A while back I consulted with the Foundation for Goalie Research and Education on their Hockey Hip Injury Prevention Project.

FGRE

FGRE is an organization that I was introduced to by Molly Schaus, long-time member of USA Hockey’s Women’s National Team. The goal for this particular project was to help create a simple, equipment-free warm-up that goalies could perform on a regular basis to help minimize their risk of future hip injury. While this is designed with the goalie in mind, these exercises would also benefit players at all positions.

Molly did a great job with this, so I wanted to share it with you. Please pass this along to other players and coaches, as these types of exercises can make a big impact on your long-term health and durability.

Check it out here: Hip Injury Prevention Project

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University

A couple weeks ago Endeavor held its first ever “Social Media Takeover” that specifically dove into the topic of speed training. Today I wanted to share 11 of the speed training tips we shared on that day. Check out the Endeavor Sports Performance Instagram page for more training tips and exercise videos.

If you train athletes, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Lee Taft’s Certified Speed and Agility Coach program. In it, he lays out a comprehensive speed development system, outstanding movement progressions, and HIGHLY effective coaching cues. Since reviewing Lee’s material, we’ve made several changes to the way we teach, progress, and coach speed development in our athletes. Well worth the investment!

Certified Speed and Agility Coach Certificate

1) Speed development in youth athletes starts by understanding their stage of development. Kids respond better to certain training stimuli at different ages and maximizing the work they’re most receptive to will lead to more significant progress.

Long-Term Athletic Development-Sensitive Periods
2) Profiling the specific movement demands of a sport is important to identify limiting factors to speed development and to design more sport-specific transitional speed exercises. 

Hockey Training-Profiling Movement

Movement analysis helps identify functional limitations to more optimal patterns and should drive programming for a more sport-specific transfer

3) The top pictures show a sprint initiation with a back foot push emphasis, which leads to an incomplete drive off the front foot and a low foot position on the swing through (see how close right foot is to ground). Bottom pictures show a teaching progression we use to emphasize front foot push-off. Note the more complete extension on the left leg and how much higher the right foot is after it swings through, leading to a more powerful second stride.

Speed Training-Sprint Start Variation

Emphasizing a strong front leg push is crucial for a quick start

4) Quick feet training is NOT speed training. Michael Flatley has the quickest feet in the world. Usain Bolt is the fastest in the world. One moves feet fast, but doesn’t move the body at all. The other produces extreme amounts of force with each stride to propel his body forward. Very different training implications.

5) One of the keys to a quick start is an aggressive arm action. Throwing the front hand back will reflexively drive a stronger first push coming out of the gate.

6)Not all speed training needs to look like speed training. This med ball throw variation is great for teaching a powerful front foot drive, full hip extension and a counter-rotation through the shoulders.

7) Optimizing movement efficiency increases speed and endurance by minimizing internal resistance to movement. It uses more effort and energy to run/skate with bad technique.

Hockey Training-Stride Efficiency and COnditioning

Slide taken from my presentation at the 2015 NHL Strength and Conditioning Coaches Conference

8) One of the most common mistakes while performing butt kickers is swinging the foot back behind the butt instead of pulling the heel up directly under the hip, which more directly mimics the pull through action of sprinting.

Butt Kickers

Pull the heel under the hip, not around the back.

9) Assessing the primary barriers to an INDIVIDUAL’S speed development should create the foundation for a more specific training program. These are the primary considerations for speed training.

Hockey Training-Limiting Factors to Peak Performance

Slide taken from my presentation at the 2015 NSCA Training for Hockey Clinic

10) A lot of athletes will actually run faster when told to run at 95% than they will at 100%. Simply, the desire to run at max effort causes the athlete to hold more tension in their muscles which slows down their movement. One of the best cues to help an athlete let go of excessive tension is to “relax your face”.

11) Sprinting posture can be taught with a Wall March, reinforced with a Sled March and integrated with a 2-point sprint start. Learn slow before you add speed to a movement.

Speed Training-Posture Series
Feel free to post any questions/comments you have below. If you’re interested in more hockey-specific speed training drills and information, check out Breakaway Hockey Speed.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

 

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University

Part 2 of the Sleep and Sports Performance series will dive into specific recommendations to improve your sleep quality, including a cool trick to make your brain think you’re tired, and a few effective supplements you’ve never heard of. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here: Sleep and Sports Performance: Part 1

The Foundation of Quality Sleep

Improving your sleep quality is a lot like improving your diet. The best strategy is master the basics, and then use more advanced strategies to troubleshoot individual deficiencies. With this in mind, these are the biggest “bang for your buck” strategies to immediately improve your sleep:

  • Make sure your room is completely black (e.g. no internal or external light at all) and cool
  • Stop using electronics, including TVs, computers, and cell phones ~30-60 minutes before bedtime
  • Put your phone on silent and turn it face down on your nightstand so it doesn’t make sound, vibrate or light up while you’re sleeping. “Do Not Disturb” mode will keep the phone quiet, but will still allow your alarm to go off.
  • Attempt to go to sleep and wake up within an hour of the same time each night.

