Those of you that have been following me for a while know that I do my best to stay current with the research. Yes, I frequently browse research articles for fun. I’m fully aware of the various categories of uncool this places me in.

Recently I’ve found myself so swamped with work at Endeavor and completing my most recent Hockey Development project (I should have more information for you about when this will be released by next week), that I haven’t had as much time as I like to stay current on everything.

This problem seems to be common amongst most people in the human performance industry (training, rehab, nutrition, etc.). Until recently, there wasn’t really a great solution. My friend Shawn Thistle has put together a truly unbelievable resource for busy fitness professionals called Fitness Research Review Service.

The concept behind the site is simple: Create quickly-read, easily digestible summaries of relevant and important research articles so busy people like us can get all the info we need, quickly. The site is LOADED with articles on all aspects of sports performance, from injury prevention to periodization training models to nutrition.

When Shawn first told me about the site, I knew I had to be a part of it. I’ve been an author on the site now for several months and have been blown away by the quality of the content from other authors on there. I love the site because I can sign in once every week and catch up on 5-10 articles within an hour or so. Can’t beat that!

Click the link below for more information!

Fitness Research Review Service

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Keep checking back here for more information on my new Hockey Development Coaching Program!

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On Monday, we went over the difference between muscle length and muscle stiffness. If you missed it, check it out here:

Muscle Properties: Short vs. Stiff

The big question I left you with is: Is stiffness a bad thing?

There isn’t a simple answer to this complex question. A few considerations:

1) Over the years, I’ve noticed that the athletes that seemed the stiffest were also usually the fastest. This actually makes sense since stiffer muscles would allow greater force to be produced in less range of motion, allowing rapid changes of direction and foot turnover.

2) A lot of people associate stifness with limited range of motion. If you recall back to Monday’s post, range of motion is only limited by stiffness if their is insufficient force to achieve a range of motion. Think of two 180lb athletes stepping off a 24 inch box and “sticking” the landing. Since they’re both the same weight and are jumping from the same height, the relative force requirements of the landing would be the same. Assuming they have an identical anatomical and neural make up (this is an absurd assumption, but necessary for this example), the athlete with stiffer muscles would not descend as far into a squat landing position as the athlete with less stiff muscles.

Since the force requirements are the same, and stiffer muscles require MORE force to go through a given range of motion, the stiffer athlete would probably land higher than the less stiff athlete. Consider the implications this has in stops and starts. The ability to reduce more force through a smaller range of motion would allow for a more rapid change of direction (as mentioned above).

3) Muscle hypertrophy leads to an increase in the number of muscle fibers in parallel. This, by definition, increases muscle stiffness.

4) Stiffness has somewhat haphazardly been accused as the cause of musculotendinous injuries. In reality, it’s a stiffness imbalance that results in the over-stretching or over-working of synergistic or antagonistic muscles.

5) Stretching prior to activity, long thought of as an injury-reduction strategy, actually increases the risk of injury. This is only the case if stretching is performed IMMEDIATELY before the activity. This can be explained by the results of a study by Ryan et al. (2009) demonstrating that decrements in musculotendinous stiffness last about 20 minutes following static stretching protocols. Not that static stretching is unviersally bad, but stretching and then immediately going into activity involving the same joints creates laxity around the joints and can lead to undesired movements.

Hockey Training-Lateral Kneeling Quadruped Rock (Backward)

Mobility exercises are more appropriate pre-training than static stretching

I realize this is a lot of information to digest. Increased stiffness itself is not a bad thing. In other words, increased stiffness won’t decrease your athletic performance. In fact, it likely improves your performance! The big take home message is that you want to avoid is a stiffness IMBALANCE between synergistic and antagonistic muscles. A common imbalance in hockey players is having stiffer glutes than adductors, resulting in excessive stress to the adductors (and potentially adductor or “groin” strains). I talked about this imbalance specifically in a previous post:

Does Flexibility INCREASE Your Risk of Injury?

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you feel the flexibility in your athletes is lacking, it’s important to recognize what might be limiting it. This is the system I use to do just that: Optimizing Movement


Ryan, Beck, Herda, et al. (2009). The Time Course of Musculotendinous Stiffness Responses Following Different Durations of Passive Stretching. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 38(10), 632-639.

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After the two previous posts about off-season hockey development, it’s clear that every player needs to follow a good training program!

Off-Season Hockey Leads You to Surgery?

Off-Season Hockey Training

With all the people/companies out there offering training programs, I thought I’d give you a list of things to ask about when considering your off-season training options. A quality hockey training program should include:

1) Soft-tissue work (foam roller, lacrosse/tennis ball, medicine ball) for the muscles around the hips, shoulder blades, and chest
2) Static stretching for specific hockey-related “tight” spots
3) A well-designed dynamic warm-up with multi-planar mobility exercises for the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine.
4) Linear and lateral speed work
5) Double-leg, single-leg, and full body power work
6) Strength training, including single-leg exercise, dissociated upper body exercises, and dynamic core exercises (in linear, rotational, diagonal, and anti-movement patterns)
7) Hockey-specific conditioning, using various implements (e.g. shuttle runs, slideboards, sleds, etc.), and following an interval training progression (avoid steady state aerobic exercise!)

