Many people overlook the importance of mobility in training regimes. Mobility can be defined as the ability to move a limb actively through its full range of motion in a controlled and stable manner. To clarify, there is a difference between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle (or group of muscles) to passively lengthen through a range of motion. Stretching works on lengthening and shortening tight muscles to help to improve flexibility, while mobility goes much deeper than muscle tightness. Mobility addresses all elements that may limit movement and performance such as soft tissue restriction, range of motion dysfunction, and joint capsule restriction to name a few.
Joint mobility exercises are beneficial for increasing range of motion and restoring lost movement patterns, but the benefits exceed that. They can help to prevent injuries before they arise. Don’t get me wrong: raw strength, speed, and power are all extremely crucial, but equally so is the ability to move your joints through their full range of motion, especially for athletes. Joint mobility should be considered as general maintenance for your body. Just as your car needs oiling and tires need pumping, our bodies have similar needs. Strength development suffers without proper joint mobility. If you have reduced joint mobility, performing quality deadlifts, squats, presses etc. is going to become difficult. Inadequate mobility also significantly increases your risk of injury because if one joint does not move well, there’s going to be compensation from somewhere else. This can lead to a loss of power, strength, or range of motion and increase ones risk of injury.
Power output and speed can be compromised with reduced joint mobility. When shooting an arrow, the farther you pull the string back, the more tension there is, and the farther the arrow shoots. This analogy can be applied to your joints. For example, while squatting, greater joint mobility at the hips and ankles will allow you to get lower and in turn will allow you to generate more tension and greater power.
You can use mobility exercises as a warm up, an active recovery between sets, or as a workout on its own. Joint mobility exercises can be prescribed as methods of rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, and as a means of athletic enhancement.
One mobility exercise that I would highly recommend is the “Couch Stretch”. You’ll see athletes, and everyday people, using this exercise to increase their mobility. The best part about this is that it can be performed at the gym, or even in the comfort of your own home (see photos).
People generally disregard the mobility portion of the workout without realizing its benefits to their overall well-being. Properly learned and maintained joint mobility can restore complete freedom of motion to your many joints.
Each and every year strength training becomes more and more popular with hockey players of all ages. Along with its popularity come many misconceptions, myths and misunderstandings of how to train properly and what are realistic expectations of what an athlete can achieve from their training. Here are two of the popular myths regarding strength training and hockey.
Myth #1-My child is too young to train and it will ruin their growth potential
Truth-There is no magic age as to when someone can start training. If you were to wait until you completely stopped growing and all your bones were developed you could be waiting until your early twenties. Each athlete has an age and what we call a training age. The training age is how many years that they have been involved with a good strength and conditioning program. The training age is the one that really dictates what can be done in the gym. For example if we have an athlete who is 16 years old who we have been working with for the last two years and they have demonstrated that they are efficient at moving their own body then we will put them under load while lifting. If another athlete who is 18 years old comes in and has never been a gym before we won’t put them under load just because they are older. They first have to learn the principles of strength training which is being efficient and effective at moving your own body.
Myth #2- My child has to play hockey year round or they will fall behind
Truth- We work with many professional hockey players and I can tell you that the best players are also the best all around athletes. This is not a coincidence. Nowadays often at a young age people want their kids to specialize in sports. This stunts the child’s athletic growth and ends up having the adverse effect of what they were originally wanting to accomplish in the first place, being a better hockey player. There are prime developmental years in the early teens where kids are at a prime position to develop athletic attributes such as reaction time, hand eye co-ordination, and proprioception (the awareness of one’s own body in space). The best ways for kids to develop these are to play a variety of different sports or to train. Almost every sport that a kid will play in summer, baseball, soccer, tennis etc. provide tons of opportunity to work on hand eye co-ordination, changes of direction and so on. A great training program will accomplish the same thing.
Certain things in your life can be taken away from you. Others rely on other people or depend on outside circumstances. When you have been around for awhile in the world of sports and in life you begin to realize that all that you have at the end of the day is your effort. I played football and many other sports for years, basketball, rugby, bodybuilding, marathons, strong man to name a few. I was very fortunate to win and win a lot. Not just in sports but in life, I have a career that I love, great family and friends, I have a beautiful wife and two amazing healthy kids. Yes not sports related but still all big wins in my book. But in with those wins there have been loses both on and off the field. I’ve lost big games, I’ve failed in achieving goals, lost relationships, not gotten jobs, missed opportunities and more. But out of all of it I have always had one thing, my hard work, my effort. That’s all you can control. The one single factor that you can always control at all times is your effort. Win or lose, rain or shine it cannot be taken from you. It is always there. Your effort is who you are, it is your foundation. After all what good is a belief system that is not backed by the effort to carry it out. It’s just talk and no walk. If I have learned anything in my life to this point it is that you cannot pick and choose when to work hard and when to mail it in. You either work hard or you don’t. That’s it. I know because I have made the mistake. It is simple when my effort wasn’t high the result wasn’t great. When the result wasn’t great it spread to other aspects of my life and had a negative effect. In the words of the great Vince Lombardi, “Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing.” Does effort guarantee victory? Of course not. But it gives you an opportunity and it ensures the quality of your being. Do not make excuses why you can’t, instead find a reason to get it done. Work hard, put forth the effort in everything you do. In a time when people find a million different ways to try and define themselves it’s the only definition of yourself that really matters. Put the effort in to work hard, to be a good person. At the end of the day it’s what you hang your hat on. It’s all that you have.