Of these, the minimal electronic use is likely the recommendation that will be met with the most resistance. Your body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that most people are familiar with as a sleep supplement, in anticipation of darkness. When you expose your eyes to light, particularly blue light from electronics, it inhibits melatonin release and essentially signals to your body that you need to stay awake.

            “I SnapChat because I can’t sleep. And I can’t sleep because I SnapChat.”

Further, electronics that require interaction (e.g. everything except TV) lead to difficulties falling asleep and less refreshing sleep (Gradisar, Wolfson, Harvey, Hale, Rosenberg, & Czeisller, 2013).

Just as you can tell whether the lights in a room are on or off even with your eyes closed, your eyes perceive light even while you sleep. Even if your phone is on silent, if it lights up on your bedstand, it will still have a stimulatory effect and pull you out of deeper levels of sleep. Naturally, the same is true of lights coming through the window or from alarm clocks. Complete darkness is essential for optimal sleep.

Hacking Your Sleep

If you follow the above recommendations and are still struggling to get restful sleep, these are effective strategies worth the time and financial investment to try.

1) Take a nap

A complete sleep cycle lasts ~90 minutes. However, Thun et al. (2015) point out that 30-minute naps are effective at restoring performance to a higher level compared to a no-nap condition. From a practical standpoint, this means that naps should be ~20-30 minutes or ~90 minutes. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle is why many people feel groggy when they wake up; avoid the 45-75 minutes time zones.

2) Take a quick warm shower before bed

It is easier to fall asleep when your core temperature is low (Waterhouse, Fukuda, & Morita, 2012). Intuitively, you might think jumping in a cold tub would help facilitate this process. However, Rattray et al. (2015) commented that cold-water immersion had no effect on sleep measures, but increasing skin temperature did. This may be a combination of heat having a soothing/calming effect on the body and the fact that after heat, the body’s temperature needs to drop to restore homeostasis. This falls into the “try both and see what you like better” category.

3) Change your diet

According to Halson (2014), eating a meal with carbohydrates ~1-4 hours before bedtime can decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increase REM sleep, and decrease light sleep, and low protein diets impair Deep Sleep. There are a lot of considerations in optimizing your diet, but for sleep purposes it appears that making sure you get sufficient quality food throughout the day and eating a small carbohydrate-based meal for dinner (or post-game) will help optimize your sleep quality. This isn’t a free pass to punish a box of cereal right before you brush your teeth; food quality still matters. A “carbohydrate-based meal” may just mean a small chicken breast along with a sweet potato, and large serving of vegetables.

4) Fall asleep faster with brain “entrainment”

Sleep zones, and all states of being, are associated with different frequencies of brain wave activity. For example, Deep Sleep is characterized by “delta frequencies” at 0.5-2.0 Hz. Brain activity within certain bands can be stimulated through auditory stimulation. This simply involves playing two sounds at different frequencies in each headphone, such that the difference in their frequencies falls within the range of the target brain activity. In other words, if we wanted to stimulate 2.0 Hz activity, we could put a 6.0 Hz tune in one ear, and a 4.0 Hz tune in the other. 6.0-4.0= 2.0.

NeuroAthlete

Assuming you, like me, have no idea how to do this on your own, you can download an app called “Neuroathlete”, which allows you to select the desired outcome (in this case “Rest and Recover” and it will play the appropriate tunes for you. It also lets you superimpose “sounds of nature” tunes on top of the humming of the different frequencies. Abeln, Kleinert, STruder, & Schneider showed that this technology had a positive impact on the sleep patterns of youth soccer players (2014), and given the cost, it’s definitely worth trying. I’ve used this personally and had several athletes use it as well.

5) Supplement

Most sleep-related supplements receive mixed reviews. Tryptophan in doses as low as 1g has been shown to improve sleep quality (Halson, 2014). Magnesium supplementation, which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system, improves sleep time and sleep efficiency (the amount of time spent asleep while in bed; Abbasi et al., 2012). Valerian is an herb that has a similar calming effect on the nervous system, and results in improved self-reported sleep quality (Halson, 2014). Lastly, L-theanine is an amino acid that may help promote relaxation.

Some of these ingredients can be found combined together. For example, I really liked Poliquin’s UberMag Plus Px, which has magnesium and tryptophan.