If the training program you’re following has ALL of these things, you’re probably on the right track. If it doesn’t, sign in to and ask everyone if they know of a good hockey training center in your area.

Keep training hard!

Kevin Neeld

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If you missed, Monday’s post, check it out before reading this one.

Off-Season Hockey Leads You to Surgery?

The idea that being on the ice year-round could actually impair your development shocks a lot of people. For whatever reason, it’s been DRILLED into our minds that we need to skate, hard, year-round. This mentality has really exploded over the last 10-15 years. It’s no coincidence that we hip flexor and adductor (“groin”) strains, and sports hernias are at an all-time high now at the more elite levels of hockey.

Let me clear things up about what hockey players should be doing in their off-season to maximize their development.

Should Hockey Players Skate in the Off-Season?

Many hockey players make the fatal mistake of spending the entire off-season on the ice. Most players are on the ice for 4+ hours per week during the increasingly long season. It is ABSOLUTELY crucial that they start their off-season by taking a break and doing some things to reverse the physical adaptations that result from so much skating (e.g. foam rolling and stretching the glutes and hip flexors). After a month or so of NO ice time, players can skate within this context:

1) Power Skating Instruction: Avoid the coaches that just run you through drills and watch. Find a coach that will actually teach you technique and actively help you improve your mechanics. There should also be a focus on edge control, not just overspeed work.

2) Skill Instruction:
While I don’t think it’s completely necessary to be on the ice to do this, many players can make huge improvements in their hands in an off-season by spending some time practicing handling a puck on all sides of their body and with specific footwork/bursts of speed (which is why skating instruction is so crucial!).

3) Specific Summer Leagues: Many players feel stale if they don’t play some sort of game for 6 months. If you can find a decent league (competition equal to or better than what you’re used to) that plays a 6-10 game schedule toward the end of the Summer, then hop right in. Playing in a showcase tournament or two throughout the Summer isn’t going to kill you, but you should not be playing tournaments ALL off-season!

The mistake players (and parents) make is that they finish their season, then immediately register for spring and summer league and as many clinics as they can. It’s too much. Think QUALITY here, not quantity.

The adverse effects of this are becoming increasingly clear: As the year-round hockey craze infects younger players, we see high level hockey injuries spreading to all age levels. There is NO reason why peewees and bantams should have chronic groin and hip flexor pain! I’m not preaching here. I made all the mistakes myself, and I have the double hernia surgery and inevitable hip arthritis to prove it!

Off-Season Training

Following a structured, well-designed training program during the off-season can completely transform a player’s career, especially at the youth levels. There is a critical time period during development when the body is highly “malleable”. If you create the right training stimulus, your body is primed for a long career of explosive movement. Unfortunately, creating the wrong training stimulus will prime your body to stay slow and weak.

A good off-season hockey training program serves three major purposes:

1) Improve performance
2) Decrease injury risk
3) Improve stress handling capacity

Players should leave the Summer faster, stronger, and better conditioned than they’ve ever been in the past and eager to get on the ice. THAT is how every player should enter the season!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Last week I was fortunate to speak with Jim Snider, the Wisconsin Hockey Strength and Conditioning Coach, for a few minutes. To my surprise, he mentioned he’s been using a lot of the hip mobility drills in my Off-Ice Performance Training Course! He mentioned, and I agree, that hockey players should use those specific exercises to help maintain the range of motion around their hips they need to be successful on the ice and to decrease their injury risk. If you haven’t yet, check it out now!

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This was a post from Endeavor’s website that got such a great response that I wanted to share it with you.

As you know, I’ve recently teamed up with Michael Boyle (Boston University), Sean Skahan (Anaheim Ducks) and Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks) to launch an incredible hockey training website:

Hockey Strength and Conditioning

On the site, U of Minnesota Strength Coach Cal Dietz shared an interesting article with us. The article outlined research with groundbreaking results. If you value your hockey career, you’ll read carefully!

This article outlined a study that took MRI’s of the hips of 39 NHL and NCAA Division I hockey players. Of the 39 players, twenty-one (54%) had labral tears, twelve (31%) had muscle strains, and 2 (5%) had tendinosis (degeneration of the tendon) of the hips. Overall, 70% of the players had irregular findings on their MRIs. Interestingly, the majority of these players were considered “healthy” at the time of the study, meaning they were okay to play.

As shocking as these results may appear, I wasn’t at all surprised. Similar results have been found in the shoulders of baseball players, and hockey players completely abuse their hips. Most players spend no time doing the stretches they need to (because they’re either too lazy or don’t know which ones they should do), have poor motor control of muscles around the hips (which tears up the joint and labrum!), and spend WAY too much time on the ice.

A couple weeks ago, I was on the phone with Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks); he mentioned that in over 90% of cases, the players he sees that have sports hernias do little to nothing in terms of training. Everyone at the collegiate and professional strength and conditioning levels understand that good training can improve a player’s performance, lengthen their career, and keep them out of the surgeon’s office. Hopefully youth players and parents will get the message.

To your continued health and success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re looking for a step-by-step training system to use this off-season, check out my Off-Ice Performance Training course. I continue to get incredible feedback about the exercises and progressions in the course, from NCAA D1 Strength and Conditioning Coaches down through parents of youth players (e.g. peewees). Download your copy today!

Off-Ice Performance Training

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