Core Bracing: The Secret Weapon For Hockey Domination

In a previous hockey core training article, I dove deep into core structure, function, and how it connects to your performance out on the ice.

Today, I want to be a little bit more specific (I provided over 30 exercises in my previous core article) and narrow in on the topic of what core bracing is, and why you need do it.

It all begins with Newton’s third law: For every action, you will have an equal and opposite reaction.

For example, imagine holding a 10lbs medicine ball and doing a standing explosive chest pass throw to a wall or partner (like we do often in our programming here at HockeyTraining.com). When you are standing on the ground, and you exert force into that medicine ball in a chest pass motion, you are throwing the ball away from you in an explosive manner.

BUT…

The only thing actually keeping you in place is what’s known as “friction” in physics.

Your shoes on the ground are keeping you in place while you throw that heavy medicine ball. Therefore, the friction is able to absorb the redirecting force coming back against you from the ball.

But, if you were to be wearing roller skates, you would not have any friction and would, therefore, be subject to rolling backward once you threw the heavy ball.

Just picture yourself doing a standing explosive medicine ball chest pass while wearing roller skates and you’ll see what I mean—your feet and body would be going flying backward.

Your core acts in very much the same way to absorb and transfer redirecting forces from both resistance training movements (such as the bench press) and also opposing hockey players trying to knock you off the puck.

When you learn how to brace yourself appropriately to resist against an object, you will be able to:

  • Generate a greater amount of force (i.e. be stronger on the puck)
  • Decrease likelihood of having a weak link in your chain
  • Decrease likelihood of injury
  • Improve athletic performance

“Ok I got it, core training and bracing is important. But how do I brace?”

I’m glad you asked!

Here’s the thing, the greater amount of tension you can create in your body, the greater amount of force you’re going to be able to absorb and generate.

The athletes who have trained with me will be able to tell you that when I teach them technique, I’ll repeat ad nauseum that they must keep their core and body tight.

It’s no mistake why you see powerlifters spending 10-20secs just getting in position to lift before they even lift. They do this because they’re creating as much tension as humanly possible before a lift so that they can exert 100% of their potential force output.

Getting tight and creating tension is arguably the number 1 most fundamental component of weight training technique you can teach an athlete which will cover so many different areas of force development and injury resistance.  

How To Brace Your Core Properly

To start, I want you to practice breathing in your mouth with a wide-open mouth. From here, I want you to breathe with your diaphragm and belly, and not your chest/lungs.

I want you to picture and feel like you’re breathing air behind your belly button. This imaging will allow you to utilize your diaphragm and create the greatest amount of intra-abdominal pressure (which is actually why lifters wear weight belts too). Here, we are creating your own natural weight belt.

This right here is a good start for what you should be feeling when bracing yourself before large compounds lifts such as squats or deadlifts. Every single set, you should always brace this way.

Once you have taken this deep breath, I want you to keep the air in you but imagine I’m about to punch you in the stomach.

You know that really quick flex your stomach does when you realize at the last second your friend is going to punch you in the gut, or you see a puck coming towards you?

That’s what I want.

Deep breath behind your belly button, and then pretend someone is about to punch your gut. I want you to try this right now. Seriously, deep breath in the mouth, then tighten the gut.

Instead of using the gut punch verbal cue, I have also told people to flex the muscles they use when they’re constipated. This works just as well but leads to some awkward silence that I think is hilarious, but no one else seems to.

Once you get a feel for this bracing technique, I want you to make it a habit.

Every time you squat.

Every time you deadlift.

Every time you bench.

Every time you check someone on the ice.

Every time someone checks you.

…basically always.

It will become more intuitive over time, just like everything this requires practice. Also, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. TRUST ME.

Staying tight in your core during a set of 10 on the squats is seriously exhausting in the beginning stages of you learning to brace.

But, through continued consistency, your technique will improve and it will be much more automatic.

Once you have this down, it will improve all of your gym lifts which will have a direct transfer over to your hockey performance.

Always remember, every action has an equal and opposite reaction—so let’s train that way!

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

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