Last week, I posted three articles that gave a fairly detailed look inside the recent testing process we went through with the Philadelphia Flyers Junior A team, how we reported this information back to the players and coaches, and how it immediately influenced our programs. If you missed those three posts, you can check them out here:

  1. Off-Ice Testing
  2. Hockey Team Testing: Player Reporting
  3. Hockey Team Testing: Coach Reporting and Programming

Today I wanted to expand on part of the testing process we did to assess our players’ lower body power. It’s generally accepted that power is an important quality to improve in hockey players. In fact, every Summer I hear players (or parents/coaches) reference needing to improve their “first few steps” or “explosiveness” more times than Walter references his experience in Vietnam.

The Big Lebowski

Over the line!”

While I don’t think anyone would argue the importance of power in hockey, the topic of how to assess/measure it is interesting. The vertical jump is the most widely used assessment of lower body power and one that is used at all levels in all sports. The vertical jump, however, has been critiqued as being a vertical pattern, which is less specific to the overwhelming majority of team sports that involve primarily horizontal vectors (the goal is to move forward, not upward). Within this context, it would seem that a broad jump may be more “sports-specific”. That said, and likely as you would expect, in athletes that are familiar with both patterns, there’s a pretty strong correlation between performance in the vertical jump and that in the broad jump. In other words, they’re likely assessing the same thing (or close enough to the same thing), so picking the one that makes the most sense in your situation depending upon logistics and what comparisons you want to make with the data (more widely available norms for vertical jump) is reasonable.

Enter the lateral bound as a lower body power assessment, which could be considered the most hockey-specific power assessment. The lateral bound is a single-leg, lateral, horizontal movement pattern, which is notably more skating specific than either a broad or vertical jump. It also gives the option of comparing side to side imbalances, which could result from a number of factors ranging from true power discrepancies to hip abduction limitations on the landing leg. Nonetheless, a significant difference between sides would at least highlight the athlete as one that may require a little extra attention.

As you may have read last week, with the Flyers junior team we tested vertical jump and lateral bound. The birds eye view of the thought process here is that a lot of teams test vertical jump so having that information on the players allows us, on a team and individual basis, to look at college and pro programs and see where our players stack up. The lateral bound, as I just mentioned, is a more hockey-specific pattern, and gives us the ability to look at side to side differences. In all honesty, I fully expected the ranking order between the two tests to be almost identical. After all, some of the kids are going to be more explosive than others, based on a number of factors, and this should show up in both tests.

And then I looked at the testing results…

There is certainly a degree of similarity in some cases, but if I take the rank from the vertical jump test and rerank based on the average lateral bound between legs, this is what shakes out:

  1. 1st Lateral Bound: 1st VJ
  2. 2nd LB: 15th VJ
  3. 3rd LB: 5th VJ
  4. 4th LB: 4th, 7th, and 10th VJ tied
  5. 7th LB: 22nd VJ
  6. 8th LB: T-2nd VJ
  7. 9th LB: 13th VJ
  8. 10th LB: 15th VJ
  9. 11th LB: 19th VJ
  10. 12th LB: 9th VJ
  11. 13th LB: 7th VJ
  12. 14th LB: 4th VJ
  13. 15th LB: 19th VJ
  14. 16th LB: 10th & 23rd VJ tied
  15. 18th LB: 5th, 18th, & 19th VJ tied
  16. 21st LB: 10th and 15th VJ tied
  17. 23rd LB: 13th VJ

Plotting lateral bound distance versus vertical jump height looks like:

Hockey Power Test Comparison

Clearly, if you remove the one “best of both worlds” and the one “needs improvement in both worlds” (for the sake of defending his honor, this player spent the last 6 weeks of the Summer recovering from a concussion and not training), what’s left is a non-linear cloud of jumbled testing results. This is evident if you sift through the data in the list above and note all of the high achievers in one power test that weren’t so consistent on the other.

