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Considerations for training young athletes--->, FF Insider#90
May 20, 2010
Welcome Back,

Please enjoy another issue packed with evidence-based information about sports performance training and news about current events at Finish First Sports Performance. If you find value in this e-newsletter, please forward this message to your teammates, coaches, or other parents of hard working athletes.

Inside this Issue:

To bring you the very best information, this newsletter focuses on awareness of the training principles for young athletes, and how to use them to make sure your coach is on the right track. Enjoy!

1. 5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating

2. A Closer Look at Off-Season Training

3. Does Supplementing the Diet with Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Improve Exercise Performance?

4. Finish First Sports Performance Athlete selected by Youngstown Phantoms in USHL Futures Draft 2010

5. Juniata Strength and Conditioning Clinic 2010

6. May 22nd Clinic Cancelled

7. Motivational Quotes

8. Miscellaneous News

5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating

by Jeremy S. Hoy, MS, CSCS, PES, USAW, Director, Finish First Sports Performance

It’s a well known fact that the game of ice hockey is getting faster—which, like so many other sports, means that the fastest athletes will have an advantage. Unlike other sports, however, ice hockey is unique in that skating is a different movement than running. To be a fast skater, you need to be learning the specific techniques on the ice, and following a specific off-ice training program.

So, have you ever wondered if you were doing the right exercises or training correctly to help improve your skating speed? How do you know if you’re on the right track?

Well, if you’re like most players, the answer is yes, and this article will provide you with 5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating, to help get you and keep you on the right track.

1. Train for Strength (Force Production)

As a hockey player, you need to be strong. I know, that seems like common sense. Not only do you need to be strong, but you also need to be selecting exercises that focus on producing force in different planes of motion. You need to do both double leg and single leg exercises, and exercises that move forward, backward, up, down and sideways (side to side). Research studies have shown that a deadlift exercise has a high correlation to all out skating speed. So, if you want to get more push out of each stride and improve your top end speed, it would be a good idea to incorporate deadlifts into your program. As always, begin by learning proper technique from a certified coach, then progress to adding weight and doing deadlift variations.

2. Train for Balance

Yes, this seems like common sense, but it is often overlooked. Research studies have been done recently that show that balance training can help improve skating speed. The studies showed that the hockey players who scored the highest on balance tests, and followed a simple balance training program also scored the highest on skating speed. Training for balance doesn’t mean performing gimmicky exercises while standing on a stability ball or similar exercises, but rather it means learning how to better stabilize each joint during movement, especially using one leg at a time. I’ve been incorporating balance training into hockey training programs for over 10 years now, and believe me, exercises for balance, when done properly, are hard enough done on a flat surface while wearing no shoes that there is no need to be doing potentially very dangerous exercises on a stability ball. While the gimmicky exercises might look like fun—they are just gimmicks with little transfer to the sport of ice hockey. The main point here is that simple balance training does correlate well with skating speed and you don’t need any crazy devices or exercises to accomplish your goal.

3. Train for Muscle, Joint, and Postural Balance

In order for muscles to function the most efficiently, and the body to perform movements such as skating, there needs to be balance. Muscle balance not only pertains to strength balance, but also balance in flexibility. Muscles that are tight and/or weak prevent the body from performing normally, and typically require other muscles to take over for the weak ones while the tight ones are restricted from using their full potential. These imbalances affect the way the joint is stabilized and the nervous system only allows the body to be as strong and as explosive as the joint is capable of being stable. In other words, poor joint stability creates strength and power limitations. Postural balance is also important. Poor posture creates muscle and joint imbalances, which I have stated creates limitations. To skate fast, you need to work on your posture, joint stability, and muscle balance.

4. Train for Flexibility

As competition grows in ice hockey, so does the need to improve a team’s ability to play systems and understand the game. These are things that are done at the team practice sessions. More often than not, these sessions don’t account for flexibility training for the players, so it is neglected and left for the training days. However, flexibility training, or stretching is something that you should be doing on a daily basis. Poor flexibility (tightness) negatively affects how much strength you can have and creates muscular, joint, and postural imbalances. Stretching needs to be done after any activity--including practice and ALL training. Focus on stretching to improve flexibility—so if you are doing static stretches (where you reach and hold), hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.

