I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about nutrition and supplements for hockey players. Rightfully so. The off-season is a make-or-break development time for a lot of players. Over the last week I came across two great articles that I wanted to share with you, one on nutrition (you can use this as a grocery list) and one on supplements. While I wouldn’t call these two articles a comprehensive look at nutrition and supplementation, they are a terrific starting place.

Top 55 Foods to Build Lean Muscle and Lose Body Fat from Mike Geary
Mike puts a “look better naked” spin on this article because his market is mostly people that…well…primarily want to look better naked.  If an article title with phrases like “build muscle” and “lose fat” helps you buy in to eating healthier than all the better. In reality, this is just a long list of healthy foods that should be in every player’s diet. If you can’t find or get all the things on this list, don’t sweat it. Remember that some good steps are still better than no good steps. Get what you can and eat it as frequently as possible (e.g. don’t eat one healthy meal and 3 shit meals everyday).

Supplements 101 from Brian St. Pierre
Brian is my go-to guy when I have nutrition questions, either for myself or for our athletes at Endeavor. In this article, Brian highlights 5 essential supplements that everyone should be taking. Again, this isn’t necessarily pitched to be specific to hockey players, but just things to improve overall health and well-being. With that said, all of these things will have performance-enhancing benefits for hockey players and should therefore not be overlooked.

On a related note, I just came across an article from Dr. Mike Roussell called The Secret Benefits of Creatine Revealed. Creatine is still one of the most misunderstood supplements in existence and it’s one that I recommend most of our hockey players take. The documented benefits are remarkable and the negatives are almost non-existent. Creatine helps build strength and muscle mass, which most people know, but it also helps with a host of other things that people are less familiar with. Dr. Roussell is a really bright guy, and he outlines 5 great benefits of creatine in this article.

Check back in a couple days as I’m working on a post on concussions in hockey that you’ll want to read. Until then!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Just a quick reminder that this webinar with Joe Dowdell is tomorrow. If you’re interested in building a profitable fitness business, make sure you register today before all the spots are gone! The 5 Key Ingredients to Building a Successful Fitness Business & Career

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The NHL playoffs have officially started, which means one thing….the playoff beard is back! Last year a couple of the Endeavor guys and I decided on a no-shaving policy while our teams were still in the playoffs. The Flyers, who barely snuck into the playoffs, made it to game 6 of the finals, which lead to…

Chicks dig guys with thick playoff beards

Beards even look good from behind.

I wish I had a picture of Emily’s perpetual look of disappointment over the last 6 weeks of their playoff run. While she wasn’t exactly thrilled with the 2 inches of multi-colored fur covering my face (I think she was just jealous that she couldn’t participate), she came around when she saw how sweet my handle-bar mustache looked.

Sorry ladies. I’m taken.

Anyway, traditions need to start somewhere, and where better than my face. The Endeavor playoff beard contest is back. If you’re feeling daring and want to join the fun, fire over some pictures once it starts to look more ridiculous and less socially acceptable. We can do a post-playoff beard gallery.

On to this week’s hockey training content…

Mike Potenza added a video on a few exercises that are great for improving shoulder health on hockey players. The shoulder is a complex area, and ensuring it performs optimally requires understanding how the thoracic spine, scapula, clavical, and humerus bones and their surrounding musculature all interact to produce and control movement. Scapular muscle exercises are often overlooked in hockey training programs, but really need to be incorporated. Check out Mike’s Video:

Click here >> Scap Stability Exercises from Mike Potenza

On a similar note, Darryl Nelson added a video with a half dozen or so anterior core exercises. Some of these I’ve seen and used in the past with our players, others were interesting variations that I’ll likely use in the future. As I’ve said in the past, I really enjoy these videos because they’re great for idea generation. It’s helpful to have multiple strategies/exercises to achieve similar goals to keep things interesting for your athletes over the long haul. Darryl’s video had a few interesting core variations that you probably haven’t seen before.

Click here >> Anterior Core Variations from Darryl Nelson

Lastly, the 3rd annual Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group Hockey Symposium is rapidly approaching. I went to the first two and they were awesome. Not only is it an incredible learning experience, but it’s also an outstanding networking opportunity. In previous years, there have been a number of NHL and D1 NCAA hockey strength and conditioning coaches in attendance, not to mention a number of coaches from private facilities like mine. I’ll definitely be in attendance again this year. The line-up looks better than ever. Simply, if you train hockey players or are involved in hockey sports medicine to any capacity, this is a “must-attend.”

