Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Core Training in the Presence of Fatigue

As you know, improving an athlete’s core stability can go a long way in both preventing injury and improving performance. While it’s necessary to first teach and reinforce this skill set under rested conditions, ultimately the athlete must be able to generate this stability under fatigued conditions. About a year ago, I started integrating basic core stabilization exercises (e.g. front plank) with interval training.

For example, one of our athletes may have 8 x 20s (work)/40s (rest) shuttle runs, and after the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th shuttle run I’d have them perform a 20s front plank. The idea is to ensure that the athlete can maintain proper alignment and stability despite the looming fatigue. Having them perform the core exercise after every other interval ensures that we aren’t negating true rest periods between work efforts.

Fatigue: 1. Core Stability: 0.

During one of our coaches meetings at Endeavor last week, my co-worker Karl brought this article to my attention: Core stabilization exercises enhance lactate clearance following high-intensity exercise

Interestingly, the article found that performing a core stabilization exercise following a maximal effort 30s anaerobic bout (Wingate test) significantly reduced blood lactate levels. The authors stated that this was likely due to an increased in blood flow and/or an uptake of the lactate by the abdominal muscles. This raises the question as to whether performing these core stabilization exercises in between intervals as we’ve done at Endeavor will have a similar effect.

In my opinion, determining whether or not a strategy like this would be effect in between intervals (or bouts of intervals) is more meaningful than determining whether it lowers blood lactate following activity. It’s well established that over 95% of blood lactate is cleared from the blood within a few hours of activity. To an extent, this knowledge undermines all of the “lactic acid” clearing practices so common in sports today. I say “to an extent” because it’s possible that other metabolic byproducts are NOT cleared at such a rate, and lactate clearing strategies may be effective in dissipating those byproducts. In other words, the strategies work; lactate is just the wrong physiological marker to observe.

With that said, finding a way to clear metabolic waste on a shorter time scale may allow our athletes to train harder during their sessions. If nothing else, this may provide another argument for pairing exercises (even in the form of intervals and core training) to get more bang for your buck out of your rest intervals. Just some food for thought to get the week started!

On a completely unrelated note, I spent a lot of time over the last few days going through Sean Skahan‘s website, and came across a post that I really liked on how to find time for all your continuing education needs (and still have a life). It’s a great read if you, like me, struggle to find time for everything you want to do. You can check it out here: Where Do You Find the Time?

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.