Rock-hard ab training for hockey

by | December 31, 2018 | Fitness, Sport performance

Rock-hard abs. 
The prime rib. 
Chiseled stomachs. 
We all strive to have a stomach that looks like it could grate cheese, 
Or wash your clothes, 
But, the core does a whole lot more than just look good in the mirror. 
In reality, the core is one of the most important muscular regions in the body when it comes to hockey performance. 
Hockey is a sport of high force outputs, 
And those forces need to be directed into the right places. 
Force has to be put into the ice to skate faster, 
Force has to be put into the puck to shoot harder, 
Force has to be put into your opponents to hit harder. 
But if the core is not strong enough, some of that force will be lost, 
And therefore not directed into the intended location. 
A strong core not only makes you look like an athlete, 
It’s one of the most functional muscle groups in your body. 

The true role of the core

The true role of the core in hockey is to transfer forces throughout the body by preventing unwanted motion in the spine.
So, if you want to rip down the ice, 
Your arms will move and generate force that will be transferred to your legs via your core. 
The legs will also produce force and the combined forces from the legs and arms will be transferred into your skates, 
And then from your skates into the ice. 
Once the force is directed into the ice, Newton’s third law comes into play. 
Here’s what we mean:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 
So, when the force generated by your body hits the ice, 
There is an opposing force that propels you forward. 
The more force you put into the ice, the more force that acts on you in the opposite direction.
If your core is not strong enough and not able to effectively transfer the force between segments of your body and between those segments and the ice, 
The force will be lost as heat. 
These are known as force leaks.
These force leaks are what make the core muscles (and other small, stabilizer muscles) so important when it comes to optimizing performance. 

Movements to resist

There will be situations when the spine wants to arch excessively, 
Times when the spine wants to bend excessively to the side, 
Times the spine wants to rotate excessively, 
And times the spine wants to round a little too much. 
And the different regions of the core will contract as a unit to prevent that motion.
Let’s take a look at those regions.

The Rectus abdominus is located on the front of your core. 

This is where the six-pack comes from. 

The rectus abdominus prevents excess back-arching. 

The Tranversus abdominus is located deep inside your abdomen. 

It’s like an undercover stabilizer that works the night shift at the office. 

The internal and external obliques make up the muscles on the sides of your abdomen. 

These are heavily involved in resisting excess rotation and side bending in your spine

The erector spine are some of the muscles of your low back.

These guys prevent excess back rounding. 

Detail of the core muscles

But, again, when creating a stable platform to transfer forces throughout the body, these muscles all band together and work as a unit to stabilize the hell out of your spine. 
These muscles don’t work in isolation. 
They work as a team. 

(Anti)-movements to train

In strength and conditioning, we often talk about training movements not muscles. 
So, instead of focusing on one specific muscle group, we focus on movement patterns. 
This is because the movements don’t happen in isolation. 
As in, one muscle doesn’t work alone to produce an effort. 
It is often a coordinated action between various muscle groups that work together to produce the movements we see in sport. 
So, we target movements over muscles. 
The muscles obviously still get worked, they just aren’t the emphasis. 
The movements are. 
Or as you’ll see below, the “anti-movements” are the emphasis. 
As mentioned above, the true role of the core is to prevent excess arching,
excess rounding, 
excess side bending 
and excess twisting and rotation, 
All in the service of transferring forces and preventing injuries. 
So, in order to train the core effectively, we need to resist those unwanted motions at the spine so that the forces we generate are put into the ice and into the puck…
Where they belong. 
We refer to the core training movements as “anti” movements. 
Here are four anti-movement categories to prepare your core for Highlight Reel Hockey Performance:
Anti-lateral flexion

Programming options

One of our favourite ways to work in core exercise is to pair it up with other large muscle movements. 
With this, you not only “set” the core and activate it for some of the bigger exercises,
But you also cut down on the time it takes to complete your workout. 
An example of this would be to pair up deadlifts and deadbugs, 
Presses with suitcase carries, 
Rows with planks 
And so on, and so forth. 
If you’re lifting two times per week, structure your core training according to this format:
Day 1- planks, anti-rotation (pallof, chop or lift)
Day 2 – deadbugs, anti-lateral flexion (side plank or suitcase carry)
If you’re working out three times per week, structure your core training accordingly:
Day 1- planks, anti-rotation (pallof)
Day 2 – deadbugs, side plank variation
Day 3 – Carry, anti-rotation (chop or lift)
Aim for 2-3 sets of each exercise and get at it!
And if you’re ultra busy and need to “sneak in” some core exercise, read this article here.


When training the core, 
We often recall those 6-minute ab infomercials, 
Those ab crunch machines,
And doing sit-ups for days on end. 
But, when we look at the true role of the core in hockey, 
It is to prevent unwanted motions in the spine and to transfer force effectively throughout the body.
So, in order to optimize your performance, use the principles discussed in this article and then take action!
Action beats information, so just ACT!
And if you need some help taking action on all of this stuff, check out our Highlight Reel Hockey Academy.
We’ll keep you honest and accountable when it comes to getting that high-performance body back. 
So, if you’re a former hockey player that has few lbs to lose, 
And has a few aches and pains to remedy, 
And wants a little kick added to your game, 
Then this program is for you. 

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