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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Before we get into the second half of my hockey development interview, I wanted to let you know that Alwyn Cosgrove is giving a free webinar called “The Death of Personal Training” on Monday. Thomas Plummer (a TRUE fitness business expert) has called Alwyn’s gym Results Fitness “the most profitable gym per square foot in the country.” If you run your own business, you’ll get a ton of great ideas/strategies from the webinar. You can register here: The Death of Personal Training

This is Part 2 of a Hockey Development Interview I recently did. If you missed Part 1, check it out here: Hockey Development Interview: Part 1.

7. What are signs of over-training a parent or youth coach should lookout for?

Fatigue, loss of enthusiasm for training/playing, loss of appetite, general irritability, sleeplessness, etc. Sounds like most teenagers! From a physiological standpoint, you can teach kids to measure their resting heart rate every morning. An increase in RHR by ~8-10 beats per minute may be indicative of overtraining.

The trend toward year-round single-sport participation and increased emphasis on competition at the expense of preparation has drastically increased the risk of overuse injuries and overtraining symptoms in youth athletes. When you look into the research on long-term athletic development and start to read the personal stories about the most elite athletes, it’s crazy how backwards we have it. Playing multiple sports as an adolescent (up to high school) is the best way to achieve elite-level abilities in a single-sport. General preparation (off-ice training/strength and conditioning) needs to be a year-round focus, but should have it’s own “season” for a few months of the year.

8. How much does proper nutrition play in how an athlete performs in hockey?

It’s huge. To be overly basic, nutrition provides the fuel for optimal performance AND optimal recovery. This is important for training, practices, and games alike, but is ESPECIALLY important when players are at tournaments with multiple games within 24-hour time blocks. If you don’t fuel properly, performance will suffer. Nutrition also plays a paramount role in optimizing an athlete’s hormonal profile, which also has implications for performance, recovery, and body composition changes. Hockey players are expected to be lean, strong, and compete at high intensities every shift for a very long season. It’s impossible to do this without fueling properly. The players that think they found a loophole and can bypass the nutrition component of preparation simply don’t recognize the level that they COULD be performing at if they got their act together.

9. What type of post workout drink do you recommend?

Chocolate milk, Generation UCAN’s SuperStarch and Whey Protein Blend, Water, and/or a smoothie (which can encompass the preceding ingredients, but also add some fruit, ground flax seed, chia seeds, etc.). Most supplements are garbage, overhyped marketing attempts. Keep it simple.

10. Is there a website that parents and athletes can visit to educate themselves about hockey?

I think USA Hockey has done a good job with adding content to their site on their American Development Model over the last year. HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com is a membership site I co-run with Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks), Sean Skahan (Anaheim Ducks), and Darryl Nelson (USA Hockey NTDP) that has articles on proper training and nutrition, exercise videos, sample training programs, and a forum to interact with all of us. My site KevinNeeld.com is a free resource geared toward hockey training and player development, and visitors can get a free copy of my speed training manual “Breakaway Hockey Speed” by signing up for my newsletter. Lastly, my two friends Kim McCullough (TotalFemaleHockey.com) and Maria Mountain (HockeyTrainingPro.com) have great resources for female players and goalies, respectively.

11. What words of advice can you give on injury prevention in hockey?

Train year-round. Learn to move well before you move fast or often. Make sure your hockey season has a DISTINCT off-season (no hockey). Play multiple sports when you’re young. Eat real food. Sleep regularly.

12. Is there any other advice that you would like to provide to our youth athletes and their parents?

We exist in an era where healthcare costs have skyrocketed due to self-induced/preventable diseases and injuries. Schools are cutting physical education programs, and still don’t offer healthy food options. Your body is your most valuable asset. Take care of it. Approach finding training/nutrition professionals with the same care you would your doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc. Find information from qualified professionals online and start implementing it. Righting the ship needs to start at home; they won’t learn anywhere else.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re looking for an off-ice training program for youth hockey players, check out my Off-Ice Performance Training Course!

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I was recently asked to do an interview with Kyle Coleman, a corporate chef based out of Phoenix, AZ. Kyle has taken on the noble task of asking experts in various sports/aspects of athletic development to weigh in on their thoughts on everything from nutrition to training to development programs in general. Kyle’s questions were great, so I wanted to share the interview with you. Check it out below:

1. Would you please give us some insight on what your position entails?

I’m the Director of Athletic Development at Endeavor Sports Performance, a private training facility for aspiring athletes competing from recreational youth to professional leagues. We work with athletes in every sport, but are best known for our ice hockey development programs.  On a day-to-day basis, my job involves writing training programs, coaching training sessions, supervising and scheduling our coaching staff, and providing content for our website and newsletters. On a grander scale, it’s my responsibility to stay current on new research and more effective training methods, implement any changes in assessment or program design structure, and help create the vision for the future of our company.

