Last Friday we wrapped up post-Summer testing with one of our college guys and one of our pro guys, as it’s time for them to return back to their teams.

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Today I wanted to dive into the program of the pro player to illustrate the types of results that can be achieved with individualized programming, even in a very-well trained athlete. In this case, the player had just graduated from college and signed with an AHL team at the end of the year.

A few notes from his intake assessment (6/17/15):

Movement Assessments

  1. Hip Extension: Limited bilaterally
  2. Hip Adduction: Limited bilaterally
  3. Hip Abduction: Limited on R
  4. Left Hip External Rotation: 24; Internal Rotation: 24; 48 total
  5. Right Hip External Rotation: 24; Internal Rotation: 22; 46 total
  6. Shoulder Horizontal Abduction: Limited bilaterally
  7. Shoulder Flexion: Limited bilaterally
  8. Left Y-Balance Posteromedial Reach: 102cm; Posterolateral Reach: 94cm
  9. Right Y-Balance Posteromedial Reach: 99; Posterolateral Reach: 97cm

Performance Assessments

  1. VJ: 31”
  2. Lateral Bound: Average of 87.5”
  3. 1-Leg DB Goblet Squat: 100×5
  4. Bench Press: 185×6
  5. Chin-Ups: 237×5 (192 body weight + 45lbs external load)
  6. *We did a repeat shuttle test, but we didn’t retest at the end of the Summer, so I didn’t include it here.

Post-Summer Assessment (9/4/15):

Movement Assessments

  1. Hip Extension: Unlimited bilaterally
  2. Hip Adduction: Unlimited bilaterally
  3. Hip Abduction: Unlimited bilaterally
  4. Left Hip External Rotation: 30 (+6); Internal Rotation: 31 (+7); 61 total (+13)
  5. Right Hip External Rotation: 31 (+7); Internal Rotation: 31 (+9); 62 total (+16)
  6. Shoulder Horizontal Abduction: Unlimited bilaterally
  7. Shoulder Flexion: Unlimited bilaterally
  8. Left Y-Balance Posteromedial Reach: 113cm (+11); Posterolateral Reach: 98cm (+4)
  9. Right Y-Balance Posteromedial Reach: 116 (+17); Posterolateral Reach: 108cm (+11)

Performance Assessments

  1. VJ: 35” (+4”)
  2. Lateral Bound: Average of 91” (+3.5“)
  3. 1-Leg DB Goblet Squat: 125 for 2 sets of 5 during training
  4. Bench Press: 225 for 2 sets of 3 in training
  5. Chin-Ups: 237 for 3 sets of 5 in training (192 body weight + 45lbs external load)

Overall, I was very pleased with the results of his program. Below is a birds-eye view of the programming strategy we took with him.

This progression is one I use with a lot of our higher level hockey players in the off-season, but where we start (e.g. how much time and how we go about developing the aerobic system) and exercise selection is always based on my individual assessment of the player.

Looking at the structure of his program:

  1. Total Training Time: 12 Weeks, 5 Days/Week
  2. Days 1, 3, & 5 are developmental days; Days 2&4 are aerobic or recovery days
  3. Day 1 typically has a lower body emphasis; Day 3 an upper body emphasis, and Day 5 a full body emphasis

Phase 1: 3 Weeks

  1. Movement Restoration: Teach posterior pelvic tilt OUT of anterior pelvic tilt with stabilization strategies to control it
  2. Exercise Selection: Primarily unilateral lower and upper body patterns as a result of significant bilateral limitations
  3. Phase Emphasis: Deceleration and eccentric strength
  4. Energy Systems: Primarily aerobic with an emphasis on improving aerobic abilities of fast twitch muscle fibers

Phase 2: 3 Weeks

  1. Movement Restoration: “Untwist” pelvis by restoring L adduction and R abduction with remedial stabilization strategies to control it
  2. Exercise Selection: Continued with unilateral lower and upper body patterns, but introduced Chin-Ups and Trap Bar Deadlifts (despite not doing them in 1st phase, he hit 415 for a triple in Week 3)
  3. Phase Emphasis: Concentric strength/power
  4. Energy Systems: Combination of alactic power and aerobic work

