I’ve been lucky enough to work with the best hockey players on the planet in my time working in the National Hockey League. Now, it’s my mission to help deliver the same type of training that helped those players stay fast and strong to anyone and everyone that is willing to put in the work. I recently launched an online training option so that I can reach and impact hockey players around the globe and you can actually sign up below.
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.
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.
The beginning of the off-season is always a tough time. In sports, the plan is to win a championship each season. Unfortunately, as we know, only 1 team gets to win.
When athletes and staff have been working and competing on a daily basis for 7 months straight, the off-season is welcomed with open arms. Although we would like to still be working, we will take the rest at the same time. This is the time to get away from the game and recover mentally and physically from the daily grind. It is also time for a hockey player to think about goals for next season. As a player, what do you want to improve on in the off-season? Do you want to get faster on the ice? Do you want to be stronger on the puck? Better conditioned?
For me personally, this is the time for me to re-focus and re-energize. Most importantly, I am looking forward to spending some time with my family and welcoming our new son into the world real soon. I am also looking forward to relaxing a little bit and finishing up some unfinished books and articles that I have started. I will also start posting more on the blog.
From a training perspective, I will start working with players who are in town in a few weeks. I am already looking forward to getting our guys going for next season. The longer off-season will only help us come back stronger next season.
For my own training, I am taking a radically different approach. I just registered for the RKC workshop in San Diego in August. I am really excited for this as this is something entirely different for me. I wanted to do something different from a continuing education perspective this off-season unlike in the past where I go to a seminar and listen to lectures for a few days (although I will go to the Perform Better Summit in Long Beach). At the RKC, I am going to get a hands-on coaching experience unlike any other. Besides learning how to teach Kettle bell lifts properly to my athletes, a huge reason that I signed up for it is the challenge. I really wanted to do something outside of the norm in my own training. Training and preparing for this workshop will be unlike any training I have done before. I am looking forward to it and I will keep you posted as I go along. Thanks for reading the blog.
This past weekend was the NHL all-star break. While there were several players who were fortunate enough to be recognized and take part in the festivities, the rest of the league got some much needed rest and relaxation. (Training staffs too).
The reality is that the season is an absolute grind. Each team across the league has played around 49-52 games so far in 4 months of hockey. When you add in practices, travel demands, and workouts, the players have earned a much needed break. The break came at the right time for all of the teams. Each player can relax before the stretch run in which every team is gunning for a playoff birth. I gaurantee that you will see some really good hockey games during the last 30-33 games from your favorite team. We all know that all you have to do is get in the top 8 in the conference to have a chance at the cup.
It is also important to get your rest in with your own training. Going to the gym every day can get old for some. The daily routine of going to the same gym and doing some of the same things over and over again, can and will wear you out. Therefore, like the NHL, you need time to recharge the batteries.
Some of the successful programs that I have seen at the professional, collegiate, Olympic, and private training levels are usually 12 weeks long. What I like about these programs is that week 13 is an unload week or an off week. Their athletes will then start up again with week 1 of a new 12 week program after that week. The week off is to physically rest and recover while also mentally refreshing themselves before starting a new phase.
Everyone needs their time off to recharge their own batteries.
The next thing that we do in our “What to do with inhibited glutes” series is our stretching protocol. This would be done right after foam rolling. Since the hip flexors are antagonistic to the glute max, we will continue to try and lengthen and relax these muscles.
If you have a partner to stretch you, or if you are the trainer/strength and conditioning coach, and your client needs to stretch their hip flexors, the modified Thomas Position is where to start. In our situation, if we are stretching before a training session or a practice, we will do the Active Isolated Method of stretching. If an athlete requests it, we will manually stretch them out on a table. We will also use the self-static stretch variation as well before and after practices and/or during workouts. During the AIS method, we are cueing our athlete to think about contracting the glute as we try to lengthen the hip flexors a little more each rep.
Thomas Position Hip Flexor A.I.S.
Thomas Position Hip Flexor + Rectus Femoris A.I.S.
Sometimes we will incorporate prone hip flexor stretching. I’ve found this one helpful for athletes who may have some back pain in conjunction with inhibited glutes. Like the modified Thomas Position stretch, we are cueing our athlete to contract the glute on the top of the movement.
Prone Hip Flexor + Rectus Femoris
Eric Cressey and Michael Reinold have released a 4 DVD set of a seminar that they did back in November. These are 2 smart guys who have the ability to apply their knowledge to some of the best players in baseball. In my coaching situation, bridging the gap between athletes looking to get healthy and athletes looking to stay healthy is what it’s all about. Check it out – Optimal Shoulder Performance
First, I want to say thank you to all of you who read the blog. I’ve recently heard from some friends who are readers. It’s great to know that you enjoy the information.
