Twist Conditioning's Holistic Training for Hockey

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With 20 years in the industry (11 with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks); a staff that collectively has more than 100 years of experience; and a clientele that includes more than 700 professional athletes, Twist Conditioning owner Peter Twist understands the numbers game. In fact, his three studios around Canada serve hundreds of athletes each day.

What does this mean for the average high school hockey player? Results, pure and simple.

Consider this. Countless Twist athletes have gone on to compete in college, NCAA Championships, the Olympics and World Championships, and to play for the Stanley Cup. To help regular players reach such elite levels, Twist uses a holistic approach that includes coaching, training, testing, injury re-conditioning, team consulting, nutrition and sport psychology.

For hockey players, Twist focuses on "building strength, fitness and training in a way that corresponds to being on the ice." He says, "It's a mindset. If you train hockey-specific on dry land, you can directly improve your skills as soon as you put your skates on."

The best thing high school hockey players have going for them is their youth. "Young guys who start early really have the time to build a solid strength base," Twist says.

So what's a solid base?

"We're looking for equal strength. We want to integrate movement, balance and some type of combative situation for upper- and lower body strength," he says. "Being the strongest in the shoulder press or bench press doesn't necessarily transfer to being the strongest on the ice."

According to Twist, the key is to start at the center of your body, then gradually work your way out to your arms and legs. This ensures a solid core [lower back, hips and abdominals] and provides a foundation on which to build.

After that, "hockey is legs, legs and more legs." Developing his athletes' power, speed and first-step quickness is a top priority, as is preventing common injuries. "We try to decrease injuries that arise from asymmetries and structural differences, both of which cause problems," Twist says.

In season, Twist prefers his athletes to train three full-body sessions per week. "We like low volume and less of a time investment, but more intensity," he says. "We use a lot of compound, complex exercises to get the job done quickly."

To help his athletes build power they can generate from a standing position, Twist makes sure their legs and core are engaged all the time, including during upper body lifts.

Twist's next area of concentration when training hockey players is "deceleration and the energy cost and movement skills required."

Think of it this way: when a guy sprints down the ice, then stops to cut around another player, he's imposing about 1,000 pounds of force on his knees. "Guys get a lot of ACL and MCL tears if they're not prepared for that type of movement at that speed," Twist says.

"Your first step of acceleration depends on how well you decelerate," he explains. "So you have to make sure you're capable and strong in that situation."

To complement the ability to stop on a dime, Twist builds his athletes' high speed agility.

"Agility helps you get an extra step on your opponent," he says. "It can buy you some time to make a decision, to get some space to make a good play."

Twist's techniques have revolutionized the way hockey players train, simply because they're innovative and time-tested.

"I've enjoyed some longevity in the NHL and learned a lot," Twist says. "Everyone's playing, practicing and traveling, and you learn that there is no best time to train. Everyone needs to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time to be fresh for the next game."

Naslund: A Twist Faithful
Since joining the Vancouver Canucks 11 seasons ago—the same time Twist began his work with the team—Markus Naslund has played in five All-Star games, led the team in scoring seven times and become an all-around threat in the NHL. His professional career didn't begin quite as hot, though.

In 1996, after playing [and failing to deliver] for the Pittsburgh Penguins for five seasons, Naslund was traded to the Canucks. Once he got there, his numbers still didn't impress, so he was scratched from the lineup. Ready to show off his skills, he returned to Vancouver for the '98-'99 season to score 66 points in 36 goals—the most on the team.

In 2000, Naslund was named captain of the team, and he responded with a breakthrough year, leading his team to their first playoff appearance since 1996, on the strength of a 41-goal, 75-point showing. Despite missing the post-season due to a leg injury, the left wing came back to break point records for the next three seasons. Posting 48 goals for 104 points in '03-'04, Naslund won the NHL's Lester B. Pearson Award as the league's outstanding player.

In 2005, Naslund returned to Sweden to play in their Elite Hockey League. However, as a result of the labor conflict, he returned to Vancouver, signing a three-year contract that will keep him there until 2008.

Fast Facts

Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 16th overall in '91 by the Penguins
Traded: In 1996 to Vancouver in exchange for Alek Stojanov
Named: Team MVP in '99, '01, '02, '03, '04
Tied: At 11 for the most hat tricks in franchise history
Leads: Canucks in regular-season goals with 321

5 Drills

Here are five drills Twist has used over the years that will rocket your performance to the next level.

1. Single-Leg Bosu Hockey Stride Squat
• Place foot in middle of Bosu
• Find perfect point of balance, then lower into 90-degree stride position
• Keeping chest up, extend stride leg out at 45-degree angle, coordinating your arms
• Pause at bottom; return to start position, in full extension
Focus: Single-leg balance, core stability, arm/leg coordination

2. Two In, One Out Lateral Agility With Deceleration
• Set up two hurdles
• Stand on one leg in front of hurdle, with other hurdle to your right
• Drop hips so you have triple flexion in ankles, knees and hips
• Step laterally over two hurdles with quick light steps, decelerating on opposite leg
• Pause and repeat
Focus: Agility, deceleration

3. Closed Kinetic Chain Ball Pushes
• In athletic position with head and chest up, shoulders back and core set, hold Swiss ball in front with elbows slightly bent
• Have coach or partner push you repeatedly in multiple planes
• Keep ball still by firing your core and lower body
Focus: Core strength, shoulder stability

4. Slastix* Rotary Woodchop
• Begin in low athletic position with two hands on Slastix handle and tension in Slastix
• Extend through your hips and rotate Slastix on transverse plane
• Finish in full extension through ankles, knees and hips
Focus: Rotational core power

5. Slastix* Drop-Step to Single-Arm Bosu Chest Press
• Stand on Bosu with one hand holding Slastix tube
• Perform drop-step off Bosu, dropping into full flexion position with chest up
• Step forward onto Bosu while performing a chest press
• Fire your muscles sequentially, finishing in start position
Focus: Upper-body and core strength

* If Slastix is not available, any elastic band or tubing will work


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock