A couple weeks ago I wrote a random thoughts post on topics ranging from youth hockey performance to heart rate variability to hip impingement. If you missed it, you can check it out here: Hockey Training Random Thoughts

Today’s post follows up on that with some discussion on the disconnect between exercise selection and adaptation, nutrition, supplementation, and the importance of context. Enjoy!

  1. There seems to be a general misconception that certain exercises necessarily deliver certain adaptations without a respect for how the exercise is loaded and performed. For example, we use kettlebell swings often as a power exercise. However, if the swings are performed like they are in most bootcamp settings (more like a squat into front raise), and not with a rapid eccentric loading and quick transition, the power benefit of the exercise is lost. Likewise, a squat loaded at 50% 1-RM for 3 sets of 8 may be used as a recovery or teaching tool, 50% with a rapid concentric or “up phase” could be used for power development, loaded at 75% may be used for hypertrophy, and loaded at 80-90% for 8 sets of 3 could be used for strength development.  Simply naming an exercise doesn’t always dictate the adaptation.
  2. I think people make the assumption that all food choices with the names “smoothie” or “salad” are healthy. The reality is that most smoothies that you can purchase at a restaurant or stand are complete garbage. Most smoothies are pre-made mixes or use a fruit juice base, which is almost always loaded with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. The “real fruit” component of smoothies means they put 2-3 frozen strawberries in the mix and may add half a frozen banana. Likewise, most salads leave a lot to be desired. Cesar salads are the worst offenders. Romaine lettuce has a nutrition value slightly above that of crunchy water, croutons offer no worthwhile nutrition value, and all your left with after that is some grated cheese and dressing (which COULD offer some valuable fats if made well). The grilled chicken that often tags along is the only thing that offers some actual nutrition. Nutrition isn’t that complicated, but the efforts to mask unhealthy food as healthy steers a lot of people wrong. If you’re at a loss for what to eat while staying within the boundaries of “healthy”, I strongly encourage you to check out Ultimate Hockey Nutrition, which provides lists of best, good, and bad food choices, smoothie recipes, grocery lists, sample snack ideas, preparation tips, and more!
  3. It seems like omega-3s and vitamin D have received a lot of attention from the nutrition community and even the popular media. More people are aware of the health benefits of monitoring and (when appropriate…which is almost always for most people) supplementing these two supplements. I think magnesium is the next big supplement to gain traction and reach the masses. Magnesium serves a lot of functions in the body, but in general it has a calming effect on the nervous system, which is one reason why it’s found in a lot of sleep supplements. Given the high and prolonged levels of stress that today’s students, athletes, professionals are under, magnesium deficiencies are probable and supplementation will likely have an immediately positive impact. This post dives into some of the science behind magnesium’s role in the body and the differences between the various forms: Gnolls.com Opens the Door to Obesity Fight
  4. In a perfect world, people should get certain health/nutrient measures monitored and then adjust lifestyle/nutrition/supplementation accordingly, a topic I covered here: Recovery Week: Monitoring Nutrient and Hormone Status. The problem with doing this within the general medical system is that there is a notable difference between “normal” and “optimal”. I’m not involved enough in the medical world to know this for sure, but I’ve read that the “norms” are determined by calculating averages of relatively large sample sizes of the population. On the surface, this appears to be a valid approach, but is undermined by the fact that widespread insufficiencies are likely to bring “norms” down far below optimal levels. With the “population average” approach, obesity in the US would be considered “normal”, and wouldn’t raise a red flag in the medical system. Naturally, this is not the case because the norms in this regard were established using prior to the obesity climb, and with some different outcomes as supporting markers.
  5. Every piece of exercise advice needs to be understood within the context from which the person is recommending it. I’m a huge believer in heart rate variability monitoring (as I discussed here: Hockey Training Random Thoughts), but I think it holds a lot more power in situations where athletes are in-season, or training 4+ days per week. Not that the information is ever worthless, but if you only have an opportunity to influence an individual’s training habits one day per week, the total stress your program will add/alleviate in an hour per week is a fairly small drop in the bucket. You could still use HRV information to make lifestyle recommendations, but the direct effect on the day’s training will be less, in my opinion. Likewise, most of the best coaches I’ve had an opportunity to learn from agree on more than they disagree on, and most of the differences in program design stem less from a philosophical difference than strictly operating under different circumstances: space, equipment, supervisors, coach:athlete ratio, athlete level/training background, etc. If you’re in the training industry, understand who you’re taking advice from before you take it.

That’s a wrap for today. I have a couple posts coming in the next week on the bilateral deficit and groundbreaking research on hip injuries, so be sure to check back!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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It’s been one of those weeks over at Hockey Strength and Conditioning where the forums have really been hopping. There are a couple great discussions worth checking out on a few of the articles and programs posted recently, as well as a thread I started on Vitamin D (I’m curious to see how many programs are monitoring this closely with their players).

