“Why don’t you lift legs?”
“My legs are already big enough. I don’t want them to get any bigger.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with hockey players that started just like this.
First off, in probably 97% of cases, their legs aren’t big enough. B: Something tells me they would be a lot more concerned with training their legs if it got them recognition from members of the opposite sex. You might here a “did you see how big his bis were??”. But you will almost certainly not here a “He had a really well developed vastus medialis!” Not to mention, the classic “How strong are you?” is always pitched as “How much can you bench?” The result: An overemphasis on upper body training, usually in the form of an unnecessary body part isolation program.
There’s one important training fact that every hockey player should know.
For any given muscle size, there is a WIDE range of possible strength.
The complexities of the nervous system make this possible. The force producing capability (read: strength) of a muscle varies depending on the neural drive (in simple terms: how strong the signal is from the brain to the muscle), and the inhibitory signals (in simple terms: things that would decrease the strength of the signal to the muscle) going to the muscle. Strength training isn’t just about getting bigger. Strengthening certain functional patterns (deadlift, lunge, etc.) will maximize the excitatory signals to your muscles, and teach your body to minimize the inhibitory signals to your muscle. The outcome: stronger muscles and improved performance.
Taken from a heavy lower body day early this year. The training I did up to this 435 deadlift got me a lot stronger, but not noticeably bigger.
Last Monday I deadlifted 455…at an ever lower body weight than in the video. Not impressive for those in the weight lifting community, but probably unheard of for most in the hockey community. While I don’t think it’s necessary for hockey players to train like power lifters, I do think it’s time we changed what our view of “strong” is.
The take home: Your legs may be big, but they aren’t STRONG enough.
Keep working hard…
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.