As a contact sport, hockey puts a lot of pressure and stress on the human body. Minor checks can sometimes wreak havoc causing players to miss weeks of the season due to injury. Even something as simple as a rush down ice can cause a player to pull a hamstring, which is a major reason teams have strength and conditioning coaches and trainers in their organizations.
“In season we’re a little more focused on injury prevention, maintenance and making sure our guys stay healthy, which is a problem around the hockey league and around pro sports,” said Jesse Demers, the New York Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach.
Because hockey is a full contact sport, with 82 regular season games, the schedule is physically demanding. If a player does suffer a minor injury, there is not a lot of time to allow their body to recover before the next game.
“We can’t have a successful team if our guys are off the ice. So preventing injuries is one thing in season that I try to focus on,” Demers said.
As new graduate of Springfield College, Demers got his start in 2007 with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers as an assistant to the head Strength and Conditioning coach. The following year, he was promoted to the top spot with the Islanders AHL affiliate. After proving himself, Demers was promoted again in 2009 to his current position as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the New York Islanders.
According to Demers, it’s important for all athletes to train their body in a way that focuses on the whole body, movement and injury prevention and he does this by using a training regimen he calls the ‘push, pull, leg system.’
“When I say that we use a push, pull, leg system, I mean that everyday there is a push, there is a pull and there is a leg component,” Demers said. “So at the end of the week, if we add up the numbers, the pushes equal the amount of pulls, pulls are equal to the amount of legs and legs are equal to the amount of pushes. This way the body is well balanced and there is nothing that is overdeveloped.”
“When one part of the body is overdeveloped, you get a lot of injuries,” Demers continued. “A lot of guys over train the body in certain areas, which creates imbalances and that’s where a lot of problems come from.”
Many times fans don’t realize that professional hockey players tough it out and play through their injuries, which really isn’t good for the body, but when a player must sit out a game here and there, the chemistry of the team out on the ice is disrupted and can adversely affect the teams’ win column. That’s why Demers works hard to train the players in ways that promotes all-around wellness.
“Rather than having a player run 30, 100-yard sprints, we really focus on speed development. I think you become faster and stronger when you use a push, pull, leg system because you are really in sync with yourself and make the body work together,” Demers said. “My system maximizes the function of your body movements which makes better athletes and better hockey players.”
There is a visual component to this fitness series. Please click on the following link to watch Jesse Demers talk about his ‘push, pull, leg’ exercise program.