2. Which aspect of your position is the most gratifying?

I’m a coach first, everything else second. While I appreciate the program design aspect of things, coaching is really what gets me out of bed in the morning. Taking part in an athlete’s development is a special opportunity; one that I’m eternally grateful for.

3. What led you to becoming a Hockey Training Specialist, Athletic Development Coach?

The short story is that during my early youth years I was a skilled hockey player that was too fat or slow to compete at high levels. One solid off-season of training changed that for me, and I knew then (age 14) that I wanted to make a career out of helping other players do the same. Hockey has always been my passion, but working with athletes in other sports is equally gratifying and the fundamental principles that govern the design of programs for athletes in different sports are more similar than different.

4. What strength & conditioning program do you recommend for hockey?

A custom-written and professionally delivered one. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of hockey programs are still stuck in the “do some jumps and run around the rink” training system. An argument can be made that something is better than nothing, but the argument is not very strong in these cases. A solid program will account for the player or team’s starting place with regards to training history, be built around their schedule to optimize recovery time, and be progressive in nature. Most youth players that lift weights just print a bodybuilding program off the internet, and use it for a few months until they print off another one. The players we’ve trained that make the transition from training on their own are typically blown away by how different the approach is.

Training programs need to encompass all aspects of athletic development: mobility, speed, power, strength, conditioning, and recovery. The exclusion of any of these qualities will impair the development and/or transfer of all the others.

Players also need to be taught how to move correctly. This is a foreign concept to most players. It doesn’t matter how fast you move until you move well. That is the key to maximizing performance and minimizing injury risk.

I realize this is a long-winded response, but the primary message is that off-ice training is essential to a player’s development and shouldn’t be structured haphazardly or without profession help.

5. What are the qualities a parent should look for in a hockey training coach for their child?

From a professional standpoint, the coach should have some sort of academic background in exercise science or kinesiology, an understanding of the demands of hockey, and experience training hockey players (or at least other youth team sport athletes). From an interpersonal standpoint, the coach needs to care about and take pride in the players’ development. While most fitness professionals are relatively altruistic by nature, there are certainly exceptions that are just interested in making a quick buck. The best coaches are the ones that truly care about their players; they will be the ones that take the extra steps to ensure that the player’s development and succeed.

6. In what ways can parents help their youth athlete develop?

Start teaching proper lifestyle habits early. I understand that these will almost invariably be met with some level of resistance, and perfection is not expected, but some steps in the right direction are far better than no attempt at all. The two areas that kids need to focus on the most are sleep and nutrition. Sleep is relatively straight-forward. Kids need 8-9 hours per night, and should aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times (+/- an hour), everyday. If they get up at 6 for school, they shouldn’t sleep until noon on the weekends. Let them sleep until 7:30 or so and then get them up, have them eat breakfast and start moving around. If they feel like they need it, they can take a nap later. Consistency is key.

From a nutrition standpoint, kids need to be taught to eat REAL food. Real food refers to things that can be hunted or grown, or are only a few steps away from this most natural form (e.g. sprouted grain bread, greek yogurt, all natural peanut butter, etc.). In contrast, the diet of most kids consists of processed garbage that provides little in the way of quality nutrients. My friend Dr. Mike Roussell says to think of moving from barcodes to bags. More fruits and vegetables, less fruit snacks and chips. Remember that we’re supposed to get an absolute bare minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, with 7-10 being more optimal. Just because kids “don’t like it” doesn’t meant hey don’t need it. Get creative in the delivery of these nutrients. Blend a bunch of stuff up in a smoothie with a flavor they like (our athletes love our smoothie recipes so I know it’s possible!) and have them eat that as their breakfast every morning.

As a final note, pre-/during-/post-game nutrition is important. Donuts and energy drinks are unacceptable. The real food rules apply here. Kids don’t need to suck down high sugar sports drinks after every practice and game. Stick with a few cups of water before and after, sipping on water throughout the practice/game, and a solid meal within an hour afterward. At higher levels, kids can help fuel their recovery by grabbing a 16 oz chocolate milk at a local store afterward. If player’s report not having enough energy during the game, take a closer look at the pre-game meal. If that’s solid, then look into Generation UCAN’s SuperStarch products, which provide a high quality energy source that doesn’t have the negative metabolic effects of most sports drinks (e.g. no spike and crash and still allows the athlete to use body fat as a primary fuel source).

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re looking for an off-ice training program for youth hockey players, check out my Off-Ice Performance Training Course!

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A while back I mentioned I was in the final stages of writing a hockey training book that I strongly believe will be the best available resource on hockey development to date. The release of that project has been delayed and re-delayed as it takes longer than I originally anticipated to build a DVD with ~300 exercise videos.

