Are your nerves making you weaker on the ice.

Your nerves could be making you weak, not your muscles.

Is your hockey training working?  I know you can move lots of weight in the gym, but when you get on the ice, you still don’t have the explosive power you need to excel.  You remain average.

That can be frustrating to say the least, it used to be frustrating for me as a strength and conditioning coach as well, to see an athlete who performed better in the gym than they did in their actual sport.

It is one of the things that drove me back to The University Of Western Ontario five years after I had completed my undergraduate degree in Physical Education (that’s what they called Kinesiology before everyone got so fancy).

I quit my steady, good paying job and started a Masters degree because I knew I was only getting part of the picture, there had to be more.  And what I am about to tell you is one huge part of the puzzle that needs to be fit into your hockey training.

You know that after graduation I was hired as the exercise specialist at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic where we saw our share of pro athletes and also worked with all the varsity teams.  It was like having my own personal training lab with an endless supply of subjects.

If you just had surgery on your shoulder, that’s fine, let’s see what happens to your legs when we do some of THIS.  Shoulder pain-free, but you still have no strength, okay let’s try THIS.

You get the idea.

The breakthrough…

The breakthrough I am about to share actually came from football players, not hockey players – – you see A LOT more football players getting smashed up during the season than hockey players.  They are always doing something terrible to their shoulders – separations, dislocation, rotator cuff tears, etc. and the coach always wants them back in the line up, like yesterday.

So we went through the progressions – get their pain-free range of motion back, work on their stabilizers, get their big muscles strong again, teach them to take impulse loads and so on.

We would accomplish all of the above and they would go back to play, but some of them would get hurt again with the same injury (you cannot eliminate injuries from the game) and it was always so disappointing for us in the physio area and of course for the athlete.

Then I started making the connection between the nerves and the muscles stronger by including instability training and it made a huge difference.  I am not sure that it changed anything physically in terms of the actual muscles, but it definitely gave the athlete more ways to dynamically stabilize the injured joint while using the muscles that surround it.

French lessons for your muscles…

It was like a tutorial for their muscles.  What we did was re-acquaint the stabilizers and prime movers, help them learn to work together more cooperatively and create some shortcut patterns to improve the quality of the response.

The best way I can describe it is like learning a language at school, let’s say French for example.  You know how you speak a little herky-jerky because you are trying to find the right word?  But then you travel to Quebec or France where people speak French all the time and you hear them speak and you are speaking and before you know it, entire phrases are rolling off your tongue without even thinking about it.  Exact same thing.

So in today’s video I want to share with you an exercise that will show you right away how well your stabilizers and prime movers can ‘play ball’ together.  If you have a good quality stability ball rolling around the house somewhere give it a try.  If you go to a gym that has had the same stability ball since 1996, then do me a favour and take a pass.

If you cannot see the video in the player above, no worries, just click on the link below…

Final thing before I let you go – this is stability training, it has its time and place.  This is not how you develop max strength or explosive power, it is just one ingredient in the whole recipe, so don’t get carried away.

Being half Greek, I love garlic, but I don’t want to have it sprinkled on my apple pie – get it!

Now, let me know how you liked this exercise and if you want me to share some more of these integrated stabilization exercises so you can add them to your hockey training program.  If you want the exact recipe for how to these exercises blend with your strength, speed and stamina training then click HERE if you are a skater and HERE if you are a goalie.