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The hockey stride has been described by bio-mechanists as biphasic in nature consisting of alternating periods of single leg and double leg support.  The single support phase corresponds to a period of glide, while the double support phase corresponds to the onset and preparation of propulsion (Marino, 1977).  Both stride rate and stride length have been investigated as a means of measuring/separating the skating velocities of high caliber and low caliber skaters. The purpose of this short blog is to investigate the research in order to answer the question:  which is more important, stride length, or stride rate? 

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I’ve gotten several e-mails lately regarding our energy system work for our hockey players at Donskov Strength and Conditioning.  Typically, during the off-season, players start with four weight room touch points/week and slowly move to three as ice touches start to increase (more can be found here).  The plan is under-pinned by the high-low model famously pioneered by Charlie Francis. During a weekly micro-cycle, three high days are programed consisting of acceleration and sprint-based work, and two low days consisting of tempo runs.  This will change ever so slightly three weeks prior to training camp when alactic capacity and lactic power work will be programed in preparation for training camp. A four-week snapshot can be found below.

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It’s that time of year once again.  A time when 100+ of the world’s best young hockey players come together to take place in the NHL combine.  Testing, interviews, meetings and assessments all strategically designed in order to further streamline managements draft day decision making.  The tricky part (aside from evaluating on ice skill and character) is deducing which off-ice tests best transfer into on ice performance. 

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The neuromuscular, mitochondrial and structural changes involved from resistance training have been investigated by several researchers  (Holloszy & Coyle, 1984; Kraemer, Deschenes, & Fleck, 1988; Kraemer, Fleck, & Evans, 1996; MacDougall, Sale, Elder, & Sutton, 1982; MacDougall et al., 1979).

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Skating can be described as a bi-phasic activity involving both a support phase and a swing phase  (Garrett & Kirkendall, 2000; Marino, 1977; Upjohn, Turcotte, Pearsall, & Loh, 2008).  The support phase may be further subdivided into both single leg support, corresponding to glide, and double support corresponding to push off.   Propulsion occurs during the first half of single leg support and commences during double leg support as the hip is abducted and externally rotated and the knee is extended (Garrett & Kirkendall, 2000; Marino, 1977).  Skating is a skill, and the differences between elite and non-elite skaters have been investigated by a number of researchers  (Budarick et al., 2018; McPherson, Wrigley, & Montelpare, 2004; Shell et al., 2017; Upjohn et al., 2008)  

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Recently, there has been some fruitful dialogue by several close collogues regarding how best to lace up a pair of hockey skates for increased performance on the ice.  The idea of leaving the first eyelet untied in hopes of producing greater speeds was reinforced in a December article titled “The NHL’s best young skaters all have something in common-how they tie their skates” in The Athletic.  The purpose of this blog is to briefly outline the biomechanical considerations involved in this decision.  Prior to moving forward, we must first define a hockey stride. According to Marino (1977) a hockey stride is:

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Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), an Italian polymath/economist was credited with the “Principle of Unequal Distribution.”  Management consultant Joseph Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who at the time showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  The Principle of Unequal Distribution has been used to describe:

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I must admit that I’m a principle oriented strength coach.  In other words, our principles dictate our program design and the way we train our athletes.  Our programs are basic in nature but every working part has a rhyme and reason set firmly on a foundation of what we call the BIG three. 

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I’ve been involved in the game of hockey my entire life, first as a player and now as a strength coach.  I remember the demands of testing, the competition amongst teammates and the feeling of self-satisfaction after the effort of exertion.  Testing was, and still is a rewarding time for me.  Looking back, one protocol that has stood the test of time, both past and present, in the sport of ice hockey is the 300-yard shuttle.  I endured this test for many years as a player, and have had it in my coaching arsenal during testing day to see “who was in shape” and ready for the demands of a long, drawn out, grinding season packed with 30mph collisions and large amounts of travel.   However, just like everything else in the biological sciences, the more you learn, the more you question yourself, the more you question your methods, the more you question common practice.  After all common practice doesn’t always equate to best practice.  Below are three reasons we no longer test the 300-yard shuttle at DSC. 

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The role of nutrition in sports performance cannot be ignored.  Eating the proper foods serves as a performance enhancer, recovery stimulator and has a profound impact on body composition and fuel efficiency during exercise.  We are what we eat, and poor food choices may have a direct correlation on the results we seek both on and off the ice.  During the course of the competitive hockey season athletes train at Donskov Strength and Conditioning twice/week.  That is NOT a lot of time when we consider that there are one hundred and sixty eight hours in a seven-day workweek.  It doesn't take a PhD in mathematics to figure out 1.19% of the week is spent in the weight room, leaving 98.81% of the time sleeping, eating, practicing, playing hockey and attending school.  The glue that binds all of these activities is will power and good decision-making. The purpose of this article is to educate parents on the importance of proper nutrition during the hockey season.  This article was written for you because more often than not, you are directly responsible for food preparation, grocery shopping and packing on the road.  So where do we start?  What constitutes a good meal?  What should my son or daughter eat before a game?  After a game? This article serves to answer these questions and provide practical solutions sprinkled in with a little bit of science.

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