach just on the weakest part of the screen, we will have a better chance of making positive changes.
Once we have screened the player and have identified the weakest link, he will then be put into a specific corrective exercise group. We categorize our corrective groups according to what part of the screen is the weakest link. These groups will start their training sessions immediately with the proper progressions and exercises before participating in the team training session. We actually did this during the off-season by screening 34 players at our prospect conditioning camp. What was interesting was that other than 3 individuals, each player was identified as either an Active Straight Leg Raise or a Shoulder Mobility (the others were 2 Trunk Stability Push Up and 1 Rotary Stability).
Each corrective exercise group consists of the following:
In our team training sessions, we will always start with soft tissue work. We have always done that with foam rollers, tennis balls, and the stick. However, in addition to what some of our players may do for general foam rolling, we will now address specific areas. For example, in our Shoulder Mobility group, we would spend more time on the internal rotators of the shoulder joint, posterior shoulder, upper back, and the serratus. Our Active Straight Leg Raise players will spend more time with their hamstrings, glutes, calves, hip rotators, and hip flexors.
After we foam roll, we will then move on to breathing.
Breathing (ASLR, SM, RS,TSPU)
When I first started reading about the concepts of breathing, specifically diaphragmatic breathing, or crocodile breathing, I must admit that I completely disregarded it. Why would I spend any time teaching our players how to breathe through their diaphragm? There will be no time when the athletes that I work with will remember to breathe through their stomach when they are competing. Also, breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system, so how would we be able to consciously think about breathing like this during competition or under any stress? It looked like a complete waste of time and not something that I would do with my athletes.
What changed? I tried it in the context of the FMS corrective exercise strategies. I measured my shoulder mobility which has been a 2 left, 1 right for some time. I then proceeded to do 20 crocodile breaths and then re-assessed. I had an immediate positive change when I re-screened. I also used it with several athletes who saw positive changes in not only shoulder mobility, but other parts of the screen as well. It works- period.
I probably can’t tell you why or how this works, but getting into a relaxed state by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system has something to do with it. There are other professionals who could tell you why and how more specifically. However, whether it is yin/yang, sympathetic/parasympathic,or tension/relaxation, there is something beneficial of getting into the slower and relaxed state by breathing through the abdominal area versus the chest.
The question is now, who needs to add diaphragmatic breathing and how are we going to coach it?
When diaphragmatic breathing is combined with soft tissue work and corrective exercises, you can see positive changes happening- especially to the Active Straight Leg Raise and Shoulder Mobility. It is important to note that for us and for the best usage of time, we will find the one corrective exercise that will help make a positive change. A positive change would be a correction in the FMS score or maybe a gain of a few inches.
Active Straight Leg Raise
With the ASLR, we will either do Band Leg Lowering or Band Leg Lowering with Core Engagement. This would depend on which exercise makes the positive change.
With Shoulder Mobility asymmetries, we will go right into to the Rib Grab. Before we coach our players on Rib Grabs, we must emphasize to them what the proper side lying position is. What is interesting about Rib Grabs is at the starting position, there appears to be rotation at the lumbar spine versus the thoracic spine which is what we are trying to improve. The key to prevent this is to keep the knees above 90 degrees. This has been very helpful in making sure that we are not getting any lumbar rotation.
What has worked well with Rotary Stability is rolling. If we identify someone with an asymmetry in the Rotary Stability, we go right into assessing their rolling ability/inability.
We will use rolling as an assessment of how the athlete rolls without the use of the lower body and lower body extremities. We will look at 8 different quadrants while watching them. We will be looking for their ability to roll from prone to supine upper body only left and right, prone to supine lower body only left and right, and then supine to prone upper body only left and right, and supine to prone lower body left and right. We will simply ask them to imagine that they are paralyzed from the waist down in our upper assessments and then paralyzed from the waist up in the lower body assessments.
Like the actual FMS, when we are assessing the athletes’ rolling, we are looking for their weakest link. What position are they unable to roll to/from? Where do they get stuck? After we know this, we will simply get them to correct that part of their rolling ability. This will help improve the Rotary Stability.
(Special thanks to Charlie Weingroff for allowing me to use this video which includes a great explanation about rolling.)
Trunk Stability Push Up
An important aspect about the TSPU part of the screen that I have seen is that there might not be as many immediate changes from the corrective strategy perspective. For Trunk Stability Push Up corrective strategies, we have been successful at using basic push up position progressions.
Before we get into push up progressions, we will always start with the plank. We like the RKC version of the plank where our elbows are slightly ahead of the shoulders, the feet are squeezed together, and we are asking the player to contract all of the muscles in his body to make him as stable as possible. As we get better at planking, we will incorporate push up position holds and then increase the volume of Push Ups.
The FMS can give us a map of where not to go or what not to do in our training. Gray Cook is known for saying “Don’t put fitness on top of Dysfunction”. There is a system as to how to determine what are exercises are appropriate/inappropriate according to FMS results. The CK-FMS community would refer to this as “Red-Lighting”, “Yellow Lighting”, or “Green Lighting”. The FMS can tell you which strength training movements should not be done (red), proceed with caution (yellow), or proceed (green). For example, athletes with “1’s” in the SM, should stay away from any overhead pressing. Those with “1’s” in ASLR should stay away from exercises such as Kettlebell Swings, Deadlifts, and Double Leg Squatting.
I must admit, when I first learned this system, I originally thought it may be too much on the cautious side of things. We keep it simple by not allowing anyone in the shoulder mobility group with 1’s to overhead press with kettlebells, dumbbells, or the barbell until we have a minimum of symmetrical 2’s. With the ASLR group, we won’t do Swings or Front Squats with those who have 1’s. Not until their screens are a minimum of symmetrical 2’s.
For some coaches, using the FMS in the team setting could be a difficult task at first. What has worked for us in making it as simple as possible is the following:
1- Identification of the weakest link
2- Placing each athlete in a specific pre-workout group according to their weakest link
3- Using the correct exercise strategy which could include soft tissue work and diaphragmatic breathing. How do we know if it is the right exercise? By re-screening and determining if there is a positive change
4- Adhering to the rule of not putting fitness on dysfunction
When we think about the time spent on everything above, we are talking about 5 minutes of soft tissue work and 5 minutes of breathing and correctives. Then we proceed with our team warm up. For the most part, these 10 minutes and then making the necessary adjustments for contraindicated exercises are when we are really individualizing our program.
(1) Cook, G. (2010). Movement. Aptos, CA: On Target Publications.