The Guru of Greater Muscles, Adam Wood, co-inventor of Travel Roller, goes in-depth into everything you need to know about recovery during the hockey off-season in this post. This is an absolute must-read for anyone looking to maximize their hockey off-season and come back to the ice stronger, faster and better in the winter.
In today’s post, we’ll get into Part 1 of a 2 Part series getting into a discussion on the importance of recovery during the hockey off-season, especially in regards to managing tissue tone.
As you probably know, hockey is a full contact ‘battle’ sport that involves tremendous conditioning, agility, and strength. All of the best attributes of the aspiring hockey star come by-product of a properly designed strength & conditioning (S&C) program. This program needs to be constructed in a fashion to quickly develop a healthy powerful nervous system (brain, spinal cord), a well-aligned skeletal system (bones, skull, spine), and a healthy soft tissue system (tendons, muscles). This may sound simple, but it’s not. The most important piece of this puzzle relies on the dryland S&C coach’s understanding of the athlete unique readiness, functional stability and mobility in the entire body. Training systems that actually create profound results must involve significant recovery and regeneration strategies post training and highly scientific ‘warm-up’ sequences.
Without these sophisticated modalities of regeneration and preparation, most hardcore off-ice training creates far too much linear overload which leads athletes to injury, dysfunction.
Almost every hockey player has worked with at NHL, AHL, semi-pro, and WHL levels has a relative inhibition (meaning too weak and too low tone) glute max and a relatively over active (meaning to stiff) hip flexor / TFL / psoas / adductor (groin) complex. This ‘stiffness’ in the hip flexor / adductor does not mean those muscles are actually ‘strong,’ rather facilitated, meaning they are over recruited, over worked, and actually weak. Here are some of the fundamentals of soft tissue tone in health and dysfunction:
1. Strong muscles are supple: think of the power and speed of a world-class sprinter; their muscles are incredibly supple. That suppleness allows the extreme speed and accuracy of their movements. Those elite sprinters receive huge volumes of massage, soft tissue work, and regeneration modalities to keep their tissues supple while training such high power activities. The suppleness of the entire body must be similar from area to area so they can be kinetic chain flow and power transmission. Without suppleness in tissue, sudden strain and inefficiency are lurking with every skating stride.
2. Myth of hard muscles: the super hard muscles of a body builder that appear incredibly stiff at rest, are not athletically useful for healthy movement. These incredibly stiff muscles are very difficult to move with speed or accuracy. They lack the proper range of motion to deliver athletic actions. Even if the body builder can support large loads of weight, they are only over very short ranges of motion, which are not transferable onto the ice hockey rink.
3. Exercise increases muscular tone: A perfectly balanced movement, even executed ideally, increases the muscular tone of tissues, this is used to our advantage during a warm-up and becomes a disadvantage when a tissue becomes so tight it cramps, spasms and/or tears. Simply put, we need to move very well and move in very diverse patterns; cross training.
4. Massage: All NHL players have a support staff of massage therapists, chiropractors, and very knowledgeable S&C coaches making sure they receive appropriate regeneration work (massage, cold bathes, sauna, mineral water). All of those savage Russian and Bulgarian Olympic lifters receive huge volumes massage. If you’re online watching YouTube clips of incredibly powerful Olympic lifters (competitive snatch and clean/jerk movements) and wondering how the heck they do that: check out the depth of the squat they achieve with a perfectly neutral spine, and the incredible overhead strength they have. No inhibited ‘too tight’ muscles in that dude because he receives several hours of massage everyday on top of the huge volumes of lifts he claims to do without pain.
5. Amateur athletes daily massage therapist / Self massage: You’re probably thinking “A massage – never hard one…too much money / Will my parents pay for this? / Is it worth it?” First things first, every massage therapist has a different education and understanding of the human body, just like all strength coaches. Knowing that, you would want to select only massage therapists that work on athletic populations and have testimonials from top-level athletes. However, there is a secondary and truly very cost effective way of delivering high level massage work to keep your soft tissue system relatively supple. Enter self-led massage work using foam rollers, balls, massage chairs and really anything people use to loosen tight muscles. One can perform a wide variety of self-massage treatments using something as simple as a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. Just search foam roller, ‘SMR’ or self-myofascial release on YouTube and you will find thousands of videos of the work. A harmless mention of one of the better high level self massage tools: the Travel Roller (pictured above).
Look out next week for Part 2 of Off Ice Training Recovery – Managing Tissue Tone. In the post, we will further our discussion on recovery and recommend a few tips for you during the rest of the off-season.