Ultimate Pull-Up Transformation

If you’ve missed the news, there’s been a lot of talk about how Sam Bennett, the top ranked prospect in the upcoming NHL Draft, failed to do a single pull-up.

Sam Bennett

Photo from Getty Images

While I think it’s easy to point out the negatives of the situation, there are two really quick points that are worth considering:

  1. I didn’t know pull-ups would be included in the NHL Combine testing until about 10 days out from the testing date. Luckily, I had still programmed chin-ups into every phase of the player I was preparing for the combine, as there is merit to the exercise. This is the danger in true “combine prep”. You not only sacrifice long-term development for short-term test prep, but you’re also hosed if there are any changes to the testing protocol.
  2. If a player is THAT good on the ice, and can’t do a single pull-up, I look at that as the player having a HUGE opportunity for off-ice development. In other words, he may an enormous growth potential and therefore may be that much more appealing of a candidate.

This is an impressive resume
This story has also brought out all of the “You can’t score goals from the weight room” idiots. No one will discount that on-ice skill is a valuable and desirable attribute to any player, but there is clearly value in being strong. Most of the top hockey strength and conditioning coaches in the world agree that having adequate “pulling” strength is protective from shoulder injuries, both contact and non-contact in origin. This is in addition to all of the performance related benefits of having a strong upper body.

In fact, a study published in 2011 (see: Physiological characteristics of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I ice hockey players and their relation to game performance) comparing off-ice test performance to on-ice performance (e.g. +/-) found that the two off-ice tests that were most highly correlated to on-ice performance were a 12x110m sprint repeat test, and chin-up rep max test. The team tested in this study won the NCAA Division I national championship that year.

Based on some of our early testing this Summer, here are the results from the chin-up tests across different age groups:

Hockey Training-Chin-Up Averages

This is obviously just a small sample of each age group, but it should paint a picture of what is fairly typical at each level. The U-16 group was the 2nd team at that age; I suspect the first team, many of which have trained with us in the past, would have put up better numbers, likely about halfway between the U-15 and U-18 averages.

Only two players of the 89 players we tested couldn’t do any, both at the U-15 age group, one of which went in for major heart surgery two weeks after we tested him (he gets a pass in my book).

Improving Your Pull-Up Performance

Having worked with several players that have made the ascension from “0”, I can attest that the hardest chin-up or pull-up to get is the first one. In other words, it’s much easier to get from 1-2 than it is to get from 0-1. With this in mind, the two major variations we use to help improve pull-up performance in our players is:

  1. Band-Assisted Chin-Ups
  2. Negatives Only

By strapping “superbands” around the chin-up handles, some of the players’ weight is unloaded, allowing them to perform the sets with the specified sets and reps. As the player gets stronger, thinner bands can be used to provide less assistance, eventually progressing to full body weight chin-ups.

It is a well-documented fact that muscles are stronger in their eccentric or lengthening action than they are in concentric or shortening actions. By having the player start at the top of the exercise and perform the lowering phase only (usually specified as 3 or 5 seconds on the way down), it allows them an opportunity to develop strength in the pattern, while capitalizing on the natural strength advantage this portion of the movement provides. If necessary, we’ll combine the two methods until the player can fully control their own bodyweight without the assistance.

Wrapping Up

These strategies are extremely effective in helping players knock out their first chin-up or pull-up. If you want to not only bang out a bunch of pull-ups, but also improve your first step quickness, speed, strength, and conditioning, check out my new Ultimate Hockey Transformation program, which is guaranteed to deliver game-changing results.

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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