The great news is that the BSMPG is offering HockeySC.com members a $50 discount on admission. It’s cool of them to do it and well worth every penny. Download the coupon at the link below:

>> BSMPG Hockey Symposium Coupon <<

I hope to see you there!

That’s a wrap for today! If you aren’t a member yet, shell out the $1 to test drive Hockey Strength and Conditioning for a week. If it’s not the best buck you’ve ever spent, I’ll personally refund you!

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

The Endeavor staff just started a new training program last week, and it has been absolutely brutal. David was quoted saying, “this is the last time I let you write our program.”

Volume. My worst enemy.

I was quoted saying, “uh…ah…oh…I hope I don’t throw up on myself.” In brighter news, I have some great info for you today. Before I get to that, I want to let you know about an upcoming event that I’m really excited to attend.

My friend Joe Dowdell is probably the best strength and conditioning coach you’ve never heard of. Unlike the guys that preach, but don’t practice, Joe has been quietly developing his systems over the last 17 years and has built one of the U.S.’s top training facilities in Peak Performance NYC. In fact, Men’s Health voted Peak the “Hottest Gym in America.” Joe and I spoke for an hour on Monday and, in a nutshell, he’s going to start revealing the secrets to his success, both from a training and a business standpoint. He’s kicking it off with a webinar called: The 5 Key Ingredients to Building a Successful Fitness Business & Career.

This may not appeal to all of you depending on your situation, but I grabbed a spot and am really looking forward to it so I wanted to share it with you. Joe is a great guy and his success speaks for itself, so I’m sure we could all pick up on a thing or two to help us do our jobs a little more effectively.  Go to the link below to read more about:

>> The 5 Key Ingredients to Building a Successful Fitness Business & Career <<

Moving on to today’s content…

A lot of times “new” training information will come out and a group of people will start regurgitating it with a sense of evangelical enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it tends to be the people with the least profound comprehension that have the loudest voices (more on this in last week’s post: Internet Hockey Training Experts). The “experts” that don’t actually train people aside, some people just catch wind of something and don’t understand the context in which it’s meant to be interpreted.

One example of this is when a lot of the strength and conditioning world started getting into Stuart McGill’s lower back research. I think it’s fair to credit Mike Boyle with really bringing McGill’s work to the forefront of the training industry. Although McGill’s work is incredibly extensive (if you actually read his research!), the major interpretations that came out of what people interpreted his work to say were:

  1. We shouldn’t flex at the lumbar spine during exercise
  2. We shouldn’t rotate through the lumbar spine

The implications for these messages will differ depending on your setting, but the most important thing to note is that NOTHING IN HUMAN PERFORMANCE IS BLACK OR WHITE!

McGill’s research demonstrated that a certain number of flexion/extension cycles would lead to a lumbar disc herniation. This research was performed on unsupported pig spines.

How will I maintain my six-pack without crunches!

In other words, in this experimental model, there was essentially no ligamentous or muscular support to attenuate (reduce) the force being transmitted through the spinal column. This is an important limitation to the implications of McGill’s findings. This isn’t to say that they should be completely dismissed. In fact, I think McGill’s findings in this area specifically shed a lot of light on the insanity that is the common practice of sitting for 18 hours/day and then rolling onto the floor to bang out a few hundred crunches. That is stupid, and no one should do it. It also highlights the importance of being able to dissociate hip and lumbar movement so that people don’t unnecessarily flex and load through the lumbar spine, when they should be flexing and loading through the hips.

On the other hand, for people that spend the majority of their day in upright positions, have decent posture and generally don’t subject themselves to significant amounts of prolonged spinal flexed postures and the associated tissue creep, using some spinal flexion exercises intermittently probably isn’t the worst thing in the world. The reason you haven’t heard me mention this stance much (if ever) here is because this applies to a very small percentage of the population and therefore shouldn’t be made as a general recommendation. In other words, I recognize the room for misinterpretation in saying “crunches are good” or “crunches are bad” and would rather err on the side of being safer for a larger audience than the alternative.

That said, there is a very fundamental principle that the body abides by-use it or lose it! If you never flex or extend at the lumbar spine, eventually you will lose this range of motion and the neuromuscular control of the ROM, which will have negative implications for your overall health and performance. This isn’t to say that you need to program flexion/extension exercises into your program, only that these movements are available for a reason and that you shouldn’t go out of your way to never move at the lumbar spine. As Charlie Weingroff pointed out in Training = Rehab Rehab = Training, there is a difference between movement and exercise. What is good for a movement isn’t necessarily good to hammer with load or volume in your training programs.

Charlie is a genius.

