"Hockey requires you to have strength, endurance, speed and agility, and power. It also has a prerequisite of skating. Oh, and there’s a ton of body contact.” – Christopher Costa, strength & conditioning coach
The NHL playoffs have begun and I’ll admit it: I’m not a hockey fan. I don’t follow the sport closely and I passively root for my home team Washington Capitals. I do, however, have tremendous appreciation for the ability of ice hockey players to play a sport that involves nearly every aspect of athleticism, from strength, to endurance, to agility, to finesse.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Christopher Costa, a strength and conditioning coach who has played, refereed, and coached hockey throughout his career. He is an expert contributor for STACK Media and Breaking Muscle, among many others, focusing on hockey and golf.
A Passion for Ice Hockey and Skating
Christopher grew up in a little town in Western Pennsylvania outside Pittsburgh and quickly became a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. Christopher expressed his admiration for the unique combination of skills required in hockey. He said, “Hockey is one of the only sports that not only requires you to have strength, endurance, speed and agility, and power. It also has a prerequisite which is skating. Oh, and there’s a ton of body contact.”
That skating element is a game-changer. No one gets extra points for being a top-notch skater in hockey. However, developing strong skating skills makes players better in all areas of the sport. As Christopher noted, “Not every hockey player is a great skater, but the better skater you are, the more efficient you are, the less energy you use. That translates to your ability to recover quicker and avoid injury because you’re more aware of your environment and more efficient.”
Stability & Core Training for Improving Hockey Performance
Christopher said that each major sport developed a focus on working out at different points in time. “In the late ‘90s, football players always worked out, baseball players probably rarely did, and hockey players were just starting to work out,” he said. “Very few hockey players were really working out then.” Times have changed tremendously since then. Training for hockey is very much focused on building strength, developing flexibility, and improving stability.
Stability training is becoming more and more common among hockey players. Having a strong core and improved stability is critical. Christopher said, “Everybody believes stability comes from the core, from the midline of the body. You have to maintain balance while also being agile and shifty and avoiding body contact and really being able to create those movements that are split-second. Couple that with the fact that you’re on less than an inch of steel. It requires a lot of balance. All that stability comes from the core.”
Christopher discussed the evolving and expanding focus of core training. He said, “People used to think that the core was merely one area of the stomach. There are plenty of muscles that play a role in stability throughout the body. If one of those pieces is missing, it will throw the equilibrium of the body off.”
Core Flytes for Rehab Exercises and Providing Variety
Christopher uses the Core Flytes on concrete, hardwood, rubber, and turf for a variety of purposes. He said, “I use the Core Flytes to warm up joints and prepare them for strength-based and power-based movements. They are great for rehab activities. They help with neuromuscular facilitation, to reintroduce proprioception so the body knows where it is in space and time. They help to regain and build range of motion, and then strengthen it.”
Ease of use is really important for Christopher. He said, “The Core Flytes are small. They don’t require weight. They can handle load. They’re very simple. Sometimes simple things are the best in the weight room, the rehab facility, or the strength room.” At the same time, they are new. “People like trying new things, and my clients love using different equipment that provide variety. Core Flytes are new and exciting and different. Different helps motivate people who don’t want to get stuck in a routine.
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