I hope your new year is off to a great start. I’ve been extremely busy over the last two weeks balancing the Flyers junior team, all of our regular training clients, manual therapy clients, and working on a new project. We also had two new lacrosse organizations start with us, and Matt Siniscalchi and I have been testing all of the teams in a local soccer organization on top of everything else! It’s been a lot of fun, but I haven’t had nearly as much time to write as I’d like.

2014 kicked off by wrapping up the best of 2013. If you missed this series, you can check out the best articles, videos, and resources of 2013 at the links below:

  1. Best of 2013: KevinNeeld.com Articles
  2. Best of 2013: KevinNeeld.com Exercise Videos
  3. Best of 2013: KevinNeeld.com Products Resources

Today I wanted to present a new body position I’ve been programming for a variety of exercises that helps isolate the core. As a quick aside, I don’t believe you can (or should try for that matter) really truly isolate a given muscle group in most cases. With almost every exercise, there is a lot of “behind the scenes” muscle activity and motor programming that occurs that some are only acutely aware of. For example, while this is common knowledge among powerlifting crowds (and bench press enthusiasts in general), many in the athletic world don’t realize that a significant proportion of the load you’re able to move in a bench press comes from having a proper leg drive. Even doing an exercise like a biceps curl, as I demonstrated in Ultimate Hockey Training, requires a coordinated pattern of stabilization activity to keep the scapulae (shoulder blades) from migrating forward as the weight is lifted. This, naturally, is in addition to all of the muscles that are working at a low level to maintain alignment throughout the rest of the body.

That said, “isolate” in this context is used more in terms of the movement availability than suggesting that only the core is working. If you’ve read Ultimate Hockey Training, you know I program a lot of core work (e.g. chop and lift patterns, and belly press variations) based on the position progression of: Half-Kneeling -> Tall Kneeling -> Standing.

The videos below may take a second to load, so please be patient.

Half-Kneeling Cable Lift

Tall Kneeling Cable Chop

Standing Belly Press Lateral Walk

These positions progress the stabilization requirements at and below the pelvis. In a half-kneeling position, the primary pelvic stabilization need is in the sagittal plane (front to back movement). Simply, having one leg forward and the other leg back serves to almost “lock” the pelvis into place, and a simple cue of “stay tall” takes care of most of the rest. In a tall kneeling position, the activity necessary to keep the pelvis from rotating, laterally shifting, or flexing/overextending is greater than the half-kneeling position, but the feet/lower legs are taken out of the pattern altogether. In a standing position, all hands are on deck to help control optimal positioning.

Over this past season, we’ve had two players end up in a boot: one with a broken fibula and one with a high ankle sprain. In these situations, my thought process is “one area needs to heal; the rest of your body is trainable.” There are very few injuries I don’t feel comfortable training around, and lower leg injuries leave the overwhelming majority of the body that can and should be trained during the recovery process. There is a much different return to play timeline for a player that sits on the couch for 12 weeks while his leg heals and one that trains whatever he/she can throughout that duration, as they are drastically less deconditioned when their injury heals if they’re proactive about training. As I tell our players, there is a huge difference between “not hurt” and “ready to play”. Confusing these two as synonymous is one reason why players have prolonged recovery times and/or constant recurrences.

Referring back to the positions above, need to stay off of the one leg with a boot rules out the half-kneeling and standing positions. As a result, in addition to tall kneeling exercises, I’ve programmed several “long-seated” variations.

Long-Seated Belly Press

Long-Seated Cable Lift

Long-Seated Alternate Kettlebell Overhead Press

These positions require a significant degree of core “stabilization” to create a solid base of support to allow for controlled upper body movement, as the hips are completely taken out of it. I also think there is value here in teaching people how to “center” properly above their hips. As with all of these variations, I don’t think one is better or worse than another, they each just have different emphases and may be more of less appropriate for any given individual than the others. In this case, the long-seated position offers another position to train a variety of exercise patterns while placing a greater emphasis on centering over the hips and using the core to create a stable base of support. If you’re looking for a little variety in your programs, give these a shot. You might be surprised how difficult they are!

