Tension, Relaxation, Organization. Everyone has their own framework/model for athletic training and success. This is mine.
Tension equals strength. Thinking of a deadlift, your body must be able to generate a certain amount of tension in order to move a weight. The more tension you can generate, the more weight you can move. Therefore, the more strength you have.
Tension is important in sports because if you can generate enough tension to turn yourself into an immovable object even when encountering a large force (collision), then you can be more effective and reduce the risk of injury.
Tension is not a product of the amount of muscles you have. Tension is a product of your brain being able to create tension in your muscles. You lift heavy weight to teach your body to generate more and more tension.
Relaxation is the ability to turn your muscles off; to turn off tension.
Athletes who are nervous have a hard time turning off tension.
Athletes who have tight muscles have a hard time relaxing.
Relaxation can be affected mentally, through training, and through such modalities as stretching, trigger point therapy, massage, chiropractic, myofascial release.
Without relaxation, athletes can end up working too hard. Relaxation is also a requirement for top speed.
Organization of Tension and Relaxation.
This refers to the athlete’s rate, efficiency and timing of tension and relaxation.
A sprinter need to be able to generate enough tension to propel them forward. They also need to generate the tension quickly. The faster that the sprinter can generate tension in his or her muscles, the more powerful they are.
A sprinter also needs to be able to organize the tension/relaxation efficiently. This means using efficient movement patterns.
A sprinter also needs to know exactly when to apply tension. If a sprinter applies tension at the wrong parts of the stride, they may upset the physics of their movement and slow down their velocity.
Applying this to hockey:
A hockey player needs to be able to generate tension quickly to brace for impacts, to shoot pucks hard, and to skate fast. They need to be able to organize their tension/relaxation in efficiency movement patterns to avoid both overuse and acute injury. And finally they need the correct timing of tension and relaxation in order to deftly move a puck around defenders, deke, pass and shoot.
Applying this to training
When you look at the physical requirements for hockey players in this way, it removes a lot of the debate around how to train hockey players.
It no longer matters whether a front squat or back squat transfers better to hockey….what matters is that you learn to generate tension in your lower body and core. It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting, doing plyos or olympic lifts to improve your rate of tension development…so long as you’re doing something to improve your rate of tension development. And it doesn’t matter if you use trigger point, foam roller, or religiously visit a massage therapist…so long as you teach your body to relax.
Where a skilled coach comes into play is in teaching you to organize your tension efficiently. They do this by choosing exercises that will generalize across sports. They will also do this by teaching you movement patterns that reduce your risk of injury and improve the efficiency of movement.
Why I’m writing this
I’m writing this to guide athletes in their development. The athlete can spend less time worrying about whether a bench press is working their upper or lower pec. Hopefully the athlete can also realize that it doesn’t really matter whether the athlete is doing the exercise on the floor, BOSU ball or on top of the Eiffel Tower…what matters is the organization of their movement in the most efficient way, generating the most amount of tension. It doesn’t matter if the athlete is doing olympic lifts, sled pulls, plyometrics or sled training, so long as the athlete is teaching him or herself to move fast.
Yes, there are specific ways that will help you get better. Great S&C coaches can help you get better faster with advanced training methods…but if you are trying to figure out to being organizing you training program yourself…here is a good place to start.