It’s called PLAY!

The amount of parents searching for ways to develop their childs talent in their sport has risen dramatically over the years. The discussion of yearlong play in one sport is continually debated and the use of private training sessions to improve fitness or sport skill is a popular trend. What is often ignored is the good old fashion PLAY! The ability for a child to learn and develop skill and movement patterns through Play is the best thing you can do for your Child!
Unfortunately we all know the decline of play due to technology. Or the consistent decline of free play on school playgrounds due to the fear of injury. We need to bring back the ability for kids to jump, run, throw, catch, climb in order to build our future athletes and reduce disease and obesity.

Take the example of year-long Hockey. Parents are looking for ways to improve their childs performance in the sport now and for the future but are ignoring the fact that it limits their ability to experience other sports & movement patterns and decreases unstructured play.
So how does Play actually help in the development of a child? If you take into consideration the windows of development for youth there are many skills that can be increased for further success down the road.
There needs to be a base of Fundamental movement skills through play. Skills such as speed, co-ordination, balance & agility (running, jumping, throwing, catching, climbing) are learned through fun games and play.

Lets take a look at the ages of 7-9 (boys) 6-8 (girls). Increasing Speed at this age sets them up for further Speed growth at a later age. Speed at this age doesn’t mean running sprints. It’s play based such as tag, kicking a soccer ball, playing pickup soccer. Multi-directional movements that have the child moving quickly.
The game of tag is a phenomenal way to increase speed. If you don’t run fast, you are going to be “it” a lot in the game! Kicking a soccer ball is a fast, powerful movement and looks at rotational hip power/speed and is another building block. Free play is the ability to let these kids run loose and just PLAY! There is an enormous amount of skill development, speed, co-ordination and movement patterns engrained in our nervous system when we allow our children to play.
Neuroplasticity is brain development! It responds to the stimulation of learning, movement and what we experience through our surroundings. The brain will adjust to activity and new pathways are generated! Can you imagine how much learning goes on in the brain when we allow our kids to play! The variety of movement and joint positions our body goes through. The changes in speed and the learning process of experimentation with play is mind boggling. We do have the ability to enhance our skill development and further our athletic potential through something as simple as PLAY!

The ages 9-12 (usually a year younger in girls) are important skill development years. We are reaching the years of incredible growth for your child. They are ready to dig deeper into learning movement patterns and increased skill development. Think of these years as future athletic development. Further fundamental sport skills can be practiced. Play & drills that involve movement co-ordination and teaches children to decelerate properly, land efficiently and accelerate. Hand-eye co-ordination, kicking, multidirectional drills, balance games can all benefit this stage of learning.

Success in sport has everything to do with learning how to move, respond and react to movement and outside forces. You need to get active and you need to allow your child to experience as many different movements as possible in order to train the brain!
Let Play be your childs foundation for learning because future potential depends on it!

Help save the athletes!

I am calling out to all the athletes in this beautiful world! Isn’t it wonderful to see the transformations and the strength gains through training. The ability to push the Human body to extremes…. Oh, but wait… Extreme really isn’t a word that sounds enticing. It actually sounds a little crazy and in the end will it build an athlete that can move and play better?

I actually wonder why it has become such a badge of honor to pound your body into the ground and think it’s an acceptable level of training? The one thing an athlete must cherish is the thing they are destroying! Their BODY! Their machine! Their bread and butter!

I have been fortunate to work with very high level athletes. These athletes have had many years of play behind them. These years of playing their sport have also been tough on their bodies. Lack of mobility in a joint, little stability in another. The fact that their “so called core strength” really isn’t strength at all, its compensation! For me, it becomes rebuilding the athlete into healthier, higher quality movement so they can keep playing their sport. Undiagnosed impingement, Labral tears, Patellofemoral pain syndrome. This becomes the avenue of rebuilding the athlete!
The concern is many athletes have undiagnosed issues and train through them. Squatting ass to grass may work for one person but how do you know if your hips can even get into that position without compensation or further hip damage! THIS IS THE PROBLEM! Each individual athlete must strive to build a BETTER athlete, a better body to save their career.

