Finding the “optimal stride” is important for hockey players at all levels. It helps ensure they’re maximizing their range of motion and power, and not compromising skating efficiency. Because this is such an important topic, I’ve written several articles in the past on frequently overlooked factors that dictate what may be optimal for any given individual. You can read a few of those at the links below, but I’d encourage you to do a quick search on the site for “stride length” if you’re interested in reading more on the topic.

  1. 3 Keys to Developing Optimal Skating Technique
  2. Limitations to Optimal Skating Performance
  3. Breakaway Hockey Speed Q&A

Assuming the player does in fact have the requisite bony structure and strength capacity to sustain a low position while skating, the two keys to retraining a player to maintain a deeper skating depth are to:

  1. Remove soft-tissue limitations to deeper skating depths
  2. Practice skating specific patterns in a deeper stance

I suspect, in comparison to some of the topics referenced in previous articles, these are two training components that many people in the hockey world are familiar with, and are probably the two that people gravitate towards. That said, I think there are different ways to approach this than simple groin stretches and continually cuing players to skate lower or bend their knees more.

When our players come back to us at Endeavor, two extremely common limitations I continue to notice are generalized stiffness in the posterior hip (posterior hip capsule, hip external rotators and glute max), and poor relative motion between the medial hamstrings and the posterior adductor magnus. Both of these can limit depth on the stance leg by interfering with smooth hip flexion, as well as causing some problems on the stride leg.

 Posterior Hip Musculature

An image of the posterior hip (from with the glute max cut, illustrating many of the underlying structures than tend to become stiff in hockey players.

Hip Musculature

An image of the hip and thigh musculature (from Note the adductor magnus on the inside of the image on the right, and it’s proximity to the two medial hamstrings: semitendinosus and semimembranosus.

While addressing posterior hip capsule stiffness could be an entire post in itself, I’ve found that restoring relative motion between the posterior adductor magnus and medial hamstrings is fairly easily accomplished with some basic Active Release work. Of course, not everyone will have access to an A.R.T. provider, so it’s helpful to have some ways to troubleshoot this on your own. I’ve found that players respond pretty well to “treating” this area themselves with a lacrosse ball placed on top of a box/table (preferably a hard surface). Instead of just rolling around, I encourage players to take a more “seek and relax” strategy, slowly rolling to find sensitive/dense areas, and then just slowly let their leg sink deeper onto the ball as they try to relax and let the tension dissipate. Once they’ve been able to ease some of the tension, I’ll instruct them to slowly straighten their knee, which will slide the hamstrings past the posterior adductor and help restore some relative motion between the structures.

Self-Myofascial Release for Posterior Adductor

You can then follow that up with some self-mobilizations to help reinforce hip adduction range of motion through a large arc. This is one we use fairly frequently. You can modify this slightly by turning the extended leg so that the toes point more toward the ceiling.

Lateral Kneeling Adductor Mobilization

As you may suspect, improving hip mobility takes a multi-faceted approach and there are dozens of “self-myofascial release”, mobility, and stretching exercises than can be used to accomplish this. The examples above are simply two powerful ones that many people may not be aware of.

Once you’ve established adequate range of motion, the next stage is to reinforce a lower skating position. This is best accomplished on the ice and can also be reinforced on a slideboard, but I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of an exercise I call the “2-Way Skater”. While skating naturally requires a propulsive action from the stride leg, skating depth (and therefore stride length) is largely influenced by the position of the stance leg. Also, the ability to transfer the force from the stride leg through the stance leg is dependent upon stance leg stability. For these reasons, the 2-Way Skater is an outstanding exercise to reinforce optimal skating depth, stance leg stability, and full stride leg extension. Check out the video I filmed for several months ago that dives into how to perform the 2-Way Skater and what we’re looking for with the exercise:

Dissecting the 2-Way Skater

This is a simple 3-step off-ice approach to improving stride length in hockey players:

  1. Remove the soft-tissue restriction
  2. Mobilize the joint in a movement specific pattern
  3. Reinforce proper depth with a movement specific exercise

If you’re a young player that needs to work on maintaining a deeper skating depth, I’d encourage you to try these things, as well as follow a comprehensive training program as outlined in Ultimate Hockey Training. As always, please feel free to post your comments below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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If you’ve been reading my work for a while you know I’m a big fan of Precision Nutrition. It’s an outstanding, very user-friendly nutrition resource that makes eating better as simple as possible. You may also know that I’m a big fan of Brian St. Pierre’s, who started working for PN relatively recently. Brian and I met while he was still working at Cressey Performance and I was interning there. Brian won me over as my go-to “nutrition guy” almost immediately because he:

  1. Clearly kept up with current research
  2. Could trap bar deadlift 500+ lbs (a nice change of pace from an overwhelmingly endurance-based profession)
  3. Forced me to drink a beer when we went out to celebrate my internship completion

In short, he knows his stuff and he “gets it” in terms of understanding how to work with people and not just following unnecessarily advanced and laborious text book recommendations. In fact, I respect Brian so much I asked him to write the nutrition manual to accompany my book Ultimate Hockey Training. I strongly believe Ultimate Hockey Nutrition is the best hockey nutrition resource available today; it continues to get great feedback.