The videos above are 3 of the 10 long-seated exercise variations and of the 30 new exercise videos we just filmed and will add to the already 800+ exercise video database available to Ultimate Hockey Training Insiders this week. Get access to quality hockey training programs and the largest hockey training exercise database available today for less than the cost of a skate sharpening and roll of tape here: Ultimate Hockey Training Insider

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To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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“…an extremely rare comprehensive look at the present state of ice hockey training.”
“…a must-have for coaches and strength professionals at all levels of hockey.”

Ultimate Hockey Training

Over the Summer I had an opportunity to train a junior player for the NHL combine. While I recognize that combine prep can be big business, I’ve steered clear of doing stuff like this in the past because I think training to prepare specifically for a testing battery can often be conflicting with training to prepare for the season. In this case, the player was one that was friends with many of the kids we trained already and had a very narrow window between finishing his junior program and attending the NHL Combine, after which he reported immediately to college to train for the remainder of the off-season. I wish I had the player for the full Summer, but it was fun preparing him for the combine before he left for college.

As with all of our athletes, we started this player off with an assessment and an overall “needs analysis”. We used our mobility screening to implement an individualized corrective program (as I discuss in detail in Optimizing Movement). From a performance standpoint, there were a few things to consider.  The combine is an opportunity for programs to get an understanding of your physiological makeup, as well as your psychological makeup. To address the latter point, it was important for the player to recognize that part of what coaches are looking for is how you respond when things start to suck. There are a few tests in the combine (notably the VO2Max test and the Wingate) that aren’t very pleasant to go through; it’s important for players to dig deep and grind through these tests to leave a positive impression regarding their work ethic and resolve. We talked about this quite a bit, while he was training with us.

In terms of physiological profiles, what is viewed as advantageous (or disadvantageous) may depend a bit on the position of the player. In this case, the player was a goalie, so explosive power is an extremely important quality. I don’t always think it’s appropriate to judge players based on off-ice tests, but if I see a goalie with less than ~24″ vertical jump, I think they’re under powered and they better be EXCEPTIONAL in terms of their positioning and anticipation if they want to compete at higher levels. There are certainly some goalies that fit this criteria, but I’d much rather have an overpowered goalie than an underpowered one. Bottom line is the position requires a significant amount of explosive movement, and it’s important that goalies possess this quality.

In this case, the player came in and jumped 25.5″ with a counter movement, a number that isn’t remarkable in a positive or negative way. Being that the goal of him training with us was to help him stand out in this process in relevant areas, one of our major short-term targets was to improve this number as much as possible. Another major goal was to improve the athlete’s familiarity with the tests. This comes back to the idea I alluded to earlier, that test preparation and season preparation aren’t always the same thing. With our time frame, the more the athlete practiced the tests, the better prepared he’d be for combine.

Another major consideration when designing any training program is how much time the player has to train. In this case, we only had 3 weeks. This is extremely important, because it drives what can be emphasized with a realistic expectation of adaptation. If a player doesn’t possess a lot of strength, and you only have three weeks to make a difference, training methods involving higher rep sets with short rest periods designed to increase muscular size are unlikely to create a significant adaptation within that time window. In contrast, low rep, high intensity sets will have a much more profound influence given that the adaptations are primarily neural. In other words, from a speed/power/strength perspective, the training process in this time frame is much more about maximizing the individual’s current capacity than it is about creating a larger foundation from which to develop higher peak levels of these qualities.

