1 - An Interview with the Strength Coach for the Montreal Canadiens

It is fitting that Issue #99 should feature a hockey-related article. Scott Livingston is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Montreal Canadiens and is extremely knowledgeable in training and rehabbing athletes, particularly hockey players. Scott is also to be commended for his promotion of Strength and Conditioning for hockey - he has helped a lot of other great coaches in the business.

CB: Hi Scott and thanks for the interview. What in your professional and educational background prepared you for your job as a Strength Coach in the NHL?

SL: I have a BSc. in Exercise Science, specialization in Athletic Therapy. I certified as an AT (Athletic Therapist) in 1988 and certified with the NSCA as a S+C Specialist in 1990. I worked as both an AT and S+C coach in varsity athletics for nine years at the University level, and then entered the NHL in 1998 with the NY Islanders.

CB: That is a great combination. So what are the most common injuries that you have to deal with in hockey?

SL: Lower quadrant injuries are the most common in hockey, predominantly knee sprains, adductor strains, sometimes abdominal wall tears. In the upper quadrant, shoulder injuries and wrist injuries are the most common, usually impact related as in sprains and dislocations.

CB: Our goal as strength and conditioning professionals is to help avoid injury. So what injuries are related to a lack of strength and conditioning and what injuries are more of a result from the game?

SL: I think a case can be made that they all have some relationship to fitness. If an athlete is fatigued, his balance and reaction time may be reduced, leaving him open to injury in the later stages of a game or the season. Certainly muscle injuries can occur because of strength decrements, but I would say that the majority of them occur due to strength imbalances and flexibility imbalances caused by handedness, previous injuries, or improper training protocols and techniques.

CB: Okay, now what strength and conditioning practices can you recommend to the readers to help them avoid hockey injuries?

SL: I would say that the best piece of advice to any athlete is to build a balanced body. Too many athletes concentrate on increasing performance numbers without paying attention to the imbalances they may be creating in their bodies. For example, concentrating on pushing a big bench number for pre-season testing causes the development of a protracted shoulder girdle, which leads to possible impingement syndromes, or worse shoulder instability. This is just an example of a myriad of imbalances that are created simply by poor training protocols.

CB: Let's talk about proper training protocols. How long should an off-season program be? How many sessions should an athlete train each week?

SL: I guess the answer to this is "as long as you have available". It's difficult to limit it since we don't always know when the athlete will finish playing. I like to give my guys 2-3 weeks of active rest, and then get things going with a general conditioning phase that gets them back into training. I like a work week philosophy, Monday to Friday training, two days off for recovery and family or personal life. The two-day rest really allows for adequate recovery to occur and solid training sessions during the week.

CB: Getting back to injury avoidance, are there any training methods that you would like players and athletes to avoid in the off-season?

SL: I actually think that in hockey max load, low repetition training is over-rated. I am also not a big fan of the big football lifts like the Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Military press, or even a power clean or snatch. I am more of a believer in movements that isolate the limbs, stimulate the core, require flexibility (without compromise), and eventually stimulate balance.

Heavy lifting is highly overrated in hockey as there is a limited relationship between what you squat, clean, or bench, and how fast, agile, or explosive you are on the ice. Hockey is a skills game and it requires a great deal of flexibility, core strength, balance and single limb strength. A greater focus should be placed on dissociation of the upper and lower body (trunk flexibility through rotation) and strength through rotation, single limb flexibility and strength, and balance. And then these properties should be shifted into power oriented exercise like plyometrics and medicine ball training.

CB: Before you even provide off-season training programs, what tests and exercises do you use for pre-season assessments of athletes?

SL: I like to do a movement screen examination on athletes who have had previous injury history. We don't always have time to do every athlete, but when we can, this type of evaluation can lead us to significant imbalances that need to be addressed during the season. More importantly we screen all those athletes that have had recurrent injuries during a season, at the end of the season and recommend exercises to address these during their off-season program. I am a big fan of on-ice testing and have been working for the past few years to get a coach to do this at the start of the year. This coming season may be the first in which this happens.

CB: What is your general approach to in-season training for a healthy player?

SL: Generally I am an advocate of high volume, low intensity training, full body programs that focus on the condition of the core. I give veteran players the latitude to train as they see fit, as long as they are keeping up with some type of regular program. Rookies follow programs given by me and generally train two times a week. There just isn't enough time to do much more that this and there just isn't enough energy from the athlete in an 82 game season.

CB: Any final tips on athletic preparation or rehab that you would like to add?

SL: Build from the core outwards, focus on flexibility, and don't forget to train all the conditioning components of hockey fitness.

CB: Thanks Scott for that refreshing look at training athletes. Good luck in the off-season with your athletes.

- Fat Loss Stuff

The goal of each CB newsletter is to address the varied interests of all readers. That is tough to do, having doctors, physiologists, coaches, athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and executives all on the same list. So each newsletter will have 2 parts, 1 focusing on athletic development and the other focusing on fat loss and muscle gain. This issue's fat loss info comes from research out of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In a shocking discovery, researchers from Harvard found that, "sedentary behaviors, especially TV watching, were associated with significantly elevated risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, whereas even light to moderate activity was associated with substantially lower risk."

In contrast, every hour per day spent walking briskly was associated with a significant reduction in obesity and diabetes. The researchers suggested that reductions in obesity and diabetes could be achieved "by adopting a relatively active lifestyle.

The minimum requirements for a "relatively active lifestyle" are:

  • no more than 10 h/wk of TV watching
  • at least 30 min/d of brisk walking

Hu, F., et al Television watching and other sedentary behaviors in relation to risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA 289: 1785-1791, 2003.

The next study should be of great interest to any reader whose goal it is to lose weight and who has used message boards as a source of "on-line support". In the study, overweight persons were given a weight loss program via the Internet. One group of subjects also received e-mail counseling. These subjects submitted information on their eating and exercise habits and then received feedback from a counselor.

After 12 months, the group that received the weight loss program and the e-mail counseling lost more weight, body fat, and inches from their waists. The authors concluded that, "Adding e-mail counseling to a basic Internet weight loss intervention program significantly improved weight loss in adults at risk of diabetes."

This set-up sounds similar to the Men's Health "Belly-off" message board (www.menshealth.com). Note: the Men's Health message board enlists the services of a registered dietician - not all Internet message boards do the same.

Tate, D., et al. Effects of internet behavioral counseling on weight loss in adults at risk for type 2 diabetes: a randomized trial. JAMA 289: 1833-1836, 2003.

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The information on cbathletics.com is for education purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health-care professionals. Consult your physician before beginning or making changes in your diet or exercise program, for diagnosis and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice regarding medications.


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