Ultimate Hockey Nutrition

Yesterday, in the midst of a crazy-productive day for me, I learned that Brian’s presentation from an event at Cressey Performance was recently posted on Precision Nutrition’s website. The presentation, titled “Food Freakshow” discusses the future of our food supply, for better or worse. Some of the topics include:

  1. Putting fish in milk
  2. Cows that produce human breast milk
  3. Dinosaur Burgers
  4. The benefits of eating insects
  5. Why some scientists are weary of the FDA’s support of genetically modified food

Brian’s presentation covers a very controversial topic, and to his credit, he did an outstanding job of highlighting the potential pros and cons of each situation, as well as not confusing his opinion for fact. You can watch the entire presentation (or download the audio files) at the link below. Enjoy!

Watch the presentation here >> Food Freakshow

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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I was recently very humbled to be asked to be the “Featured Interview” for the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).

Postural Restoration Institute

As you likely know, I’ve been heavily influenced by the lens through which PRI views structure and function, and their courses have had a fairly profound impact on the way we assess and train our athletes at Endeavor. I like to think our philosophies and methodologies have also had an impact on them, as we now have evidence of PRI’s support for heavy lifting!

Jen Poulin Deadlifting

Instructor Jen Poulin preparing to pull 5 wheels after a long day of teaching at Endeavor

While the interview certainly has a PRI undertone, it also dives into several things I think you’ll really enjoy, including:

  1. My vision for Endeavor Sports Performance, and ultimately, what I strongly believe is the best approach to preparing athletes
  2. Exactly what we’re doing with our off-season hockey players at Endeavor this Summer
  3. A few ways we have and are integrating PRI concepts into our programs
  4. My short list of go-to rehabilitation specialists in our area
  5. A list of my mentors, which (not coincidentally) are also the top people I recommend young S&C professionals pursue internships with
  6. My thoughts on the Postural Restoration Trained credentialing process

Check out all of this and more here >> PRI’s Featured Interview with Kevin Neeld

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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It’s been an exciting week. Our off-season hockey group at Endeavor is growing quickly as players return back from their junior and pro teams. We’re doing some different things in terms of assessment and program individualization, which means a lot more work for me, but will ultimately be a process that provides better results for the players and interesting data in terms of tracking specific adaptations to various program design strategies.

Two nights ago, just over a week after returning from working at their Pre-World’s Camp in Lake Placid, NY (where they were playing Miracle on loop in the lobby…which was awesome), I watched in a quasi-permanent state of cardiac arrest, as the US Women’s National Team reclaimed the world championship in a great battle with rival Canada. I’ve seen these two teams compete against each other 4 times at this point, and every game is incredibly competitive and exciting. It’s a great rivalry, and one that I think will help grow the women’s game worldwide.

Capping things off, I found out this week that the editing is now complete for my new DVD “Optimizing Movement”, which should be available in the near future. The DVD dives into exactly what assessments I’m doing for our incoming athletes, how we use this assessment to systemize a corrective approach, and how all of this drives our program design. This is really just the tip of the iceberg so keep your eye out for more information in the near future. I’m also in the final stages of completing an exciting project that I’m hoping to announce by the end of the month.

With all of that in the background, I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. Having just hosted PRI’s Pelvis Restoration course at our facility last weekend, several ideas related to PRI have been on my mind recently and will likely be topics for future posts. As PRI gains in popularity, their information will naturally be met with more questions, and likely more skepticism. I think this is a good thing in the long run as it allows us all to grow from the discussion. I think a lot of the misconceptions about their information are driven by people with only a partial understanding of their perspective, and either an opposition to PRI evangelists or a generally evangelical affiliation for another seemingly conflicting educational resource. I’m a bit of a continuing education junkie and am interested in learning from a wide variety of resources, but I hesitate to subscribe to any extreme as I believe strongly that all information is in some stage of evolution and the excessively enthusiastic support for any paradigm is likely to be misguided as this evolution takes place.

With that said, Patrick Ward wrote two outstanding posts recently that I want to share with you. I always enjoy Patrick’s perspective because he’s a relentless learner, has a great filter, and respects the complexity of the human ecosystem. He, whether aware of it or not, has become a great mentor for me as I continue digging further down this rabbit hole. I’d encourage you to read these two articles, slowly, as well as all the comments beneath the second article. Lots of great stuff here!

  1. More on the Physiological Buffer Zone – Aerobic Fitness & Functional Movement Screen
  2. Postural Restoration Institute Course Review

Strength In Motion

Patrick discusses the idea of the Physiological Buffer Zone in his presentations included in the Strength In Motion DVD set.

That’s a wrap for today. As always, please post your comments below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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