“You can never be too strong.” That is a phrase I’ve probably said over a million times. I like to think I made it up, but I probably didn’t. Either way it’s something I believe in with all my heart. Strength is the foundation for everything. It is the foundation that all other athletic attributes are built upon. Speed, power, quickness, balance, that highly sought after “first step” and even conditioning all rely on strength as the engine that makes them go. You want to increase any of those areas? It’s an easy answer, son. You have to get stronger! You want to get rid of fat, gain muscle, change body composition? Guess what? If your answer just now was get stronger congratulations you’re a quick learner, if you answered something else you’re maybe not the sharpest tool in the shed. If you currently train somewhere or with someone who says otherwise, they are lying to you, or even worse they don’t know any better. Strength is King. Period.
Now that we have established that strength is paramount let me tell you the best parts about it.
What it is? I’m sure there are many different definitions and ideas out there but, my own personal definition is: Strength comes from the human will to survive and succeed. You don’t think there is survival in the gym? Put down the thigh master, step under a bar with over 400lbs loaded on it and squat it. Don’t think there is survival in sport? Then you have never played a real sport, so take off your touch ball (I don’t dare call it football) jersey and strap on a helmet and shoulder pads, or lace up a pair of skates. Play five minutes and tell me survival does not exist. Developing strength not only enables you to survive, it gives you the ability to conquer. You see, the benefits of developing strength are twofold. It increases both your physical and mental capabilities. Once you have become strong enough to survive then you start to believe that you can succeed. And once you believe you can succeed, you can conquer.
How you get it? You can only get stronger through hard work. There are no short cuts, no quick fixes, and no easy way outs. You have to have the courage to show up every day and be willing to learn and ready to work. In today’s society everyone wants things to just happen for them, and fast. There is a sense of entitlement that exists with younger generations that blows my mind. But I don’t care how much money your daddy makes, that bar is not coming off the floor until you have put the work in to move it. It is the ultimate lesson that a lot of people need to learn.
Who it’s there for? Perhaps the greatest thing about strength is that it exists for everyone. It is accessible to anyone with the courage to seek it. It doesn’t matter if you are short, tall, fat, skinny or of any gender, race, or socio-economic background. You can get stronger. If you are willing to put the time and effort in you will survive, succeed, and conquer. Is everyone going to be the world’s strongest man, or a pro athlete, or Arnold? No, not at all. If you think that’s what this is about then you are missing the point. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself. Mentally and physically developing and building confidence to help you succeed in your endeavors. Remember, strength is out there, and it’s yours for the taking.
I have spent a lot of time reading books written by some of the world’s most successful athletes, body builders and trainers. I’m always curious to know what drives people to be great. What their mind set was day in and day out as they ascended to the top of their respective sports. I like to try and find common links that built the foundation for their greatness. Two of my favorite all time are Michael Jordan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now what can the world’s greatest basketball player, (sorry Kobe & Lebron fans; it’s the truth, accept it), and the world’s greatest bodybuilder, (this one is indisputable), have in common? They attacked their workouts. Sure Arnold primarily did it lifting weights and Jordan did it on the practice court, but the principle was the same. They attacked. They trained and practiced with such intensity that their work ethic became legendary. They did not just try and survive the workout, they dominated the workout. The workout did not dictate their performance; their performance was at the highest level possible no matter what.
Not sure where you stand? Think of it this way. Picture your workouts as the biggest, baddest man on the planet, think Mike Tyson in his prime, and you have to last a 5 minute round in the ring, just you and him. There are two kinds of people: First, there is the person who is going to run around the ring for 5 minutes just trying to hang in there and survive. Don’t be that person. The second type of person, the one you want to be, is going to go in there and say I might die trying but I’m going knock this guy out. If you want to achieve greatness on any level you must have this mindset. So next time you go to train……………..ATTACK!