Brijesh Patel, my friend and colleague from Quinnipiac University, spoke at the Boston Hockey Summit about training program design for ice hockey players. During his talk he went through several yoga-based isometric circuits that can be incorporated into off-ice training warm-ups. Everyone, including myself, that I’ve seen do these circuits has the same reaction: They feel loose AND strong. The circuits are well-designed to improve range of motion around the hips and thoracic spine (spine around your upper back…this is a good thing), and activate the hip abductors/external rotators and muscles around the posterior shoulder (muscles on the outside of the hip that don’t get the training attention they deserve).

I started using two of these circuits with all of my athletes. In both of these circuits, each position is held for 10 seconds.

3-Way Squat Circuit
1) Deep squat while pushing your knees out with your elbows to stretch out the muscles on the inside of your thigh
2) Maintain the deep squat, but move your hands behind your head, interlock your fingers, and pull your elbows back together. It’s important to keep your back flat (don’t let it round forward) and actively pull your knees outward using the muscles on the outside of your hip.
3) Maintain the deep squat while extending your arms straight overhead and continuing to pull your knees out.

3-Way Split Squat Circuit
1) Split squat position with arms extended straight overhead. Focus on squeezing your butt on the back leg and pulling down into the floor through the ball of your foot on the front leg.
2) Maintain the position while performing a triceps stretch on the arm on the side of your back leg and leaning toward the side of your front leg.
3) Maintain the position while twisting toward the front leg and reaching back with the arm on the side of your front leg and following this hand with your eyes.

As I type these descriptions, I’m realizing how simple these are when you see them, but how confusing it is to try to explain it. If you’re simple-minded like I am and have no idea what any of those descriptions mean, your best bet is to head over to and watch the videos that Brijesh put together for them. I’m confident you’ll be able to wrap your mind around them as soon as you see them.

When you get to, look for Brijesh Patel’s Deep Squat Series, and Warrior 1 Series.

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The state of youth hockey is…in big trouble. Michael Boyle is widely regarded as the world’s authority on ice hockey strength and conditioning. His presentation on hockey player development at the Boston Hockey Summit was one that I truly believe EVERYONE involved in the game of hockey should see…probably twice.

Coach Boyle used a number of specific examples regarding athletes he’s worked with in the past that went on to play for an NCAA Division 1 team and/or professionally to support his argument. In my mind, this is the best evidence for any argument. Anyone can argue theory (many people, including myself, do), but nothing speaks louder than results. The main points from Coach Boyle’s talk were:

1) Early specialization (only playing hockey) inhibits development. Kids, especially those younger than 16, need to play multiple sports for several reasons. Playing different sports will incorporate a wider range of movement patterns, which will help prevent overuse injuries. As a quick side note, many of these overuse injuries don’t appear until AFTER hockey players are late in their high school years, but the foundation for these injuries is laid by ONLY playing hockey starting at a young age. Performing different athletic movements will also increase the number of movement strategies in an athletes’ “movement library”. This basically just means that hockey players’ bodies will be proficient at a larger number of movements, which could have implications for both performance and injury prevention. Mentally, playing different sports is refreshing. It’s the parent’s responsibility to keep their kids involved in multiple sports, even if the kid claims that they really enjoy playing hockey year round. Most kids would also prefer to eat ice cream and pizza for every meal, but that’s not good for them either.

2) In addition to playing multiple sports, the single best way to develop high level hockey players is to get them on a WELL-DESIGNED strength and conditioning (what I refer to as Athletic Development) program. A quality Athletic Development Coach can design and implement a balanced training program that will help young hockey players add muscle mass and functional strength. In addition to improving performance, a quality training program will also decrease injury risk.

The take home message boils down to: Young hockey players need to spend less time playing hockey and more time developing overall athleticism.

Not everyone has access to quality Athletic Development Coaches, and even people that do can’t always afford them. That was the biggest reason I put together my Off-Ice Training Course, so people without a background in strength and conditioning and exercise science could still put together quality programs.

