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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
There are only two minutes left in the hockey game and the score is tied 1-1. With only enough time on the clock for a few more offensive rushes down the ice, winning this game is going to come down to the team with the hardest and best shot.

If you’ve been working out with Jesse Demers, the Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach, the pull part of his system will help strengthen your shot on net and improve your team’s chances of winning the game. While his exercise system concentrates on three separate areas: the push, the pull and your legs, Demers said that one of the most important areas of focus is the pull.

“When we skate, we play facing forward with our sticks down. Pulls are good for posture and help prevent injury because they work the whole posterior chain or backside of the body,” Demers said. “It’s important to stay healthy, but the pull exercises with rotational movement are also important. While a rotational pull is not necessarily working on the shot, it’s working on the loading phase, which will improve the overall strength and power behind each shot you take.”

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But Demers’ system is a lot different than a normal fitness routine you would do on the equipment at the local gym. Instead of sitting on a machine and pulling weight towards your chest or sitting under a machine and pulling down towards your back, Demers’ program uses movement to create power.

“On a pull day you think about all the angles you can pull with. Most people sit on the machine and they pull to their chest or they sit under a machine and pull down to their back,” Demers explained. “With my program, we might do a rotational medicine ball throw for a pull because it involves your entire body, involves rotational component and it allows each player to create some power. So it’s more of the action and what angle of the action that we’re talking about.”

Islanders prospect Mark Katic, enjoys working out with Demers. Selected by the Islanders in the Third Round, 62nd overall, of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Katic made his professional debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. He saw playing time in 48 games earning 3 goals, 11 assists for 14 points and 16 penalty minutes.

Katic was also selected to play in the AHL All Star Game last season, but didn’t play due to injury. So in the past few weeks, Katic has spent time working on Demers’ program at Iceworks in Syosset and he has already noticed a difference.

“I think Jesse’s program definitely works. We are moving our entire body at the same time. We will never do a push without doing a pull movement and I think it’s definitely helped me a lot,” Katic said.

I’ve put on some weight this summer, my back and my shoulders feel a lot stronger. It gets your shoulders back, helping your back and shoulder muscles. Those are really important for hockey and balance so the pull is definitely super important. It’s great and it’s all thanks to Jesse’s program. - Mark Katic
“I’ve put on some weight this summer, my back and my shoulders feel a lot stronger,” Katic continued. “It gets your shoulders back, helping your back and shoulder muscles. Those are really important for hockey and balance so the pull is definitely super important. It’s great and it’s all thanks to Jesse’s program.”

As a defenseman, Katic really likes Demers’ push, pull, leg system because he feels more confident out on the ice despite his modest stature.

At 5’11” and 185 pounds, Katic said, “A guy my size, needs to have a little bit of an advantage. I think Jesse’s workout with the rotations and the balance and everything like that is going to give me an advantage because I’ll be more stable on the ice. For my size, if a bigger guy tries to hit me, I’ll be able handle myself a little better.”

Not only does Katic feel his size and strength have improved, he has also noticed a difference in power when he releases his shot, which is important for a blue-liner.

“My shot is definitely a lot harder and with the pulls, we do all sorts of movements,” Katic continued. “There are rotational pulls, horizontal pulls, etc. But the rotational pulls will definitely help out your shot.”

In the accompanying video, Demers will demonstrate three different exercises he uses on a pull day, which include examples of a heavy pull, moderate leg and light push exercise.

Reverse three-way core bar pull
The point of the reverse three-way core bar pull is to focus on the rotational movements of the core. Demers said, “People usually think about coming forward to train the shot for hockey, but they forget that training the opposite motion is how you strengthen the shot.” Pull exercises also help improve the posture and prevent injuries.

To position yourself for this exercise, stand with your feet more than hip width apart, feet facing forward and knees bent. Hold the bar with both hands spread apart in the same fashion as you would a hockey stick. But if you are using a JC band, hold the band with both hands clasped together.

This is a fast paced exercise so prepare to elevate your heart rate. To begin, rotate through the core keeping the bar around mid-height. Untwist back to your starting position. Repeat three times. Next, rotate through the core, this time moving the bar in an upward motion. Untwist back to your starting position and repeat three more times. Then start from the beginning, repeating both twisting motions two more times. Repeat the entire process on the opposite side of the body.

If you are using a medicine ball, rotate through the body the same way that Demers demonstrates in the accompanying video, but throw the medicine ball against the wall and as it bounces back, catch the ball while you are untwisting your body.

Single leg hamstring curl on a Swiss ball
The single leg hamstring curl requires two functions of the body, a hip extension with the glute muscles and hamstring curls. This exercise really focuses on building strength in your leg while strengthening the core.

To get in position, lay flat on the ground with your arms by your side, palms facing down. Slowly put one heel on the exercise ball, making sure you are stable before releasing your other foot off the ground and keeping the leg slightly bent, raise it towards the ceiling. Then concentrate on the leg that is resting on the exercise ball. Raise your body off the ground by only allowing your should blades and arms to rest on the ground. Start to bend your knee, bringing the exercise ball towards your body. As you do so, move the ball from your heal to your foot resting flat on the ball. As you push back out, lift up the toes of the foot so that your leg is fully extended and your heel is again resting on the exercise ball. Repeat ten times then switch legs.

Incline push-up with feet on bench
The incline push-up is one way to vary the normal push-up. Demers likes this style of push-up and recommends it for athletes because it helps improve the cardiovascular workout by increasing the heart rate.

This exercise is extremely easy to visualize. Start in the push-up position. Slowly move one foot to the bench and then the other so that your body is parallel to the floor. When you do the push-ups make sure that you are keeping your body stiff without pushing your butt up in the air or arching your back so that your stomach is lower to the floor. Complete a high amount of reps to maximize your workout and increase your heart rate.
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