Continuing education is an important aspect of improving in any profession. As I mentioned on the blog before, I believe it’s important to always be learning new information as it is changing often. I really like the quote by Pat Riley, “If you’re not getting better, you are getting worse”.
During the season, for continuing education, I will spend most of my time conversing with and visiting other coaches as well as checking out some of the sites and blogs on the internet. During the off-season, I try to get to as many live seminars that I possibly can. Here is a list of the seminars that I plan on attending this off-season:
May 22nd- 23rd, 2010
The 2nd Annual Boston Hockey Summit and Basketball Symposium. I am fortunate to be a speaker at this event.
June 4th- June 6th, 2010
Perform Better Functional Training 3-Day Summit
July 9th- July 11th, 2010
Northeast Seminars – Current Concepts in Trunk and Lower Extremity Examination, Integration and Training
I want to tell you about an incredible new site that I am part of that you absolutely need to check out of if you train hockey players. It’s called http://www.HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com.
I have partnered with legendary Boston University Hockey Strength Coach Michael Boyle, Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks), and Kevin Neeld (Endeavor Hockey) and assembled “The Greatest Collection of Hockey Strength and Conditioning Coaches on the Planet!”
Our advisory board is a Who’s Who of Hockey Strength and Conditioning including Chris Pietrzak-Wegner (Minnesota Wild), Jim Reeves (Mind to Muscle), Brijesh Patel (Quinnipiac), Cal Dietz (Univ. of Minnesota), Chris Boyko (UMass), Maria Mountain (Revolution Sport Conditioning), Tim Yuhas (Yuhas Performance), Matt Nichol (former Toronto Maple Leafs), and Kim McCullough (Total Female Hockey).
There are a ton of articles on the site already with topics ranging from Strength and Conditioning, Programming, Youth Training, Injuries, Female Training and Coaching. There are webinars, audio interviews and videos up as well, all about hockey!
Each week, we will be adding videos, articles and programs to the library and with this group, you know the Coaches Forum will be jumping. Each month, there will be webinars and audio interviews added as well.
Right now until March 31, we have an incredible offer: Only 1 dollar for 30 days, then $9.95 a month after that. I don’t know how long the $9.95 a month is going to last, so you should jump on this opportunity. It’s only a buck, and you have until March 31.”
I’m frequently asked when players should stretch and what types of stretching they should do. The answer I usually give to both of those questions is, “It depends.”
It depends on a number of factors: Is it for before practice? After games? At home? All of these questions need to be addressed before giving advice on proper stretching protocols.
Stretching is very important to any hockey player. Over time, if you aren’t stretching frequently, overuse injuries, such as muscle strains and pulls, can occur because your muscles are too tight.
In hockey, the muscles that have a greater chance of being injured include the adductors, hip flexors and lower back. That’s because hockey players skate with their knees, hips and spine bent. When they’re not on the ice, they’re usually sitting on the bench while they wait for their next shift or they’re sitting in their locker room stalls during intermissions.
The movements performed in hockey, combined with prolonged sitting, can contribute to the shortening of the muscles in your body. To prevent this from happening, some simple daily stretching techniques need to be implemented into your off-ice program.
Dynamic Stretching: This is done before practices and games, and it’s characterized by simply executing different types of movements. We really refer to it as our “Dynamic Warm-up.” During this time, the athlete is actively stretching and warming up the muscles used in that particular movement. We might do a specific exercise, such as a body-weight squat, for 8-10 reps.
Active Isolated Stretching: Founded and endorsed by massage therapist Aaron Mattes, this type of stretch we do within our strength-training workouts and with individuals who may need extra attention on certain muscle groups. When we’re in a strength-training sessions, we’ll always stretch the opposite muscle group of the one we’re strength training between sets. For example, if we’re working our upper-back muscles in an exercise such as a chin-up, we’d active isolate stretch our chest muscles between sets. Here, we hold the stretch for six seconds, relax, and repeat. We do three repetitions.
Static Stretching: This is usually what people refer to when they think of traditional stretching. Here, we hold our stretches for a period of 20-30 seconds. Again, we’ll stretch our groins and hip flexors, as well as other muscle groups that can traditionally become tight in hockey players such as the IT bands, quads, hamstrings and chest. Static stretching is done primarily after practices and games, because when you stretch after activity, it’ll help bring the muscles back to a lengthened state after being used in the game or practice.
What I’ve learned about stretching is that it shouldn’t be too easy; it should be almost uncomfortable, but not painful. Most people will stretch within their comfort zone and work muscles that don’t need to be stretched, while the ones that do are often neglected.
No matter what method you use or when you use it, stretching can be very beneficial for the overall performance and well being of a hockey player.