One of my biggest passions is the study, research and experimentation of sports science. Even though I probably enjoyed reading more about it then actually being about it (not exactly the case today).
And when I was younger, finding quality information about training for dynamic sports, like hockey, was as easy as it is today with sources like Breaking Muscle and Power Athlete Radio.
Instead the resources for fitness were spread by "body-builders" on sources like Bodybuilding.com, T-Nation.com, and so-called "health" and "fitness" magazines. These references called for a lot of resistance based training, isolated routines and isometric work. Essentially it was all about losing body fat, gaining muscle and mass and developing strength.
There is a lot of respect for the dedication and knowledge these groups, and a lot of this information can be used with extreme benefits for any athlete however it is hardly a complete program for a hockey player. I followed a lot of this advice but I essentially found most of it boring and inefficient. Even the supposed "healthy" diet advice was mostly just telling me to eat white chicken, rice and potatoes.
Then one day in college I came across a video of an immense athlete completing a series of exercises in his home-made gym in the woods. I believe he was working on a 21-15-9 rep scheme for time with kettlebell swings, thrusters and pull-ups. The man was jacked, I was motivated and in the description said "CrossFit".
I looked up everything I could about it and loved everything I was learning. Functional fitness, full-body work-outs, general physical preparedness and much more was all there in what was called the CrossFit Journal. Even its Youtube channel was producing consistent content on exercise form, inspirational stories around the world and the routines of their best athletes. Everything I wanted was there and more. So I looked into the local CF gyms and was pretty pissed to see the price. I find the price reasonable for the most part but as a college kid I just could not afford it. I figured I could take the work outs provided for me, as well as the all the advice they offered for free and implement it at my own gym.
I found a new passion for fitness and health, remained consistent with it and even joined some CF gyms here and there. Over time I took my overall athleticism to the next level, never felt better and I improved significantly in every sport I played or just started. Including hockey...
With all this said, I can easily tell you the issues with CrossFit and its program. But I simply took the best parts about it and minimized/avoided the bad.
The reason I am writing this today is because I still see the same bad information being presented to athletes today. Yes, the best trainers out there are doing the right things but this only accounts for a small percentage of people who get the message. I know this because I have been an athlete for 20+ years, and I still coach travel hockey. I still see more athletes spend most of their time with upper-body work outs, eating bad diets for performance (as well as for health) and spend no time on a proper warm-up/cool-down and recovery (the small things that make a huge difference).
There is way more to it than these 3 things, but these have always been my main sticking points for a lot of young hockey players.
Though I now get a lot of my information from multiple sources today, I still respect a lot of what CrossFit does and what it provides. That is why I never understood how people cannot see its benefits. I truly believe the benefits from it have outweighed the cons.
And the 5 things are below, are how it evolved my fitness and it can evolve yours too.
No one ever really discussed mobility before CF. There was a lot of talk on flexibility and the "need" to be able to do things like touch your toes, but no mention on the need to have a full range of motion in all of your joints.
I had no problem touching my toes, and working on my hamstring flexibility never helped its consistent tightness or improved my speed/power.
Then I came across Kelly Starret of Mobility WOD - The Fitness Guru you may call him. He has deserved it.
A physical therapist who opened my eyes to the world of mobility as he released daily free videos on different exercises to target before and after a work out / game.
I practiced what he preached consistently and in no time I was improving my mobility - or ability to get into certain positions. This greatly helped my skating speed, acceleration, and agility. Also, by practicing various positions and improving my ranges of motion in my shoulders, spine and hip I was able to get in better positions to hit opponents, score goals and get around defenders.
Even if you HATE everything about CF, I suggest you check out www.MobilityWOD.com
Isometric weight training was the way to go when I was younger. Gymnastics was looked at as a sport for girls.
That could not be farther from my opinion today as I truly believe all kids should have some gymnastics experience. I believe the better you are at gymnastics, the easier time you will have to adapting to new physical activities or improving on the ones you already know. This goes the same for hockey players.
Sure some programs discussed the need for pull-ups and dips, but it was just another way to add on size and strength. The core principles in gymnastics has always been about balance and body control. Working on my body-control helped me with a lot of what I was saying with mobility practices but it only made it much better. I was able to get into better positions for passing, shooting and defense. My core strength has never been stronger and from that I have better balance on skates in all sorts of positions.
I was always a pretty hard guy to knock off because of my size, but now I added a skill to my arsenal of hockey ability.
There is a difference between weightlifting and weight training.
As I preached earlier, weight training has always been desirable through resistance and isometric exercises to add strength and mass. However, in the sport of weightlifting there is more of a focus in developing power. This is the underlining difference to the need of both for dynamic sports like hockey.
