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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.

Pfui.

​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.

Why?

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:

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]

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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:

NextLevelHockeyTraining.com

References

[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: https://www.strengthsensei.com/individualizing-periodization. Accessed: November 1, 2018.

The Most Overlooked Way to Boost Athletic Performance

Want to know the most overlooked way to boost athletic performance?

This little-known tactic has been proven to make you run faster, shoot with greater accuracy and just feel better overall in your daily life. 

So what is this performance-boosting magic pill I’m talking about? 

Is it a special weight room exercise? 

A brand-new training method you’ve never heard of? 

A secret supplement manufactured in an underground Soviet lab?

None of those things.

(If you’d rather watch than read about the most overlooked way to boost your performance… Check out the video below.)

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5 Best Off-Ice Exercises to Skate Faster

“What are the top 5 off-ice exercises to get faster?”

That’s by far the most common training question I hear from hockey players and coaches.

So with that in mind, let’s look at the 5 best off-ice exercises that will help you turn on the jets and blow past opponents.

(If you’d rather watch than read about these TOP 5 dryland exercises… Check out the video below.)

#1. Squats

Skating fast is all about how much force you can generate through your lower body and how quickly you do it.

For building general leg strength, you need to put some serious work in at the squat rack.

Keep in mind that by squats, I’m not referring to wall squats, high-rep body weight squats or any of that nonsense certain people peddle on the Internet. I’m talking about moving heavy weights over a full range of motion.

Obviously, I’m not saying you gotta throw three plates on the bar and get crushed by it if your current squat max is 200 pounds. Always pay attention to your lifting form.

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How to Get Super Strong on Single-Leg Squats

Having great single-leg strength is crucial for a powerful skating stride and balance in hockey.

Unfortunately, most hockey players neglect this area. Even if they use some single-leg or so-called "unilateral" leg exercises in their workouts, more often than not, they fail to get strong on them.

For the record, if you're banging away with a pair of 55-pound dumbbells on split squats, you're not strong. We have females who can do a lot more than that.

Our strongest 17-year-olds can split squat over 300 pounds with the bar in the front rack position, and our slightly older guys can do around 350. Split squatting almost 2x your body weight? That is STRONG.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Final max strength phase of the summer. Guys hitting PR’s left and right. @ko1as barbell #splitsquats 155 kg / 341 pounds. Strong! #welcometoprcity #singlelegstrength #hockey #offseasongainz #nextlevelstrong

A post shared by Next Level Athletics (@nextlevelstrengthconditioning) on

Now, you may be wondering how our athletes are able to build such impressive single-leg strength quickly and if you can replicate their numbers.

The answer is:

Yes.

As long as you stick to these 3 very important training principles:

(If you’d rather watch than read about how to build impressive single-leg strength for hockey… Check out the video below.)

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