Yunus Barisik, Author at Next Level Athletics - Page 3 of 40
Yunus Barisik

Author Archives: Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, specializes in making hockey players strong, fast and explosive. He has trained 500+ hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including T Nation, STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

Minnesota Wild Draft Filip Lindberg!

"He has a winning pedigree. He's a competitive guy with good athleticism and quickness."

That's what Minnesota scouts said about my boy, Filip Lindberg, when the Wild picked him in the 2019 NHL Draft this summer.

This makes it the fourth year in a row when one or more of my players have been drafted to the NHL.

Coincidence or not, "Fille" has been training with me for the past four, very successful years.

He won the Best Goalie Award in the U18 Finnish Elite League a couple of years back, took home gold at the 2019 World Junior Championship and backstopped UMass Amherst to the NCAA Final as a freshman for the first time in school history.

And now he's one more step closer to his NHL dream as part of the Wild prospect pool.

One look at his body tells you why he's so successful as a hockey player.

Chiseled abs, veiny arms, shredded like Wolverine… No wonder Fille is known for his athleticism and quickness on the ice.

Not many people know this but immediately after the 2019 NHL Draft, he headed over to Minnesota for the Wild prospect development camp...

Fille posted TOP 5 results in all fitness tests and ranked #2 overall at camp.

Right after development camp he got back into the grind and pulled a big PR on trap bar deadlifts...

With six weeks left in the off-season, it's safe to say he'll enter his sophomore year at UMass Amherst stronger and more jacked than ever.

And how did he get in such excellent physical shape, you ask?

By following the off-ice programs inside my Next Level Hockey Training System.

It's available to you behind this shiny little link:

Kasper Björkqvist Signs With Pittsburgh Penguins!

A few days ago, my good buddy and long-time athlete Kasper Björkqvist signed his first pro contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Photo credit: Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter

Kasper is now in his 5th summer training with me, so if you have watched any of our training videos before you probably have seen him lift some pretty impressive weights.

I feel proud for Kasper signing with one of the best organizations in the NHL - yet, our work is still far from over.

He's physically ready to play in the league (and has been for a couple of years now). Now comes the part where he has to prove he belongs there.

That means we have another hard summer busting ass in the weight room ahead of us to prepare him for the NHL.

P.S. To discover how Kasper built NHL-level strength, size and power during his junior and college years, click here.

World Champions 2019!

Team Finland beat the USA last night to capture gold medals at the 2019 World Junior Championship in Vancouver.

So join me in congratulating Head Coach Jussi Ahokas and the entire Finnish U20 National Team on their success. 

Well done, boys. 3 golds in 6 years at the WJC is a helluva feat!

Special props to team Captain Aarne Talvitie (Penn State), Filip Lindberg (UMass), Urho Vaakanainen (Boston Bruins) and Jesse Ylönen (Pelicans Lahti). I had the chance to work with these fine players in the juniors before they went on to play college/pro hockey.

Running the numbers in my head, that makes 10 gold medal winners at 4 different U18 & U20 World Championships since 2016 who have trained in my weight room.

I'm especially proud of my boy Fille Lindberg who was playing for our second team at the U18 level when we started working together three years ago. 

You know, Fille and I often visit this neat restaurant in downtown Helsinki called Tokyo 55 in the off-season. It's a great place to sit down, have a tasty meal and talk about hockey and life.

Last summer, over several post-workout, all-you-can-eat sushi buffets, we discussed how he'd have to approach his off-season training and freshman season at UMass so he'd make the U20 team.

Now he's a World Champion.

He does everything I tell him in the gym without questioning or second-guessing. He doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't eat pizza or candy, and gets his 9-10 hours of sleep every night. That's why he's successful and will go far as an athlete.

There's a shirtless picture on my Instagram where you can see how this approach is working for him. He's ripped out of his mind.

To honor my buddy Fille and the entire Finland U20 National Team, I'm heading over to a sushi buffet tonight. I'm gonna celebrate by eating and drinking myself into a food coma. 

I'm not much of a drinker but this is one of those rare moments where I plan to chug down a vodka shot or two to go with the makis, nigiris and sashimis. 

In the words of the late NCAA Champion and Stanley Champion, Coach "Badger Bob" Johnson:

"It's a great day for hockey!"

