3 essential tactics for program design.
(version française au bas de l’article)
Careful attention needs to be given to collect the most information about the sport and all requirements, in order to shape the athlete around the foundations and all the complex interactions between the different elements.
You can’t look at the movement and simply try and add some resistance to it. For example, let’s take a hockey slap shot. I’ve seen some crazy shit, which one was a guy attaching a pulley to the end of a hockey stick and mimic the movement. This is just a poor comprehension of what lies behind any sports related movement as a whole.
Top left pic
-I always say that core starts from the extremities, enter the rotational force. This is the best example and in many aspects of hockey. In this case, as soon as you lift up the stick to wind up, the left shoulder and arm extends, stretching up the torso and especially the left shoulder away from the right hip. All this energy building up is the stretch reflex needed to pull down the arm and initiate the downward line for the slap.
N.B. We have what we call elastic strength. Our muscle tissues and tendons have the ability to absorb, store and release energy. The right exercices and type of training will make those movements faster and more powerful.
First off the stick weighs almost nothing at this point, so even if you attach the pulley at the top of the swing, it would be useless. The rotational force won’t come from the weight you have to push down, it will come from many muscles firing up at the same time. You must see different parts of the movement, add them all as a whole, which is the major mistakes of some strength coaches who try to « innovate ».
So no matter how you try to add resistance to a slapshot, velocity is key, which in this case is speed-strength, moving at very high speed with a given load. For Speed-strength, here the Load never changes. Functional strength is the name of the game, more on this later.
Top right and bottom left picture
The stick actually bends a little as it hits the ice , giving the stick some power to sling shot the puck as the player pushes it on top of that. Think internal rotator, pec, shoulder and back, where the right arm pulls back to lift the stick when the right arm presses/pushes upwards.
All the antagonist muscles are at work to slow down the swing, low back, internal and external obliques, abs and lats. Legs do some stabilization work along the way and posterior chain holding on and hamstring controlling knee stability.
Now, a slap shot is not the only thing to look at for a hockey player’s performance. If he doesn’t get to the puck, it’s useless. However, the same muscles that are important for a powerful slap shot are about the same as one for power skating.
Now, what to do with all this information. I look for 3 elements.
In what position is the athlete the strongest and weakest? How can I make him faster/stronger? What are his main tasks?
In this case, think core, back, posterior chain, scapular chain.
How can I make the athlete stronger/faster/powerful? Which exercise will give him the most bang for his bucks and the best performance?
In this case, think Speed-strength, explosive strength, reactive strength.
Where do I want to bring him/her? What qualities does he need to gain in order to compete at optimal capacities?
In this case, think outside the box. Besides building a great posterior chain and back muscles for optimal sprinting performance, one could also think about gaining lean muscle mass in order to minimize injuries, since hockey is a high impact sport. Alternate phases of hypertrophy, functional hypertrophy and strength. Every strength quality will feed from each other making the athlete strong, powerful and less prone to injuries. Building muscle is like covering the joints with a protective layer. The same goes for all other high impact, sports like football, rugby and combat sport.
High impact sports like football/rugby and combat sports share similarities. Let’s take a judoka and an offensive lineman. Positional strategy is primordial when a few seconds could settle the score or an advantage.
The push/pull and reactive power/strength is a very common strategy in combat sports (football lineman have very similar strategies as grappling for tackles and blockages). Hand placement plays a major role in how to stop your opponent and inside grabs gives the advantage and control more often than not.
The guy throwing is Shohei Ono, one of the top competitors today. To provoke his opponent to open up his stance and to stand up, Ono needs to push and pull a few times, timing his entrance with his opponent’s reaction. As he pushes, the opponent pushes back. That’s when Ono pulls at the same time, pulling him inside with inside grips flaring the elbow of his opponent to throw his balance off. That’s where Ono goes in for the Uchi and loads him up on his hips to hit him with the earth. Rotation power and speed at it’s best.
In grappling, wrestling and Brazilian jiujitsu, especially high levels, the starting position is very similar as the Offensive or defensive line. They charge forward. The difference between the offensive line and grappling is that they want to break defense, they must charge through, break the wall. Here we can see that he deters one opponent to stop the other passing through.
For both scenarios, think posterior chain. The angle of attack is practically the same. Also, front pressing/pushing and yet again, the core. You can clearly see how the core plays a major role into redirecting or stopping a greater force, decelerating and changing direction.
The choice of exercises depends on the goal. To cover strength speed I would go for pulls, rack pulls, deadlifts and hang cleans and power cleans. Why?
See anything similar? Top pictures would look like a O-line pushing through or a judoka pulling their opponent in for the throw. Bottom left is also for the push forward in wrestling or Offensive and defensive line. This is the reason why Olympic lifts are number one in my book since the offer the greatest transfer of strength and power to their line of duty.
While mastering those lift with heavy and relatable loads might be time consuming, you could always use similar movements, somewhat of a break down if these lifts in your periodization.
For hockey, wrestling and combat sports, unilateral work must be included such as split squats, split jerks, front barbell split squats, lunges and so many more of their permutations. In almost every plan, I always focus on unilateral work first and move on to bilateral work such as deadlift, pulls, rack pulls and specific Olympic lifts like variations of the cleans.
Although this might seem complex to match the appropriate strength curve, lifting and practicing, watching videos and slow-motion reviews sharpens your eye. Evaluate the sport, the athlete and make both worlds meet. Work your way up from weaknesses, nothing can go wrong since you’ll be leaving no room for mishaps and unforeseen injuries, or at least, putting all the cards on your side.