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!

Oct 262015
 

Some of the best coaches to have ever walked the planet were known as coaches who emphasized the details.   Details have always been emphasized by the best.  No stones are left unturned when it comes to planning and organizing every aspect for their team.  John Wooden, for example, was known for not only being a winner, but for spending time with his players on some of the basic tasks such as teaching them how to properly put their socks on to prevent blisters.  Coach Wooden also spent most of his day planning the days practice.  Every aspect of practice was planned for and organized to run the same way that Coach Wooden envisioned.

The best coaches also embrace the process.  It is the day to day grinding of helping their teams prepare for every little challenge that their teams may face in any situation.  Great coaches also stay in the moment.  It isn’t necessarily the next game or the next couple of games.  It is the details of improving for the next drill at practice, or the next play or shift during a game.

As I transition back to the collegiate strength and conditioning environment, I find myself planning training sessions well in advance.  Not to say that I didn’t previously.  However, the difference is now I have the opportunity to take entire teams through training sessions from start to finish.  I try to always have a vision of how the session will flow.  How much time should I dedicate to foam rolling?  How long will they take to go through hurdle mobility?  At what point in the session will they progress to the power racks?  Etc.  Everything from when they walk in the door through their last repetition of the last set of the last exercise is planned for accordingly.

The longer I do this, I realize that it really is all about the process.  Its trying to do the little things better over and over again on a daily basis.  The better athletes that I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years always embraced this.  They enjoyed the monotony of doing the little things continuously to help them succeed.

Strength and Conditioning coaches should have a plan every time their athletes come through the door.  They need to be prepared to help them get the next rep and/or the next set.  Training sessions need to be scripted out so that nothing is left out or not prioritized- everything is important.  “Today is the only day.  Yesterday is gone” is a John Wooden quote that I found on the internet.  Strength Coaches need to coach and help their athletes through every little aspect of their program on a daily basis.

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.

Sep 102015
 

Random Thoughts

I get into ruts sometimes about writing.  Often,  I can’t look at the screen and start to write when I have no clue of what I want to write about.  Here though, I am going to borrow from some (such as Eric and Charlie) who consistently  post their “Random Thoughts”:

–          I am enjoying my new opportunity in the Strength and Conditioning profession. The pre-season is imperative for the teams’ long term success.  The kids are buying in and they all have an unbelievable work ethic.

–          Since when (and this could be an article in itself) did Strength and Conditioning Coaches not be considered to be sport scientists? Aren’t we evaluating and monitoring our athletes on a daily basis?  I think that personal communication with athletes is huge.  Is there a disconnect between applying sports science and personal and effective communication with athletes?  I like testing and measuring my athletes and think it’s important to install change if necessary to individuals- but isn’t that coaching?

–          I remember at the end of my talk at the BSMPG conference back in 2012 when an attendee asked me “How do you measure fatigue?”  I don’t think that he (or probably lots of others in the audience) liked it when I told him that I communicate with and observe my athletes on a daily basis. I think that he was looking for what latest technological tool I was using.   I always ask how their days go, how things are going on at home, is there any changes that we think we should make to the program, etc.  However, I also see how technology and other methods can tighten things up and help us to do a better job.  I still think human interaction and coaching is key.  Would like to see those who blend sport science concepts and strength and conditioning concepts successfully in terms of wins and injury prevention because correct me if I’m wrong- There are lots of injuries still occurring and teams are still losing tons of games.

–          Years ago, I attempted to read the book Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers by Dr. Robert Sapolsky.  Honestly, I either didn’t get it or I thought it was boring- probably both.   I proceeded to put it away and not even think about it for several years.  When I heard other coaches or people who are smarter than me talk about stress and the Autonomic Nervous system, I had a deaf ear.  Maybe because I thought what I was doing was pretty good.   But I was intrigued on what was others were talking about.  I’ve now read the book and continue to read some of the chapters again and again.  I have changed my perspective on how I apply a training program/stress to my athletes.

 

–          Is there a better method of applying stress to high level athletes than the High-Low method that was advocated by former Canadian Sprint Coach Charlie Francis?  To me, it makes too much sense.

–          Running tempo’s and applying work capacity/GPP work on “low” days will not make my fast athletes with high vertical jumps slow.

–          When I think of the best athletes that I have been lucky to have worked with, their personalities were real laid back at all times other than when practice or games are going on.  Do they just have a better system of managing stress? I don’t know.  But again, reading the book and looking at things a little bit differently have made me ask some questions- which is a good thing.

–           A recent Vern Gambetta blog post was really good in regards to voting for Strength and Conditioning coach of the year.  He is bang on here and I agree with him.  Should an award as such be based on votes and popularity?  How can you actually determine who the best coach is?  When I see SOME of the stuff on YouTube whether it be athletes performing circus tricks or having absolutely awful form on lifts with the intention of making it look like their athletes are strong; I don’t think it is good for the profession.  Would like to see coaches who get more with less get more recognition.

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