It has become so normal for an athlete to push themselves to extremes without knowing why! Is the drill challenging an energy system? Is the drill building on your strengths? Do you ignore your weaknesses? Is lifting heavy weight really helping if you have no understanding of Core tension or breath? Do you understand foot position, head position, grip, lat tension, big toe function. Are you ½ kneeling, tall kneeling? Should you be doing pushups or working on scapula motion first? Does your core react to the movement or are you compensating around it?

WHY ARE YOU DOING THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING? Are you building a GREAT athlete? Or just doing a hard workout?

STOP thinking that harder is better! Everything you put your body through now will either move you toward greater success down the road or push you closer to injury. That injury may not show its face now but trust me, it will and wouldn’t you hate it if suddenly it showed up a year into a new contract from previous years of crappy training.

Yes you must train hard, yes you must push the limits and challenge yourself but you must be smart and understand WHY!

Power and the Butt!

The ability to increase power to help sport performance is always on the list of goals for many athletes. Absorbing and reacting to force in your sport allows an athlete to perform at a much higher level. I have touched base on the importance of Hip mobility in previous articles as that plays a role in how well the athlete can increase power and speed. If you do not move well, you cannot perform or train well!

How do the Glutes (butt) play a role in sport performance and function? It decelerates, stabilizes and accelerates the hip in different planes of motion. Skating includes all these movements during heel return and stride pushoff. Not only do you need a hip that moves efficiently in regards to mobility you also need to have strength in all planes of motion to allow an increase in power development.
Most people focus on power development in one plane of motion. (straight ahead/up and down plyometric jumps) What if the limiting factor on-ice is lateral power? How well are you increasing power in side to side and rotational patterns?
A quality training program should look at all of these limiting factors and allow the athlete to understand ground reaction force. This is the force exerted into the body by proper deceleration mechanics into the ground.
When we plant a leg into the ground to stop quickly and change direction, that force from the ground into the body allows us to decelerate and accelerate quickly and efficiently and increase speed, power and quickness. This efficient movement requires a lot of proper mechanics coming from the hip.
Off-ice training such as sled pushes, deadlifts, plyometrics, single leg RDL are just some examples of ways to increase this goal but what if movement mechanics are faulty? What if we cannot decelerate efficiently? What if we lack hip extension? How do we know if the glutes are weak? What if our powerhouse called our “Ass” doesn’t do the job? This is where dysfunction masks results and you will feel “stuck”.

Sound training programs will allow the athlete to create success in each plane of motion but starting with the sagittal plane (front/back) is usually the norm. The attached video shows a single leg glute bridge (The Cook hip lift) that has many benefits. This is a sagittal plane movement.
- It allows the athlete to test & train left and right sides and recognize if there is a weakness between sides.
- It requires good anterior core function to help maintain a stable, neutral pelvis.
- It requires hip flexion on one side with hip extension on the other which brings both sides into the equation.

Exercise setup:
- On your back pull one leg into the chest and place a ball between the bottom of the rib cage and thigh.
- Pull the down leg closer toward the butt and into midline.
- Engage the down glute and lift the hip up while maintaining pressure through the heel/midfoot.
- Avoid letting the rib cage flare/low back arch while lifting. This means you are creating movement through the back and not through the hip.
- Use your breath to maintain a neutral position. Exhaling while lifting and at the top of the position may allow you to keep the rib cage down.
- With the arms along the floor you can press into the ground to create some core tension. This tension helps to “turn on” the anterior core and help stabilize the pelvis.
- The goal is to have a straight line from your shoulders, up through your hip and knee as you extend the hip and lift up.

The athlete may need to start with a double leg bridge and progress to a single leg bridge depending on results from an assessment/movement screen.

Perfecting the Deadlift

Perfecting the deadlift is one of the most challenging movements in a gym setting. Due to daily repetitive patterns the majority of clients become knee dominant. They sit at a desk all day or drive hours for their job. We lose movement patterns that were fluid as a child. We create movement in our system where we should be stable. We lose mobility where we are meant to have effortless motion. Age doesn’t become as issue unless you spend years NOT moving! Maintaining proper function at the hip allows us to maintain a healthier low back and helps the athlete improve performance.