5. Train for Explosive Power

Explosive power is the body’s ability to produce force quickly. I often hear players say that they are doing plyometrics. Plyometrics is such a broad term that it doesn’t really tell me anything. There are different types of plyometrics, each with their own specific goal and outcome. For faster top end skating, research has shown that plyometrics that focus on force production, rather than decreasing ground contact time, have the highest impact on improving skating speed. What this means is that jumping up onto boxes or over a hurdle from the ground (from a standing or squatting position, single or double leg) is better for improving top end skating than training to step off a box, land, and then immediately over a hurdle. The first examples focus on producing force quickly to generate a quick, powerful contraction to jump, while the second example focuses on decreasing the amount of time the feet are on the ground (ground contact time) for an explosive contraction. So, to get the most out of your plyometrics for top end speed, do exercises that are designed for quick force production such as box jumps, hurdle jumps, squat jumps, tuck jumps, single leg hops and bounds, etc.

For more information about how to incorporate these 5 key areas into your training program, you can reach Jeremy at 866-468-2231 x818, or

The Importance of Off-season Training

By Emily E. Novitsky, BS, CSCS, PES, Finish First Sports Performance Athletic Performance Specialist

As we all know it is almost summer time which means most fall/winter/spring sports are drawing to an end. This week we are going to take the time to discuss the importance of the off-season training and the 5 Keys to Success in the Off-season. The fun starts here so make sure you stick around.

“It is the off-season, so let’s do nothing and take it easy.” Sure this is right, WRONG! This is one of the many misconceptions of the off-season. The true definition of off-season is when the frequency and quantity of practice/games are significantly decreased and therefore there is increase in strength training, conditioning, plyometrics training, speed training, agility training, etc. Off-season is exactly how it is spelled out, you are off from the usual schedule of games and practices then you take the time to address the other aspects of the sport. As an athlete you now have more free time to address your other needs off the court/field/ice. This is a very important time for most athletes and the majority of young athlete’s neglect to use this off time to their advantage. As a result I have composed the following as the 5 key points to having a successful off-season.

5 Key Points to Successful Off-season:

1. Rest and recovery from the rigors of the season

2. Nurse any and all injuries back to health

3. Gain back any lost weight or lose any excess weight

4. Address/fix any muscle imbalances

5. Hit the weight room and work on your weaknesses (power, strength, speed, etc.)

With these 5 concepts you are sure not to waste any time and take full advantage of your off-season. The truth is that the off-season is one of the most important times for an athlete’s body. This will be the time when the athlete takes care of any nagging injuries or rest your body from the long season. Not only is it important to rest but it is also important to address other important concepts such as weight loss, weight gain, increase strength, or increase speed. The off-season is where you take the time to improve areas of your performance that would not be addressed during the season. Majority of athlete’s that train in the off-season will see most of their gains here rather than during the season. Thus the off-season is a very pivotal time for the athlete to grow mentally, physically and emotionally strong. With the proper preparation during the off-season the athlete will be able to achieve more than with no or minimal training.

The USA mentality is increase the quantity/frequency of play year after year. The coaches even want to make the seasons year around. This is a horrible concept because when the athletes are playing year around they have no time to address the other key off-season concepts. Therefore there has been an increase in overuse injuries, over reaching syndrome and over training syndrome. As a professional I think it is very important for this athlete’s to keep their off-seasons so they can prepare for the future seasons. These athletes need time away from normal practice or games. This will help decrease the risk of injury and help decrease the risk of being over trained or burned out. They can focus on the other aspect of performance and enjoy the break.

In conclusion it is important for all athletes’s to take full advantage of their time off from playing. They should concentrate on improving themselves in the weight room by either getting stronger or recovering from injuries. The off-season is a perfect time to get the advantage over the competition. Work hard on and off the court/field/ice and it will pay dividends in the end. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about off-season training feel free to contact Emily or Jeremy at or call us 866-468-2231.

Does Supplementing the Diet with Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Improve Exercise Performance?

