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.

Feb 182016
 

 

Total Hockey Training

Today is the official release date of my book Total Hockey Training. I can’t believe that today is actually here. The reality is that there were several days when I thought that this wasn’t going to happen. Whether it was self-doubt or I didn’t feel that I had enough time to hit certain deadlines, the completion of this always seemed way down the road.

 
I had the goal of writing a book about hockey strength and conditioning by the time I was 40 years old with an actual publisher.  The reason why I wanted to go that route is because of a few reasons:

 
– I didn’t trust my writing ability. I didn’t want to make an e-book that may have contained grammatical mistakes. The people at Human Kinetics take care of those things for a living.

 
– I remember a conversation with a friend of mine back in California several years ago about internet gurus and e-books. I remember him saying “Unless a sports or strength training book is published by a reputable publisher such as Human Kinetics, I won’t pick it up.” Now, I am not saying that e-books aren’t any good or worth the read but, hearing him say that always stuck with me.  I trusted Human Kinetics to help me create a solid product that I believed in.

 
– I wanted the challenge of going through the process from start to finish. I wanted to go through this to accomplish something big. As a result, I can say that I have a huge amount of respect admiration for anyone that has written a book.

 

 

Total Hockey Training encompasses everything I’ve learned over the years training the beginner to the professional hockey player.

 

 
You can get a copy at Amazon and Human Kinetics. I hope you enjoy it!

Jan 072016
 

A recent email exchange with some parents and coaches from a youth team that I worked with in the past inspired me to write this.

I was originally told by a parent that a person suggested that the team should participate in a 20-30 minute yoga session for a pre-practice/game warm up. The parent was concerned and asked- isn’t yoga a “static” exercise and shouldn’t they be doing something to help warm up their bodies properly instead of a cooldown?

The reality is that I like yoga for hockey players- just not right before they start practice or a game. I like yoga from a perspective of using it to help athletes recover. For example, during the off-season we may strength train and condition on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I would certainly recommend yoga on Wednesdays and Saturdays to help them recover from the previous workouts and recharge before the next one.

The yoga mentioned above is what most would consider yoga to be- a class like setting where they are doing yoga poses for an hour or so. That is something I wouldn’t recommend before practice. However, I don’t think it is a bad thing to utilize some yoga poses for a few minutes prior to performing a dynamic warm up before practices/games. Yoga poses such as Upward-Facing Dog and TableTop are good poses that can be looked at positively since they are opposite of the position that hockey players are always in. These could be performed prior to the dynamic warm up.

Oct 202015
 

Before this past Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to talk training with Jim Snider, the men’s hockey teams’ strength and conditioning coach.  Jim is a really bright coach who has done a great job while working with current and former Badgers over the years.

As we were talking, we got into a conversation about squats.  Jim said “Better skaters are good squatters.”  I totally agree with him.  When I think about some of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with over the years that were fast, explosive, and low to the ice skaters, it’s not hard for me to think about guys like Selanne and Kariya (although I never got to work with them at the same time (I wish I did).  These guys absolutely loved to squat and in fact- had to squat during the season.

Now, was it their ability to squat well that helped them skate great?  Or was it their ability to skate great that made them good squatters?  I’m not sure but I do know that for those guys, they were back squatting way before I knew them.  In fact, Teemu was learning how to squat and Olympic lift with broomsticks when he was 8 years old!

The point of the post is not too say that hockey players need to put lots of weight on the bar and start performing heavy back squats.  However, the movement of squatting bilaterally shouldn’t be neglected in training or ignored.   Even though our program consists of many variations of single leg exercises, we will squat bilaterally in warm up often and we will front squat during the off-season and perform clean+front squat combos.  I really believe that squatting well and squatting often will help any hockey player not only produce more force into the ice but also help maintain a lower center of gravity for longer periods of time.

Aug 102015
 

Hockey is a game that is played throughout the world by people of all ages and skill levels.  It is common for local ice rinks to have adult aged recreation leagues (some would refer to as beer leagues) in place.  There are enough people who enjoy the game that there are different divisions comprised with many teams at these rinks.