As you may suspect, there is a degree of familiarity that will influence these tests. Players that have used these movements in their programs (e.g. practiced them) more will perform closer to their true potential than those with a less refined pattern. Having seen all of these tests, however, I don’t think this is the main confounding issue here. A few months ago Dean Somerset wrote a great article on Eric Cressey’s site (see: Pelvic Arch Design and Load Carrying Capacity), that explained how certain people have different hip structures that make lateral movement more difficult, and how these structures may influence performance in different exercises.

4 Pelvis Types

The wider arches may be more conducive for lateral movements.

Interestingly, but not necessarily surprisingly, this seems to be the primary factor in explaining some of the discrepancies we saw between vertical and lateral power. Those with structures not conducive to large lateral movement/excursions have an opportunity to demonstrate their lower body power more effectively in a vertical or broad jump movement than a lateral bound. Ultimately, the goal is always to improve their on-ice speed and testing results are always better suited for tracking progress than comparing individuals, but this seems to provide evidence that including multiple tests will help ensure you’re capturing all of the information you need to profile a player’s strengths and weaknesses. In this case, if we would have only looked at the most “hockey-specific” test, it would have been easy to conclude that some of the players were under-powered, when the reality is that they just have a different hip structure than some of the other guys. Once again, this highlights the importance of appreciating the individual variations players have in their hip structures and the impact this can have on their performance. If you don’t currently have a good assessment process or feel comfortable recognizing if a limitation is structural or functional, check out Optimizing Movement, which details the approach I’ve used for the last several years with our athletes.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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In the last two segments of this series, I outlined the exact pre-season testing we did with the new USPHL team I’m working with this season, and how I present the testing results to players. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here:

  1. Off-Ice Testing
  2. Hockey Team Testing: Player Reporting

Today, I want to expand on the player reporting post by sharing how I conveyed this information to the coaching staff as well as how I use it to dictate the player’s programs.

Coaches Report
When thinking about how I wanted to convey testing results to the coaching staff, I tried to put myself in their shoes and consider what I would want to know. Naturally, the idea is present the data in a way that answers the questions, “What did you test?” and “How did everyone do?”

What did you test?In typing up the coaching report, I identified and described the body composition test and each of the performance tests we did. The descriptions included the purpose of the test, how to interpret the results, and any notable limitations. These sections were meant to give the coaching staff a basic understanding of the point of each test and a means of interpreting the information. As an example, we used a 3-site skinfold body fat analysis. At our facility, I typically use a 12-site analysis and analyze the information using both Poliquin’s BioSignature Modulation and a simple 7-site equation. With a team’s worth of kids to test and not much time to do it, performing a 12-site analysis on each player wasn’t realistic. I don’t put a lot of stock in the 3-site as far as knowing exactly what the individual’s body fat is, but it still serves as a good screen to identify players that will need to reign in on their nutrition during the year and helps connect some dots regarding any connection between body composition and the other performance test scores we see. This, I feel, is important for the coaches to be aware of; in this case the test is more of a screen for outliers than anything else.

How did everyone do?In each section, after identifying and describing the tests, I broke down the data into three sections:

  1. Team Summary
  2. Whole Team Performance
  3. Performance By Position

The Team Summary included the Best, Worst, and Average scores for the team as a whole, the forwards, the defensemen, and the goalies. This provides a birds eye view of the average and range of performances on each test. The Whole Team section included each players performance ranked from best to worst. This expands on the Team Summary by showing the coaches exactly how each player performed and where they fell relative to the team. The By Position section expanded on this same concept by showing the data by position. In this format, the coaching staff can see how the team did, how each individual did, and how players rank against their teammates, both in terms of the team as a whole and by position. Ranking by position I feel provides more information than ranking the whole team together because it rules out being ranked higher or lower based on position-specific adaptations.

At the end of the Coaches Report, I included all of the individual Player Cards so the coaches could see all of the testing for a given player in one place, see how this information would be conveyed to the players, and see the notes I included for each player. For the players I had prior testing data for (those that trained with us this Summer), I also included their pre- and post- comparisons so they could see how each kid progressed over the off-season. In total the report was 48 pages, but it had all the information I wanted to get across!

