Speed has multiple factors that can be built upon to create a faster athlete. Some of these factors can be influenced and others cannot, in this article we define these factors to help you understand how to improve hockey speed.
The glute ham device (GHD) is a piece of equipment we use often with our players. This machine works on building the hamstrings, glutes, and calves, aka the keys to great triple extension/speed. Triple extension is the rapid extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints-the stronger the triple extension by an athlete the greater the force production. When a player can create more power in their lower extremities the stronger & faster they'll be on their skates.
If you analyzed hockey players lower extremities alone you'll see two common muscle deficiencies.
- Over-developed vastus lateralis and under-developed inner quad muscles.
- Over-developed glutes/bicep femoris (outer hamstring) and under-developed semi tendinosis/membranous (inner hamstring muscles).
In this article we're going to focus on number 2, the under-developed hamstrings. Hamstring and glute strength are correlated with sprint/skating speed, which is why it's important to have both equally developed and strong. The GHD works to elongate the hamstring and create a contraction using body weight and added resistance (if applicable). Think of it as a bicep curl for your hamstring.
When performing the GHD there are a few key points to focus on for maximal muscle activation.
- Knees should be placed firmly into the larger pad and ankles should be locked into the back pads, feet touching the back platform.
- Squeeze your glutes (butt), hamstrings, and core-this will ensure lack of extending the back to compensate for lack of hamstring strength.
- Lower yourself while thinking push the hips forward and fully lengthening the legs.
- When you begin to feel your back round you're going to go back up to starting position, thinking hips forward and forcing the hamstrings to contract to create the upward momentum.
**There are different forms of GHD, including ways to add varied resistance and different methods for when to stop on the eccentric (downward motion). For this article we'll only be referencing the normal GHD movement.
If performed correctly you'll feel your calves, hamstrings, and glutes tighten up and contract (almost like they're being pulled on & stretched). When starting to implicate GHD into your program we recommend to leave your arms by your side and progress from there: arms across the chest, arms by ears, then added resistance (holding a weight). These progressions will result in proper understanding of the movement and development.
Common mistakes made on the GHD.
- Arching the head (not keeping neutral), this will take away the weight of your head (10-15 lbs), you're losing resistance by doing this-don't do it!
- Hyper-extending the back, this will take away work from the calves, hamstrings, and glutes by shifting force into the wrong areas being focused on, changing the levers.
- Performing to fast. Make sure you control the movement and work on understanding how different muscles contract and what they feel like; time under tension is huge in muscle strength/size development.
All things being equal the faster and stronger athlete will always win. This being said, make sure you utilize correct lifts to ensure your optimal development. When hamstring development is often lacking in hockey players it should be a point to make them a focus in your workouts. The GHD is one of the best exercises for hamstring development and can be a useful staple for your workout.
The debate of youth working out has raged for decades, the stunting of growth, increased injury-all worries of a parent or guardian. While science has consistently proven the benefits of working out when performed smart and safely for youth, you still have a small population who says otherwise.
Any qualified strength training professional realizes that it's safe for all ages to participate in working out, but all ages have different training needs. At Institute 3e this is our biggest challenge, helping parents understand why/what we do with different ages. Age-specificity is a huge part to our training success, obviously we don't train a 16 year old the same as an 8 year old, every individual has their own needs. These needs are determined by...
- Athlete's age - while age isn't the only predictor of training styles used, it's a component of assessing which training needs will be sought out.
- Physical maturity - every athlete develops at different rates-this determines the training methods used within their age-specific training style.
- Athletic ability - not all athletes are created equal, methods will vary according to ability, this aspect often goes hand in hand with physical maturing.
Every athlete has their own needs, every athlete requires varied instructions and exercises fully dependent on their abilities. Aside from improving already developed skills we always stress the importance of putting in the work at a young age. Accumulation of training years is huge for a young athlete's future success.
So does lifting cause stunting of growth and increased injury?
