West Coast Prep Camp Guest Blog: THE 5 Things You Need to Know About Off-Ice Training

Here is another Guest Article that I wrote for the West Coast Prep Camp. It outlines that 5 biggest things I would make sure to tell an athlete or parent just starting to think about off-ice training. You can find it here!

The Coaches Site Guest Article: Upgrade Your Motivational Skills with Storytelling

I’m pleased to say that I will begin to contribute regularly to thecoachessite.com’s blog. Here is my first article for them on using storytelling as a coach to upgrade your coaching skills.

Check it out here!

Coming Tuesday: The Best Resource for New S&C Coaches

Check back in Tuesday to read my guide for new S&C coaches. Where should you start out if you’re just entering into the field? Who should you trust and pay attention to?

Save yourself the headaches and confusion. Cut right to the important stuff. See you soon!

The Spider and Your Next Big Improvement: The Core

The spider has eight legs that are very mobile. They are responsible for all of the spider’s movement. The spider’s body is nothing but a “core”, and is the stabile attachment point for all the legs. It does no movement of its own to contribute to the spider’s mobility.

This idea should not be far removed from how an elite athlete should move. The core is stabile and relatively immobile while the limbs are responsible for the movement. The core might be responsible for slight adjustments in posture and positioning, but it is inefficient at gross movements or corrections, as mentioned here.

My Story

Story #1: I thought I had a great core. I remember doing some sort of (stupid) core strength test at a tryout camp, where I had the longest plank. I’m sure that zero attention was paid to my form and that’s how I was able to manage a 2min15s single arm, single leg plank with a dowel on my back. Regardless, I thought I had a strong core.

Story #2: I went to a power skating camp when I was younger. Like many power skating camps, they wanted to see an upright torso angle and a very large knee bend. Expecting that the money my parents were paying for this hockey camp was paying for valuable information, I listened closely to them. I was very proud when after my third year of attending this camp they had no negative feedback on my video, indicating that I had perfectly assimilated their technique into my stride. However, the only way I was able to get my torso upright was to jut open my ribcage. And this also led me to over emphasize my knee bend my entire career up until recently.

Story #3: A few seasons ago, I asked my teammate for feedback. He is a goalie, very perceptive and intelligent. He said that I was very readable. In order to solve that, I tried to be less predictable. I don’t know how…and my “trying” didn’t yield results.

Expert Movers – All Star Athletes

See if you can pick out the commonality between the next three videos given what I’ve mentioned about the spider.

If you noticed that their core is very stable and hardly moves or deviates. Meanwhile, their hands and legs are responsible for movement and manipulating the ball/stick/puck, then you’re on the right path.

Motor Programs – Efficiency in Learning, Efficiency in Execution and the Proximal to Distal Gradient

So the best athletes have excellent core control. I’ll explain in a bit, and refer back to Story #1 (the 2:15 plank) how typical “core training” won’t create the excellent core control needed by elite athletes. The best athletes are able to keep their core stable in many positions and in many movements.

Going back to Story #3, I’ve realized that I essentially had a different core position for each skill: skating forward, turning, shooting, passing, hitting. This made it very easy for a goalie or other player to read me because they knew what I was going to do depending on how I was leaning. In contrast to Patrick Kane (or Curry & Messi), they maintain a very stable core position in many movements. This makes them less predictable and harder to read.

Having less core positions, or the same core position that applies to more movements leads to efficiency in learning. There are less core positions that apply to more movement, which makes learning a matter of adding variations than adding different motor programs. For example, if an athlete (like I did) has a different core position for skating with the puck, without the puck, and for shooting, each motor program is distinct and needs to be learned independently. Transitions between the three core positions also need to be practiced. All of this leads to the player requiring more time for practice. If instead, the player has the same core positioning for all three skills, the additions of skills are variations of the main motor program, and not distinct motor programs. Also, transitions between the skills are more subtle and require less or no practice…making skill acquisition more efficient.

This fits into what I wrote about the proximal to distal gradient. Subtle movements should take place at the proximal joint (the spine), while gross movements should occur at the distal joints (hips, knees, ankles, shoulder, elbows, wrists). Subtle movements should take place at the proximal joints because that is where stability and tension is best held. If stability and tension is not held there, then they will be held in joints and limbs that are supposed to be fluid. For me, I didn’t hold tension as much as I should in core, and instead held it in my shoulders.