Programming Considerations
There are a lot of different ways to utilize the data we collected, but how we’ve moved forward depends a lot of logistics and on other goals of the program. To address this latter point, this team is about two weeks old at this point, so a major goal is to start to establish an identity. In other words, we, as a team, need to develop the culture for how things will be handled off the ice. To a lot of these players, EVERYTHING is new, from training as a team in general, to the exercises (and their names), to the layout of the program. As a result, we’re keeping things fairly basic in the lifts, with the intent of teaching key movement and positional concepts that will create a foundation to build off in the future. As far as applying testing data, testing loads will be used to drive percentage-based training load recommendations for a number of lifts moving forward.

USPHL Flyers Testing

Matt Siniscalchi and Matt Sees spotting the kids during their Bench Press 3-RM Test

The neutrality/mobility assessments were used to create each player’s corrective algorithms, with players having as few as 2 and as many as 4 corrective exercises that they’ll need to do on a regular basis. The correctives are basically a mix of exercises based on PRI and FMS methodology, as I describe in Optimizing Movement. The players are put into buckets based on their specific findings, such that each player has an individual corrective sequence, but there are really only 9 different exercises that we need to teach. In this way, we can deliver exactly what the player needs without being overwhelmed by teaching each player completely different exercises from each other player. Realistically, the first time or two through (in a team setting) is always just a learning process, and the real “magic” won’t take place on a team basis until everyone gains a basic level of mastery over their exercises.

Similarly, players are given extra conditioning work based on their assessment findings. Through our conditioning test, we were able to get:

  1. Fastest Shuttle
  2. Shuttle Average
  3. Sprint Decrement (A statistical measure assessing drop-off from the initial sprint with each successive sprint)
  4. Max Heart Rate
  5. Average Heart Rate
  6. 60s Heart Rate Recovery
  7. Estimated Anaerobic Threshold

Using all of this information, we’re able to gain some insight into what an individual’s conditioning needs may be an add in some extra work to keep them moving in the right direction. Naturally, the majority of the training stimulus for the kids is coming from on-ice work at this time of year, so we don’t want to bury them with off-ice work. The general schedule at this point is:

  1. Day 1: Day 1 Team Lift; Individual Correctives
  2. Day 2: Individual Correctives; Individual Conditioning
  3. Day 3: Day 2 Team Lift; Individual Correctives
  4. Day 4: Open Hours for Manual Work; Extra work dependent upon upcoming game schedule

As I’ve said in the past, in my mind everything is always a work in progress and always in some part of an evolution. The assessments, corrective algorithms/exercises, program design methodology, and scheduling I’ve set up for this program will invariably change as the season goes on and in future years, but hopefully this series gives you an inside look into my philosophy and how I’m approaching things currently. As always, please share this series with your friends and post any comments you have below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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A couple days ago I outlined the entire testing process we went through recently with the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team. This included everything from test selection through implementation, and how we coordinated everything to ensure we got the most valid information, without overlooking the main intent of the camp: to prepare the players for the season. If you missed that post, you can check it out here: Off-Ice Testing

Flyers Logo

Today I want to follow up on that post by sharing how I convey this information to the players. One of the great things about this level is that it’s a developmental league. While there is no doubt there is an expectation (and a desire) to win, ultimately the goal is to develop the players to be successful at the next level. This is important because it means the kids are hungry for information that will help them become better players, which feeds into both why we tested the things we did, and how we’re going to use that information.

I’ve been collecting information on our off-season hockey group for years. The majority of the time, the information was purely mobility based and was used to drive our corrective exercise and technique modifications throughout the Summer. I think two big mistakes I made in the past was that I didn’t fully explain to players why this information mattered (e.g. how it would affect their performance or durability), and I didn’t show them how they improved following any of the work they did. Despite most players trusting me, there’s something about seeing the off-ice testing data that is very powerful. For that reason, I have developed “Player Cards” to convey testing data to all of our players. These player cards take two forms:

  1. Single-test presentation
  2. Multiple-test presentation

Single-Test Presentation
This is only something I’ve used with this junior team and not with our off-season kids, as a lot of what I include in this sheet isn’t relevant for a diverse group that will leave to go play on different teams and at different levels. On this sheet, all of the individual’s testing information is presented in an organized, fairly simple manner. Players are also presented with the top performance and how their test ranked, both in terms of their position and for the team as a whole.