In the gym setting cueing for proper deadlift technique shouldn’t take you straight into heavy weight simply because the majority of individuals have lost the ability to move through the hip. An athlete may experience the same movement issues due to mobility restrictions or non-contract injuries that limit hip mobility. The low back takes on the load and we start to look for movement and power from the low back. We need to understand that our hips and efficient movement through the hips is our highway to speed and power. If we can understand hip dominant motion we can understand the correct technique for deadlifts.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The ability to load a heavy deadlift is not your only answer for increased speed and power development. A strong and stable core must function correctly to transfer power and stabilize. But so many have lost proper hip function and they must relearn this pattern in order to progress through a sound training program. In order to get strong you must have the ability to lift heavy.

When working with a client we spend quality time grooving the hip hinge pattern. The use of a dowel rod comes in handy and gives great feedback to a client relearning this pattern and allows the client to experience the “stay where you start” position.
deadlift
Technique tips:

- Place the dowel rod along the spine. Contact points should be head, shoulder blades and tail bone.

- The use of a mirror beside you will allow you to view the space between the low back and the dowel. Too much space takes you into an extended pattern which means less core/hip stability and more work on the hip flexors/quads & greater stress through the low back. Every client is different and the amount of space between the low back and the dowel should be cued differently. Have a goal of enough space to slide a flat hand through and no more.

- I encourage the client to sit into the hips or push the bum back toward a wall. Starting the movement at the hips and adding enough knee bend to maintain a straight (vertical) tibia (calf). Driving the knees forward or starting the movement at the knee means you are squatting the pattern, knee dominant and not hip hinging.

- Push the floor away from you as you stand up. This is a push pattern more then a pull pattern. The feeling should come from the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings).

-Maintaining the stay where you start position through the spine will decrease risk of injury and avoid the low back from doing the work.

It’s important to note that the photo attached is geared toward learning the pattern! There will be technique tweaks for things such as the height of the client, the tool used for the deadlift, restrictions. It is important to asses and not guess!

The Window

It’s interesting to see the dynamics of children involved in sport. The fights, the jokes, the display of honor, the dedication and the smiles involved.
Sport! I can’t imagine a life without it. I see the benefits it brings for all kids involved. The friendships and the fun as well as the learning through movement as each child plays and performs at their own level. The amount of growth and ability they gain each year is fascinating.

The innocence and beliefs at such a young age seem to go unnoticed and ignored by so many adults. Yes, it’s frustrating at times and annoying but it’s those times of reflection that make you realize that being an adult…. can suck, because as an adult we all create the baggage of politics involved in Youth Sport. Well, maybe not all the time but we sure do lose a lot of the innocence we had as children. I look at the dynamics of boys and sport. Why boys? Because I have 2 and see those dynamics differently then what I believe things were like as a girl growing up.

I watch how boys react to disagreements. They usually lead right back to friendship. The emotional attachment is tight in a sense that friendship overpowers any dislike. One minute a friend, the next fighting over a goal scored during mini hockey but right back at friendship the very next minute! I see this in boys and it fascinates me! As an adult, why can’t we step away and look through that Window and appreciate the same qualities.
Here is the fine line with adults involved in youth sport! The window becomes cloudy and our competitive nature takes over. I believe sport is a learning tool but I also believe there is a competitive nature tied to any game. We can make ourselves feel better by saying “it’s all about the kids and winning doesn’t matter” but how do you explain that to an 8 year old when he is cheering on Team Canada to win the Gold medal or Sidney Crosby who is holding the Stanley cup high over his head! This is winning and how can you not be competitive when at such a young age they understand the outcome.
But….
What if our children learned from each other instead of their coach? What if they practiced together with no adults or did not overhear an adult conversation expressing frustration. Would they complain about the ref? Would they be upset if they lost a game? That would be an interesting window to look through!
As an adult the emotions can win over and frustration sets in but this is where I look through that window and realize that adults need to appreciate disagreements and agree to disagree. The very next minute smile and talk about the weather! Why can’t parents accept that frustration, deal with it and move on without a grudge? Politics in sport would dissolve and Sport for kids would be just that…for kids! I say we all need to be like boys!

