Coaching ice hockey for the last decade has left me open to new training techniques to help better our youth athletes. Becoming a CrossFitter, I instantly understood the concept of being a well-rounded athlete. To me that was the definition of being a hockey player. This is a sport based on being well rounded in all areas of the sport. From day 1 of our season our coaching staff decided to follow the CrossFit Pyramid so that our athletes would not only be well-rounded, but conditioned, stronger, and more agile than the teams they compete against.
Prior to our Box opening up in February, we had 5 months to get these players to understand nutrition and the importance of being able to lift their own body weight. We began talking about the importance of good fats, proteins, and carbohydrates being present at every meal. We began seeing the same trend in every player when we sat down with them: there was a lack of nutritional education. They had no idea what a protein, carbohydrate, or a good fat was to eat. After a few weeks of guidance with their nutrition, we started seeing more water and their was less complaining of constant headaches during competition. We knew that we made progress when a player ate fast food and instantly complained about how awful they felt.
Going into our season I decided that CrossFit training would never be cancelled. I wanted to stay consistent throughout the season and make sure that stagnation was never present. With on ice practice 3-4 days per week, I kept the players on a 3 time per week CrossFit WOD. For the first 4 months we stayed with body weight metabolic conditioning. Our main concerns with our female athletes was strengthening them so they could compete against male athletes their same age. We were slower, weaker, and less agile during games against boys. Starting with
Day 1 of our CrossFit WODs we always made sure that the players understood that this a competition and not just for going through the motions like every other plyometric workout these players had gone through prior to our program. We started with basic body weight exercises such as chest to ground push ups, air squats for proper technique, and pull ups to lift their own body weight. I was not going to even hand our teenagers an 18lb bar until they were able to do basic body weight exercises in a safe environment. We had so many athletes complaining of knee problems prior to the season that we had to make sure they understood the proper break down of their body weight exercises.
Once we were able to move into our Box in February we started implementing more gymnastics movements for body control. The rings became our team favorite and instantly helped our players with body awareness and control. We implemented core stability exercises to help with hand stands which then turned into handstand push ups for majority of our players. In March we decided to implement safe weight training with our female athletes. Starting with a PVC pipe we emphasized core to extremity with our players. I explained that they could take any aspect of hockey and break it into Core to Extremity. From their skating (core, hips, ankle) to their shooting (core, hips, wrist), we emphasized the important of body awareness to all of our athletes. It was amazing to see these players progress into prescribed WODs and be able to lift their body weight with no issues and progress on to exercises such as a 65# Thruster. I felt that not only did we help create better hockey players, but our girls were now better athletes. We were stronger, quicker, and more agile than all of the boys teams that we competed against.
The process off getting our players to the level they were suppose to be competing against was a great process to watch. No longer were players complaining of knee pain, headaches, and muscle soreness from quicker recovery. I knew we were on the road to athletic success when our WOD was Fran. We had a majority of the players do it as prescribed and finish with great times. Watching our athletes struggle with a body weight push up and progress to consistent kipping pull ups and handstand push ups was a great success. Staying true to CrossFit programming really gave our program an upper hand advantage. Hockey in Arizona
is not the norm so our ability levels range from athletic kids to kids that lack body awareness. After a successful season, all of our players have attained great athleticism and coordination. I firmly believe that this was not only due to our on ice programming. CrossFit gave our players the strength, confidence, agility, and quickness that most
teams are lacking.
CrossFit is about constantly varied training, but that doesn’t mean the training is random. While it’s true that we train for the unknown and the unknowable, programming is more than pulling random workouts out of a hopper—though you can certainly experiment with that model for short periods.
One of the main characteristics of constant variation is the use of very different loads, time domains and movements. Sometimes athletes are performing short, heavy workouts like 5 sets of single deadlifts. Other times they’re doing a long, heavy workout such as Linda. Cindy is long and light, while Fran is usually short and relatively light. A 2K row and a max snatch both involve pulling, but one is about endurance and stamina, while the other is about strength and speed. Athletes adapt to such a diverse program because it is broad and ignores no aspect of fitness.
Constant variation is one of the foundations of the CrossFit program, and by allowing that principle to influence your programming, you will be putting your athletes on the path to high levels of general physical preparedness. As always, the magic is in the movements themselves. Add in large doses of intensity, and you might even have some true firebreathers on your hands.
By Dave Castro
Adam, Gayle, and Jen go snowboarding the CrossFit way!
Gayle (59in tall) does a 43in box jump on 2 tractor tires
CrossFit Full Strength is officially open. Our full schedule of CrossFit and CrossFit Kids/Teens Classes are running. We will keep everyone updated on our Grand Opening Party. We have been so busy that we forgot we still have to throw a party for ourselves. If you have any questions on open gym hours, memberships, or multi member sign ups please feel free to call us. 602-275-1679. Don’t forget…we are located on the 2nd floor of Arcadia Ice Arena.