P.S. For a training program that produces champions, go to:

My First Article on T Nation

I reached a professional milestone the other week when I was published on T Nation for the first time.

If you didn’t know, T Nation is the BEST training related website on the Internet for serious lifters and athletes. Some very accomplished strength coaches – such as Boyle, DeFranco, Poliquin and many others – have written and continue to write for T Nation.

I’ve been reading T Nation for close to a decade and am very proud to see my work on the site. Becoming a T Nation contributor was one of the things I wanted to scratch off my bucket list in 2018, so you can understand why I’m feeling pretty stoked!

In fact, not just one but two of my pieces were recently published there.

Check out my articles on T Nation by clicking the links below:

Sleep Hard, Play Harder

The Vitamin You’ve Got To Take… Seriously

Can You Get Stronger During Hockey Season?

There's a disgusting myth being parroted all around the hockey world.

​I'm sick and tired of hearing it. So I'm here to set the record straight.

What is this myth I'm talking about?

​That you can't get stronger during hockey season. And therefore, you should just focus on maintaining whatever gains you made in the off-season.


​This is all laughable to me because my athletes have proven this "rule" wrong many times over.

Every year, they were hitting personal bests on our heavy main lifts like ​trap bar deadlifts and power cleans late into the regular season, sometimes just a couple of weeks before the playoffs.

Alright, so let's take a step back and ask ourselves:

Why is year-round strength training so important?

​Because losing strength is directly tied with a loss in muscle mass.

And when you lose muscle, assuming your weight stays the same, your body fat percentage goes up.

So now you're not only fatter and weaker​, you're also less explosive because you no longer ​possess ​as much strength and muscle to generate power as you did at the start of the season.

The irony is that the do or die games are played in the spring. Yet most hockey players are in the worst physical shape of their season at that point.

You don't want to be one of them. Lifting heavy is not an option, it's ​mandatory.

There's only one instance I can think of where maintenance training is okay - and that's at the professional level.


Too many games, too much travel and only winning matters.

Jobs are on the line, so no head coach in their right mind will let the strength coach run frequent hard workouts ​because it will negatively affect the team's performance in the next game.

A few bad losing performances in a row, and the head coach (along with his strength coach) ​will soon find himself ​without a job.

But at the junior, college and men's amateur level - yes, I'm talking to all you beer leaguers out there - ​things are different. ​There's less pressure to win games and ​​team schedules allow for more systematic off-ice training.

Here's what to keep in mind to make continuous gains throughout hockey season:

(If you’d rather watch than read about ​how to ​get stronger all year long… Check out the video below.)

​Stick to Low Frequency, Full-Body Training

​My hockey players lift 4 times per week on an upper/lower split in the summer.

​But because on-ice activity takes priority during hockey season, we gotta dial back on how often we train in the weight room.

Two strength training sessions per week hits the sweet spot. It's enough to stimulate strength gains but not too much that your on-ice performance will suffer.

​Just be sure to stick to low frequency, full-body workouts.

​That's right... No upper/lower split and definitely no body part splits. Otherwise, you're hitting each muscle group only once per week which is ​FAR from optimal.

Drop the Volume...

​With multiple hockey practices and games each week, you've got to bring training volume down significantly from what you did in the off-season.

Fail to do that, and you won't be able to recover fully between all on- and off-ice activities.

There's no need to throw in extra volume just for volume's sake. If anything, it will only make you more sore. As little as 2-3 hard, quality sets per exercise is enough to make progress on a smart off-ice program.

In general, you'll want to keep the number of sets per workout below 20 during in-season strength sessions.

... But Don't Skimp on Intensity

As always, when talking about intensity, I'm not referring to the perceived difficulty of an exercise but the weight on the bar relative to your 1RM.

When the goal is to build strength, heavy weight is where it's at.

This doesn't mean you should be lifting singles, doubles and triples every week throughout the season.

It means most of your work should be done in the 3-8 rep range (depending on the exercise) while dipping lower or going higher in reps every now and then.

​Sample In-Season Strength Program

Time to put everything we've covered so far into action now...