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you likely know that I don’t think comparing players based solely on testing data is very efficacious. The best players aren’t always the most remarkable off the ice (especially at this age), and the true ranking of players should be done ON the ice. That said, I think there is value in using a ranking system as a means of communicating areas of improvement to players. If a player is dead last in their average shuttle time and has the team’s worst body fat percentage, that could open the door to a conversation on how improving his nutrition could improve his conditioning. Similarly, if a player has the teams lowest (or near lowest) vertical jump, and the coach tells me the biggest factor holding the player back is his speed/explosiveness on the ice, this allows me to communicate to the player how these things could be related and will help with getting the player to buy-in to the program. A testing score, in isolation, really doesn’t mean a whole lot in most cases. By putting things in context of the rest of the group, it provides a “this is where you are relative to other players at your level” that is easy for players to understand, and in many cases very motivational.

You can check out a sample of this sheet here: Sample Player Testing Sheet

You’ll see that I also include a notes section at the bottom. I use this section to convey the top “red flags” or areas to work one that I pick up from the testing sheet. Given the amount of information on these sheets, it’s easy for a player to become overwhelmed or misinterpret some information. For example, if one of our mobility assessments is identified as being “Limited”, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the results of the other tests and on the player. Jotting down a few notes at the bottom streamlines the player’s attention to what he should be focusing his efforts on in the immediate future.

Multiple-Test Presentation
As I mentioned before, players want to know they’re making progress. In addition to some periodic monitoring throughout the Summer, we retested everything we did at the beginning of the Summer with all of our players. This information is set-up into a basic excel spreadsheet with all the body comp and mobility information from each testing period (pre- and post-Summer) pooled on one sheet, and all the performance testing pooled on another. As a group, this allows me to sit down and sift through all the numbers to make sure that the group as a whole is moving in the right direction, which can influence future programming considerations. I then take all of this information and divide it up into individual spreadsheets so I can just add future testing sessions as a new row each testing bout.

This allows me to easily track progress for a player and adjust future programs when necessary. It also allows me to put an individual’s testing results within context. For example, we had a player on the junior team whose vertical jump test was toward the bottom of the team. Naturally, it would be easy for the player to look at that information and become discouraged. However, this player put on 10 lbs of lean mass and added 4″ to his vertical in the 3 months he trained with us this off-season. Even though he’s toward the bottom end of the team, he’s made remarkable progress since he started.

This Summer, I emailed all of these sheets out to players and highlighted a few things that they should be proud of, and a few things that they should continue to focus on during the year. With this, players are able to see their progress as well as have an indication of where to focus their efforts moving forward.

In the next post, I’ll discuss how I present the testing information to the coaching staff and how I use this information to drive programming decisions. Check back tomorrow and please post your comments below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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As has been the theme this Summer, the last several weeks have been exceptionally busy. I was in Blaine, MN for 10 days with the US Women’s National Team, which was an awesome experience. Anthony Donskov and Sarah Cahill were out there with me, both of which are awesome coaches that I always learn a lot from. The three of us have become affectionately known as “The Unit”. While I was out there, Sarah and I had an opportunity to meet and talk shop with Mike T Nelson and Cal Dietz (separately), which was great. I binge read Cal’s 350+ page book over the weekend so I’ll share some of the things I learned in the near future.

The Unit Locker

As a quick aside, last night I confirmed that I’ll be speaking at the USA Hockey Level 4 Clinic in New Jersey in a couple weeks. Let me know if you’ll be there!

Last night I also worked with David Lasnier to test the U-18 team we work with. It was interesting to see how all of their hard work paid off over the Summer. The team tested exceptionally well, but some of the highlights included the goalie knocking out 17 chin-ups (perfect form; team average was over 10), and one of the players doing DB Reverse Lunges w/ 90lb dumbbells for 20 on each leg, at which point I stopped him. Unfortunately, 90s were the heaviest dumbbells we had at the rink so that was where the majority of the team rep-tested (intended to do a 5-RM). Overall I was really impressed, and am looking forward to how the two U-16 teams do over the next couple of weeks and how everyone does with the few on-ice tests we’ll be doing soon.