Over the last few years, I have been asked by other adult hockey league players- “How can I get in shape for hockey?” or, “Can you give me a program?”.  Usually I will give a general answer that may include instructions to add strength training and possibly change their diets.

What I want to share is a few simple things that can help people enjoy the game for as long as they can.  The ability to play hockey for it’s enjoyment and being pain-free is what has inspired me to write this piece.  I understand that some people may skate for about an hour per week.  However, I also see many folks who participate in multiple leagues and pick-up games on a weekly basis.  Also, I have come across several people who have sustained injuries both from acute and overuse nature.

The reality is that hockey is a fast paced game with frequent changes of direction.  Hips, backs, and knees can become sore and injured while playing.  Personally, I realize that as I get older, I need to be fit to play hockey instead of using hockey as a way to get fit.

Foam Rolling

First, I think it is important to invest in a foam roller.  These are now considered to be must-haves for all of the players that I work with.  I recommend a half foam roll because it can be used both at home and at the rink because it fits in a hockey bag.

Foam rolling is recommended to be done for a few minutes prior to stretching and warming up.  Players that I work with love the foam roll because they can address their muscle trigger points which are those little knots of tenderness that you may feel in different muscles.  The more that you use it, the more you will know where to use it on your body- especially when crunched for time.

Foam rolling is recommended for the quads, hip rotators, IT bands, glutes, hamstrings, pecs, lats, and any other muscle groups that you would need to address.

Stretching

Static stretching should be done more often for the older hockey player. Not only should you stretch while at the rink, but you should stretch while at home as well.  You must think about all of the work that the muscles like the hip flexors, quads, and hip adductors do during the course of a hockey game.  The more games that you play, the more time you should spend stretching.  With the fact that many recreation level hockey players have jobs that require them to sit for long periods of time, stretching is even more important.

Stretches for the Hip Flexors, Rectus Fomoris’ (Quads), Adductors, and Hip Rotators can all be addressed during a short period of time.

Warm up

From a practical perspective, a proper warm up for a recreational hockey is hard to accomplish.  It is common for people to roll out of bed and head to the rink, or go to the rink immediately after work.  Although I understand that it can be difficult to get to the rink; there should be a semi-conscious effort to get to the rink a little earlier for a proper warm up.

Here is an example of a dynamic warm up that can be done for 5 minutes and can be either done in place or over 10-15 yard space.  If you have only a few minutes to warm up before you go on the ice, at minimum I would recommend the dynamic warm up.  Skip the foam rolling and static stretching, but don’t skip the dynamic warm up.

Knee Hug

Heel to Butt with Reach

1-Leg SLDL

Hip Rotator

Reverse Lunge

High Knee Run

Heel Ups

High Skip

Backwards Run

When you look at the time spent for foam rolling, stretching, and warming up, we are talking about maybe 15 minutes total.  Doing this prior to taking the ice will go a long way in preventing injuries.

Strength Training

Strength training for hockey can be an easy process.  It can help reduce the chance for injury while also increasing performance.  How many players do you know who would like to stay healthy and get faster on the ice?  While it may seem confusing due to a large number of exercise possibilities, it can be broken down to a really simple, yet effective method.

A few good exercises might be all that you need for a good strength training program.  Sure, high level athletes might want to add some plyometrics, sprints, and some Olympic lifts, but I think this is where we may draw the line.  The goal is to be a healthier and fitter hockey player that plays for fun.   Strength training can be done simply and have outstanding results.  Here is an example of a 2-day strength training schedule:

Day 1                                                             

Split Squat (Progress from body weight only to holding dumbbells)

Pull Up

Ball Roll Out

Push Up

Back Extension

Day 2

1-Leg Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (Progress from body weight only to holding dumbbells)

1-Arm DB Row

Plank

1-Leg DB Straight Leg Deadlift

DB Incline Bench Press

These strength training sessions could be done twice per week.  I would recommend 2-3 days between sessions.  The most important aspect of strength training is having proper technique in all exercises.  If you don’t know how to do an exercise properly, please get with someone who knows what they are doing.  Start light and do the exercises correctly.  Then as you get stronger, add some more weight and continue to progress.  Keep it simple.

Videos for the exercises listed above can be found at my youtube site- www.youtube.com/SeanSkahan