Ban crunches from your hockey workout.

Hi Gang,

Hope you all had a great Labour Day weekend!  We had great weather here in southern Ontario – it was awesome!

I want to share an idea with you.  The idea is banning crunches from your hockey training.  Why you ask?  Well, you know that I like all to relate every exercise to a functional outcome on the ice.  For example a split squat builds leg strength from a staggered stance which puts one hip flexor in a lengthened position while working balance.  Both will help you on the ice.

Now if I put the crunch through the same test – how does this help you perform on the ice?  Hmmm…well if I get knocked right onto my butt then I can use my abs to sit up as I watch the other team skate the puck down the ice.  You may say, ‘Well Maria, you could sit up to get back onto your feet’ which is true, although watch guys after they have been knocked onto their butt and they typically roll over to their stomach, push themselves up and pull their feet up underneath them to stand up.

So beyond being less than useful on the ice, a spine biomechanist from the University of Waterloo by the name of Dr. Stuart McGill has done some amazing studies over the past decade or so looking at how much load a spine can handle before failure (read: major injury).  Dr. McGill believes, based on his scientific observations that most disc herniation injuries are a result of overuse in flexion. 

The flexion can be from sitting with poor posture through the day, poor biomechanics during your daily activities or repetitive stress from using poor exercise selection or poor exercise technique.  Add to that the fact that most hockey players play with a flexed (rounded) lumbar spine and you have quite a few risk factors piling up.

I have never been a huge fan of crunching because most people want to perform these exercises ad nauseum in their pursuit of  six pack abs.  Well, I learned in second year of university that you cannot spot reduce.  So if you have blubber over your abs you can crunch until the cows come home, but you are better off working on high intensity cardio if you want the six pack. 

Up until reading this info from Dr. McGill however I was not opposed to crunches, I just thought I could train the core better using different exercises from a standing or prone position.  With this scientific support, I will strictly limit the crunching exercises that I add to any workout.  Dr. McGill has created a crunch technique intended to reduce the stress on the lower back and I will share it with you in my next post.  Stay tuned.