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:

https://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.)

Continue Reading

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.

Just had to throw that in there because otherwise someone, somewhere would think I advocate lifting big weights regardless of your form. Absolutely not.

You must first learn how to perform a squat - or any other strength movement - correctly before you earn the right to load it up.

Also note that when I talk about squatting heavy weights, you're not limited to just using the barbell on two legs.

Hockey players (and athletes in general) need adequate single-leg strength and stability to perform at a high level, so unilateral squats like various split squats and lunges definitely have their place in a well-rounded off-ice training program.

#2. Deadlifts

Just hammering your quads with a ton of squats won't be enough to maximize your speed.

You also need to develop the musculature on the backside of your leg.

The glutes and hamstrings have tremendous potential to contribute to a more powerful skating stride.

I have seen plenty of hockey players with big thighs but below average strength in the glutes and hamstrings.

Not only will this imbalance between the thigh muscles and the posterior chain make you a slower skater than you have the potential to be, it's also one of the key reasons why an athlete will strain his hamstring when sprinting or changing directions.

Different variations of deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts should be on the menu for every hockey player to take their hip extensors from underdeveloped to strong.

#3. Power Cleans

Now that you know the two main ways to gain general lower body strength, let's switch our focus to the other important aspect of the speed equation:

Explosive leg power and how to develop it.

Power cleans are a proven exercise to improve your ability to get your body moving from a standstill which translates to increased first step quickness on the ice.

In a previous video, I explained the benefits and disadvantages of power cleans (and Olympic lifts in general). If you haven't watched it yet, be sure to check it out below.

To recap, if you have access to quality in-person coaching and also possess the requisite hip, ankle, thoracic spine and wrist mobility to perform power cleans safely, then by all means, use them in the weight room.

If not, then you should stick to the next two off-ice training methods on this list.

#4. Jumps

Over the years, I have noticed that the guys with the biggest power clean tend to have the highest vertical jumps as well.

However, if you're only performing vertical jumps, box jumps, depth jumps, and other similar movements, you're leaving speed gains on the table.

Why?

Because these exercises all take place vertically, meaning straight up.

Skating is a horizontal (forward) activity, not a vertical activity. How much force you produce is important, but the direction of force production matters as well.

To cover all your bases, be sure to perform unilateral and bilateral horizontal and lateral jumps in addition to any jumping that takes place vertically.

#5. Sprints

Last but not least, we've got sprints.

A big mistake hockey players make with their sprint training is they run strictly in a linear or straight-ahead fashion.

We're not training for a track and field event here, we're training for hockey which includes quick stops and starts in multiple directions.

To develop true game speed, focus on shorter distances of say, 10-30 meters.

Also include various change-of-direction and agility drills into your speed sessions because these simulate what happens on the ice.

Finally, I will add the disclaimer that skating technique plays a huge role in how well you skate.

If your skating sucks because of bad technique, then no amount of off-ice training will make up for it.

That covers our list of the most effective ways to gain speed through dryland training.

Of course, we use a ton of different exercises and methods in addition to the ones mentioned here.

But since you asked for my top off-ice exercises to skate faster, I wanted to give you the best of the best. Build your off-ice training program around these 5 staples and watch your skating speed hit new highs very soon.

P.S. Discover the exact training system I have used to produce countless strong, jacked hockey players at:

https://NextLevelHockeyTraining.com

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.

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.)

Continue Reading

Jumps vs. Olympic Lifts: Which Are Best for Hockey Players?

Jumping and Olympic lifting are two common methods for improving explosiveness in athletic training programs.

Is one better than the other for hockey players? Or should you use both for complete power development?

Let's find out...

(If you’d rather watch than read about jumps vs. Olympic lifts… Check out the video below.)

Pros of Olympic Lifting

1. Improve First Step Quickness

How fast you can explode off a standstill or transition?

Most battles for a loose puck are won or lost over the first few steps.

I don't care how fast you can skate once you get up to top speed.

Fact is, if your first step quickness sucks, you won't be a very effective hockey player because you'll be chasing after the puck your entire shift.

If this is an area where your speed is lacking, you'll want to add Olympic lifts into your training sessions. They're a great way to build some serious pop over those first few all-important strides.

2. Increase Jumping Ability

Olympic lifts are the best way to build a higher vertical jump without actually jumping.

While a high vertical jump doesn't help you on the ice, it's one of the most common physical performance tests used off the ice.

Some coaches pay a lot of attention to how well guys fare in physical testing. So this is something to think about.

You don't want to be known as the guy who botched it with a 20" vertical jump on test day.

3. Fun and Competitiveness

While lifting weights isn't a comedy act, it's crucial that you enjoy what you do in training.

If you detest every waking moment you spend in the weight room, you'll never maximize your strength and power.

At our gym, we treat power cleans as one of our main lifts.

Guys get to move heavy weights in an explosive manner and compare their performance against everyone else.

It makes for a fun, competitive atmosphere which pushes everyone to show their best.

The only time I've seen similar levels of competitiveness is on days when we measure vertical jump performance.

Cons of Olympic Lifting

1. Can Be Difficult to Learn

How long does it take to get a raw beginner to jump and land properly on a vertical or hurdle jump? 2-3 sets? So a few minutes of total training time?

Contrast that with the Olympic lifts where it usually takes that same beginner weeks or months to become proficient.

While cleans and snatches aren't quite as technical as same people make them out to be - and I'm specifically referring to the hang and power variations of these lifts - not the full lifts used in Olympic weightlifting, there's definitely a learning curve.

