I have a lot of updates for you from the past week. For starters, on Wednesday I gave a 45-minute presentation titled “Hockey Hip Assessments: An in-depth look at structural abnormalities and common hip injuries” that will be available at two of my favorite membership sites: Anthony Renna’s Strength and Conditioning Webinars and Joe Heiler’s Sports Rehab Expert. In the presentation, I went over the exact hip assessments we use at Endeavor, what we’ve found in the ~40 elite level athletes we’ve tested over the last couple of months, how we approach training around structural abnormalities, and what steps we can take to prevent soft-tissue injuries around the hips. Valuable info for anyone in the hockey training world.

My friend Pete Friesen, the long-time Head Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, recently sent me an email about this year’s Friesen Physio-Fitness Summit. Last year, David Lasnier and I drove down to Raleigh for the event and it was awesome. Pete put together an incredible line-up of speakers, and gave each a 30-minute time slot, which allowed us to soak up a lot of information from different professionals in a single day. The line-up for this year’s event looks even better. If you’re interested, this year’s summit is Saturday August 13th, and is probably the lease expensive 1-day seminar of this quality I’ve ever come across. Check out the brochure at the link below:

2011 Friesen PhysioFitness Summit

Getting into this week’s updates in hockey strength and conditioning, Darryl Nelson posted Phase 3 of his U-17 Off-Season Training Program. If you’re interested in how guys that train hockey players for a living design programs or just want to follow along at home, check out the program at the link below:

Click here for the program >> Summer Program Phase 3 from Darryl Nelson

Mike Potenza posted a youth core training program. Whether you train youth hockey players (or are a youth hockey player) or not, this is a great line-up of quality core exercises. Most of these exercises will be foreign to the majority of the youth hockey world, which still seems to be stuck in the stone age of core training (e.g. crunches/sit-ups, “Russian” twists, supermans, etc.), so Mike posted videos of everything. Great stuff as always from Mike.

Click here for the program/videos: Youth Core Training Program Phase 1 from Mike Potenza

Sean Skahan added a terrific article on the importance of training in improving a player’s durability. This article really resonated with me because I think it speaks to the rationale for a focused training effort even from the players that don’t have a history of injuries, but do have a history of incredible on-ice success. In other words, when the super-talented say, “I don’t need to train”, Sean’s article provides a great insight into why they do. I’m fortunate that I get to work with a lot of young high school players that are en route to D1 hockey programs, a few of which will probably make careers out of playing at some level of pro. Invariably, training and/or making dietary changes is a new and potentially undesirable experience for them. With these kids, I make an effort to educate them on the benefits, from both a short- and long-term performance and injury prevention standpoint, of getting their act together in terms of off-ice training and improving their nutrition. The habits players develop will allow them to succeed up to a given point, at which point they need to be refined. It’s likely that every player has areas they can improve on, and that these improvements will help them take their game to the next level, or at least allow them to compete at their current level for prolonged periods of time. Because Sean gets players from all backgrounds (e.g. US colleges, Canadian major junior, US juniors, overseas, etc.), he has a unique perspective on the quality of the off-ice development systems of these various organizations. Check out the article at the link below:

Click here for the article >> It’s All About Durability from Sean Skahan

As always, if you aren’t a member yet, I encourage you to try out Hockey Strength and Conditioning for a week. It’ll only cost $1, and if it’s not the best buck you’ve ever spent, I’ll personally refund you!

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re involved with youth hockey and are looking for an off-ice training program, check out my Off-Ice Performance Training Course! I continue to get great feedback from players, parents, and coaches just like you!

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A while back I mentioned I was in the final stages of writing a hockey training book that I strongly believe will be the best available resource on hockey development to date. The release of that project has been delayed and re-delayed as it takes longer than I originally anticipated to build a DVD with ~300 exercise videos.

My goal with the new book was to lay out my entire system, from age-appropriate development guidelines to comprehensive exercise progressions and program design strategies. It’s all there. I’ll fill you in on more of the details as we finalize everything and get ready to release it to the public.

In the meantime, I get regular email inquiries from parents or youth coaches that want their kids to start doing some type of off-ice training and just don’t know where to start. Most of these emails come from people with no background in exercise science or prescription, minimal if any equipment, and are generally looking for improvements in speed and power.