When you play a sport there is already an inherent risk of injury, strength training does not increase one's risk for injury when used properly. In a review performed to assess strength training in children and adolescents multiple factors were assessed and found.
- Injury - Any form of injury was always related back to misuse of equipment or lack of supervision. At Institute 3e we have multiple trainers working with every team to ensure safety and proper form. Along with this, we take a lot of time going through progressions to ensure proper form and movements are learned/adapted to.
- Strength - It was found that children/adolescents can improve their strength anywhere from 30-50% after 8-weeks of training consistently (strength %'s vary by athlete). Strength at Institute 3e doesn't just mean moving weights, it means moving the body in a stronger way. For example, a lot of our athletes have trouble climbing the rope their first visit, after coming consistently climbing the rope becomes easier and attainable. This is a form of tracked progress for us, methods we're using have made your athlete stronger in a safe way.
- Denser bones, stronger tendons, muscles, and ligaments - In a study examining the positive effects strength training has on youth 9-10 years old, bone and lean mass both increased. While some mass change was associated with normal growth, it was seen that strength training helped increase normal rates in a healthy manner. When muscle and bones get stronger the tendons and ligaments will do so as well.
- Growth plate injuries - In a review assessing youth/adolescent growth plate injuries it was observed that sports and poorly made programs played a large part in injuries. While some injuries an unavoidable and purely accidental, there are countermeasures that can be taken to decrease injury prevalence. The countermeasures noted in this review involve: smart coaching, individual programming, and attention to individual's needs (health & physical). All aspects we commonly practice at Institute 3e.
When playing sports and working out there will always be risk of injury, especially in high-speed contact sports. The most important aspect to healthy growth in younger athletes is careful supervision and well-designed exercise programs. We make it a point to structure our workouts to an athlete's age, physical maturity, and athletic ability to ensure safe and optimal growth.
Squatting is deemed as one of the best exercises for lower body strength and overall muscle development. Younger athletes can especially benefit from squatting, this movement will help increase range of motion (when performed properly) and build leg strength with stability for the future. When squatting there should be an effort to achieve full-depth, this will ensure for optimal growth and strength gain.
So why should hockey player squat? Let alone go to full-depth?
- Most bang for your buck: by achieving good form in a full-depth squat you're creating the most response possible in the muscles being worked. When you cut depth out you lose stimulus in muscles being targeted, for example, you'll miss out on musculature used to create increased hip drive from the bottom position. In short, the deeper the squat the higher the neuromuscular response will be; facilitating the most muscle fibers being stimulated.
- Joint stability: there's no debate that being able to maintain good posture with weight on your back will increase joint stability. The ankle, knee, hip, lower, mid, upper back, etc. will all benefit by handling weight through various ranges of motion. In hockey the back and lower body joints are in constant stress from skating and taking hits, stronger joints will help prevent injuries and instabilities. In hockey you're constantly hunched over skating, stronger (lower back/hip) joints will help improve your athletic posture and strength.
- Mobility: the best way to mobility/flexibility is to keep your mobility and flexibility. When you perform squats to full-depth you're putting yourself into positions that may not be achieved without weight. This will result in adaptation and will help increase your mobility to create the correct postures through the squat. Hockey players usually have tight hips from skating, squatting can help increase hip mobility by going to full-depth.
- Increased vertical jump/sprint speed aka explosiveness: we know vertical jumps and sprints all require aspects of power. Full-depth squats will help you do both of these better by facilitating more muscle fibers being worked, like stated above. This will have a crossover with your skating, the increased ability to produce power, the faster the ability you can skate/move.
Those 4 points are all an athlete can dream of: increased muscle/strength, reduced injury, stronger joints, more power, improved mobility. Squatting is a tool that shouldn't be overlooked, the earlier you start the better off you'll be for the future. If you're new to squatting and don't have access to proper coaching-check out the two videos below, the first is a video from Mark Rippetoe on back squatting and the second is from Charles Poliquin with tips on front squatting.