Look at the players on any hockey or basketball team, each body shape is different. They are not all clones of some super proto type. Some are taller, some are shorter, and some look very muscular, while others look almost like regular people. Even at the same position the players look different. Why?
When I was the strength and conditioning coach for a major Jr. Hockey team in Canada [16 to 20 year olds], I had players all the time that wanted to look like body builders and I had to talk them out of it. They thought that the size of their muscle was going to transform them into a better hockey player. Now don’t get me wrong, muscle is a good thing to have, but at what point does too much muscle become a burden and slow us down. At what point does too much muscle play against us and turn us into something that looks really impressive but is not very effective?
Sometimes it’s not a matter of how much muscle we have or don’t have, but how we use the muscle that we do have. So then, the training style we use can then be more important than the size or strength of our muscle we have. For example, go to a bench and start to do a regular dumbbell press. Choose a weight that you can do 10 reps with, how does it feel? Do you feel strong? Now get a stability ball and try and use the same weight, [be careful if you have never used one before], what happened? Do you still feel strong? If you do, than you have a usable strength, core strength, if you will. If you could not do it, than you have more of a conventional gym strength that does not always translate well in the athletic world. This does not mean, if you could not do it, you are never going to be able to do it, only that you need to change your training style.
Core strength or centre body strength, as I like to call it, allows us to be deceiving. This strength means we can stabilize our core and allow the muscle around the core to function. Most people need to have a flat or stable surface to push against. Think about the sports we play, when do we get to have a stable surface to push against? I remember a long time ago when a very famous body builder tried to play football in the CFL [Canadian football league], boy did he look impressive, he was huge. He had muscles on top of muscles, strength like you would not believe. The problem was that although he had the muscle, it was not usable. He had cosmetic muscle, muscle created in a way just for looks. The muscle he had was for show, in the sense that it was not designed with football in mind; he needed that core strength that can only come from core training or hours and hours of hands on football training. He was getting knocked around by guys who were much less impressive looking, and people were wondering why?
One of the famous hockey players that I used to train, was very set in his ways later in his career, and thought he could do his own training. He had a work ethic like no one I have ever seen. He would do cardio like a mad man; he would have to get a mop to clean up after himself. It was nothing for him to do a 60 to 90 min. workout. I was training JR.A hockey players at the time and would try to talk him into doing sprints and plyometrics with us but he said it was too hard and he did not want to look foolish. People around the NHL would talk about his workouts and on his team the coaches would hold him up to the younger players as an example of dedication. This is another example of where looks are deceiving. The player did have an excellent work ethic, but it was misguided. He was turning himself into a slower and slower player. He thought he was getting old and that’s why he was slowing down but it was his training style. He trained his way out of the NHL by working so hard, doing the wrong things. His team was holding him up as an example of what to do, instead of what not to do.
Even well intentioned training that is wrong is still wrong, no matter how much we want it, no matter how hard we do it. Sometimes fitness training is different than we think it should be. We look at what others are doing and think it is what we should be doing. We know what we are doing and we think that because we are working so hard we will win or succeed. Working hard is a great thing, but working correctly is much better. So when you look at an athlete that is great at their sport, find out why? Find out how they are training. Remember that looks really are deceiving.