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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Hockey is a fast-paced, high-intensity, contact sport. Battles are constant along the boards, in front of the net and in the corners. Although they are part of the game, battles aren’t easily won. It takes a highly-skilled player with good balance, strong footing and upper body strength to push a player away from the puck long enough to gain possession.

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With this concept comes proper training and technique, which Jesse Demers, the Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach, tries to instill in all the players. Every day of Demers’ fitness routine, he focuses making sure his exercises target the needs of a hockey player.

Islanders prospect Calvin de Haan, was selected by the Islanders 12th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. This June, he participated in his second Mini Camp where he began working hard on Demers’ push, pull, leg system.

“Jesse’s workouts incorporate full body movements from your ankles all the way up to keeping your head straight and keep yourself looking forward,” said de Haan. “It’s good to keep that in mind too because on the ice you’re always moving, your whole body’s moving, you’re never standing still. So when you’re doing workouts with Jesse he’s keeping the whole body moving at the same time.”

Even though de Haan has only been using Demers’ system for a little over a month and a half, he’s already starting to notice a difference in his game.

Jesse’s workouts have been beneficial to my goal of getting stronger. I can feel it already. I feel faster and stuff, more explosive. My first three steps feel real quick because he focuses a lot on the lower body, from the core down. My shot is harder, I’m getting quicker on the ice. - Calvin de Haan
“Jesse’s workouts have been beneficial to my goal of getting stronger. I can feel it already. I feel faster and stuff, more explosive,” de Haan said. “My first three steps feel real quick because he focuses a lot on the lower body, from the core down. My shot is harder, I’m getting quicker on the ice.”

While de Haan is noticing a lot of different results, on Day Two of Demers system, he has the players concentrate on the pushing action.

“There are a lot of ways that a push can help a hockey player,” Demers said. “My routine helps with the players’ ability to push no matter what angle they’re at because he’s not just sitting on a bench press or doing isolated shoulder presses. I have them do something a little more functional.”

“It takes more to create a push than just chest muscles,” Demers continued. “It takes stabilizers and accessory muscles to create that force, not only to the chest but it’s also the arms, the shoulders, the core and where the legs are positioned.”

De Haan said when he is playing in a hockey game, he often skates into situations where a pushing movement is necessary.

“A pushing movement could be in the corners battling someone, trying to pin somebody, vice versa too. If you’re trying to protect the puck along the wall, push yourself off the boards, that’s a push movement and those are important because you try to separate yourself from the player. On the defensive side, you try to keep the guy contained in the corner.”

Using Demers’ push, pull, leg system, Day Two of his six-day workout involves the entire body while focusing on the pushing movement. Therefore, the most intense part of the workout is the push, while there is a medium pull and the “legs are used as a supporting cast for the body.”

“I feel my arms and shoulders mostly if we’re doing upper body stuff,” said the defenseman. “I’m a little sore right now, a little fatigued, but no pain no gain, right? If you’re not feeling any pain then nothing is really happening. I think I feel it more than doing a regular exercise if you just go to the local gym. I feel it more with Jesse than going somewhere else.”

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

Split jerk overhead press
The first exercise, a split jerk overhead press, is geared towards making the whole body work together through the weighted upward movement and the downward lunge.

Stand with your feet together with a dumbbell in your right hand. Bend your elbow so that the weight is held about ear height. To begin your first repetition, jump back with your right leg into a lunge at the same time as you push the weight up towards the sky. Then step your right leg back to your starting position at the same time as you lower the dumbbell. Repeat with the weight in the left hand and lunge back on the left leg.

Towel inverted row

The second exercise is a towel inverted row. This exercise will help stabilize your core muscles as well as improve your grip strength. If you complete a high amount of reps, you will also improve your cardiovascular workout.

To get into position, lie down on the ground with your chest underneath the horizontal bar. Wrap the towel over the bar and get a solid grip on both sides of the towel. When in the resting position, your arms should be fully extended without slack in the towel. To begin the exercise, keep your body stiff and pull yourself up towards the bar concentrating on your back and arm muscles. Lower yourself back towards the ground, but do not rest. Repeat.

Band X-step
The final exercise in this series is the band x-step. This exercise works out the backside of the body as well as the core muscles which are needed for hockey.

To get in position, step your feet onto the monster band a little wider than hip-width apart. Twist the band so it’s crossed at your belly button, forming an X shape. Pull the monster band up and hold your hands about six inches apart with your elbows pointed out to the sides. To complete the exercise, take small baby steps out to one side creating tension in the band by moving the front foot followed by the back foot. After five steps, change directions and make five baby steps to the other side. Repeat.

The next installment in the 'Demers Develops De-Body' series will focus on the “Pull” aspect of his push, pull, leg system.

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