A similar thing can be said about lumbar rotation. Because of the structure of the lateral processes of the lumbar spine, rotation in this area is EXTREMELY limited (~13 degrees). In contrast, the thoracic spine is more appropriately built for rotary movements (~70 degrees). Again, this information should cause some people to stop doing 300 reps of Russian twists during their “core” work, but it certainly doesn’t mean the lumbar spine shouldn’t rotate at all. Repetitively and forcefully driving loaded lumbar rotation through end range is stupid. Rotating within the lumbar spine’s given rotation range of motion is not.

In fact, telling someone to never rotate through their lumbar spine at all is flat-out dangerous. If you’re rotating through the thoracic spine, you want a clean continuation of the rotation through the spinal column. If you cue someone to consciously stop the rotation at some point along the column (e.g. T12/L1), they’ll lose the rotation ROM below that point. Although the rotation below this point is not very substantial, it’s still quite important. A loss of ROM at any point will cause a compensatory increase in range of motion at some other point in the pathway. In this case, it’s likely to be higher up the spinal column. In other words, the conscious cessation of ANY lumbar rotation ROM will cause a lumbar HYPOmobility (less ROM), which will result in a thoracic HYPERmobility (too much ROM), neither of which are desirable.

WAIT! Do NOT rotate through your lumbar spine! I don’t care how unnatural it feels to stop spinal rotation segmentally.

I can’t emphasize enough that I’m NOT saying to go back to archaic core training methods of doing thousands of crunches, sit-up, leg throwdowns, Russian Twists, etc. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the true function of the core and going back to these things as a primary training modality would be unacceptably regressive. The point is that every exercise recommendation has a context and you can’t overlook that in making recommendations or judging the recommendations of others. Are lumbar flexion and rotation great exercise choices for the majority of the population? Certainly not. But they are necessary movement capacities that everyone should maintain and learn to control. When people take a completely black or white outlook on movement concepts, people usually end up hurt. It’s important to understand the context in which information is being conveyed before spreading it on a massive scale.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Over the weekend I was able to catch up with an old hockey friend from Delaware and some of the Endeavor guys to watch the Flyers/Islanders game. The Flyers won, which means two things:

  1. They secured the 2nd place spot in the eastern conference going into the playoffs
  2. Anthony Renna, and the other two remaining Islanders fans, had to suffer through another disappointing defeat

(this is when Anthony politely reminds me that he watched the Isles win 4 consecutive Stanley Cup championships before I was born!)

…damn it

This is my favorite time of year. Our off-season training group starts to trickle back in and the playoffs are starting. In our area, this is also the time that youth programs have their tryouts, which means this is an emotional time of year for youth players and parents. Some will finish the tryout process happy with how they played and the team they’re on for the following year; others will be upset with getting cut and will blame “politics” (sometimes rightfully so) for their misfortune.

Getting cut is not an easy thing to go through. I know; I was cut from multiple teams going up through the youth ranks. Some of those years I thought I was clearly better than a handful of the kids that made it; other years I knew I could at least be competitive with those kids. I say this only to point out that I’m not unsympathetic to the players that draw the short straw. With that said, I think too many players let a bad tryout experience or bad interaction with a coach typecast them as a certain type of player, which usually has a negative effect on their confidence.

As I’ve said in the past, success at the youth level is great for confidence but inter-player comparisons at U-14 levels is somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparisons. For any given development situation, the kids that mature faster are always going to stand out as “better”, but won’t necessarily maintain that advantage over the long haul. Regardless if you’re over-sized or under-sized, exceptionally skilled or new to the game, respected for your speed or known as the slow kid, until you get paid to play (and even through that point),


Making or getting cut from any specific team doesn’t change the goal. Either way, players should be looking for areas they can improve on and actively working to do so. This idea of continuous improvement is known as “kaizen”. Kaizen is a Japanese term that I heard Dr. Steven Norris mention in his USA Hockey American Development Model presentation on Long-Term Athlete Development. I first came across the word while listening to a presentation from internet marketing expert Mark Joyner, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

I think kaizen highlights something that most of the hockey world still views the wrong way. One of the things that really struck me about Dr. Norris’ ADM presentation is how similar his message was to Mike Boyle’s and Brian Burke’s, despite the three of them having little involvement with each other professionally. In youth hockey, there is an over-emphasis on labeling kids as either talented or un-talented at insanely young ages. I don’t mean insanely young like 4 (although this is insane); I mean insanely young like 14.

The message that this practice sends is that certain kids were blessed with some sort of hockey playing magic and have a real shot at playing higher level hockey, and the others weren’t and really don’t stand a chance of making it anywhere.