In the end, the program consisted of:

  1. Individualized corrective work
  2. Contrast training to improve maximum strength and maximum power
  3. Integrating each physical test into the program on a weekly basis (sometimes more)
  4. High intensity work at a low volume to minimize fatigue accumulation and keep the quality and frequency of training high.
  5. So-called “assistance work” to help keep the program balanced

The player trained 5 days per week for 3 weeks. The day of the combine, I got a text message that he tied for the combine lead in vertical jump at 28.5″, 3″ up from where we initially tested him 3 weeks prior. We actually tested him at 29.5″ at our facility the last day before he left (a discrepancy that could be explained by a number of factors, including a different warm-up process, nerves, etc.). All of his other numbers improved similarly, and in the end the player was rewarded for all of his hard work with a 3rd round selection (I was told this was ~2 rounds earlier than hew as projected).

Aside from being really proud of the work he put in, and happy that it paid off for him, I think this process helps shed light on the program design process in general. Every training program should be designed in consideration to the answers of these questions:

  1. What is the athlete preparing for?
  2. Who is the athlete (what is their training background and injury history, how do they move and what limits more optimal movement, and what are their current strengths and weaknesses)?
  3. How much time do they have to train, both in terms of the total duration of their program, and how much time they can dedicate each week, day, etc.?

For Ultimate Hockey Training Insiders, I added the NHL Combine Prep program last week so you can see exactly what we did. If you’re not currently an Insider and are interested in joining, check out this link for more information: Ultimate Hockey Training

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To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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A couple weeks ago I announced the completion of the Ultimate Hockey Training Video Database. Since then, I’ve received a bunch of emails about accessing the database and about off-season training program design.

This is really an exciting time of year for me. As my friend Devan McConnell said, the hockey off-season is really the hockey strength and conditioning coach in-season. We’re currently training the Team Comcast U-18 team 4x/week through August, the two U-16 teams 3x/week through August, and the ’99s, ’00s, and ’01s will start up 2x/week in June and train through August. This is in addition to the dozens of junior, NCAA D1, and professional players we’ll have in the mornings everyday through August. A few of the junior kids have been in since February. Talk about maximizing your off-season! Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks assessing/testing everyone and designing programs.

Once players take a few weeks off and let their body recuperate a bit, the off-season provides a great opportunity to start restoring and improving different capacities (e.g. range of motion, movement quality, speed, power, strength, conditioning, etc.). The key to maximizing this time is to really understand where you want to be come pre-season and what you’re willing to do to get there. Finding a good strength and conditioning coach that understands how to coach movement well, how to design a quality training program, AND the demands of the game is extremely difficult, and will almost always require some degree of inconvenience, typically in the form of a longer drive (there isn’t a quality coach in every neighborhood) and increased costs (great coaches cost more money to work with).

Understanding Quality Programming

One of the biggest struggles players and families face in finding an off-season training program is being able to decipher quality from garbage. With seemingly knowledgeable people boasting the benefits of their programs, it can be difficult to sift through the hype and really see who knows what they’re talking about. In my opinion, a quality program should encompass:

