Over the last couple weeks, there have been a lot of great discussions in my LinkedIn Group “Hockey Training“. A few days back, Dr. Chad Moreau, who has experience working with a wide range of hockey players (including the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL and Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL), posed the question “Does Working Out in the Gym Improve Performance on the Ice?”

While I think many of you would consider this a no-brainer, the number of high level players that find success despite a lacking or downright terrible training program and the number of players that are physical specimens that still can’t make it to the next step warrants having this discussion. Also, many players seem to look toward off-ice training to improve specific on-ice skills, which always warrants qualifying. Below is a slightly modified version of my response to Dr. Moreau’s question. I think this is a great discussion topic, so please post your thoughts in the comments section below!

Does Off-Ice Training Improve On-Ice Performance?

It seems fairly obvious that off-ice work would lead to on-ice gains, but I think it’s important to qualify the degree of transfer and, as Chad mentioned, there are certainly exceptions. To be overly simplistic, I generally think of “skill” and “physical capacities” as two separate domains. Skill can refer to skating technique, puck handling ability, vision, ability to read the play, etc. Physical capacities refer to measures like speed, power, strength, conditioning, etc. Certainly, there is overlap between some of these categories. For example, if an individual’s skating technique suffers because they don’t possess the strength to maintain an individual-specific state of deep knee and hip flexion, then strength training (or local muscular endurance, depending on the limitation) would likely result in a transfer to their skating ability. Likewise, if an individual is incredibly weak AND hasn’t figured out how to utilize their body weight and the whip of a stick to shoot hard, then doing some off-ice strength training and rotational power work (e.g. med ball throws) would likely cause them to shoot harder.

Check out this post for more information on how off-ice training can help you score more goals: What Muscles Do You Use to Shoot?

There are plenty of examples of guys that experience success at every level because of their superior skill sets. To a degree, I think it’s a matter of where you invest your time, honing your skills or strengthening your capacities. Every player needs a mix of both; some err more toward one side than the other. I think the players that succeed without off-ice training do so largely because they have some “genetic” gifts that put them in the middle or upper part of the pack with regards to size and speed anyway. In other words, the short slow player with awesome hands and a great knack for the game still isn’t NHL-bound. And there are just as many (I suspect more) examples of players that reach a certain level BECAUSE of their dedication to off-ice training that would have never had an opportunity to otherwise. Training is the equalizer.

Training may not make or break a player’s career if they’re gifted with the size and speed of a player like Malkin (Disclaimer: This is not to suggest that Malkin doesn’t train hard)

I also think there’s something to be said for the “performance gap” idea, which is simply the difference between performance and potential. Even if training isn’t what allows a player to reach or contribute at any given level (for a lot of players, training does just that), it will certainly help a player close in on his or her full potential and ultimately allow the player to be as successful and durable as possible. Some of the skilled high level achievers are either content with where they are or don’t believe the off-ice work could really take their game to the next level. Similarly, there are some players that take their off-ice training very seriously, and have for years, that would likely benefit more from focused on-ice skill work. In both examples of these extremes, the players may just have a tendency to gravitate toward what their best at and what is most comfortable for them to work on. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide what level of sacrifice they’re willing to make to fulfill their potential. The players that are willing to really push the limits of their skill and physical capacities push the boundaries of what’s possible within the game of hockey, and are responsible for making hockey the best game on earth!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you want to maximize the transfer of your off-ice training to on-ice performance, you’ll want to follow a specific hockey training system designed to do just that.

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I hope everyone on the East Coast is surviving the initial pushes from Hurricane Sandy. I’m supposed to drive up to NY tomorrow to work at a camp with the US Women’s Team so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will ease up enough for my ’99 4-door family sedan to make the trek.

A couple weeks ago I posted a short video interview with myself and Cassandra Forsythe highlighting the training, performance, and body composition benefits of a new sports drink from Generation UCAN. If you missed it, you can check it out here: Optimizing Performance

The next week my friend Dave Mayo forwarded me an awesome webinar from Peter Attia, M.D. that outlines performance-related nutrition and how to go about optimizing it. This is a fairly long video, but it’s well worth the watch, as Dr. Attia does a great job of making relatively complex issues easily understandable. Check out the video below:

Superior Nutrition for Superior Performance

Don’t forget, you can save 10% on all UCAN products by using the code “competehard”.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Hockey-specific nutrition snacks, shakes, meals, and plans! Ultimate Hockey Nutrition

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A couple weeks back I started a class called “Pathology” as part of my massage program. The first class we watched a DVD from National Geographic titled “Inside the Living Body,” and were asked to write a paper with the loose guidelines of “what did you think of the video and why do you think I made you watch it?”

