March 2006
Kinesthetic Proprioception…
The latest buzz phrase every hockey player should know!


I saw it with my own eyes… an athlete standing barefoot next to one of those 3-foot Swiss balls. He squatted down deep in his knees and leapt into the air, landing squarely on the ball. His trainers immediately began throwing strange things at him in no particular order and from every direction… tennis ball, bean bag, medicine ball, I can’t remember exactly, I was in awe, but I know that he caught everything tossed to him and threw each item right back, all without losing his balance. This tremendous feat, this example of human excellence, was on video tape, displayed by one of the NHL strength and conditioning coaches at the 2005 International Hockey Skating Symposium and it came attached to a phrase that would turn out to be the catch phrase of the weekend, Kinesthetic Proprioception.

 

First I had to learn how to pronounce it,

“ kns-thtk prpr--spshn“,

and then I needed to understand exactly what it was because in all my years as a professional hockey skating coach this was the first time I had heard this term.

 

Kinesthetic awareness is sensing the body’s position in space and Lorne Goldenberg, conditioning coach to NHL and OHL players in Ottawa, says that proprioception is “a variation of touch that includes the sensation of both joint movement and joint position.” So Kinesthetic proprioception, to those of us who don’t speak science, means that fine-tuned balance results in the body’s ability to react very quickly while remaining stable, otherwise known as AGILITY. The better the kinesthetic proprioception the quicker the reaction. Goldenberg says that a recent study confirms what many strength and conditioning coaches have suspected all along, that excellent balance and excellent skating go hand in hand, and many NHL strength coaches are using this information to enhance off-ice work by adding extreme balance training to their workout routines.

Kinesthetic proprioception can be practiced on ice too. Here are 3 drills you can try:

 

  • Set up a straight line of 8 short hurdles between the blue lines. The players get some speed, and jump over the first hurdle while turning in mid air to the right landing backward, then glide backward to the next hurdle and jump and turn to the left landing forward, forward to backward turning right over the next one, etc. If that’s not hard enough, try it one on one foot. Jumping and turning simultaneously upsets the core balance and forces the skater to use the muscles, joints, and nerve endings to quickly find their alignment so they can jump and land effectively again.

 

  • Create a mess. Lay sticks, cones, tires, whatever you’ve got in a lane between the blue lines. Ask the skaters to build up speed and then glide through the lane maneuvering around the mess, trying not to hit anything. Once they’ve got that down have them glide through the mess on one foot. Next step, (coaches you’ll like this one) the skaters repeat the drill, glide and jockey on one foot, but this time coaches throw playground balls at them, hitting them but NOT HURTING THEM! The purpose is to challenge their core balance, forcing them use their bodies to respond to the hit. Their goal is to remain stable and continue to effectively dodge the chaos.

 

  • The awareness of the core is never more obvious than when a skater is working on a challenging edge exercise. Here’s a simple one for you… place your gloves on the ice about 3 feet apart. Push off and skate on one foot in the shape of an 8 around your gloves. DON’T touch down after the 8 is complete, just keep going on that same foot and continue the 8 pattern as long as you can. Do this on each foot and try it backward too. This drill is called the “endless 8” and while it is simple it’s far from easy.

 

All players can improve agility through kinesthetic proprioceptive training but there is continuing research to suggest that very young athletes are at their physical prime for coordination development and if these physical connections are made at an early age they stick.

 

Wendy Marco is considered one of North America’s top hockey skating coaches with players from the CBHL to the NHL. Her new DVD can be found at www.ColdRushHockey.com.




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