San Jose Sharks Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Potenza posted an article titled The Best Nutrition Book on my Shelf which really struck a chord with me. As I continue to learn about nutrition, it becomes increasingly apparent how overly complicated some “sources” make it (e.g. media, government, etc.). Potenza’s article does a great job of outlining a few extremely important things that everyone should be aware of. Great read.

Click Here >> The Best Nutrition Book on my Shelf

Anaheim Ducks Strength and Conditioning Coach Sean Skahan posted a video of a full body mobility exercise called Toe Touch Squat with Alternating Arm Reach. Mobility exercises like this also serve as great opportunities to assess your athletes’ limitations. This exercise should help shed some light on whether an athlete has restrictions in ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexion, thoracic extension, and thoracic rotation. It also provides an opportunity to observe how the athlete moves their weight as they perform the initial movement toward the floor, which will likely be indicative of their ability to load their posterior chain. Just a few things to keep in mind when watching this video from Coach Skahan.

Check out the video here >> Toe Touch Squat with Alternating Arm Reach

There was a problem with the program that Darryl Nelson posted last week. if you weren’t able to access it, you can check it out now here:

Click Here >> Off-Season Strength Training Program

Details on the best hockey training seminar ever are now available. I’ve been to the Boston Hockey Summit the last two years and it’s been fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to network with other like-minded people and to learn from some of the smartest minds in performance enhancement. I’ll definitely be going again this year; the line up is pretty incredible. Check out the link below for more information:

You can’t miss this! >> Boston Hockey Summit

Lastly, I posted my video of the DB 1-Leg Reverse Deadlift last week. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth taking a look. After posting the video I got an email from someone, which (I’ll paraphrase) basically said “I understand the marketing appeal of bringing new things to the forefront, but is new necessarily better?” I thought it was an outstanding question and I always love getting emails from people that shows me they’re actually thinking. My response below:

“Trust me when I say that I don’t write anything just for the sake of “standing out.” I know that may be considered bad marketing my some, but I’d guess that I share your sentiments that there is a difference between quality information and just “controversial” or “different” information.

With regards to the video, the 1-leg DB deadlift isn’t the next coming of exercises; it’s simply another tool for coaches to incorporate into their programs. As you likely know, deadlifting patterns reinforce a proper hip hinge pattern and effectively load and strengthen the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes). Hockey players tend to move with more “quad dominant” patterns, so putting in a slightly greater amount of posterior chain work into their programs can help restore and maintain balance across the hip and knee. As with all single leg exercises, the 1-leg DB deadlift will also necessitate quite a bit of strength in the form of stabilization/control from the lateral hip musculature, as is required during skating and any single-leg positions/maneuvers on the ice.

Unfortunately, with a website like mine there is an underlying assumption that people are familiar with the material I’ve written in the past, which more times than not will likely be a false assumption. With that said, I can’t rewrite a “why I think single-leg training is safer and more effective for hockey players” preface to every post I write that references lower body training. While that may be good for some newcomers, it will likely bore and annoy people that have been with me for a while. I hope this makes sense.

You’re absolutely correct that new doesn’t always mean better. This is an exercise that I’ll incorporate in the same vein as a 1-leg RDL or 1-leg stiff-legged deadlift (I use these two names interchangeably, so within my definition the SLDL still includes a slight knee bend). My goal in presenting it on the site is to expose other coaches to it that may not be familiar with it. Ultimately, this is the fastest way to get feedback to determine if other think it’s a mainstay or not.”

Hopefully that clears up any questions that you may have had!

If you aren’t a member, go check out what you’ve been missing by clicking the link below. If you are a member, go check out all the content I mentioned above and hop on the forums to comment on the threads!

Click Here for the best in Hockey Strength and Conditioning

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Remember, it’s only $1 to try HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com for the first week. You will never find more hockey training content anywhere for $1, and it’s only getting better. I’ll throw in a bonus offer-Register for $1 so you can check out all the content, and I’ll buy you a coffee (or protein shake?) the next time I see you. Can’t beat that!

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As the hockey season progresses, fatigue accumulates. In other words, the intensive energy that most players bring into the season begins to fade somewhere around the mid-point of the season (near January) and a cascade of deleterious effects on performance follows.

Ultimate In-Season Performance Factors

Factor 1: The Diet
Depending on the sport, it’s not unusual for some players to drop between 5-10 lbs in the first month or so of the season. In the case of athletes coming off a lazy off-season, this may not be a bad thing as the weight is likely UNDESIRABLE body fat. Alternatively, the athletes that follow a well-designed training program during their off-season and drop weight when the season starts probably don’t have as much fat to spare and are losing DESIRABLE muscle mass.

Despite the differential outcome, athletes in both situations need to pay better attention to their nutrition. The overwhelming majority of athletes are malnourished, despite sometimes being overfed. This results from a combination of a lack of knowledge/education on healthy eating (no thanks to the crap-perpetrating of the controversy-hungry media) and a lack of support (intentionally or unintentionally) of friends and family. As I mentioned on Monday (Hockey Nutrition Coaching), most people are grossly misinformed about their caloric intake needs. Hopefully the equation I presented in that post helped give you an idea of the HUGE number of calories that you burn just to sustain life, let alone as a result of digesting/absorbing food and physical activity. On top of those numbers, the per pound caloric needs of teenagers are about 1.5x that of adults.