My goal with the new book was to lay out my entire system, from age-appropriate development guidelines to comprehensive exercise progressions and program design strategies. It’s all there. I’ll fill you in on more of the details as we finalize everything and get ready to release it to the public.

In the meantime, I get regular email inquiries from parents or youth coaches that want their kids to start doing some type of off-ice training and just don’t know where to start. Most of these emails come from people with no background in exercise science or prescription, minimal if any equipment, and are generally looking for improvements in speed and power.

Regardless of the training goal, success is built on a foundation of proper training habits and proper movement. The player that half-asses or skips their warm-up and goes right into high-intensity sprints or jumps is both limiting his/her own performance and priming themselves for injury, short- or long-term. The player that doesn’t condition because it’s hard, and instead does extra arm work because they think big or “toned” (gender-specific) biceps will make them more attractive to the opposite sex, will inevitably fall short of the player that takes a better training approach.

In this regard, you don’t need much equipment to start developing proper training habits and optimal movement patterns (Just grab the equipment I mention here: Three Things Every Hockey Player Should Own). It’s important for young hockey players to learn (read: be taught how to) move correctly, not just fast or at a high intensity. It’s just as important that players learn what NOT to do. Many youth hockey training programs are still characterized by excessive volumes oF sprints and jumps, hundreds of crunches/sit-ups, push-ups with terrible form, and laps around the rink.

While I think the hockey training industry has evolved substantially since I was a player, the truth is that most of the information hasn’t trickled down to the youth levels, where it’s needed most. A few years back, I wrote an ebook called Hockey Training University’s Off-Ice Performance Training Course.

My training philosophies and systems have certainly evolved since that time (as has my regret for choosing such a stupid title!), but the systems I describe there are still extremely beneficial for youth players and it’s a great starting point for those new to training. It’s one of the only off-ice training resources that outlines how a player can train with no equipment, lays out an entire training system (not just “speed training” or “core training”), teaches exercise progressions (and how to do them WELL), and introduces the idea of periodization, or altering the focus of a training stimulus to make maximal progress.

I continue to get great feedback about the course from parents and coaches at the youth level that have implemented the training programs with their kids.

A hockey dad recently emailed me with:

“Hi Kevin, I bought your program last year and used it with my son and a couple of his friends (11 year olds).  My son became one of the best players on the rep team and has credited the course for his development.  Thanks for that. This summer the coach has asked me to include the rest of the team. I could sure use those additional bonuses you offer now.”

Feedback from a customer with a more advanced training background:

“I recently purchased Kevin Neeld’s Off-Ice Training Course. To say it is a valuable resource for ice hockey players and coaches is an understatement. The manual that Kevin has put together is excellent. It is a must have for all youth and high school ice hockey players and coaches. The manual breaks down every phase of training for an athlete with well-illustrated photos as well as a series of progressions for athletes. Having trained a lot of ice hockey players, I can say without hesitation that this program will guide you through a series of movements that will enable you to improve your level of play once the season starts. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this program and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.” – Kevin Miller, CSCS

If you’re starting from scratch like the majority of the youth hockey community and looking for a program that will help improve speed, lower body power, core strength, and conditioning, I highly recommend you check out my Off-Ice Performance Training Course. It’s a zero-risk endeavor. The course comes with a default 60-day money back guarantee, but because I never want to mislead or disappoint anyone, I’m happy to extend it to a lifetime guarantee for you.  Click the link below for more information!

Click here >> Off-Ice Performance Training

If you have any questions, just post them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. The information in my Off-Ice Performance Training Course can be applied in individual and team settings, and during the off-season, pre-season, and in-season, so you didn’t miss the boat just because the off-season is half over!

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2009 has been an incredible year for me. I completed my graduate program at UMass Amherst, started a new job as the Director of Athletic Development at Endeavor Fitness, and moved to Baltimore with Emily.

To keep the good times rolling through 2010, I’m making a list of goals for the year:

1) To remove the word “pump” from the lexicon of gym goers everywhere
2) Expose all alleged NO supplements for the imposters they are
3) Smash the cell phones of anyone that texts in the middle of their training session
4) Solve the New Jersey Sleeveless Shirt Epidemic (This is a serious problem and appears to be spreading at an unprecedented rate)

If I accomplish even HALF of these goals in 2010, I’ll enter 2011 a happy man.

Keep training hard through the new year!

-Kevin Neeld

P.S. Over the next couple weeks I’m going to be posting some incredible information that I picked up from Nick Tumminello, so keep checking back frequently.

P.P.S. If you haven’t yet, check out my new hockey training site, which has videos of hundreds of hockey training exercises on it and my Off-Ice Performance Training Course at a drastically discounted $47.

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