By: Heather R Mangieri, MS, RD, LDN Finish First Sports Performance Nutrition Advisor

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine and valine, are among the nine essential amino acids. Unlike the other essential amino acids that are catabolized mainly in the liver, BCAA’s are oxidized in skeletal muscle. They account for more than 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins. It is well accepted that exercise greatly increases energy expenditure and promotes the oxidation of BCAA’s. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that supplementing with BCAA will increase availability. The question is, does that lead to an improved exercise performance?

A review of a few websites allowed me to evaluate and review the claims made by supplement manufacturers on the marketing of BCAA’s. According to my three sources, BCAA’s can: *decrease mental fatigue, *maintain muscle tissue, *prevent muscle breakdown and promote protein synthesis, *be used as a fuel for energy, *support lean muscle mass growth and *improve exercise performance (1-3). I am not anti-supplement; I am however, pro-fact! In order to keep this article to a reasonable size, I am going to choose one of the claims. I will discuss the physiological rationale behind the claim then I will discuss the research that either supports or disproves the claim.

The claim

Decrease mental fatigue therefore improving exercise performance.

The Rationale

The central fatigue theory or hypothesis, proposed in 1987 by Blomstrand, et al, suggests that oral ingestion of BCAA would reduce central fatigue and would enable athletes to maintain a higher pace during prolonged competitive exercise (4). This rationale predicts that during exercise, free fatty acids are mobilized from adipose tissue and transported via the blood to muscle to be used as fuel. Because the rate of mobilization is greater than the rate of uptake by muscles, the blood FFA concentration increases. Both FFA and the amino acid tryptophan bind to albumin and compete for the same binding sites. Tryptophan is prevented from binding to albumin by the increased FFA concentration and so fTRP concentrations plus the fTRP:BCAA ratio in the blood rises(4-5). This is confirmed by experimental studies (4-5).

The central fatigue hypothesis predicts that the increase in fTRP:BCAA ratio results in an increase fTRP transport across the blood brain barrier because BCAA and fTRP compete for carrier-medicated entry into the CNS by the large neutral amino acid (LNAA) transporter (4). Once taken up, the conversion of serotonin occurs and leads to a local increase in this neurotransmitter (4). Because serotonin plays a role in the onset of sleep and is a determinant of mood and aggression, it MIGHT also lead to central fatigue. This hypothesis also predicts the ingestion of BCAA’s will raise the BCAA concentration and hence reduce fTRP transport into the brain. This reduction in fTRP and increase in BCAA will reduce the formation of serotonin and alleviate fatigue, in turn improving performance (4).

With that said, the rationale is very clear for why this may improve exercise performance. Now let’s look at what the research shows.

The research

Most questions that I receive regarding the branched chains are from body builders, track and field athletes and other strength trained athletes. However, most of the research in this area is studied in endurance activities. Therefore, the only conclusion’s that can be drawn from the (limited) research that is available (looking at exercise performance) is in regards to endurance activities.

Because the majority of athletes want to know “how much” and “when” to take supplements, I focused my review on these two factors. This review included six studies on BCAA that are relatively comparable in methodology and design. Blomstrand, et al, gave 90 mg/kg body wt (average intake 6.7 g of BCAA) to subjects 15 minutes before exercise and every 15 minutes during exercise via a 150-200 ml BCAA solution. No difference in physical performance between the BCAA group and the placebo were identified (7). Another study by Hall, et al, separated his subjects into two groups, a low group (7.8 g of BCAA) and a high group (23.4 g BCAA) (8). He too had subjects ingest the BCAA solution before and during exercise. Neither a positive or negative effect on performance during prolonged cycle ergometer exercise was observed (8). Watson, et al gave 12 grams of BCAA solution (total) during rest and 5.4-18 g BCAA during exercise via a BCAA solution (9). Exercise capacity was not influenced by BCAA ingestion (9). Two more studies evaluated both giving BCAA supplementation alone and with carbohydrate solution to evaluate the differences. Both failed to show an exercise performance benefit to supplementing with BCAA (10-11). The ingestion of BCAA seems to cause increased concentration plasma BCAA during exercise and at the moment of exhaustion (4-11). Exercise capacity and/or performance do not appear to be influenced by the supplementation of BCAA (6-11). Although the benefit of BCAA supplements on exercise has been stated in reviews as being inconclusive, the majority of the randomized controlled trials, which are well designed fail to show any performance benefit to the supplement. Of interest, many of the control trials have the subjects taking the BCAA solutions during the activity, which may or may not be realistic for many athletes.