UberMag Plus Px

The end of sleep trouble

6) Sleep More

Lastly, you may just need to sleep more. Two studies have shown that lengthening sleep duration have had significantly positive outcomes on speed and skill-related performances in basketball players (Mah, Mah, Kezirian, & Dement, 2012) and swimmers (Mah, 2008).

Wrap Up

Sleep can have a profound impact on your physical and mental performance. Use the sleep “hacks” in this article to help optimize your sleep, and troubleshoot issues as they arise.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

References:

Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeaghniiat, K., Shirazi, M., Hedayati, M, & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161-1169.

Abeln, V., Kleinert, J., Struder, H., & Schneider, S. (2014). Brainwave entrainment for better sleep and post-sleep state of young elite soccer players – A pilot study. European Journal of Sport Science, 14(5), 393-402.

Czeisler, C. (2011). Impact of Sleepiness and Sleep Deficiency on Public Health – Utility of Biomarkers. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 7(5), S6-S8.

Gradisar, M., Wolfson, A., Harvey, A., Hale, L, Rosenberg, R. Czeisler, C. (2013). The Sleep and Technology Use of Americans: Findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America Poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(12), 1291-1299.

Halson, S. (2014). Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Medicine, 44, S13-S23.

Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., & Dement, W. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943-950.

Mah, C. (2008). Extended sleep and the effects on mood and athletic performance in collegiate swimmers. Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, June 9; Baltimore, MD.

Rattray, B., Argus, C, Martin, K., Northey, J., & Driller, M. (2015). Is it time to turn our attention toward central mechanisms for post-exertional recovery strategies and performance? Frontiers in Physiology, 6(79), 1-14.

Reyner, L, & Horne, J. (2013). Sleep restriction and serving accuracy in performance tennis players, and effects of caffeine. Physiology & Behavior, 120, 93-96.

Thun, E., Bjorvatn, B., Flo, E., Harris, A., & Pallesen, S. (2015). Sleep, circadian rhythms, and athletic performance. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 23, 1-9.

Waterhouse, J., Fukuda, Y., & Morita, T. (2012). Daily rhythms of the sleep-wake cycle. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31, 5-18.

Wright, Jr., K., Drake, A., Frey, D., Fleshner, M., Desouza, C., Gronfier, C., Czeisler, C. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 47, 24-34.

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

Get Ultimate Hockey Transformation Now!

Year-round age-specific hockey training programs complete with a comprehensive instructional video database!

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

Get access to your game-changing program now >> Ultimate Hockey Transformation

“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University

This is the 1st in a 2-part series on sleep and how it impacts performance.  References for both portions will be included at the bottom of both posts.

Sleep Dictates Physical and Mental Performance

Sleep could very well be the most powerful recovery tool available to athletes. As powerful of a “performance enhancer” as sleep can be, poor sleep can have equally profound negative consequences. In a review on recovery strategies centered around the central nervous system (e.g. your brain), Rattray, Argus, Martin, Northey, and Driller (2015) point out that sub-optimal sleep is associated with compromised motivation and immune function, symptoms of over-reaching (i.e. the precursor to over training), and reductions in brain glycogen (i.e. fuel for brain activity). Sleep deprivation is also associated with increased levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol, along with markers of systemic inflammation (Wright et al, 2015). Halson (2014) adds that reducing sleep to <6 hours per night for 4 nights leads to the aforementioned changes, but also changes in blood sugar regulation and appetite, and that a night of sleep deprivation can lead to decreases in power, strength, repeat sprint ability, endurance and perceived effort.

In fact, according to Czeisler (2011), sleep deprivation leads to performance decrements comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10%.

Simply, with sub-optimal sleep all aspects of performance relevant to team sport athletes are compromised. As a consequence, there’s a constant internal battle between tapping into mental reserves to maintain a high level of performance and a progressively decreased motivation to do so.

Much of this research focuses on sleep deprivation (e.g. not sleeping at all for 24-48 hours), which may have some application to college athletes pulling all-nighters to prepare for exams. Given how rare these circumstances are, though, it’s important to note that consistent mild sleep deprivation (e.g. less than 6 hours/night for several nights per week) can have similar influences as total sleep deprivation. These physical and mental performance decrements can appear after only two nights of partial sleep deprivation (Halson, 2014).

Furthermore, going to bed 2-2.5 hours later than normal can negatively affect sport-specific skills, such as serving accuracy in tennis (Reyner & Horne, 2013), and presumably shooting accuracy in sports like soccer, hockey, and basketball. Importantly, partial sleep deprivation leads to more pronounced performance impairments in the evening of the following day, which is when most competitions are scheduled (Thun, Bjorvatn, Flo, Harris, & Pallesen, 2015).