Phase 3: 4 Weeks

  1. Movement Restoration: Progress exercises to more challenging variations with same stabilization intent, while integrating multiple strategies into a single exercise (e.g. L adduction control, abdominal integration and R abduction movement)
  2. Exercise Selection: Primarily unilateral lower and upper body patterns, but introduced/kept more bilateral movements (e.g. bench press, chin-ups, trap bar deadlifts)
  3. Phase Emphasis: Significantly increased volume of sprint work; Lifting transitioned into French Contrast Training 2x/week with heavy emphasis on speed of movement across all three developmental days.
  4. Energy Systems: Alactic power and capacity work, with tempo or max aerobic speed work in between

Phase 4: 2 Weeks

  1. Movement Restoration: Integrate acquired stability into reciprocal movement patterns
  2. Exercise Selection: Mix of unilateral and bilateral lifts
  3. Phase Emphasis: Maintain speed and strength while targeting improved lactic capacity
  4. Energy Systems: Decreased volume of alactic capacity work; heavy emphasis on lactic capacity work

Movement Restoration

One interesting thing to point out about the “movement restoration” process is that the improvements in more isolated hip motions (e.g. Hip extension, adduction, abduction, external and internal rotation) were mirrored by improvements in the integrated patterns (e.g. Y-Balance Posteromedial and Posterolateral Reach distances).

For those that aren’t familiar with the Y-Balance Test, the Posteromedial Reach pattern pretty closely resembles a forward skating stride, and the Posterolateral Reach pattern is reasonably close to a cross-over pattern.

Y-Balance PL

Y-Balance Posteromedial Reach Pattern

These are the best proxies we have for assessing stride length potential off the ice, and the measures can be displayed visually to help illustrate asymmetries.

Stride Profiles

Can you pick out the player recovering from an MCL sprain?

This provides some validation for the approach of stripping down global movement limitations (e.g. a short right stride length) to their most fundamental parts (e.g. limited Right Hip Abduction and External Rotation) and addressing those. Further validating this approach via on-ice tests is one area I hope to pursue through my doctorate research.

Unconventional Aerobic Training

From a conditioning standpoint, aerobic training has experienced a return to the spotlight over the last few years, but many still have the believe that aerobic training is only characterized by long-duration steady state work. In this player’s program, he did cardiac output work (which is characterized by long-duration steady stay work) 4 days, total, over the course of his 12 weeks. The rest of his “aerobic” conditioning work involved pushing sleds, continuous jumping, tempo runs/slideboards, and airdyne rides, none of which really looks like aerobic training. I think this approach is one of the reasons why his power measures increased so much and why he ran a 1.51 10-yard sprint (measured with photocell start and finish) at the end of the Summer.

Lactic Work Last Priority

Building on the aerobic discussion, one thing that may stand out to those with a background in hockey is how little lactic work we did. I don’t have post-Summer conditioning numbers for him, but more important than those, he said he feels great on the ice. There are a few reasons for minimizing lactic work.

  1. The best forwards accumulate around 20 minutes of playing time across 3 hours. Average shifts are in the 45-second range, with several minutes of rest between shifts. There is definitely a lactic component in the game of hockey, but it’s important to watch what the players actually do on the ice, not just their on and off times. Each 45-second shift has periods of gliding, repositioning, standing, etc. It’s rare that a player is skating nearly as hard as they can for the entire shift. As a result, the energy system profile changes fairly drastically toward a more alactic-aerobic stereotype.
  2. Lactic work is known to interfere with the development of speed, power, and strength. The off-season provides a small window to make improvements in specific physical capacities that will transfer to improved on-ice performance. In hockey, speed is often the top priority, and restoring strength is a close second. Spending too much time on lactic work will slow progress in these other areas. You can read more about this here: In-Season Training: Capacity Maintenance
  3. Making significant improvements in lactic capacity doesn’t take very long, and funneling a lot of lactic work into a two-week window creates a sufficient adaptation to help make the transfer into pre-season.
  4. Most players skate several times per week throughout the last half of the Summer, so they’re improving the local muscular endurance and lactic capacity to some degree for several weeks leading up through the end of the off-season already.

This is really just an introductory discussion into this topic. Gaining a better understanding of the specific energy system profiles of different roles within different positions and the genetic predispositions of specific players within those roles may be the single largest area for improvement within hockey training.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
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