Adults will argue. Adults will wear rose colored classes while looking at their children. Adults will be competitive and adults will always want the best for their child BUT the world of sport would be a much better place if each adult & parent would appreciate that not everyone is right. We all come with our own values and beliefs but as long as we agree to disagree our kids will enjoy their sport so much more!
Look through the window and see how your child reacts. Sometimes it isn’t so bad and we are the ones making a big deal of something so small. Let go of the baggage and have some fun!
hockey youth

The view from Inside

As he rides the bike watching Sport highlights Stacy Roest is still holding his own in the retired hockey player workout department. No matter how much we razz each other, it’s all based on respect, fun and friendship. He is one of the most respectful men I have ever met. Stacy Roest had a great career in the sport of Hockey. 17 years in the NHL and Europe with the high-powered Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild. He concluded his career with 9 seasons with Rapperswil in Switzerland and was a member of Team Canada in 6 Spengler cups before he hung up his stakes as a player. He now continues a career in the NHL community as The Director of player development for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I spent many years training Stacy through the summer with fellow trainees Chris Osgood, Eric Godard, Steve Kelly, Tyler Wright and Matt Higgins. Still not sure which one was the biggest talker!
I was interested in learning more from Stacy and his experiences as Director of player development in Tampa, his view on Minor hockey and youth today, the growth of the sport and his hockey journey through the years. We did this all with only one jab about my taste in music!

The difference for me as a trainer with these guys is I never felt I had to really PUSH them MORE. They pushed themselves, they pushed each other! They HAD to beat the other guy. That work ethic showed and that is one reason they played so many years in the pros. How important was that to Stacy? “At that level it’s so important to train with the same sport athletes and someone who can push you to a higher level”. They wouldn’t allow the other to beat them, they worked hard and they had to because staying at the pro level is a challenge in itself. “No matter how hard you work, there is always someone working harder than you. You have to have that mentality”. Two standouts for Stacy in the workout department throughout his career were Steve Yzerman and Chris Draper from the Red Wings. “Those two guys were the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in the gym. They taught me so much about work ethic”. That work ethic is a perfect example on the length of their career and their play on the ice.
How does this apply to the 17/18 year old player? So many are on the same level and it’s the extra effort off the ice that shows. How well is their 3rd period performance? Do they have the conditioning level that allows that great play to continue? “If they are good in the 1st period, they have to be good in the 3rd, and that is good conditioning”.
“Those are the game breakers, the players who continue great play through 3 periods and who are able to score the big goals in the 3rd period”.
Good advice to prospects that Stacy works with and to younger players who feel they have a shot at the big league!
As a trainer I see the toll a long season takes on the body. Hockey is such a fast, physical sport. Non-contact injuries or aches and pains that make their way around a dressing room seem to be consistent everywhere in Hockey. “Groins, back, hips were always the same areas that would be a complaint from players”. This is why a structured off-ice training program is so important! “It’s so important to get good training to keep you healthy and extend your career”
Skill development is also a key factor. “You can always improve your skating, your stick handling, shooting. These are skills that the pros still put countless hours in. If you think you have the skill, work harder, be better. Always look for improvement in skill development”. Work ethic wasn’t an issue for Stacy throughout those summers of training. He worked hard, he pushed himself!
“You must always ask yourself when you look in the mirror, are you proud of the work ethic you gave? That is always the one thing you can control”

I spent some time talking to Stacy about youth development and the growth of Hockey in Canada. What it is like to be a coach and father of a son who plays. He had a quick response to one of my first questions. What he felt was one downfall in minor hockey today. “Too much emphasis on winning” He made a great point. How can we keep the numbers up? How can we avoid kids quitting the sport we both love? Is that emphasis on winning pushing young kids away from the fun of hockey? Stacy also sees the importance of skill development. Through his years in Switzerland he experienced their emphasis on skill development compared to system development. Skating, stick handling, protecting the puck…. Skills that make you a better player! “You can practice break outs, power plays, penalty kills all you want but if you can’t skate, if you can’t shoot, if you can’t pass, if you can’t protect the puck then you are missing the mark”