Here's a sample in-season strength program​ I created for ​one of my Women's National Team players:

(She followed my in-season training plan and won a National Championship, was nominated First All-Star, and took home a silver medal with Team Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Championship)

Day ​1

1) ​Power Clean from Hang 3-4 x 5

2a) ​​DB Split Squat 3-4 x 5

2b) DB Floor Press 3-4 x 5

3a) ​1-Leg DB Romanian Deadlift 3-4 x 6

3b) EZ Bar Row 3-4 x 8-10

3c) 1/2 Kneeling Pallof Press 3-4 x 6-8

Day ​2

1) ​1 Arm DB Snatch 3-4 x 3-5

2a) ​Box Squat 3-4 x 5

2b) ​Chin-Up 3-4 x 5

3a) ​15-30° Incline DB Bench Press 3-4 x 6

3b) ​Hip Thrust 3-4 x​ 6

3c) Ab Wheel 3-4 x 8-12

If you do the math, she does up to 24 sets per workout. This is above the 20 sets per ​session guideline I mentioned before.

There's a few reasons for this:

​1. She​ can power clean 135 pounds and squat 200 pounds but from a training age standpoint, she's​ still a beginner lifter. Beginners ​can recover faster from higher volumes than stronger, more advanced athletes.

2. She wants to play college hockey next season. Everything we do in training is designed to prepare her for that. Where she's at right now, the higher training volume ​might cause some fatigue at times but will lead to better progress in the long-term.

​3. Women can handle more volume than men at the same relative intensity.

4. You can do more volume early ​in the fall when players are not worn out from a long and heavy hockey season yet. The above is Phase 2 of her in-season program.

​If you want to see how exactly ​my athletes crush personal records all ​season long, then check out my Next Level Hockey Training program.

How to Prevent Adductor Strains in Hockey

Adductor strains (often also called "groin strains") are one of the most common injuries in ice hockey.

In a physically violent sport like hockey, you'd think injuries would result from heavy collisions with other players.

When it comes to adductor strains, that's not the case.

The vast majority of these injuries take place in non-contact situations.

What many hockey players don't realize is that your off-ice training plays a huge role in the prevention of groin pulls.

Before we discuss how exactly you do that with specific exercises, let's look at the research behind adductor strains.

(If you’d rather watch than read about ​how to prevent adductor strains… Check out the video below.)

Adductor Strains in Hockey: Frequency and Consequences

Adductor strains plague hockey players at all levels of play.

Here's some quick fun facts for you:

1. 43% of ALL muscle strains occur in the groin region.

2. Adductor strains account for around 10% of all injuries on the ice. [2]

3. According to a conservative estimate, each NHL team lose 25 man-games every season to groin and lower abdominal injuries. [3]

Continue Reading

3 Big Training Principles I Learned from Charles Poliquin

On September 26, 2018, Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin passed away.

Charles Poliquin

For those not familiar with him, Charles Poliquin was one of the most successful and influential strength coaches of our time.

He trained Olympic medalists in multiple sports.

He also coached Hart Trophy winner Chris Pronger, Keith Tkachuk, Al MacInnis, Gary Roberts, and many other elite hockey players.

Poliquin was often called arrogant by other coaches and many were put off by his demeanor.

I never met the man in person, so I can't comment on his personality.

What I do know is that Poliquin's material, especially his older writings, include some of the most useful information ever published on strength training for athletes. 

I have consumed several of his books, read dozens (if not hundreds) of his articles, and interned with one of his top students in the US, Ben Prentiss.

Poliquin Principles

So while I didn't know Poliquin personally, his work has had a profound influence on how I train my hockey players.

In fact, back in 1988 - yes, three decades ago - he wrote two articles titled "Five Steps to Increasing the Effectiveness of Your Strength Training Program" and "Variety in Strength Training" that I consider to be seminal works in the field of strength training.

They contain practical ways to arrange your training program and the information found in those two articles is as applicable today as it was in the late 80's. [1, 2]

While Charles Poliquin no longer walks among us, he left behind a legacy. 

Today, to pay tribute to the man and his contributions to the strength and conditioning industry, we're going to talk about 3 important training principles I learned from him.

I have successfully used these same principles you're about to discover with my hockey players over the years, so what follows isn't some theoretical mumbo jumbo like much of the lifting information you find online.

These are off-ice training methods that have been proven to work.

That said, let's start...

