Common Mistakes in Olympic Lifting With Hockey Players: Part 3 “Starfish”

As you can see through this series, the catch is often the most problematic for hockey players. Which is, as I’ve stated before, why many coaches will just avoid teaching it all together. However, I will state again, that problems with the catch will often point to other training qualities or deficiencies that are being missed. Whether it be lack of explosiveness or coordination, mobility restrictions, strength imbalances or slow hips, these are all exposed while performing a clean or snatch.

“Starfish” = Spreading feet to get under the catch

We’ve explored already how athletes will use ‘the Jump,‘ or catch with their hands as ways to compensate. The third tell tale sign that a clean or snatch needs some attention is through excessive lateral displacement of the feet during the catch. Or as I like to call it, the Starfish.

Note: SOME lateral displacement of the feet is to be expected. We are looking at EXCESSIVE displacement.

What causes the Starfish?

Not active or quick enough with the hips (too heavy): This is in the same vane as the elbows down catch in a clean and often you will see both mistakes in the same lift. Again, the focus on the concentric is so disproportionate, that there isn’t enough time to drop the hips back under to accept the bar, so to compensate for lack linear displacement of the hips combined with knee flexion, the athlete will spread their feet to the side and distribute the weight forward into the knees, toes and low back. Again, this comes back to lightening the load to work on timing and possibly improving some eccentric and posterior (glute/hamstring) chain strength. And, like with the jump, taking away the athletes feet, will force them to ‘feel’ the linear hip displacement and weight distribution we are looking for.

Lack of Mobility: This is especially true with the snatch in regards to the mobility of the hips and shoulder/tspine. I haven’t addressed the snatch as much as the clean, partially because I feel that most coaches are even more apprehensive about it due to the overhead catch position. However, I do use them frequently (and safely) with my hockey players, and would actually argue they are easier to teach than clean. But I digress and maybe I’ll spend some more time in a different post discussing the use of Snatches in team sport programming. That being said, I see the starfish A LOT when first teaching the snatch. This often comes back to a lack of mobility in the hips and thoracic spine. Much of the shoulder restrictions can be addressed in warm up with some t-spine mobility drills, and strengthening of the upper back. Additionally, cuing the athletes to achieve shoulder overhead position without going into lumbar extension can help address some anterior core control deficiencies. For the hips much of it is a trust thing, so simply adding in some overhead squats will often allow for the athlete to achieve a level of comfort in the overhead catch position.

After that, many of the fixes are the same as found in Part 1 of this series, “OW, My Wrists.”

This completes the series “Common Mistakes with Olympic Lifting for Hockey Players.” Again, I will reiterate, coaches, if you don’t know how to perform and coach the lifts, DON’T! There are plenty of other ways to program for power development. However, if you do want to program these lifts (which I highly recommend), take the time to properly educate yourself on the nuances of the lifts and how to SAFELY and effectively teach your athletes how to perform them. The USAW SP-1 course is a great starting spot for learning the basics.

I hope you’ve come away from this series with some tools you can use to help your hockey players safely and effectively maximize their training time. As always, I love and appreciate feedback. Comments, questions, like and share. Let’s get the conversation started!