Regardless of the training goal, success is built on a foundation of proper training habits and proper movement. The player that half-asses or skips their warm-up and goes right into high-intensity sprints or jumps is both limiting his/her own performance and priming themselves for injury, short- or long-term. The player that doesn’t condition because it’s hard, and instead does extra arm work because they think big or “toned” (gender-specific) biceps will make them more attractive to the opposite sex, will inevitably fall short of the player that takes a better training approach.

In this regard, you don’t need much equipment to start developing proper training habits and optimal movement patterns (Just grab the equipment I mention here: Three Things Every Hockey Player Should Own). It’s important for young hockey players to learn (read: be taught how to) move correctly, not just fast or at a high intensity. It’s just as important that players learn what NOT to do. Many youth hockey training programs are still characterized by excessive volumes oF sprints and jumps, hundreds of crunches/sit-ups, push-ups with terrible form, and laps around the rink.

While I think the hockey training industry has evolved substantially since I was a player, the truth is that most of the information hasn’t trickled down to the youth levels, where it’s needed most. A few years back, I wrote an ebook called Hockey Training University’s Off-Ice Performance Training Course.

My training philosophies and systems have certainly evolved since that time (as has my regret for choosing such a stupid title!), but the systems I describe there are still extremely beneficial for youth players and it’s a great starting point for those new to training. It’s one of the only off-ice training resources that outlines how a player can train with no equipment, lays out an entire training system (not just “speed training” or “core training”), teaches exercise progressions (and how to do them WELL), and introduces the idea of periodization, or altering the focus of a training stimulus to make maximal progress.

I continue to get great feedback about the course from parents and coaches at the youth level that have implemented the training programs with their kids.

A hockey dad recently emailed me with:

“Hi Kevin, I bought your program last year and used it with my son and a couple of his friends (11 year olds).  My son became one of the best players on the rep team and has credited the course for his development.  Thanks for that. This summer the coach has asked me to include the rest of the team. I could sure use those additional bonuses you offer now.”

Feedback from a customer with a more advanced training background:

“I recently purchased Kevin Neeld’s Off-Ice Training Course. To say it is a valuable resource for ice hockey players and coaches is an understatement. The manual that Kevin has put together is excellent. It is a must have for all youth and high school ice hockey players and coaches. The manual breaks down every phase of training for an athlete with well-illustrated photos as well as a series of progressions for athletes. Having trained a lot of ice hockey players, I can say without hesitation that this program will guide you through a series of movements that will enable you to improve your level of play once the season starts. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this program and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.” – Kevin Miller, CSCS

If you’re starting from scratch like the majority of the youth hockey community and looking for a program that will help improve speed, lower body power, core strength, and conditioning, I highly recommend you check out my Off-Ice Performance Training Course. It’s a zero-risk endeavor. The course comes with a default 60-day money back guarantee, but because I never want to mislead or disappoint anyone, I’m happy to extend it to a lifetime guarantee for you.  Click the link below for more information!

Click here >> Off-Ice Performance Training

If you have any questions, just post them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. The information in my Off-Ice Performance Training Course can be applied in individual and team settings, and during the off-season, pre-season, and in-season, so you didn’t miss the boat just because the off-season is half over!

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I received a ton of great feedback about the two articles I posted this week. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, you can check them out here: Functional Training Fallacy and Become a Great COACH!

Mike Potenza was the star this week at Hockey Strength and Conditioning. After wrapping up a busy week with their prospect camp, he somehow found time to put together an awesome article on movement training and a travel-friendly training program (sleep optional?).

Mike’s article on movement training was terrific. He outlined his philosophy on linear and lateral movement training, general progressions for this type of work, and specific exercise progressions for linear and lateral movements.  He also wrote up a whole section on coaching cues to use to help get athletes to do things the right way. There is no benefit to training without proper movement, so hearing exactly what Mike looks for and how he cues his athletes is a great benefit. Check out the article at the link below:

Click here to read >> Linear and Lateral Movement Training from Mike Potenza

Mike also added a 2-day circuit based training program that doesn’t require any equipment. From what I gathered, this is something he’ll use for his guys that are traveling and don’t have access to much equipment. It’s great to have circuits like this as options because they aren’t overly technical (so you can be relatively confident that the athlete is doing everything the right way and they can be used by athletes that may be new to your system), and it keeps them relatively on track without sacrificing some of the niceties that the hockey off-season should allow.