What about multi-sports? Year long hockey is the norm for so many kids. We both agreed on the importance of multi-sports and how this makes a well rounded athlete. This topic was a no-brainer!
As both our kids make their way through Minor Hockey the controversial topic of hitting came up. Should there be? Should there not? What is right? By taking hitting out of rep at this level is it keeping players in the game longer? Are the smaller players enjoying the game longer? “Does this improve skill development because you have the ability to carry the puck a bit longer?” I had a conversation in the summer with clients Aaron Volpatti, (Washington Capitals), Jerred Smithson (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Brady Brassart (Calgary Hitmen) about hitting at the pee wee level. It’s interesting to get their views with all the experience between these players, they give some great feedback.
“Who is teaching them to hit?” Is there so much growth difference at the bantam level that it isn’t a good age to introduce hitting? Should it return to pee wee? We could debate this topic forever but Stacy brings a good question to the table. “Are we teaching our kids to take a hit and finish their check or are we just teaching them to ram other players into the boards?” Through his minor hockey Stacy remembers being taught to finish checks and to stay in the play. It wasn’t about big hits or head shots. With the controversy of fighting, head shots and concussions it comes down to the players. “It’s respect for each other as a player. The only way it can be cleaned up is by the players, the players at every level”

Between sport highlights and making sure his wife, Billie, was training hard in the next room we ended the conversation with something that stuck with me. We talked about parental involvement in sport. “We all want our kids to succeed, hockey is a commitment, it cost money but as a parent how are you going to deal with decisions and outcomes. If your child gets cut from a team are you going to move forward? Will you learn from it to make yourself a better player? Our reaction as parents clearly plays a role in how our children respond. They react how we react”
It’s another controversial topic because we all know too well the negative situations that some parents can create while they are living their dream through their child.
“As a player my one regret was being too hard on myself early in my career. If something happens and you make a mistake, learn from it and get better… improve”

Thanks Stacy. We spent some quality time without making fun of each other! I wouldn’t have it any other way. We keep each other on our toes! Now stop complaining about my music and give me my Tampa shirt?

stacey roest detroit

stacy roest spengler

Everyone burps…everyone farts…everyone takes a sh*t!

Here’s the thing. I don’t care what I look like. Hmmm, I’m sure that could be taken many ways! But, it’s a good thing. Everyone has things about themselves that they hate. Don’t lie… it’s human nature! We pick ourselves apart probably on a daily basis. Yes, I certainly have things I don’t like about myself but I also appreciate the ability of what I can do. The older I get the more I appreciate Me and the more I don’t care, but in a good way.

It makes me glad I have two boys. I won’t have to live with the teenage years or hormonal episodes of girls. The constant social hype of looking good & being skinny. The world will never change! I really don’t see a world of acceptance for all shapes and sizes. Sorry, not gonna happen! So why stress? Wouldn’t you want to go through each day being happy about yourself for who you are? Sounds totally cliche, I know but bare with me. I don’t care about myself…. in a good way!
What the hell does that even mean? It means I don’t give a crap if my hair is constantly tied back in a pony. It’s amazing to have your hair out of your face when you are training! What a free feeling. I don’t worry that I look like a sweaty mess after a workout and my hair looks like crap because I had an amazing workout! I moved my body… I defuzzed! I made steps to be healthier and happier!

I don’t give a crap if I hunt daily for the same gray hoody I got at a Strength & Conditioning conference. It almost never leaves my body because it’s comfortable & cozy as hell and keeps me warm! It makes me happy as a pig in shit!

I don’t give a crap if my jeans are now tighter around my ass then they were a few years ago. I have worked hard on creating a powerful, strong butt! I lift heavy shit, I push sleds, I squat, I deadlift… I look forward to a great strength workout because my ass will get bigger!.. yup, that’s right ladies… my ASS will get BIGGER! Bring it on!

I don’t give a crap about what people think of me. What has that done? It has allowed me to be myself. I can laugh and act like a complete idiot in front of true friends and clients because we have fun! We laugh, we aren’t afraid to be ourselves, to express opinions or beliefs because we CAN! I have created an amazing circle of friends through my work. My days consist of nothing but laughs, happiness and encouragement because we can be ourselves!