An important component to consider when reviewing the research is the difficulty comparing one study to another. There are other studies available on the use of BCAA; however, many studies include BCAA supplementation with other possible performance enhancement aids (carbohydrate beverages, creatine, glutamine, arginine, etc). Another variable is the comparison between trained athletes and untrained athletes, since it is well understood that well-trained athletes often utilize fuels more effectively than untrained athletes. For the sake of this review, only studies examining BCAA supplementation alone in relation to performance enhancement were used.

In conclusion, it appears clear from research that supplementation with BCAA prior to and during exercise bouts will improve plasma BCAA concentration during and after exercise. This does not however appear to have a performance benefit for athletes. There seems to be a true disconnect between the claims made by the manufacturers of BCAA and supporting research.

Currently, research is being conducted to identify the role of BCAA supplementation in relation to immune function. Lastly, supplemental BCAA, often consumed 5 to 20 g/day in divided doses seems to be safe.





4. Blomstrand, E., F. Celsing, and E.A. Newsholme. Changes in plasma concentrations of aromatic and branch-chain amino acids during sustained exercise in man and their possible role in fatigue. Acta Physiol. Scand. 133:115-121, 1988.

5. Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmen, and E.A. Newsholme. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on mental performance. Acta Physiol. Scand. 136:473-481, 1991.

6. Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmen, B. Ekblom, and E.A. Newsholme. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise—Effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 63:83-88, 1991.

7. Blomstrand E. Hassmen P. Ek S. Ekblom B. Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. [Clinical Trial. Journal Article. Randomized Controlled Trial. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. 159(1):41-9, 1997 Jan.

8. G.van Hall. Ingestion of branched-chain amino acids and tryptophan during sustained exercise in man: failure to affect performance. Journal of Physiology. 486.3:789-794, 1995.

9. Watson, Phillip, Shirreff’s Susan. The effect of acute branched-chain amino acid supplementation on prolonged exercise capacity in a warm environment. Eur J Applied Physiology. 93: 306-314, 2004 July.

10. Madsen, Klavs, et al, Effects of glucose, glucose plus branched-chain amino acids or placebo on bike performance over 100 km. J Appl Physiol 1996; 81: 2644-50.

11. Davis JM, et al, Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Carbohydrates on Fatigue during Intermittent, High-Intensity Running. Int J Sports Med 1995; 20: 309-314.

USHL Futures Draft 2010

Congrats to Finish First Sports Performance athlete A.J. Coleman on being selected by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 2010 USHL futures draft on May 18, 2010. All the best--keep up the hard work (both on and off the ice)!

Juniata Strength and Conditioning Clinic 2010

On June 18th and 19th, 2010,Coach Hoy will be presenting again at the annual Pennsylvania State Strength and Conditioning Clinic, at Juniata College. This is one of the biggest and best clinics in the country, and Coach Hoy has been presenting since 2001 on topics such as hockey strength and conditioning, speed training, slideboard training, and training with sleds and ropes.

For more information about this excellent clinic, please visit the Juniata Strength Site .

Total Performance Training for Youth and High School Ice Hockey Clinic Spring 2010

Due to some additional scheduling conflicts, the clinic scheduled for May 22nd has been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Motivational Quotes

"Your ability to be a winner 100 percent of the time is based upon giving up the notion that losing at anything is equivalent to being a loser."
-- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

"Nobody remembers who came in second."
-- Charles Schulz

"Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing - the result."
-- Vince Lombardi

"If winning isn't important, why do we spend all that money on scoreboards?"
-- Chuck Coonradt

Thank You for Your Support

Thanks again for subscribing to this free e-newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I look forward to your feedback as I continue to research to bring you the most current scientific training information available.

Should you have any specific article requests or questions, email me at Please visit for detailed sports performance training information and programs offered exclusively by Finish First Sports Performance.

Yours In Training,

Coach Jeremy S. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Finish First Sports Performance

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