Click here for Mike’s Program >> 2-Day Summer Travel Workouts from Mike Potenza

On this topic, I’ve come across some people in the hockey world that encourage players to finish the season, and then spend all of their time in camps, clinics, or in the weight room. Naturally, I think it’s extremely important that players make a commitment to their training in the off-season; I think it’s equally important that hockey development professionals recognize that hockey players also need time to recover and that mixing in a social engagement or vacation every now and then isn’t the worst thing. We actually schedule our 4-day programs to give our players 3-day weekends to head to the beach or just relax. Players should feel refreshed and ready to go at the end of the off-season, not beaten down. Too much time in the rink and gym with negligible opportunities to relax and enjoy life makes for a dismal entry into the season.

Do you really want to deprive your players of the…water…at the beach??

There have also been a couple great forum discussions over the last week. Darryl Nelson posted a link to a video of what appears to be the most comical and irrational implementation of science to date. It’s certainly an interesting idea, but I have a hard time buying that it’s the “future” of fitness. Although, the trend is for people to do less and expect more, so maybe this will catch on? There’s also a thread on on-ice conditioning progressions to enter the pre-season that is worth checking out. Some great minds weighing in with their advice.

As always, if you aren’t a member yet, I encourage you to try out Hockey Strength and Conditioning for a week. It’ll only cost $1, and 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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A couple weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Joe Dowdell and Mike Roussell’s Peak Training and Diet Design Seminar at Peak Performance NYC. I had planned on doing a recap of the event, but my friend Tony Gentilcore beat me to it. Check out his re-cap here: Learnification: My Weekend at Peak Performance.

Kale: the fuel for Tony’s big brain biceps

He also did a preview to the review, which you can find here: The Preview to the Review of the Peak Training and Diet Program Design Seminar

At the end of the 2-day event, Joe and Mike invited me to sit on their expert panel for a Q&A with the attendees. It was an honor to be up there with guys like Tony, John Romaniello, Jim “Smitty” Smith from the Diesel Crew, and Dr. Perry Nickelston.

Emily always says I have no sense of fashion, but I was the ONLY one that color-coordinated their beard with their shirt.

At one point, someone asked a question about what advice we would give trainers and strength coaches that really want to be successful in the industry. This was a great question, and the responses the other guys gave were outstanding. One of the points I really tried to emphasize is that it’s important to become a good COACH.

If you’ve read any of my stuff in the past, you know that I place a premium on staying current with relevant research and innovative training methods. I also think it’s important to test new things to ensure that we’re constantly finding improved ways to train our athletes and clients. Because of the internet-driven gold rush, there seems to be an ongoing contest of who knows more, and less emphasis is being placed on how to actually coach athletes. This is creating an increasingly large discrepancy between intellectual and inter-personal knowledge. In other words, there are really bright people in the training industry that aren’t great at implementing everything they know. As Mike Boyle always says, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Another trend, one that I doubt will ever disappear, is that strength coaches only want to work with elite athletes. I made a comment during the expert Q&A that from a coaching standpoint I don’t do anything with our elite hockey players. That’s not really true.  Our high level hockey players require a more in-depth focus on assessment and personalized program design. These athletes have put a ton of miles on their body, and tend to have greater compensation patterns and injury-prevention concerns than players competing at lower levels. My point was that elite level athletes are extremely neurologically efficient, and tend to do things pretty well with very little coaching. Many already have a few years of training experience under their belt and have been taught the basics of lifting. There is a lot to be gained from coaching elite level athletes, but it’s certainly not the best way to learn to coach. I recognize there is an assumption that the best training professionals are working in professional sports, and therefore working with high level athletes is an indication of competency. There are, in fact, many extremely bright and able coaches in professional sports. But not EVERY person that works in pro sports is not the best; many networked their way into those positions.

On the other side of the athletic continuum are the motor morons. These are the kids that move like shit, have never been taught anything (at least not correctly), and go blank when you try to cue them on anything. Some of these kids may even have pretty well-developed skill sets in their sport of emphasis, and therefore are successful despite a lack of any foundation of athleticism (which invariably catches up with them in the form of poor performance and/or injury). If a coach can get THESE kids to perform exercises correctly and move properly, THAT is the ultimate sign of competency. It’s the experience you develop working with these kids that teaches you how to use different language to make each individual understand what you’re looking for, and how to look for and correct common movement impairments/abnormalities. In other words, this is how you learn to coach effectively.