I don’t give a crap if what comes out of my mouth shocks you? Because every single time it has allowed another individual to express a thought or emotion they were scared to mention. It means what you say can’t be that bad??? So in a sense, I am making you look better because I’m fairly certain I would probably say something a bit more stupid anyways but, remember, I don’t care…. but in a good way!

I don’t give a crap if I wear no makeup and have no super model secrets hidden in my back pocket. How refreshing is it to not worry about make-up smudges. I save a shitload on cosmetics….because I don’t buy them! I have no worries about my sweat towel getting make-up caked on it. And wearing make-up is just way too much work!

I don’t give a crap! But in a good way! Why is it good? I am happy! I am happy that I don’t need to walk around daily struggling with “how does my hair look”. Or “Does my butt look fat in these jeans?”
Everyone burps, everyone farts, everyone takes a shit! That is my mentality. It’s freeing! It allows me to focus on important things in life. How can I be a better mother and wife? How can I make my clients fitness journey better? How can I learn and educate myself to a higher level? How can I keep myself healthy & happy? Once you start to not give a shit…. you appreciate everything!

Hockey Conditioning – is there an off season?

Michael Statchuk - BCHL Vernon Vipers

ImageThe Sport of Hockey is my favorite, yup, best ever!  I’ll say it again FAVORITE sport to play, watch and learn.  As far as I’m concerned it would be pretty tough to convince me otherwise!  I won’t go into details of the skill, strength, speed, power…  I’ll keep going, but as I said, I won’t go into details! 

I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing athletes as they prepare for the upcoming Hockey season and concentrate on the previous seasons physical hiccups.  As our youth become more absorbed in the sport and parents look for avenues to excel their child it’s a fine line between work and play for these kids.  Remember, the athletes I work with in the summer train because it’s their career!  They need to stay on top of their game but how do we help young kids who dream of Hockey for life and keep the parents pulled back from extreme situations that may lead to early burnout? 

It’s easy….. work with someone who KNOWS.  It should be fairly easy to say to parents “let your child have fun, let them play different sports and let them experience what it’s like to be a kid”.  This is the best way to develop your child!  But lets get serious here, you have all heard that before, I’m sure, so I might as well share what you are looking for! 

Through the years of working with athletes especially Hockey there are always the same issues in the gym we tend to focus on.  Maintaining mobility (athlete specific) is usually at the top of the list.  Now, does the athlete feel “tight” because the body is in protective mode or are they truly tight?  (That is a different article) but to keep it simple maintaining functional mobility for the athlete will help reduce injuries and allow the athlete to make some gains in the gym.  This isn’t an off-season goal, it’s in-season as well!  There are many games and practices but not much focus spent on off-ice training. Moving a joint in several ranges of motion can feed the joint and keep it healthy. This means a well balanced program with different movement patterns. Incorporating head to toe training which allows Sling systems (fascia/muscle) to do their job. Move in full range, gain strength and force production in full range. If you have actually stopped to appreciate the ability of movement ranges the human body can perform ON ICE, wearing skates at high speed you will soon appreciate why a balanced training program is so important.
Get strong and stay strong! Strength is a foundation built upon an even BETTER foundation of symmetry. Do you have pain? Are your hips “tight”? Does your shoulder hurt? Then why would you gain any possible strength if you do not address these prior limitations? If there is a problem (even if you don’t feel it) it will become an even greater problem!

If you are a parent looking for an off-ice program for your child there must be some individualized assessment/programming involved. You are setting your child up for success at a later date. Yes, there will be gains BUT as your child grows you are entering into different windows of opportunity and believe it or not, these gains will show their face down the road. This means MAKE GOOD CHOICES NOW!