In-season players need more of this stuff. (…so do off-season, pre-season, and post-season players)

For example, to maintain body weight a moderately active adult should consume about 15x their body weight in pounds:

A 180lb adult should consume: 180 x 15 = 2,700 calories/day

A moderately active teenager should consume closer to 22x his/her body weight in pounds:

A 135lb teenager should consume 135 x 22 = 2,970

This relative extra intake goes toward growth and development. What most young athletes fail to account for is the drastic increase in physical activity that coincides with the initiation of a new season (between around 500 and 1,000 calories per ice session depending on their size, skating intensity, ice time, etc.). To oversimplify weight maintenance, energy intake (calories from food) needs to match energy expenditure (calories burned from resting metabolism, digestion/absorption of food, and physical activity). If an athlete transfers from training hard four times per week in the off-season (what we recommend) to training hard twice, practicing 3-5 times and playing a game or two per week, their energy expenditure skyrockets. In order to adequately fuel for optimal performance, energy intake needs to increase substantially as well. If not, muscle will be lost and performance will suffer.

Factor 2: Hormonal Recovery
Our hormones, most relevantly those that contribute to anabolic (build-up) and catabolic (break-down) functions, are in a constant state of flux. These hormones increase and decrease in concentration based on the stressors we experience. If we train/play hard and fuel ourselves appropriately, this hormonal balance is optimized. If, as is the case in-season, we train/play hard, but fuel ourselves sub-optimally (in both total intake and food choices), the balance will tip toward catabolism (breakdown). In this case, catabolic hormones like cortisol become relatively high and tell the body to store fat and breakdown muscle; it’s a survival response.

Ryan Kesler with high cortisol levels?

Unfortunately, this balance isn’t as simple as optimizing training stimuli and nutrition. ALL of the stressors in life contribute. While transitioning from the summer to fall sports, most athletes have to also deal with school starting, which is a source of stress itself.

Pythagorean what? Why do I need to know this!

It also requires a transitional period as student-athletes adapt to the new schedule. While hormonal profiles require specific medical tests, there’s a simple way to assess if you’re on the right track or not.

Every morning, before you roll out of bed, take your heart rate by finding your pulse (either on your wrist or neck). Count the beats for a 20s time period and multiply by 3 to find your resting heart rate in beats per minute. Do this every morning and write down what you find. If your resting heart rate elevates by 10+ beats per minute, that’s a pretty good sign that you aren’t recovering from the stressors in your life (both sports and non-sports related).

If this is the case, start by assessing your nutrition and by dialing back your training a bit (I’ve actually sent people home form Endeavor when I think they’re headed down this path). It’s also important to regulate your sleep schedule. I understand how difficult (nearly impossible) this is for teenage athletes, but the more consistent you are in when you go to bed and when you wake up, the better you’ll feel and perform. As a general rule, the goal is to go to sleep and wake up within an hour of the weekly-schedule on the weekends. If more sleep is needed, a 30-60 minute nap mid-morning is a healthy alternative, but the 12-hour weekend hibernations typical of most teenagers should be avoided.

Factor 3: In-Season Training
I’ve touched on this before so I won’t belabor the point, but too many hockey players make the mistake of ceasing their strength and conditioning programs (or athletic development programs) when the season starts. The goal of these programs is to improve the player’s quality movement, strength, speed, power, and conditioning capacities. All of these qualities require maintenance or they will degrade (some more quickly than others). Degraded capacity directly translates into degraded performance and increased injury risk. The nature of the training will NEED to change to account for the demands of sport practices and games, but all athletes should continue to train in-season.

Inevitably, I’ll get a dozen or so emails about 2 months after the Summer ends former players we’ve trained at Endeavor that left when the Fall came saying how great they felt at the beginning of the season, how they stopped training altogether, and how terrible they feel now. They then usually inappropriately default to reusing off-season training programs to try to “get it all back” in the shortest time possible, and feel even worse as the total combined intensity and volume of training, practice, and competition is too much for the body to acclimate to. Consistency is paramount; intelligent fluctuations in the training program are equally essential.

Concluding Thought
As a final tip, everyone (athletes, coaches, parents, etc.) should get their Vitamin D levels checked at least twice per year (to start). The importance of Vitamin D in various aspects of health and energy is becoming increasingly highlighted by recent research, and most people are deficient. The current recommendation to meet Vitamin D requirements is 30 minutes of direct sunlight around noon, most days of the week. From a practical standpoint, this is laughable. Not many students, parents, or athletes are afforded the opportunity to strip down to a bathing suit and frolic around outside for 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Oh it’s noon! Time for our daily vitamin D break!

Also, sunlight exposure opportunities decrease dramatically during the colder months. This is a largely overlooked factor in the January/mid-season energy slump that most hockey players go through.  As a result, supplementation becomes essential. Get your levels checked a couple times a year to ensure that you’re avoiding a health and performance deteriorating deficiency.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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