Coaching is an art, and one that needs to be refined for different training environments. I tell the coaches on our staff at Endeavor that they should try to think of ways to teach every exercise we do in 10s or less and use language that they can use to cue athletes from across a room. The textbook approach of walking each athlete through every exercise step-by-step would result in 4-hour training sessions. It’s not practical. Give the athlete enough to get started, make sure they understand the postures associated with proper exercise technique that purvey most exercises and let them get started. Not every athlete makes the same mistake and telling every athlete every step of every exercise is excessive. Let them try it, see where they err, and correct accordingly.

Take Home
If you’re a young coach, don’t be in a rush to work with professional athletes; be in a rush to become an outstanding coach. We need more great coaches at the youth level anyway, but this is certainly the best place to refine your coaching ability. If you want to become a good coach, find a strength and conditioning coach that seems to “get it” in terms of understanding proper movement, that works with a high volume of athletes, and ask to intern or volunteer. If you’re looking, I highly recommend getting in touch with people like Tony and Eric Cressey (Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA), Mike Boyle (MBSC in Woburn, MA), Brijesh Patel (Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT), Jeff Oliver (Holy Cross in Worcester, MA), and Robert dos Remedios (College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA).

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Over the last several weeks, I’ve been very fortunate to have an opportunity to work in close conjunction with Ned Lenny, a really bright physical therapist with an office in Cherry Hill, NJ.  Ned has been doing some in-house work for us at Endeavor, which has been a great educational experience for me and our athletes.

Ned and I were talking about one of our hockey players, and we started talking about training strategies for muscles primarily considered stabilizers. The rotator cuff and the lateral hip musculature are two popular muscle groups that populate the stabilizer category.

Collectively, the rotator cuff muscles function to stabilize the humeral head within the glenohumeral joint and ensure proper tracking of these two bones on one another

The deep hip rotators (pictured) and the gluteus medius (not pictured) compromise the lateral hip musculature typically considered as serving a stabilization function

These muscle groups do in fact function primarily as stabilizers. In other words, they provide dynamic control of the surrounding joint and stability of the joint so that high levels of force can be generated by the extremities. At the risk of beating this analogy to death, attempting to express strength or power with poor stabilizer function is similar to attempting to shoot a cannon from a canoe. Stability creates the foundation for strength and power. In fact, it’s a prerequisite for the expression of these qualities.

This understanding is a huge step in the right direction from the textbook approach to training where external rotators are only trained in external rotation movements and internal rotators are only training in internal rotation movements without any focus on their co-contraction functions in the interest of more global movement. Instead of these isolated rotations, better exercise choices are:

Rotator Cuff: Partner-assisted dynamic stabilizations, farmer’s walks, waiter’s walks, 1-arm stability wall hold, etc.

Lateral Hip Musculature: Backward monster walks, lateral mini-band walks, all single-leg exercises

In these exercises, the aforementioned muscles function in concert with one another to promote stability. This would be the most functional/integrative way to approach training these muscle groups. In both the hockey and sports training industries, there are tendencies to utilize new information in an extreme fashion. In other words, pendulums tend to swing too far in one direction; too much black or white and not enough shades of gray.

Sometimes the training industry goes too far…

In this case, Ned pointed out that training and movement aren’t just about function, they’re also influential in tissue nutrition. In this vein, nutrition refers to fluid and nutrient circulation to tissue structures within the body. When muscle groups become too rigid, they lose nutrition, become fibrotic, and can even begin to calcify. Naturally, this results in a loss of mobility and proper function. Taking muscles through a full range of motion helps improve nutrient delivery to the structures and therefore can help improve their function. This line of logic indicates that, despite the lack of “functional” carryover, there is still a place for more isolationist exercises like pure internal and external rotations.

A more functional approach to training the rotator cuff

Of course, before the people that have only been recommending tubing exercises for rotator cuffs for the last decade celebrate, the isolationist approach, by itself, is still not the best way to go. The major take home here is that, as with all things training, there are shades of gray. There is a place for both modalities. This is also another example that sometimes the most sport-specific training solution is anti-sport-specific training!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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