Effective Off Ice Hockey Training

March 11, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

Off ice hockey training has been an area of extreme interest to me ever since I played college hockey. You see, I was the kid that had some talent, not much but enough, to play on the top teams growing up. But, I was a tall, underweight, and physically weak as a defenseman. As you know, those traits don’t go well together! It wasn’t until I reached college and my hockey coach put the a large emphasis on off ice training that I really started to develop. To make a long story short, I often wonder what might have been if I had started an off ice hockey training program in my early teens?

Since I interviewed Washington Capitals strength and conditioning coach, Mark Nemish, last summer I have been looking for an off ice hockey training program that matched his philosophy. If you’re going to do dryland training, why not train like some of the best hockey player in the world?

Well, the other day, Jeremy Weiss contacted me about his newly released S3 Formula Hockey Training System. After reviewing his 20-week program and training videos, I found that it matched very well to what Mark Nemish had suggested.

The following are examples of how the S3 Formula matches what Mark Nemish prescribed.

First, Coach Nemish listed the following as his top 3 tips off-ice hockey conditioning:

  1. Make sure that you are being coached in performing the exercises in the program correctly…
  2. Make the clear distinction between activity and accomplishment…too many athletes perform the activity of training but don’t progress at the rate they should because they don’t train hard or smart enough.
  3. Nutrition plays a huge role in training gains or adaptations…your composition and timing of nutrition is very important.

The S3 Formula addresses Coach Nemish’s tips perfectly!
(This is the main reason I can recommend this program for youth hockey)

  1. Emphasis on technique and safety is a big deal in the S3 Formula. The S3 Formula contains a video exercise bank with 57 videos (one video for each exercise prescribed in the program). These videos contain the main “key points” to focus on with each exercise, then show actual demonstrations of the proper technique. The videos are downloadable so players can import them into their ipods, and bring them to the gym with them.
  2. They have structured the S3 Formula in a way that is EXTREMELY trackable. Worksheets and progress reports let the athletes see their progress, and motivate them to compete against their previous scores and records.
  3. Like Coach Nemish, Jeremy is also a firm believer in the importance of proper nutrition in athletics. There is a complete section of the S3 Formula members’ area dedicated to nutrition. They also have meal plans to suit hockey players of different ages and sizes that were prepared by a nutrition specialist as well as a number of videos, audio interviews, and articles in the materials section that deal with subjects like pregame meals, carb loading, and eating to replenish energy stores in tournament settings with multiple games over a weekend.

In the interview, Nemish also indicated the following areas where players are most prone to mistakes with regard to strength and conditioning programs.

Players don’t train hard enough at times and also don’t know when to listen to their bodies and back off at the right times. Also, many players do not pay enough attention to some very important, but overlooked, training variables such as length of rest periods, speed of the repetition, and restoration techniques.

What Jeremy and his S3 Formula say on this topic!

I agree with coach Nemish, particularly with respect to “listening” to their bodies. I’ve always said there’s a fine line between peak performance and injury. The best athletes learn to walk that line with skill and precision. This might mean skipping an exercise, or dropping the weight way down to focus more on technique from time to time.
Another mistake I would add to that is players who get into the weight room without a plan. Workouts must be structured, specific, and goal-oriented in order to be effective. They also must be performed consistently. Having a plan is VERY important in this regard.

Here is the advice that Mark Nemish gave for a hockey player’s off-season conditioning program.

One very important variable for improving power is to intend to move loads as quickly as possible especially with regards to training the legs. Speed kills in this sport and taking advantage of sound training principles to enhance leg power is important. In addition to intending to move loads quickly, regardless of whether they are light or very heavy loads, improving one’s off-ice sprint speed is important as well. Sprinting for 10-30 yards while pulling loads on a sled will help accomplish that. Finally, don’t do too much on-ice training or conditioning too soon in the summer. I don’t like to see players get on the ice much sooner than the beginning of August.

Does the S3 Formula incorporate powerful, explosive movements? In particular for leg training as Coach Nemish recommends?

Absolutely! Jeremy indicates that Hockey speed is comprised of 3 main components:

  1. On-ice technique (low posture, full strides, pushing off at the proper angle)
  2. Foot speed (quickness of stride repetition, agility, ability to change direction quickly)
  3. Leg Strength and Explosive Power (amount of power within each stride, how explosively that power can be used, recoil after each stride).

