Lifting weights will not kill your flexibility.

goalie strength training and flexibilityI am going to dispel a huge goalie strength training myth in a minute, but first, I hope you had a great week, mine was still a little funny with the high school kids still off for Christmas break.  I was sorry to see the Canadian Juniors lose to Russia in the semis of the World Junior Hockey Championships, but I was happy to see Sweden win gold for the first time in 31 years – congratulations!

I had quite a bit of feedback on the Crossfit video I posted the other day – I could not agree more.  Seeing things like this truly hurt my soul (and I am not trying to be funny here).  It must be like a surgeon seeing a video of someone operating with a butter knife.  I firmly believe that my first job as a strength and conditioning coach is the same as a doctors – ‘first, do no harm’.  I am going to do a full post on that in a few days – I will answer your questions about my thoughts on CrossFit and the ever popular P90X, so stay tuned.  In today’s post I am going to dispel the goalie strength training myth that lifting heavy weights will reduce your flexibility.

Before I get to that – you may have noticed from my list of goals that to achieve a few of them I would have to travel far from home – Scotland and Ireland to be specific.  Well, you know what a keener I am, so I am willing to travel far and wide to achieve my goals of climbing a Munro (a mountain over 300oft in Scotland – which does not sound like much – but they actually look pretty rugged in the photos) and having a pint of Guinness at Bono’s hotel in Dublin.  Paul and I will be in Scotland and Ireland for the first two weeks of March.  So if any of you have suggestions of places to visit just let me know.  I would also be interested in doing a 1-2 hour workshop on off-ice hockey/goalie training (the Canadian way) when I am over there if it works out.  Don’t tell Paul – this is supposed to be a holiday!  ha ha.  So let me know your thoughts.

Okay – on to dispelling goalie strength training myths….

How your current goalie strength training program may be killing your speed.

I love to talk goalie training with anyone – I like to go on the message boards over at goaliestore.com or goaliecrease.net and answer questions about off-ice training or offer advice when needed.

I see a couple of trends in goalie strength training that disturb me and today I am going to talk about one that is so fundamentally flawed.  I think I can really help you by clearing up the “Bulking Myth”.

Like most good urban legends, the Bulking Myth for Goalies has several versions, but the basic ingredients are a recommendation to lift light weights for high reps when doing your goalie strength training so you do not bulk up and lose your flexibility.  You’ve heard it right?  Or you have maybe been told by a trainer or coach – squats are good, but since you are a goalie you should use light weight and do at least 15 reps so you don’t get too big.

So let’s dispel this myth right now – number one – adding muscle bulk is not easy, so most of you can stop worrying that if you did a set of heavy squats your thighs would be busting out of your pants.  Add to that the fact that actual body builders typically lift with a higher volume than an athlete – high reps and high sets so they cause more micro trauma to their muscle fibres which stimulates the body to repair and rebuild with larger muscles.  So that is the practical side of the argument, here is the physiology and performance side to the argument.

As a goalie do you need to be quick and powerful for short burst of activity?  Is it those movements where you earn your keep?  Is it that speed and power that gets the attention of your teammates, coaches and scouts?  I am going to say “Yes”.

Granted you are on the ice the entire game and you need to play a good tactical game to make consistent saves, but where you win games, where you steal a game for your team is with the dynamic saves where you need that agility.

Tapping into your High Threshold Muscle Fibres

Speed comes from the high threshold muscle fibres – they are called ‘high threshold’ because they will not kick in until they are needed.  They let the little endurance muscles do all the light lifting and they only come into play when the loads get heavy.  These are the fast twitch muscles of a sprinter – not the slow twitch muscles of a marathoner.

Now let’s address the flexibility portion of the myth.  Athletes lack flexibility because they either have some genetic connective tissue restrictions – I am not joking here, during my years working in a sport medicine clinic we did see athletes who seemed to just have very restrictive connective tissue.  It would not be uncommon to see a football player come in with the flexibility of binder twine, then later his Dad might come in for a golf injury and BAM – the same tightness and soft tissue quality.  Now  I do not know if this is a ‘real’ condition that can be passed down from generation to generation, but there do seem to be differences in our inherent soft tissue flexibility.

But, let’s say you have average flexibility.  You do your goalie specific flexibility training like the 14-day flexibility challenge for goalies that I posted a few months ago.  You can do a good full deep squat keeping your chest up, your have a decent butterfly flare and you can manage a nice kick save from time-to-time without hearing and tears, pops or snaps.

When you start lifting heavier loads, you will not lose that flexibility, unless you are training using non-functional movement patterns.  So if you do heavy squat training and where you once did nice squats down to a thighs parallel position for 15 reps, but now you load up the bar with so much weight that you can only get down into a quarter squat for 6 reps – well, you can see how you are not using your body through your full functional range of motion.

Lifting heavy, does not mean using poor form

So the key to lifting heavier is to select a weight that you can lift through your full functional range of motion with perfect technique.  This is where working with a strength coach can really help you maximize your time spent in the gym.

A good goalie strength training program will also lead you from lighter loads to progressively heavier, lower volume lifting sessions in a save and progressive manner.  You should not just walk into the gym and start lifting heavy for 4-6 reps, it is a process.

I feel a bit like this was a scattered argument, but the bottom line is this – your goalie strength training should include heavy lifting (4-6 reps) for some of your big muscle exercises, if you keep up with your flexibility training and workout using full functional range of motion, you will not lose your mobility and you will gain lateral speed.

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