“A person can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm.”- Charles M. Schwab

Yet, there are countless athletes that defy these odds ALL the time, to the point that it’s hard to consider it defying the odds at all. In fact, the idea that “talent” even exists has been rightfully questioned. Our belief in the concept of talent is what perpetrates it, and the “star” athletes that we think have natural ability almost always have SICK work ethics and put in incredible amounts of time away from the spotlight.

Natural talent? Crosby is recognized by everyone that crosses his path for being one of the hardest working hockey players in the history of the sport.

You’d be amazed at how much better “untalented” players get when they start practicing on their skills sets regularly under the supervision of a coach that understands how to introduce appropriate skill progressions. Coming back to the Boyle, Burke, Norris trifecta, an underlying message to all of their presentations is that we need to stop viewing youth hockey players through an NHL scouting eye, and start encouraging them to have fun and improve constantly.

Whether you made the team you wanted or not, your focus should be on kaizen. Development is a marathon, not a sprint. The players that continually take steps in the right direction are inevitably the ones that succeed over the long-run. The players that lean on their success at young ages inevitably fall victim to mediocrity at higher levels. We’ve had a dozen kids make NCAA Division I commitments over the last year, and they all did it the same way: Be patient, work hard, continually progress. That’s the formula; players need to stick to it, regardless if they make the peewee or bantam team they wanted or not!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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I have to run a training session (another decade-long groin pain case that has magically resolved itself with some focused training) in a few minutes so I’m going to keep this short and sweet today.

Plus, I’m probably going to need a few minutes for another Icy Hot bath. Still a bit sore from Wednesday’s lift:

On to this week’s content…

Darryl Nelson added an AWESOME video from Dr. Steven Norris from one of the ADM seminars. I’ve said in the past that USA Hockey is doing all the right things right now with their American Development Model; they have all the right people providing information to their organization. Every time I get access to one of these videos I watch it 3-4 times and take notes throughout. I’m only about 20 minutes in to this one, but I can already tell it’s one of the most-see videos.

A few of the messages that really stood out to me so far:

“Every idiot, including me, can organize a competitive schedule. That tells you NOTHING about the program.”

This really speaks to the marketing strategies some youth and tournament programs use and highlights the need to look at what coaches are doing to DEVELOP players, not just showcase them.

“Be patient while all hell breaks lose during puberty.”

I’m becoming known now for saying that testing youth is a senseless practice and shouldn’t be done. Whether we’re talking about hockey performance or overall athleticism, the fact is that every kid is going to develop at different rates and the adolescent years are especially volatile in this regard. This is ANOTHER reason why players shouldn’t get discouraged if they don’t make the PeeWee team they want. You see a lot of dominant peewees (U-12) that are mediocre midgets (U-18); early developers stand out at young ages. Keep doing the right things and you’ll win out over the long run.

I have a lot of notes (already), but one of the ideas that jumped out at me was that for the first 10 years of life, kids learn best through demonstration, and even better when this demonstration is performed by someone in close proximity age-wise to their peer group. In other words, a 10-year old will learn better from watching a 12-year old demonstrate or perform than he would from watching Ovechkin or Crosby. This is probably why so many athletes benefit from having an older sibling that is competitive in the same sport, and highlights an idea I’ve been pushing on you for years-GO WATCH GAMES AT THE NEXT LEVEL! Whether it’s a Tier II player watching a Tier I game at the same age level or a Tier I player watching a Tier I game at the next age level, the important thing is that players are getting exposure to what lies ahead. It’s not just about preparation; it’s about idea generation, and mental rehearsal.

Like I said, I’m only 20 minutes into the video. I’m sure there will be more great stuff throughout the rest of it. Check it out for yourself!

Watch the video here >> Long-Term Athlete Development from Dr. Steven Norris

Sean Skahan added Phase 2 of his ACL Rehab program to the site. Always great to see what someone with Sean’s experience is doing to bring a player back from one of these injuries. Seeing “return to play” programs can also shed some light on things we can do to avoid the injuries from occurring in the first place.

Check it out here >> ACL Rehab Phase 2 from Sean Skahan

Lastly, my friend Dennis Adsit asked a great question (rather, a series of great questions) on the forum about the idea of restoring proper hip function after the season. Definitely worth a few minutes of your day to read the responses.

That’s a wrap for today! If you aren’t a member yet, shell out the $1 to test drive Hockey Strength and Conditioning for a week. If it’s not the best buck you’ve ever spent, I’ll personally refund you!

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

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