Current client Jerred Smithson who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs says it best below (Thank you Jerred)

“Over the past few years I started training with Rhonda. During this time she has really opened up my eyes and mind when it comes to properly training and preparing for my upcoming hockey season. She really helped me realize the importance of proper technique as well as not only working hard but working smart. As I get older in ‘the hockey world’ I’m starting to notice in my training more aches and pains from years of not training smart and using improper technique at an early age. She’s helped me correct a lot of those issues and I already notice a huge difference in my training and on ice performance. I honestly believe if I would have started training with Rhonda when I first started training for hockey, that I would not have had to battle through these aches and pains and my on ice performance would have been a lot more efficient and explosive. I would recommend Rhonda to anyone who is wanting to better themselves and get the most out of there training.”

The years spent playing Hockey (or any sport) take their toll on the body but it may take years to realize. Make good choices and make them now!

(Photos: Left Michael Statchuk BCHL Vernon Vipers, Michael Roberts BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Jerred Smithson NHL Toronto Maple Leafs)

 

Keeping the Shoulder Healthy!

With the hockey season now getting into full swing the Vernon Vipers are continuing their in-season training with Catt Conditioning. 4 days per week you will find the team training in the facility. For the hockey athlete it’s important to maintain the strength they have gained in the off-season while continuing to improve tissue quality, mobility and stability and help reduce the aches and pains that come with such a high intensity sport. Shoulder injuries are one of the main injuries that arise. Some being contact injuries through hits in a game and others because of the high repetitive demands of the game and life.

Hockey is an amazing sport! Who can argue with the speed, intensity, power and even grace of being able to perform on skates and ice! How can you deny that it’s the best sport in the world! (at least in my books!) It’s important to keep the athlete healthy and injury free.

The shoulder is a very interesting topic. So much dysfunction from the shoulder can come from everywhere surrounding it. The guilty parties are busy creating havoc on the shoulder, never getting any attention while the shoulder gets all the blame. For everyone who suffers with some type of shoulder dysfunction but has never been involved in a contact injury, maybe it’s time to search elsewhere!
Yes, look AWAY from the shoulder!

Our first order of business is looking at the Thoracic Spine and the neck. If there is a Neurological problem in the neck this can refer to the shoulder. Improper breathing patterns can lead to shoulder weakness and dysfunction. Lack of Thoracic spine mobility can lead to shoulder dysfunction. Do you see how so many things play a role in the health of our shoulder!

With a restriction in your breathing pattern such as reduced diaphragm breathing and dominate shoulder/chest breathing the muscles that should help you move, lift and load during sport or exercise are fatigued. You tire quickly without achieving your goals in your fitness program such as pressing or pulling patterns. Another fact is with proper breathing this increases expansion/mobility through the Tspine. In order for our Thoracic spine to move freely it needs us to breath correctly or in the end we become restricted and shoulder range is lost.
Trigger points in the upper traps, lats and other areas continue this restriction and stretching may only increase this restriction because the muscle is trying to protect itself. Massage therapy and Self Myofascial release is the best way to reduce trigger points and increase range.
Once mobility is gained and thoracic stability is then included then we can move forward to more of a loading phase but if you skip any of the important steps above you will fight through the remainder of a conditioning program without making the gains you strive for!

What steps should you take first in achieving a healthy shoulder? Start with these 3 simple steps first.
1. Look for a qualified professional who can perform an FMS (Functional movement screen) and explain your results.
2. Reduce trigger points in the upper trap, lats, and additional areas in shoulder, upper back. Trigger point work with a tool you can tolerate such as a Trigger point ball, tennis ball or a partner can use a massage stick or dowel rod.
3. Perform mobility such as rib grab, push/pull rotation patterns.

There are several additional steps but getting going on the right path is never a bad thing.

viper rolling

Sidelying push/pull for Thoracic mobility
Lay on your Right side with your legs pulled up to hip height and stacked together. You can place a rolled up towel or Yoga block between your knees. Rotate away from your legs (to your left) and reach both arms up to the ceiling. Exhale your air out as you pull your left arm down and push your right arm up. Elbows should be straight. Squeeze the knees together to incorporate added stability. This will help improve the mobility needed at the Tspine (upper back). Maintain straight arms and have the movement come from the upper back only. Repeat 3 times then change to the opposite side. If one side is worse, spend quality time on the restricted side until you find a balance between both.

viper tspine pushpull

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