Rotational Power Training

I’ve written in the past about the role that off-ice rotational power development plays in improving shooting power and other aspects of hockey performance. Today I just wanted to post a video of one of my favorite exercises: Side Standing Rotational Med Ball Shotput with Rapid Cross-Under and Partner Pass

There’s a lot to take in with this, but the idea is that it:

  1. Integrates a dynamic start and change in foot position
  2. Drives rotational power from the ground-up, very similar to the strategy most commonly used on the ice
  3. Utilizes rotational hip torque to generate power
  4. Integrates a rapid adjustment in eye position, both to track the ball into the hands, and to turn to pick a spot on the wall to throw the ball at (we coach our players to pick a spot and throw the ball through that spot…quickly) which happens constantly on the ice

Tough day to be the wall
This is a great exercise for a lot of reasons, but it’s also relatively simple to teach. I get questions a lot from people running youth off-ice programs that don’t have a lot of equipment or time; I think this is a good fit for those situations (starting without the foot movement and without the partner toss). That said, we wrap up our rotational med ball work at the end of the off-season and almost never come back to it until the end of the season because the players undergo so much rotational stress on the ice.

Aside from being a beast, I chose to gave Eric some press here to return the favor, as I found out early this week that my name ended up in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview he did about his role with the Penguins next season.

Now he can tell his friends that he was featured at KevinNeeld.com, which is basically the same thing (no?).

Give this exercise a try and please post any questions you have about how or when to do it below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Get an inside look at how I design year-round comprehensive hockey training programs here: Ultimate Hockey Training

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Last weekend I finished the last of 3 neuroscience text books I had been working for about the last year, which FINALLY freed up some time to read some other stuff.

“What do you mean that’s not cool?”

After I finished, I was going back through some old articles that I read a while back and came across an interesting one on hockey testing. The authors took 30 hockey players that were currently competing at the high school and junior levels through a battery of tests listed below.

Off-Ice Tests:

  1. 40-yard sprint test
  2. Concentric Squat Jump w/ Arm Swing
  3. Drop Jump
  4. 1-RM Leg Press
  5. Sit-and-Reach
  6. 30-Second Wobble Board Test

On-Ice Tests:

  1. Unanticipated Stop Test
  2. Forward Max Skating Speed
  3. Short-Radius Turns Test

After running a correlation-based analysis, the authors determined that there was a significant relationship between maximum skating speed and the 40-yard sprint test and the “Balance Ratio” (a measure determined from the wobble board test). However, the relationship wasn’t very strong, as each of these variables only explained about 25% of the variance in on-ice maximum speed.

Interestingly, the relationship between balance and maximum skating speed was stronger for players under the age of 19 than it was for older players.

Overall, these results aren’t that surprising. The same parameters that affect speed off the ice (lower body strength/power, core control, full body coordination, etc.) will logically improve speed on the ice. The finding that the wobble board balance test (a measure of reactive neuromuscular control) was more highly correlated to skating speed in younger players is further evidence of “natural” development (and the enhanced coordination that should come with age and experience).

I still don’t think it’s appropriate to compare players to each other using off-ice tests, but I’m excited by the effort that people are taking to find off-ice tests that are actually predictive of on-ice performance. I recently spoke with Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks Strength and Conditioning Coordinator) , and he said that he was planning on spending more time analyzing various off-ice tests and seeing if any stuck out as influencing on-ice production (goals scored, +/-, etc.). The results from these efforts will be really interesting. If strong correlations can be found between select off-ice measures and any on-ice measure (even games played/missed), that will be a huge step for hockey testing. In the meantime, off-ice testing is still a great way to monitor improvement within a player.

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

Reference:

Behm, Wahl, Button, Power, & Anderson. (2005). Relationship Between Hockey Skating Speed and Selected Performance Measures. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(2), 326-331.

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