And the time you have available certainly plays a role in deciding whether they're a smart exercise choice or not.

If I only have 5-6 weeks to work with a pro player in the summer and he doesn't already have great lifting form on power cleans so that we can load him safely, I'm just going to scratch the movement altogether.

I know some people will disagree with me here but jump training will make you just as explosive (if not more) than any Olympic lift variation.

And the risks are minimal.

Which brings us to the next point...

2. Require Great Mobility

Hockey players typically have horrible shoulder mobility thanks to spending so much time hunched over at the shoulders on the ice.

In addition, the shoulders take a beating from heavy hits.

You know what's the worst thing you could do with a guy whose shoulder mobility sucks?

EXPLOSIVE direct overhead movements.

Yes, that includes jerks and snatches. Which is why I no longer do them with my athletes.

I simply don't believe the benefits outweigh the risks on these two exercises.

Furthermore, getting into position when lifting from the floor and catching the barbell in a deep squat requires excellent hip, ankle and thoracic spine mobility - something many hockey players lack.

So all our cleans start from the hang position above the knees and we catch the bar in the so-called "power" position, which is different for each individual but somewhere between a half- and a quarter-squat.

And if that wasn't enough, catching the bar in a power clean requires great wrist mobility.

Again, some guys just don't have this.

So anytime they attempt to catch the bar, their elbows point down toward the floor.

They simply can't bend their wrists further to bring their arms parallel to the floor.

Pros of Jumping

1. No Weights Needed

A big benefit of jump training is that you can do it practically anywhere.

Vertical jumps, broad jumps, lateral bounds and long hops can all be done with your own body weight.

Buying a set of hurdles means you an also perform various hurdle jumps on one or two legs.

For more advanced movements like depth jumps you'll need a bench or box to step off. 

Also depending on the exercise, you might need some light dumbbells, a barbell or trap bar for loaded jumping.

Even then, the equipment needed for jump training is minimal and can be found in any gym.

2. Improves Reactive Strength

Unlike Olympic lifts, jumps can be used to develop reactive strength/elasticity.

There's no quick rebounding action in a power clean or power snatch like there is in a hurdle jump or forward bound.

With a hurdle jump (or any other reactive jump variation), a rapid eccentric muscle action is followed by a powerful concentric action.

Contrast this with the Olympic lifts where you accelerate to get the bar moving and then decelerate it to catch it. But there's no immediate switch from deceleration to acceleration which is how you improve reactive strength.

Why is reactive strength an important quality for athletes?

Because it correlates with change-of-direction speed and has been shown to be a key differentiator between slow and fast athletes.

Bottom line?

If you want to skate faster, work on your reactive strength.

3. Easy to Progress and Regress

With a power clean, the only way you can overload an athlete is by adding more weight to the bar or performing more sets and/or reps.

Jump training is more versatile.

You can start a beginner with eccentric-only movements like snapdowns and depth drops, then move on to vertical or hurdle jumps where you pause each rep.

After that, you perform these same exercises continuously in a rebounding manner.

Eventually, you can also introduce resisted jumps into the mix, combine jumps and sprints into a single drill, or focus on exercises that develop elasticity through shorter ground contact times.

There's a lot more variety and possible ways to progress and regress athletes compared to the Olympic lifts where external loading dictates much of what you can and will do.

Cons of Jumping

1. Very Easy to Abuse

The biggest drawback of jump training isn't the training style itself but how it's used in many off-ice training programs.

(I have written quite in depth about this topic in my Hockey Jump Training System.)

Because a set of five lateral bounds doesn't feel hard, it's easy to get carried away, thinking that you need to up the amount of reps you perform or cut your rest periods.

What so many coaches and athletes fail to realize is that jumping is a highly neural activity.

If you're huffing and puffing after a set of jumps, you're doing it wrong.

Still, I see so many athletes abuse jumps by going overboard with the volume that they don't get the power improvements they seek.

Not only that, doing so significantly increases your risk of lower back and knee overuse injuries.

Other than perhaps for a short preparatory period of very low-intensity jumping, there's no advantage to performing 10+ jumps per set.

At that point, you're not training for maximal power. You're doing conditioning work.

And there are much better ways to build up your conditioning that don't beat up your joints, such as hill sprints and sled pushes.

The Verdict

In my mind, out of the two options, jump training is safer IF (and that's a big if) it's used appropriately.

By appropriate, I mean scaling exercises based on an athlete's skill and experience levels, always focusing on excellent landing form and not rushing into more advanced exercises or methods before you're ready for them.

That's not to say I don't like Olympic lifting, particularly the power clean.

I use it with most (but not all) of my hockey players and I decide if it's suitable for an athlete on a case-by-case basis.

I believe an effective off-ice training program will combine both jumping and Olympic lifting for maximal power development - assuming that A) you have access to quality coaching on the Oly lifts and B) you have the requisite mobility to perform them safely.

If you don't have those, then stick to jumping.

P.S. For a proven training plan guaranteed to improve your first step quickness, visit:

https://HockeyJumpTraining.com

World Champions 2018!

Team Finland beat USA last night and won gold at the U18 World Championships.

So join me in congratulating my boys, goalie Jere Huhtamaa and forward Lenni Killinen, as well as the entire Finnish U18 National Team for bringing gold back home after last year's final defeat against the US.

That makes it two gold medals for Finland in the last three U18 tournaments. Not too shabby...

>
Copy link