As going through this massage program and learning from guys like Patrick Ward has really changed the way I think of the human organism, I utilized this opportunity to go on a fairly tangential rant about the integrated nature of the all the body’s systems. The paper was well-received, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

Inside the Living Body

Inside the Living Body is a National Geographic documentary exploring the interactions of the various human systems from birth through death. Naturally, as time progresses following birth, human systems develop as both a driving factor for growth and in response to internal and external stressors. The video eloquently illustrates how individual systems (e.g. the cardiovascular system) and their associated organs (e.g. the heart) function to support life at different stages throughout the lifespan, and alludes to how the function (or dysfunction) of one system will influence others. Understanding these concepts presents a unique opportunity to recognize the symptoms of and more effectively treat individuals with various levels of dysfunction.

The further I travel down the rabbit hole of human performance, the more I appreciate how interactive the various systems are. One cannot influence the “muscular system”, “cardiovascular system”, or “endocrine system” in isolation. In fact, a stimulus in any of these areas will likely also involve a concomitant stimulus to the rest of the systems, but will absolutely create indirect effects as a result of the primary system stress. For example, lifting weights is traditionally thought of as a stimulus to the muscular system. However, overcoming high levels of resistance stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which directly influences the cardiovascular system through changes in heart rate and blood pressure, the respiratory system through changes in breathing rate, and the endocrine system via the release of hormones like norepinephrine. These are somewhat isolated examples pulled from the immediate cascade of events that result simply from getting under a heavy bar.  These examples are confounded by the present state of the individual’s systems, and compounded upon by the ensuing cascade of allostatic events designed to restore homeostasis.

The idea of an individual’s “state” influencing their ability to grow and adapt to various stimuli has implications for all of the body’s systems, but also highlights the important role nutrition plays in providing the appropriate building blocks for all involved reactions and structures. Unfortunately, nutrition is typically viewed strictly as a means of influencing body composition. The thinking, here, is that total caloric intake can be manipulated as a means of matching, or creating an excess or deficit relative to total energy expenditure in an effort to maintain, gain, or reduce weight, respectively. Recommendations have been further divided into specific intakes, either on an absolute or relative basis, of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat. Even within this model, which is only loosely recognized or understood on a wide scale in our country, intake of specific macronutrients (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids, amino, acids, etc.) and micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) is haphazard, and the effect of nutrient timing relative to circadian rhythms and physical activity is not fully appreciated. It is not until dietary habits are viewed for what they actually are, as provisions for the foundational building blocks of all structures within the body and energy production that nutrition practices can be truly understood, the crime of genetically modifying nature’s gifts can be fully recognized, and ultimately that our society can optimize our nutritional habits.

Appreciating and attempting to understand the totality of the influence of any individual stressor is inherently valuable, as it not only allows the clinician/practitioner to identify a client’s dysfunctions, but it provides a means of early recognition regarding deleterious lifestyle choices and sub-clinical symptoms that will inevitably snowball into more significant problems in the future. Naturally, a better understanding of the state of the client’s system will also allow for a more appropriate treatment approach. For example, an individual that presents with neck stiffness/pain while in a state of excessive sympathetic tone (e.g. as a result of work- and relationship-related stress) may be most appropriately treated using techniques that facilitate a shift toward a more parasympathetic state. In this case, aggressive manual or instrument-assisted soft-tissue work, locally or peripherally, could stimulate a fear-avoidance reaction and a further push into sympathetic dominance. Because of the integration of the nervous system and fascial networks, it’s possible that decreasing the individual’s threat response via an augmentation of parasympathetic tone would reduce or eliminate their pain.

Furthermore, understanding the integrations of the body’s systems allows the clinician to troubleshoot complicated cases. As an example, imagine an individual possessing great joint range of motion and appropriate strength across the joint with a history of chronic nagging muscle tears. Further investigation reveals that the client doesn’t drink any water. In this case, it’s possible that the client has shifted his muscles closer to injury threshold via dehydration. Clients understand that it’s easier to tear beef jerky than filet mignon, but they’re unlikely to make this connection themselves. Sometimes the key to optimal treatment lies in asking the right questions.

