In part one of the Olympic Lifting for Hockey Players series, I discussed the cause of and some possible solutions to the reason I hear most often from players and coaches as the reason they skip the Olympic lifts; “My wrists hurt.” In Part 2 we are looking less at a potential injury mechanism, and more at improving the efficacy and carryover, so the athlete can feel confident that the work they are doing will have purpose in terms of performance on the ice. Specifically the ability to maximize hip extension for power production, and subsequently improve hip recovery, which relates to stride turnover.
Jumping = Never getting out of the hips
The first part of the clean is where we develop our power. We forcefully drive our feet through the ground forcing the bar to travel vertically until we are “long” via extension of the knees and hip. Many athletes will lose a large part of this opportunity to develop the lower body drive by never fully extending the hips and basically jumping from the ankle and then pulling with the upper body, never ‘getting out of’ their hips. While they may be successful at catching the bar, we always have to ask ‘why’ we are doing a particular exercise.
Unlike if I were coaching athletes competing in Olympic lifting, the objective with my hockey players isn’t just to catch the bar. It is to provide the stimulus to assist in developing a powerful, long skating stride, as well as improve the ability to recover the stride back to the hip. Full extension AND flexion!
What causes the Jump?
Lack of Understanding: Simply put, they jump because they think they are supposed to. The athletes (and often coaches) mistake the aggressive plantar extension and subsequent stomp out, for a jump. The reason this will limit the lifter and also not transition as well for our hockey players, is that the focus becomes almost entirely on the vertical/concentric and impedes transition with active recovery/eccentric. Rather than pulling back under the bar, we allow it to crash down like a cannon ball. The result is a slow looking clean, where the athlete appears to “float” with the bar.
Clarifying for our athletes the difference between jumping up, and extending your hips so aggressively to leave the ground and have to ‘jump’ down to maintain control, is a tough concept. A good strategy I have used for this is to “take the athlete’s feet away.” By that I mean challenge the athlete to keep their feet flat on the ground as they perform the lift. This forces them to be extra active with their hips and allow them to ‘feel’ the transition from extension to catch.
Lack Of Patience: Another common cause is rushing the lift. Not being patient enough to wait for hip contact, will cause the athlete to initiate the pull early which leaves the bar out front of the athlete, rather than keeping the vertical bar bath close to the body. The result is the athlete being forced to chase the bar forward in order to assume the catch position; the result is a jump, or hop forward. This is a timing issue, which can be exacerbated by a poor upper body set-up. Cuing athletes initially to keep their “knuckles down and elbows turned out” will help resist the urge to pull too early. Another great cue, is to instruct the athlete to “get tall” and “lift their shirt” with bar.
This demand for patience is one of the reasons athletes will get frustrated with the Olympic lifts, but, in my opinion, is also one the most valuable components, as it forces attention to detail in the gym in order to be successful. Don’t rush your athletes through progressions, and cut corners with technique, just so they can ego lift for the ‘gram.
Thanks for checking out Part 2 of Common Mistakes With Olympic Lifting for Hockey Players. In the final installment we will be tackling one of my favourite, and I would argue, the most common thing I see in ego lifters ( I have a been guilty) the “Starfish.”
‘Til next time, as always I love feedback! Like, share, comment; get the conversation going!