The S3 Formula is an off-ice strength and conditioning program, with not much focus on skating technique.  However, it does focus a TON on the second two elements – quick feet, and explosive strength and power. This through a structured series of agility drills, leg-strengthening exercises, and explosive plyometric training.

General weaknesses that Coach Nemish indicated he finds most often when training hockey players – Abdominal strength!

Abdominal strength and balance about the core and hips (ie flexibility and strength). This leads to trouble down the road in the form of lower abdominal tears and frequent groin tears.

Does the S3 Formula address abdominal and core strength?

Yes. The program prescribes a blistering ab routine,as well as quite a few “functional exercises” that engage the core while working on other muscle groups. An example of this is the Bosu Push-up, using a Bosu Ball and a Stability Cylinder (As seen below).

S3 Formula Off Ice Hockey Conditioning Program

Making It Easy To Use!!!

One other aspect that I think any fitness program (web-based or not) must address is ease of use and easy to follow instructions. So many people fall off the fitness wagon because programs are too difficult to follow.

The S3 Formula is set up in a way that is very simple to understand. They provide a workbook that shows you each exercise to perform each day, along with the number of required sets and reps. Just to be sure everything is crystal clear, they’ve also created an instructional video that gives step-by-step instructions on how to use the workbook.

As mentioned before, there is a video demo of each exercise––so there’s no confusion on which exercise is being prescribed. These videos can be downloaded and imported to an ipod … and if you don’t have an ipod, there’s also a printable exercise guide you can keep with your workbook that contains the same info as the videos, along with pictures of each exercise.

Simply, they really have gone to great lengths to ensure that this is as easy to follow as possible!!

What is really important about the S3 Formula is that it’s a hockey specific training program. Hockey players should train to be hockey players, not bodybuilders or runners etc. A sport specific off ice training program for hockey is a great way to gain a competitive edge over your competition.

More About Off Ice Hockey Training and The S3 Formula

You can get on Jeremy’s mailing list, take advantage of some great free training videos and learn more about the S3 Formula here.  The full 20-week program is just $147.

Washington Capitals Strength Coach Mark Nemish

July 6, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Interviews

Mark NemishRecently I had the opportunity and privilege to interview the strength and conditioning coach for the Washington Capitals, Mark Nemish.

Mark is renowned by the Capitals players as being one of the reasons that they have had so much success and personal accomplishment over the past few seasons.  Most often, Capitals players cite post-exercise recovery as one particular area where Mark excels above all others.

Now that we are in the off-season, Mark has generously agreed to share a few of his theories on strength and conditioning for hockey players.  If you’re a parent, player, or coach – be prepared to take notes!

Enjoy.

Thank you very much for the interview. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, your training business and position with the Capitals?

I am originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.  I left Winnipeg in ’93 to complete my Masters Degree work at the University of North Dakota while working as a strength coach for the Athletic department.

After completing my degree, I left North Dakota and had stints as a strength coach at the University of Richmond, Middle Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt.

In 1998 I was hired by the Nashville Predators as their first strength coach and held that position for 6 years before moving to Northern Virginia to open my own training business known as Dynamic Sports Performance.  A couple years ago I became the Washington Capitals strength & conditioning coach and hold that position today along with still owning and running my training business.

When players come to you for training, what’s the first thing you do with them?

The first thing we do is test them whether with my business or with the Caps.  We hold testing with the Caps at our summer conditioning camp in July held for draft picks and prospects and then again at the main training camp in September where we test all of our players, including veterans.

Could you list the 3 top tips you could give to a hockey player that is just beginning an off-ice conditioning program?

1.      Make sure that you are being coached in performing the exercises in the program correctly…

2.      Make the clear distinction between activity and accomplishment…too many athletes perform the activity of training but don’t progress at the rate they should because they don’t train hard or smart enough.

3.      Nutrition plays a huge role in training gains or adaptations…your composition and timing of nutrition is very important.

What are the most common mistakes that you see hockey players make with regard to strength and conditioning?

Players don’t train hard enough at times and also don’t know when to listen to their bodies and back off at the right times.  Also, many players do not pay enough attention to some very important, but overlooked, training variables such as length of rest periods, speed of the repetition, and restoration techniques.

What tips and tricks can you share that will improve a hockey player’s off-season conditioning program?