Click here for more information on how to develop your own off-ice training program.

Kevin Neeld

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One of my favorite presentations at the Boston Hockey Summit in May was Jim Snider’s talk on “Dryland Speed Training for Hockey”. Coach Snider is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey teams at the University of Wisconsin. Needless to say, that program has an outstanding reputation.

Coach Snider’s whole presentation was insightful, but there were two aspects that really caught my attention:

1) He was a big advocate of uphill sprinting. Why uphill? Sprinting uphill increases the foot/ground contact time, which is more specific to all forms of hockey skating (forward, backward, crossovers, and direction changes). Adding an incline to sprints also minimizes the risk of blowing out a hamstring and cuts down on the landing forces that need to be absorbed by the legs and hips (takes stress of your ankles, knees, hips, and low back) since your leg isn’t “falling” from as high as it would during flat ground or downhill sprinting.

I think people can get carried away with hill training. The goal isn’t to find the biggest hill in your community and run your athletes up it until they puke. If the incline is too steep it will start to have a negative effect on running form and can put unnecessary stress on your athletes’ achilles tendon. Try to find a hill that is around a 10 degree incline and use that.

2) Coach Snider outlined his progression of sprint starting positions, and I thought it was both brilliant and logical, and have adopted a similar approach with all my hockey players. The progression is:

Phase 1: Lunge Start/Side Lunge Start
Phase 2: Kneeling Start
Phase 3: Single-Leg Standing Start
Phase 4: Counter-movement Start (as in jumping backwards then accelerating forward)

Starting a sprint from a lunge position is a brilliant way to teach people to drive hard from a stationary position and maintain the forward lean they need to accelerate. I’ll try to get pictures/videos of these up in the next few weeks so you can see exactly what these movements look like.

-Kevin Neeld

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A couple weeks ago I attended the Boston Hockey Summit, a hockey-specific seminar hosting collegiate and professional strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists and hip surgeons, and a professional power skating coach. This was right up my alley!

My hope is that more of these seminars will pop up across the country and that more youth hockey coaches will start to attend. I hate to say it, but most youth programs are completely in the dark with regards to how to develop their athletes…and the lights are getting dimmer.

Michael Boyle gave a great presentation outlining why year-round hockey is a horrible choice for development. This is in strong opposition to the current theme of early specialization. The take home message was clear: To develop an elite athlete, they should play multiple sports through high school, and follow a well-designed training program. I understand it’s hard for youth coaches to really have the knowledge to put together a comprehensive training program for an entire team. That’s one of the reasons I spent the time to put together my hockey training course!

Over the next week I’ll go over some of the other great ideas I took from the seminar. Hopefully I’ll see you there next year!

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Last week, we agreed that mental preparation is essential to athletic success. I’ve read through a lot of articles and books related to mental preparation for athletics and frankly, I’ve been disappointed. My colleague and friend Kim McCullough has put together the best step-by-step guide to preparing mentally for the game of hockey that I’ve ever come across. Specifically, she details how to focus, build confidence, and maintain composure during hockey competitions. I wish I had this while I was playing!

Kim’s The Best Hockey Season Ever also comes with:

1) A 16-week in-season training program with off- and on-ice drills (with exercise descriptions)

2) Detailed nutrition information specific to the game of hockey including pre-game and post-exercise recommendations to maximize performance and facilitate recovery

3) Off-ice warm-ups with in-depth exercise descriptions

4) A 4-month off-season training program

5) 18 weeks of on-ice conditioning drills

6) A complete recovery guide including exercise and nutrition strategies

I was excited to see that someone has taken the time and energy to put together such a comprehensive manual for youth hockey players and coaches. A manual like this is long overdue. I couldn’t say enough good things about it. I think every youth player and coach should have a copy. Take a look at the link below and email me with any questions you may have about it (

Click here for more information on Kim’s The Best Hockey Season Ever

– Kevin Neeld

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