As the video dissects the complexities of optimal function, one can better recognize the multiple opportunities for dysfunction, which provides a platform for the massage therapist’s role in restoring function. This, in my opinion, is the primary value of the video, and, I imagine, the reason for you showing it to us. Exposing therapists to the most foundational processes of human life, as well as their evolution across the lifespan, provides a reference point to further inquire about the impact we can potentially have on the various systems when things go awry. By presenting this information in a video format, it provides the therapist with a visual representation of structures and processes that may be difficult to construct otherwise. Ultimately, Inside the Living Body sets the stage for a semester of delving into the therapist’s role in treating or treating around pathology.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Science applied to hockey training: Ultimate Hockey Training

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A couple weeks ago I posted a video on HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com with two “Reactive Jumping” (or plyometric) exercises that we’ve used with our hockey players. These are two jumps that you’re likely familiar with (I have picture breakdowns of both in my Off-Ice Performance Training Course), but this execution is relatively novel, at least to most youth hockey audiences.

Where I go to talk shop with the top hockey strength and conditioning coaches in the world!

Plyometric exercises can be used to serve a number of different purposes. For example, performing a vertical jump after pausing for a couple seconds in the bottom of a squat position will help develop position specific rate of force development or “starting strength”. In contrast, performing a vertical jump in the typical fashion by starting tall and dropping down into a squat position and then exploding upward will integrate the stretch reflex and stretch shortening cycles to a great degree. This is just one example of how the same exercise can be manipulated to create a different response.

In addition to using different variations to create different responses, it’s important to recognize that some are more advanced and may not be appropriate for all populations. There are fundamental patterns that athletes need to master before diving in to advanced options, even if they could technically benefit from the intended response of the exercise. With that in mind, here’s a sample progression to teach youth athletes how to perform a vertical jump properly.

  1. Squat Hold
  2. Squat
  3. Squat-Pause-Jump
  4. Vertical Jump
  5. Vertical Jump w/ Rapid Decent
  6. Reactive Drop Squat
  7. Vertical Jump w/ Reactive Drop Start

This is certainly not the only way to go about reaching this end-goal. Regardless of the path taken, the principles should remain relatively synonymous:

  1. Teach the athlete to squat properly (optimal posture/alignment)
  2. Teach athlete to jump and land with proper technique
  3. Progress in velocity/reactiveness

If jump landings look like this, the athlete isn’t ready to progress to more advanced variations or higher volumes.

Green light.

Naturally, athletes shouldn’t progress to the next level until they can demonstrate CONSISTENT proficiency in the previous level. While I think 1&2 can be accomplished in parallel, it’s nonsensical and irresponsible to encourage athletes to jump higher, further, or more if they can’t jump properly.

Log in to HockeySC.com and check out the reactive jumping video, as well as a ton of other exercise videos from Mike Potenza, Sean Skahan, and Darryl Nelson!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you train youth players without any equipment, check this out: Off-Ice Performance Training Course

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I haven’t spent as much time reading others’ websites as I typically do over the last 6 months as I’ve been chin-deep in massage school, a few good books, and working on a couple projects for Endeavor. That said, I’ve come across several awesome articles that I wanted to share with you that cover a range of topics from hockey training to parenting to manual therapy to soccer preparation (these articles have direct applications to hockey players too!). Most of these won’t take very long to read, so don’t be overwhelmed by the number of articles here. Lots of good stuff so grab a seat somewhere comfortable and dig in!

This will do.

  1. Shoulder Injuries in Hockey Players from David Lasnier
  2. Those Who Have Influenced Me from Sean Skahan
  3. Some Thoughts on Training the Lactate System from Patrick Ward (Read the comments section too!)
  4. My 13 Simple Rules for Hockey Parents Everywhere from John Buccigross
  5. Parenting Advice from a Former NFL Head Coach via Mike Boyle
  6. Lessons from Inside Out Coaching: The 20 Year Window from Mike Boyle
  7. Every Hockey Parent Should Read This via Mike Boyle
  8. Not Everyone Gets A Trophy from Anthony Donskov
  9. A Note to the High School Athlete, From: Your Strength Coach from Anthony Donskov
  10. Sprinting and Hockey Players from Jeff Cubos
  11. Discussing dynamic ligament stabilization, performance of orthopaedic tests, and proper palpation technique for osseous articulations from Andreo Spina
  12. Paradigm Shift: On changing the manual therapy zeitgeist from Andreo Spina
  13. McKenzie Method vs. SFMA from Charlie Weingroff
  14. An interview with Philadelphia Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin from Broad Street Hockey
  15. The Prevalence of Hip Abnormalities in Soccer Players from Matt Siniscalchi
  16. Basic Soccer Strength Program from Matt Siniscalchi
  17. Core Stability for Soccer Athletes from Matt Siniscalchi
  18. Fatigued? How to Modify Your Training Program To Keep Progressing from Matt Siniscalchi

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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