I don’t know if there are any tricks, but one very important variable for improving power is to intend to move loads as quickly as possible especially with regards to training the legs.  Speed kills in this sport and taking advantage of sound training principles to enhance leg power is important.  In addition to intending to move loads quickly, regardless of whether they are light or very heavy loads, improving one’s off-ice sprint speed is important as well.  Sprinting for 10-30 yards while pulling loads on a sled will help accomplish that.  Finally, don’t do too much on-ice training or conditioning too soon in the summer.  I don’t like to see players get on the ice much sooner than the beginning of August.

What are the most glaring weaknesses you find when training hockey players?

Abdominal strength and balance about the core and hips (ie flexibility and strength).  This leads to trouble down the road in the form of lower abdominal tears and frequent groin tears.

Are there any exercises that you feel every athlete, regardless of sport, should do?

All athletes need to be doing sound abdominal training that is functional in nature.  Too many athletes of all sports seem to think that performing crunches and sit ups at nauseum will help build their core strength & endurance.  What they need to do is learn to recruit or fire their abs and glutes together and then perform many different exercises that groove the motor patterns of abdominal recruitment.  This will help stabilize their spine and keep their pelvis correct position so other larger muscles can work together to perform the gross motors skills such as running, skating, etc. efficiently.

How do you explain your system/program to your athletes so that they understand why they are following your program?

My system is not too complex.  Everything is written down on workout cards along with the speed to perform each repetition and rest periods.  It’s all in how you coach the program.  For the summer conditioning manual, I accompany the training book with a couple DVD’s that shows every exercise so the players can see what they are supposed to do.

Can you give us some insight on nutrition advice for the typical hockey player (pre-game/post game meals etc.)?

Pre game meal should not be too large…some lean protein like chicken, fish or steak (fillet or very lean strip) that is grilled or broiled, some carbohydrates (brown rice, pasta, baked potatoes) and vegetables (greens or other colorful veggies).  If you eat too much at pre-game, your legs may feel heavy in the first period because you are still digesting a big meal.  Eat enough to satisfy but not feel full.  For post game you want to get in about 0.7 – 1.0 grams of carbs/kg bodyweight along with some protein within 30 minutes of your last shift.  This will help build up the glycogen (muscle fuel) that you burned during the game.  About 1-1.5 hours later have a good sit down meal with a lean protein and more carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water as well.

What post game recovery techniques are most important for hockey players?

See above for post-game shake or meal.  In addition, players need to sit in a cold tub for 10-15 minutes after a game, especially if they played a lot of minutes.  This does several things with the main goal of starting the recovery process going by slowing down the player’s metabolism and reducing the heat that was built up in the body during the game.

How do you monitor training intensity – specifically with regard to in-season vs. off-season training?

Training intensity is correctly defined as the % of 1 rep max lifted for a particular exercise.  Since I test bench press, I express their training loads as percentages of their 1RM be it in season or off…of course they are lifting much bigger %’s of their 1RM’s in the off-season.  I also have devices which measure the power produced with any given load so I can see what sort of power they are producing on a particular exercise.

What is the biggest obstacle you have to face as a strength coach or trainer?

At the professional level it is the control I don’t have during the off season when the players are on their own to lift, especially those who are overseas.  The other one would be striking the balance between the right amount of training and rest during the in-season.

How do you deal with hesitant and/or stubborn players/coaches that don’t agree with your program?

At the NHL level, you must approach each player as if you are working with him, not against him.  You first need to listen to what the player is complaining about and properly explain your rationale for doing things.  Allowing the player direct feedback and perceived control can do wonders in reaching compromises regarding training obstacles.  Trust is a big thing…they need to feel as though they can trust you…results is the biggest motivator…if others on the team are getting great results, then you hope some of the other stubborn players will jump on the band wagon.

News was released at the end of the season making accusations that some Capitals players have used performance enhancing substances – what’s your take on that?

Since we were tested 3 times this year and 4 times the previous year (random), I can say with 100% confidence that the Washington Capitals are 100% drug free.  Also, with the type of weights our guys lift, the zero signs of side effects that accompany illegal performance drugs, no one on our team is on anything.

Is there somewhere that readers can learn more about your theories and programs?

On my business website www.dspashburn.com, I have numerous articles posted that they can read in addition to my training philosophies.