  1. Some sort of initial assessment to identify structural limitations, range of motion/mobility impairments, movement quality, and basic performance capabilities. At Endeavor, we find resting heart rates, baseline heart rate variability, 12-site body fat calculations, assessments taken from the Functional Movement Screen, PRI, and traditional orthopedic tests, and a simple battery of performance tests to get an indication of their power, full body strength, muscular endurance, and repeat sprint ability. This is key to understanding the limiting factors in a player’s performance. For example, a player may not be able to maintain a low skating position because they: 1) Don’t possess the hip structure to squat any deeper than they are; 2) don’t possess sufficient strength to support their weight in this position; or 3) don’t have the local muscular endurance or conditioning necessary to maintain this position for any significant amount of time and pattern themselves into a higher position. A thorough assessment will shed light on the limiting factors to all components of performance.
  2. Different physical targets based on the individual’s stage of development. USA Hockey has done a great job outlining the windows during a youth player’s development where he/she is “sensitive” to developing specific qualities. Players at different age should have programs designed to emphasize different qualities (see image below).
  3. Progressive phases, each with their own emphasis. Once players cross the ~13 y/o age group, going through random workouts or “classes” isn’t likely to deliver the results the player is looking for. In general our off-season phases progress from: Work Capacity/Hypertrophy -> Hypertrophy/Strength -> Max Strength/High Load Power -> Low Load Power/Speed/Strength -> Conditioning/Speed/Power. Each phase is essentially tiered so that it has a primary emphasis, but also includes some work in other qualities to make the transition from each phase smooth. For example, the phase before we attack speed work, we’ll integrate a low volume of sprints so the player becomes accustomed to sprinting and has some time to work on technique before we really hit the gas. Planning progressions in this fashion is simply what S&C professionals refer to as “periodization” and is essential to hitting higher peaks in performance.
  4. An energizing training environment and positive culture. Finding a facility that isn’t shy with the music volume, and doesn’t ban chalk, Olympic lifts, and deadlifts will go a long way in improving the quality of the player’s training as well as the amount of fun they have in the process. Our players look forward to coming in over the Summer (at least most days!), in large part because they get to train alongside current/former teammates and friends, have some say as to what goes on the radio, and basically are placed in an environment where they can just get after it. This is one of the major downfalls of general member gyms; it’s tough to do 100lb farmer’s walks by some idiot in a tank top grunting while doing curls w/ 65lbs in the squat rack. Environment matters, and so does the culture. One of the things I love the most about Endeavor is that I’ve now had some of the same kids for 5 Summers; these guys know our system so well they are often proactive in teaching new players how to perform the exercises. It ends up being a great experience for both players and a huge help to us!

Long-Term Athletic Development-Sensitivity to Training

Developmental Sensitivity Periods

Naturally, the most important part of any off-season program is that it gets results. I know our corrective/mobility works because I remeasure players. After 1-2 phases of our program, most players (that need it) are adding 15-20 degrees of hip rotation arch in EACH hip. This is huge in maximizing their structural mobility, giving them the best opportunity to optimize their stride and avoid injury. We have a player preparing for the NHL combine here that has added 4.5″ to his vertical jump in two weeks. Another that has put on 12 lbs of muscle in 12 weeks. These are just a few examples of the early successes from our current off-season group, but provides supporting evidence that our programs are delivering the results our players are looking for.

If you’re interested in using one of our off-season hockey training programs for your own purposes, you just need to join the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider’s Section. Simply, it’s the most affordable way to follow a quality, proven training program if you can’t find/access a hockey training facility this off-season. To become an Insider, follow these steps:

  1. Purchase a copy of Ultimate Hockey Training
  2. Register to become an Insider here: Ultimate Hockey Training Insider

Ultimate Hockey Training-Membership Card Insider Small

Insider access is only available to those that have purchased Ultimate Hockey Training, as the book provides a ton of information that will help players get more out of their training, including exercise progressions and lateral substitutions so players can make exercise substitutions based on equipment availability without compromising the intention of the exercise. An Insider membership provides access to monthly training programs for players at each age group, the newly added 800+ exercise video database, and recommended equipment, all for a monthly cost of less than a decent lunch.

Follow the instructions above, and have the best off-season of your career!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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

It’s been about a year and half since Ultimate Hockey Training was first released, and since that time I’ve gotten a lot of flattering feedback about the book. It’s humbling to think that UHT could positively impact hockey programs all over the world,  and I’m incredibly grateful for the continued support I receive from you and everyone that has purchased Ultimate Hockey Training.

Ultimate Hockey Training

As I’ve said in the past, I take feedback from my readers into serious consideration and am constantly thinking how I can evolve to offer better information, products, services, etc. I’m aware that, while some folks in the hockey community find the underlying theories, research, and general philosophy behind effective off-ice training intriguing, ultimately people are more interested in the “what” than the “why”. This was the major reason I created the “Ultimate Hockey Training Insider”, a membership section for UHT customers that wanted access to the programs I write for our programs at Endeavor. While I’m a firm believer in the power of program individualization AND being trained by a competent strength and conditioning coach with a good eye for movement, the reality is that there are far more kids/players that DO NOT have access to these services than those that do, and following a well-written program is infinitely better than falling into the typical trap of programs passed down from a bodybuilding culture.

