The Ben Velazquez interview on Episode 39 of the Hockey Strength podcast featured some very meaningful insights on proactive player training for concussion prevention purposes. Parados has decided to offer some exercises that will help you gain strength in your neck, posterior deltoids, and abdominals. As mentioned by Ben in his interview, strengthening these areas will improve your cervical spine awareness, will prevent forward neck posture, and will reduce tightness in the pelvis.
Neck strengthening exercises may be the most scarce and hard to come by but are crucial to master. The first one we will be looking at is the seated chin tuck. Sit tall in a chair with your shoulders rolled back and a straight back. Tuck your chin in without allowing your head or neck to move. Hold it for 10 seconds and then repeat at a comfortable number of reps.
Another great exercise for neck strength is the prone cobra. This exercise is a bit more complicated but will provide great results. Begin by lying face down on the floor. (You can use a rolled-up towel to rest your forehead for comfort purposes). Place your arms by your side with your palms on the floor (A). Next, pinch your shoulder blades together and lift your hands off the floor. From here, roll your elbows in, push your palms out, and bring your thumbs up. Finally, gently lift your forehead up while holding a downward gaze (B). Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat as many times as is comfortable.
A great way to begin abdominal training is by starting out with abdominal crunches. This exercise is completed by laying on your back, and planting your feet at shoulder width apart. Once you are in this position, slowly lift your back toward a seated position, while leaving your neck and back relaxed. Once you are 50% of the way to a 90 degree back angle, return to a laying position. That is 1 abdominal crunch. This exercise allows you to ease your way into more sets and repetitions as you feel comfortable. It is a great beginner way to add core strength.
A second great abdominal exercise is a plank with variations. Planks can be done facing forward, as well as left and ride sided planks. To complete this exercise, you will lay your body parallel to the ground, balancing on your forearms and toes, while keeping your glutes tight and close to the ground. Hold this position for personally timed sets and repetitions, at your own comfort. A side plank variation involves the same instructions, but while balancing on one single forearm and facing your stomach and chest in the opposite direction.
Training your posterior deltoids can be more complicated and require more equipment than the others. Generally using dumbbells, or a machine at a local fitness facility. The first exercise that is great for posterior deltoids is pull ups. Pull ups are performed by gripping a raised bar and allowing your weight to hang. From there, you pull your body upward until your chin has surpassed the bar you are gripping. Once you have reached it, you slowly release yourself back toward the ground. Once you have straightened your arms again, you repeat this motion. You can complete these in personalized sets and reps for your comfort. You can also utilize an exercise band to complete assisted pullups. (Below; Right) The tension on the band will help you raise your body to complete the proper form. This technique is generally used by beginners before they are comfortable with completing them without assistance.
This next exercise will certainly require some weight equipment. Bent over rows are an awesome way to gain strength in your shoulders and back. They are completed by handling weight of your choice. Once you've gripped the weight, you will bend your body forward to the point that your back is parallel to the ground. You can do this exercise with both single and double weights. With a single, you can use your opposite knee to stabilize yourself. (Below; Left) From this position, pull the hanging weight up toward your body, and then release it back toward the ground. Once again, you can complete this at the proper weight and number of times for your comfort.