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Trainer's innovative regimen key to Crosby's game

Thursday, 10.14.2010 / 9:00 AM / Zigtech Ultimate Training powered by Reebok

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Trainer's innovative regimen key to Crosby's game
A chance meeting between a 13-year-old Sidney Crosby and young trainer Andy O'Brien was key in Crosby's development into a star, as O'Brien designed an innovative regimen for him to follow.
There are few shortcuts in Sidney Crosby's game, which many describe as the most complete in the NHL today.

Not surprisingly, there are even fewer shortcuts in Crosby's preparation off the ice.

At an early age, it was abundantly clear Crosby had the natural skills to play elite-level hockey, but the emerging star in his family knew the best way to make that dream become reality was to train his body to get the most out of those skills.

And as is the case with most success stories, divine providence came into play. As a 13-year-old with a burgeoning reputation as the best teenage player in Canada, Crosby ran into trainer Andy O'Brien, an unproven commodity who had just graduated from college with a kinesiology degree, at a summer hockey camp.

From there, a relationship was born that helped Crosby turn into the elite player he is today.

As a new breed of athletic trainer, O'Brien was not overly enamored with the old-school ways of throwing iron around a gym to build muscle mass.

Instead, he examined the game with a clinical eye and designed a workout regimen that would prepare Crosby for the challenges that lay ahead in the NHL.

Many of the drills introduced into Crosby's training regimen a decade ago remain in place today.

"It's important when you are training to not just train in a static environment, but to train dynamically and identify some of the key variables you need in hockey," O'Brien said.

That led him to examine the demands the game -- shooting and skating -- and design exercises to address the demands placed on the body by what are unnatural activities.

"Hockey is not about muscles working individually," O'Brien said. "They really have to work in sequence. You have to be really flexible in certain areas, but you have to be strong and stable in other areas, as well."

As we have learned in the past decade, nothing is more important to a hockey player than his core -- the group of abdominal and gluteal muscles that are so instrumental in generating skating power and maintaining balance, while also helping the player avoid injury.

In fact, much of O'Brien's program is designed around activating the abdominal and gluteal muscles to help a skater generate a more powerful stride.

He also stresses work on the sagittal plane of motion (forward and backward motions), an emphasis O'Brien believes is ignored in many of the workout regimens used by hockey players.

The results of O'Brien's outside-the-box thinking are there for all to see. Crosby has been a paragon of health -- aside from an ankle injury -- since entering the NHL as an 18-year-old. He possesses one of the most fluid and dynamic skating strides in the League and is near impossible to knock off the puck.

"I think that's so important for a hockey player now," Crosby said of his emphasis on lower-body development. "And as much as you're trying to build and gain strength, you're also trying to make sure that you stay healthy and prevent injuries as best you can.

"That's really what goes into my mind when I'm preparing for a season. I think strength-wise, speed-wise, you are just always trying to gain that edge."
"Hockey is not about muscles working individually.  They really have to work in sequence. You have to be really flexible in certain areas, but you have to be strong and stable in other areas, as well." -- Andy O'Brien
And while Crosby has put in all the work in the gym, he knows he would not be where he is today without input from O'Brien.

"He's kind of a multi-sport trainer, and so for me I enjoy being athletic," Crosby told NHL.com.  "I don't mind lifting weights, but I like trying to be athletic when I'm doing it, too. I've been with him for nine years, and it's been good. 

"He's got a pretty good feel on things, and I enjoy the stuff we do. It's always new and when you train every day in the summer, it needs to be new. I think he does a good job of that."


Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure