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Push-ups and pull-ups helped Recchi's upper body

by Shawn P. Roarke
While many rightfully will point to lower-body training as the most important aspect of any hockey player's regimen, upper-body training can not be ignored.

Boston forward Mark Recchi remains competitive at 42 because he spends a ton of time doing explosive sprinting exercises to work on his speed and complements that work with various other lower-body exercises. But after two decades of NHL battles, Recchi also is smart enough to understand his training would not be complete without a good deal of upper-body work, as well.

Always looking for an edge, Recchi spent a summer afternoon at a Reebok training shoot picking the brain of Jeremy Frisch, a strength-and-conditioning coach who recently left the College of the Holy Cross to become a personal trainer.

In many ways, Frisch, who has been in the business for the past decade, is an old-school trainer. He does not put much stock in a good deal of the new-fangled workout machines flooding the market. To him, the best workouts are the most basic workouts.

He also is not in the vanguard of sport-specific training, believing that a well-rounded program of exercises can help an athlete in any sport.

"We train the human being first," said Frisch, who competed in football and track and field during his own athletic career. "Then we train the athlete, and finally, we train for the sport."

So it was no surprise that Frisch's advice to Recchi was to keep it simple, suggesting a steady diet of pull-ups, push-ups and medicine-ball work.

"I think it is about going back to the basics and just refining the movements," Frisch said.

So that afternoon, Frisch first ran Recchi through a regimen of exercises involving a 15-pound medicine ball.

For Frisch, the medicine-ball exercises he designed for Recchi addressed the rotational component inherent in many hockey-specific movements -- including the slap shot and wrist shot motions.

He also asked Recchi to launch the medicine ball like a shot put, borrowing heavily there from his own track-and-field background.

Not only does the shot-put exercise build power, but it also works on coordination as the athlete is asked to move his feet quickly and in balance with the upper body to generate the necessary momentum to propel the medicine ball by developing as much power and force as possible.

And that is about as fancy as Frisch got with Recchi. After that, it was back to basics.

Frisch is a big fan of push-ups.

"It doesn't matter who you are as an athlete, you have to do push-ups," Frisch said. "You can do them almost anywhere and they are so good for developing upper-body strength."

Plus, Frisch has an almost unlimited variety of push-up drills from which to choose. He likes to see his clients do push-ups while their hands are elevated on small boxes, a range of movement which stretches the entire chest. He'll also elevate the feet during push-up drills or place weights on the back of the athlete as he does push-ups.

"You just have to keep making the exercise harder as guys get better to get the most out of it," Frisch said.

And if you want the simplest possible way to build upper-body strength, Frisch said there is nothing better than ripping off a few sets of pull-ups.

"I can't think of a better upper-body strength builder," he said. "Plus, it is also really good for building strength in your grip, which helps in so many areas."

That simplicity that is the hallmark of Frisch's plans for any athlete -- and it was the guiding principle for his summer session with Recchi.

"When you break it down, everything we do in the weight room are all basic human movements," Frisch said. "You can watch a baby do all these things. We just want to take those basic movements and refine them until they are perfect."

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