The other day I suggested that hockey players may be making a big training mistake, a balance training mistake. I’m referring to training that involves standing on medicine balls, stability balls, dynadisks, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I think unstable lower body training has a place in rehabilitation settings, especially for lateral ankle sprains. I DO NOT see a place for standing on these objects for healthy hockey players. Yes, hockey requires a lot of balance and stability, but NO it does not require these things while standing on a round object!
I can understand the appeal of mastering these circus acts, but they won’t make you a better hockey player. Balance is extremely movement and surface specific. This is evident by watching a team of talented youth hockey players go through a dynamic warm-up that requires single-leg stability (for details on how to design your own hockey-specific dynamic warm-ups using hockey-specific exercises, check out Hockey Training U’s Off-Ice Performance Training Course).
Despite their admirable skating ability on the limited surface area of a skate blade, many of them have trouble balancing on one foot off the ice, despite a much large surface area. Unstable surface training has been excessively misinterpreted and misused. Eric Cressey put together a phenomenal resource outlining the myths of unstable surface training. Of more interest to most people, he also includes a wide variety of awesome core training exercise progressions and the neurological rationale for why these exercises are beneficial. For only $39.99, I think this is a resource that every athlete (or coach that trains athletes) should invest in. I use it as a reference on a regular basis. STOP standing on stability balls, and START training smarter.
For more information on Eric Cressey’s Truth About Unstable Surface Training, click here.
– Kevin Neeld
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.