(If you’d rather watch than read about these 3 Poliquin principles… Check out the video below.)

Poliquin Principle #1: Alternate Phases of Muscle & Strength Development

A key element in Poliquin's approach to periodizing training programs was alternating between what he called accumulation and intensification phases.

Simply put, you'd use exercises and methods with the goal of gaining muscle mass first for a few weeks before switching to methods geared toward developing greater strength.

Then you'd rinse and repeat the process.

The result? 

Bigger and stronger athletes.

Accumulation phases (a.k.a. high-volume phases; with volume defined as total sets x total reps) would typically include the following parameters:

  • Exercises per body part: 2-4
  • Sets: 2-4 per exercise
  • Reps: 7+ per set
  • Intensity: < 80% of 1RM
  • Rest: 30-90 seconds [1]

Intensification phases (a.k.a. high-intensity phases; relative to an athlete's 1 RM) focus on building strength through neural adaptations. They are typically characterized by:

  • Exercises per body part: 1-2
  • Sets: 10-12 per body part
  • Reps: 1-6 per set
  • Intensity: > 80% of 1 RM
  • Rest: 3-5 minutes

Poliquin proposed that with this type of undulating approach, strength and muscle can be built at higher and faster rates than through linear periodization where overloading mainly takes place through ever-increasing intensity.

Poliquin Principle #2: Rotate Exercises Often

Rotating exercises on a frequent basis helps you avoid training plateaus and decreases the risk of overuse injuries.

That raises the question:

How frequent is frequent in the context of switching exercises? 

In general, you should change movements every 2-4 weeks.

Beginners don't need much variety because they're still learning how to perform exercises with correct form and can make rapid gains just by focusing on adding a bit more weight on the bar than last time. So sticking to the same movements for longer makes sense.

Advanced athletes require more variations to prevent plateaus. They have been lifting weights for years or even decades, so they're not going to add 5 pounds to their lifts every week for months on end like beginners can. 

More frequent adjustments to their training program provide a welcome transition from a mental standpoint as well. It keeps training fresh and fun. The effect of that for long-term progress can never be underestimated.

So how exactly does this whole rotating exercises thing work?

It's a lot less complicated than it sounds.

Simply alter your grip, use a different training implement, or change limb or body position.

For example, when people think about deadlifts, they usually picture the conventional deadlift done with a straight bar off the floor. But this is just one way of performing deadlifts, and it might not be the best variation for you.

With my hockey players, we perform several other types of deadlifts like sumo pulls from the floor or elevated off blocks. Trap bar deadlifts are another excellent movement since they place less stress on the spine than conventional deadlifts.

You can use this concept of variation without change for virtually every movement pattern or body part to continue making strength and size gains for a long time.

Poliquin Principle #3: Vary the Type of Muscular Contraction

Finally, Poliquin suggested varying the 3 different types of muscular contraction - eccentric, isometric and concentric - in your program.

Picture a barbell squat.

When you go down, that's the eccentric part. If you stay at the bottom without moving further down nor up, you're doing an isometric contraction. When you come up, that's the concentric part.

Most lifters focus all their time and energy in getting stronger in the concentric phase. However, there's some serious benefits to building greater eccentric and isometric strength that shouldn't be neglected.

Eccentric training, especially, can boost hypertrophy and strength gains more than concentric training alone.

Isometric work can be used to overcome sticking points or prolong the intensity and duration of a set after reaching concentric failure.

As you see based on everything we covered, Poliquin was a big proponent of frequently changing the type and magnitude of your training stimulus for continuous gains.

Poliquin's methods are one of the reasons why so many of my athletes have been able to get strong within a short time frame while remaining injury-free on and off the ice.

If you're a hockey player, then be sure to check out how I use these three Poliquin principles (and many others) in the weight room with my pro, college and junior players at:


[1] Poliquin, Charles. FOOTBALL: Five steps to increasing the effectiveness of your strength training program. NSCA Journal. 1988 Jun; 10(3):34-39.

[2] Poliquin, Charles. Variety in Strength Training. Science Periodical on Research and Technology in Sport. 1988 Aug; 8(8):1-7.

[3] Poliquin, Charles. "Training Gains That Keep Coming: A Primer on Periodization That Works". Retrieved from: Accessed: November 1, 2018.