Dissecting Sleep Patterns

Sleep is divided into two major categories: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, the latter of which is subdivided further into stages associated with increasing “depths” of sleep. REM and Deep Sleep have specific physiological advantages that warrant noting:

  • REM Sleep: Significant brain activity and dreaming, generally thought to improve memory and learning, including skill development
  • Deep Sleep (Slow Wave Sleep): Huge spike in growth hormone release and inhibitory effect on cortisol release that helps facilitate repair/growth of soft-tissue (e.g. muscle) and related to next-day wakefulness

While this is an oversimplification, you can think of REM sleep as mental recovery and deep sleep as physical recovery.

Sleep Monitoring

As is the approach I take with designing training programs, any specific sleep recommendations should be made with some sort of assessment/tracking information. There are dozens of options, but the overwhelming majority are all finding different ways to assess “actigraphy,” which uses body movement to make inferences about whether you’re awake or sleeping, and if sleeping, what stage of sleep you’re in.

While it’s not cheap, the device I like the best for this purpose is the Res Med S+. Not only does it provide a daily “Sleep Score” based on your total sleep, wake, REM, Light, and Deep sleep times, but it also ties in quick tips/education based on your specific scores to help you better address your limitation.

It also has a few basic questions about caffeine and alcohol consumption, and perceived stress levels throughout the day so you can start to understand the relationships that these things have with your personal sleep patterns. The education piece is better than anything else I’ve come across and will help keep you engaged on improving your sleep duration/quality, which is essential to long-term success.

Res Med S+ Feedback

My only qualm with actigraphy measures is they’re easily influenced by other people/animals in the bed. If you have a significant other or overly human-like pet (see below) sleeping with you, they’ll likely influence your scores to a varying degree depending on their movement.

Sleeping with Pets

My sleep quality is directly linked to whether Ruxin sleeps upside on my head, or on Emily’s.

As an alternative to actigraphy-based measures, there’s an app called “Sleep Rate” that ties in with Bluetooth HR monitors like the Polar H7 and provides very similar information to the S+. This is what I use when I travel. The heart rate strap is a little invasive, but I like this data because it’s a direct reflection of my physiology, not an inference from the cumulative movement patterns of the bed. The app itself is free, and with a ~$50 cost for the Polar H7 that can be used with other free apps on your phone for training purposes, it’s a worthwhile investment.

To Be Continued…

Part 2 of this series will have tips on how to optimize your sleep quality, including how to “trick” your brain into thinking it’s tired and effective supplements you’ve never heard of.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

References:

Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeaghniiat, K., Shirazi, M., Hedayati, M, & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161-1169.

Abeln, V., Kleinert, J., Struder, H., & Schneider, S. (2014). Brainwave entrainment for better sleep and post-sleep state of young elite soccer players – A pilot study. European Journal of Sport Science, 14(5), 393-402.

Czeisler, C. (2011). Impact of Sleepiness and Sleep Deficiency on Public Health – Utility of Biomarkers. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 7(5), S6-S8.

Gradisar, M., Wolfson, A., Harvey, A., Hale, L, Rosenberg, R. Czeisler, C. (2013). The Sleep and Technology Use of Americans: Findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America Poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(12), 1291-1299.

Halson, S. (2014). Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Medicine, 44, S13-S23.

Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., & Dement, W. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943-950.

Mah, C. (2008). Extended sleep and the effects on mood and athletic performance in collegiate swimmers. Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, June 9; Baltimore, MD.

Rattray, B., Argus, C, Martin, K., Northey, J., & Driller, M. (2015). Is it time to turn our attention toward central mechanisms for post-exertional recovery strategies and performance? Frontiers in Physiology, 6(79), 1-14.

Reyner, L, & Horne, J. (2013). Sleep restriction and serving accuracy in performance tennis players, and effects of caffeine. Physiology & Behavior, 120, 93-96.

Thun, E., Bjorvatn, B., Flo, E., Harris, A., & Pallesen, S. (2015). Sleep, circadian rhythms, and athletic performance. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 23, 1-9.

Waterhouse, J., Fukuda, Y., & Morita, T. (2012). Daily rhythms of the sleep-wake cycle. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31, 5-18.

Wright, Jr., K., Drake, A., Frey, D., Fleshner, M., Desouza, C., Gronfier, C., Czeisler, C. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 47, 24-34.

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

Get Ultimate Hockey Transformation Now!

Year-round age-specific hockey training programs complete with a comprehensive instructional video database!

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

Get access to your game-changing program now >> Ultimate Hockey Transformation

“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University