In hockey, you need the hip explosiveness to improve acceleration and your overall shooting speed and skill. Even the release is important when training your hips.
The main movements and exercises found through weightlifting will also improve your overall coordination, balance and quickness. Ding ding ding, all necessary in hockey.
Above shows the steps taken to perform the 2 main movements in weightlifting. In CF, they have added a revised version of this called the "power" clean and the "power" snatch. Similar movements that focus on the ability to catch the weight in a power stance. This has been a heavy focus in the CrossFit Football (led by ex-NFLer John Welbourne), which may very well be the most popular program for footballers today.
I believe the power version of these lifts can also be as beneficial to hockey as it improves your ability to be in a proper defensive position, hit an opponent, absorb a hit and consistently be in your strongest and most powerful position.
I could have put this in the weightlifting category as it is commonly used in WL programs as well as CF WL programs. But the squat has been a huge staple to my training since I started with CF.
I have always squatted as an athlete but never as properly as I have when I started to study more in the CF philosophy. Furthermore, I never squatted as frequently as I was led to believe that it would be detrimental to my recovery. I might have to also add that still today there are trainers at my gyms who tell me that I squat too low, whereas actual therapists, scientists, athletes have proven otherwise. Now there are actual programs to squat everyday, something I am trying out now :).
Knowing how to squat and regularly practicing it can improve your hockey performance greatly. From practicing it daily, I naturally improved my mobility in ankles, knees and hips. From going in a full range squat motion as opposed to my old teachings, my knees also never felt better. The consistency of squatting on a weekly basis was probably tripled and I never felt more conditioned. Yes, I was stronger but the frequency conditioned my legs better than running can ever do.
There are even studies today that talk about how leg strength is a better indicator than the once thought VO2 max for health and longevity. Think about it, if your legs are stronger than your body can do less of the work when performing daily tasks. Same goes for game time performances. The key about the frequency and volume here is listening to your body - once again a thing taught to me in CF - and try to mix it up. You do not have to back squat 2x a week, you can easily mix in front/ overhead/ special bar/ air/ pause/ box squat.
Have fun with it.
"How much you bench, bro?? "
I was always eating a relatively healthy diet. I grew up in a Mediterranean house hold and we commonly ate a variety of healthy and balanced meals that were all home-made. I was far from a perfect diet but compared to what I see most young athletes eat, I am now blessed.
Through CF's nutritional plan, I did not change much from what I had always done. I started to limit my carbs to after a big work out, and I tried to stay away from most bread (not because of gluten, but wanted more nutritional carbs like sweet potatoes). I also ate a lot more lean proteins and wild game, and ate more healthy fats than I ever thought was healthy growing up. I started to look at the real science behind fats and found how grass-fed butter and coconut oil was actually NECESSARY for both physical and mental performances. By eating more healthy fats, I no longer felt the need to eat more junk food and I felt like I had longer lasting energy. It was great because I was bound to start a new fitness adventure of more volume and higher intensities.
I tweak my diet all the time but the main principles have stayed the same since.
No highly processed foods.
Eat varied proteins, aim for wild game
Look for complex carbs, avoid cheap carbs, eat more fresh veggies and fruits. Earn your carbs!
Eat more healthy fats, stay away from unhealthy fats (junk food)
Eat enough to sustain my energy output, not enough to gain body fat.
Reduce calories from drinks
Though the tide is turning from the old school training habits into the new training methods, I still see a lot of misconceptions that need to be forgotten.
CrossFit is far from perfect but I respect it nonetheless. Aside from these 5 main points above, I have also found a great benefit from the varied work outs they commonly request from their athletes but most of all I respect their belief that EVERYONE should aim to be more like an athlete. Meaning, to always improve your overall performance and to improve your health through fitness.
Like me, you do not even need to sign up to a CF gym. You can easily use the resources below (and more) to get FREE DAILY information on how to improve your fitness, your athleticism and hockey game play.
Where to learn more:
Everyday for 3 days straight, CrossFit releases a Work Out of The Day (WOD) you can find on their main page located above. The 4th day is an active rest day. This is just a general guideline to follow but can very useful and its FREE.
CF Journal has some immense information from some of the greatest athletes and trainers in the world for most things you need to know about sport performance and health. Some note worthy articles: (i) what is fitness? (ii) how to warm up (iii) the problems with sugar (iv) how to recover...
I had to give a shout out to this team of trainers, coaches and entrepreneurs. Through their 200+ podcast episodes and constantly updated website I have learned more than I could have ever wished for in the realm of fitness and strength.