Core Training: What to do

Situps, planks, bear crawls, boss balls, crunches, ab rollers, leg lifts, ab belts, etc, etc, are absolutely useless if they are not respecting what the core’s function actually is. After working with Sergey Nazarov of Fitnastika in Vancouver, he explained to me that the core’s purpose is to minimize the distance from the ribs to the pelvic. [Lightlbulb] Didn’t take me long to see that in about 9/10 of my movements occurred with my ribcage flaring.

I’m not afraid to go back and blame this on 1) my hockey and 2) Story #2. Due to position required in hockey (knees bent, hips back, torso leaning forward), and the instruction from this power skating (or should I say core power eliminating skating) had me flaring my ribcage to get my torso upright. Unfortunately, this habit somehow stuck with me. I’d also say that the forward arm swing that they preached also led me to develop a dysfunctional core while skating. Obviously, this isn’t anyone’s fault…the power skating camp wasn’t intentionally trying to make this happen, and I obviously didn’t know the consequence…regardless, it occurred. I’m writing this article so that it might not occur to you and your youngster.

In hockey players, here are a few things you can do to improve core function:

  • Do not have a forward arm swing. Let your arms drive naturally.
  • Do not force an upright torso. Teach/learn a hip hinge instead which will lead to a modest forward lean angle.
  • Focus on keeping the ribcage down and hips back in all exercises and movements. Skating, stick handling, shooting, lifting, running.

Of course this little three bullet point list won’t give you all the answers. Stay tuned for some video instructions or come out to beautiful Vancouver Island for some coaching. Make comments below if you have specific questions.

How people who can benefit from this post:

Whether you have great core function in all movement, or just a few, you can probably improve your library of movements with solid core positioning. You might have great core positioning and function in 9/10 movements, but not notice that that last movement that you’re having trouble with is due to improper core positioning. As I started to be more aware of my core positioning, I started rooting out movements that I thought “I’m just not good at”, as movements where I moved my core incorrectly.

Good luck stabilizing that core.

Regards,

Jason

Tight as S#%$??? Use this guide to get the most from your Yoga class

My appraisal of yoga?

It’s funny you should ask. But really, I’ve said it before here, that if you’re optimizing your time, you don’t need to go and become a Yoga master to make yourself better at hockey. You can incorporate some of the wisdom from yoga practice into optimizing your body, FOR HOCKEY.

And I’ve also said it before, that Yoga is a great activity to give yourself some “away from hockey time”. For me, I love reading, learning, the outdoors. If Yoga is something you enjoy, then by all means, hit it up.

That aside, if you find yourself heading into a Yoga class because:

  • You are a creep
  • Your team is doing it
  • You’re going with your boyfriend/girlfriend
  • You wanna try it out
  • Any other reason

…then here are some things to try out.

Why do you need this guide?

Ok, I’m not one of those people who is going to tell you that you could potentially hurt yourself from Yoga if you don’t pay attention to this guide. But, I will tell you that after practicing Yoga I have experienced:

  • Delayed onset muscle soreness
  • Muscular strains

Continue reading Tight as S#%$??? Use this guide to get the most from your Yoga class

How you can study and work without wrecking your back! (Cheap and Eco-Friendly)

I am currently preparing an article on every single fix and self-treatment that I know to help people with lower back pain. Although the article is aimed squarely at hockey players, whose sport requirements, predispose them to lower back pain, it will be of use to anyone who experiences back pain.

I have wanted to try a standing desk for a while, but with Focal Desks in the price range of $2000-3000, it seemed a little unreasonable.

Here is an eco friendly, portable, cheap standing desk…made of cardboard. Hopefully you find the cardboard to be chic…but if you don’t, hopefully you’ll find it something to try out before investing in a more permanent desk.

Here’s the link to the desk:

Chairigami Standing Cardboard Desk

And if you want to know why you should consider standing while working, here are a few reasons:

  • Sitting is evil – especially for your lower back and hips
  • Sitting is evil – and turns off certain muscles that are key to your athletic success
  • Sitting is evil – pushes the heads of your femur forward in your hips, predisposing you to hip impingement and lack of hip flexion
  • And if you’re not buying what I’m saying, here’s a few more reasons provided by Mark at Mark’s Daily Apple here

I have yet to buy one myself, but let me know what you think!

Cheers,

Jason