I realize, however, that it can be difficult to follow along with some of our programs if the exercise names are foreign to you. Furthermore, it can be a bit of a guessing game knowing whether or not you’re performing the exercise correctly or not, as we tend to coach some exercises differently than what may be considered normal. Naturally, this has led to several people asking me if I had videos of the exercises. Believe it or not, I had actually thought of that preemptively, and had a professional videographer film ~350 exercises to be included with the book…only to find out that he was either too busy or too disinterested to complete the project, leaving me incredibly frustrated and you with no videos.

Fast forward to 6 months ago, David Lasnier, Matt Siniscalchi and I compiled a list of EVERY exercise we’ve used in a program (not just the ones I referenced in Ultimate Hockey Training), and forward to 2 months ago when Matt and I filmed 750+ exercises in a 4-day time period (our bodies are just now starting to recover!), followed by me editing and exporting all the videos, and Matt building the online database. Needless to say, this was a HUGE undertaking, and one that I will not likely ever take on again in the future, but I am extremely excited that it’s done, and now ready for you!

Introducing the Ultimate Hockey Training Exercise Database!

I’ve always viewed Ultimate Hockey Training not just as a hockey training book, but as an evolving illustration of my philosophy. The “Insiders” section, then, is essentially an early access pass to see how programs are changing over time. The video database provides an incredible tool for players, coaches, and S&C professionals to try new exercises, make parallel substitutions when certain pieces of equipment aren’t available, and ultimately to train more effectively. The database is divided into 9 sections, which are further subdivided into 39 categories:

  1. Self-Myofascial Release
    1. Foam Roll
    2. Lax Ball
  2. Dynamic Warm-Up/Mobility Exercises
    1. Dynamic Warm-Up
    2. Mobility Exercises
  3. Speed Training
    1. Linear
    2. Lateral
    3. Transitional
  4. Power Training
    1. Plyometrics
    2. Med Ball Throws
    3. Olympic Lifts
  5. Lower Body Strength
    1. Pulling
    2. Pushing
  6. Upper Body Strength
    1. Horizontal Pulling
    2. Horizontal Pushing
    3. Vertical Pulling
    4. Vertical Pushing
    5. Arms Pulling
    6. Arms Pushing
    7. Forearms
  7. Core Training
    1. Anterior Core
    2. Lateral Core
    3. Diagonal Core
    4. Rotational Core
    5. Diaphragm/Inner Core
    6. Anterior Hip
    7. Lateral Hip
    8. Medial Hip
    9. Posterior Hip
    10. Scap Work
    11. Rotator Cuff
    12. Neck
    13. Carries
  8. Conditioning
  9. Flexibility
    1. Lower Body Anterior
    2. Lower Body Medial
    3. Lower Body Posterior
    4. Upper Body Anterior
    5. Upper Body Posterior
    6. Combination
    7. Band-Assisted

Get more information on Ultimate Hockey Training and the exclusive Insider section here!
>> Ultimate Hockey Training

There are currently 756 exercises live in the exercise database of the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider membership section. We filmed another 50 the other day, including a lot of the corrective work we use. As we evolve our exercises, I’ll continue to build the database. I’ve also changed the layout of the site to make it easier for members to log-in and get quick access to the programs and videos.

With the off-season upon us, and new programs being continually added to the Insider section, this is the PERFECT time to grab a copy of the book and dive into the incredible collection of resources available exclusively to Ultimate Hockey Training Insiders!

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Get more information on Ultimate Hockey Training and the exclusive Insider section here!
>> Ultimate Hockey Training

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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