Friday, 14 June 2013

Strength training for drag flicking

Everybody wants to drag flick; little kids, broken down old masters players they all see it as the role they want to play, to be the game breaker. Sadly, not everybody has the necessary physical and technical attributes to be world-class drag flickers but most can learn it, improve and be able to deliver at their playing level consistently with the right coaching, equipment and training. I'm not equipped to impart detailed bio-mechanical advice on technique optimisation for the drag flick. There are other resources for you to seek out that will help add to the knowledge base you need to break the technique down into its constituent parts and bring them together again in unison to execute the flick.  Given the nature of the technique, it's likely that given the first principles of creating torque and leverage that longer limbed athletes with greater mass should have a mechanical advantage. Unfortunately, given the instant dumbing down effect of most things Internet there has emerged a cart blanche preference for grassroots and development level coaches to single out the taller, stronger youth for focusing their drag flick development efforts. For such generalisations there are aways exceptions; Ashley Jackson of ENG and GB and Anita Punt of NZ have shown that smaller, lighter athletes can generate great pace and accuracy with their drag flicking.

Check out Ashley Jackson on technique and again in anger vs IND 
Jerome Dekeyser of Belgium provides an excellent technique video.

In assessing the technique using learning resources such as these and others (from national association coaching drills) it's crucial you decompose the technique into its key steps:
  • Footwork - stride pattern; number, approach angles; take-off
  • Pickup - addressing the ball; head and stick positions
  • Transition sometimes called release; acceleration
  • Follow Through

Hockey Australia provide a very neat app. with this you can look at how an elite player executes the technique and then video yourself; comparing and contrasting as a key part of the process to improve yourself. Along with perfecting the motion required for effective drag flicking, would be flickers need to spend time understanding what is required of them by way of physical preparation i.e. strength and conditioning. The technique places a lot of stress on the body, particularly given the amount of repetition required to perfect technique. It makes sense to help prevent overuse injuries and optimise strength and power. The following exercises and advice are not definitive, it is absolutely essential that you consult with your sports physiotherapist and a bio-mechanist before embarking on a specific strength and conditioning program so that you can be assessed for any asymmetries and weaknesses that may worsen under load. 

Consistently powerful drag flicking requires whole body strength, starting from the legs through the torso and expressed finally through the forearms and wrists at final release.  Force applied to the ball stems from the force you are able to apply to the ground with your legs in the shortest possible time.

Leg strength and posterior chain

Here the focus is on developing your posterior chain. The posterior chain is the group of muscles that runs from your lower back down behind your legs, hence the name, posterior. These muscles include the lower back, the gluteal group, the hamstrings, and also the calves.  The web is awash with excellent reference sites with diagrams and videos that target strengthening these muscles. Here is a subset of these:


If you don't have time, money or access to exploit a fully equipped gym, investing in a decent medicine ball and finding some space to workout can provide similar exercise opportunities. Medicine ball plyometrics is an appropriate modality for drag flick training but necessitates you having a thorough assessment beforehand as it does place a lot of dynamic load on the joints; if you have a history of knee and ankle injuries, it may not be the best fit for you. 

Here are some valuable plyometric routines ( some with & some without medicine ball):

Medicine ball scoop throw works quads, hamstrings & abdominals

Lateral bounds - no medicine ball works quads, hamstrings,abductors,calves,glutes

Lateral box jumps no ball needed works adductors, abductors,glutes,calves,hamstrings,quads

Box jumps-Medicine ball squat jumpsglutes,calves,hamstrings,quads

Torso - core

All of that power being generated by the legs has to be amplified using your torso or core group of muscles as the rotation these provide are essential to generating maximal power. Again, the medicine ball can be your friend as I take a minimalist approach to outfitting equipment for training. There are many other useful core conditioning workouts available, it's important to expand your repertoire of exercise routines to prevent plateaus and boredom.

Downward Chop

The importance of this exercise is to do it explosively. This will help to increase rotational speed, which will increase power.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the ball behind your head, and then swing it down between your legs as if chopping wood. (Bend your knees slightly as you come down, as you would if you were hiking a football between your legs.)
Then swing it back up behind your head, straightening your body as you lift up. Start at a slow pace. Work up speed as you advance.

Squat and Toss

Stand with feet spread about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, upper body straight. Hold the ball at your chest. Squat down and then extend your legs up, throwing the ball directly overhead. (Not too high.)
Catch the ball, giving with your wrists and elbows to absorb the impact. Bring ball back to chest and repeat.

Side Chop

Kneel with knees spread about shoulder-width apart. Hold ball with both hands above your left shoulder. Bring the ball across your body and down to the outside of your right knee. Bring it back across your body to the starting position. Do a full set on each side.

Seated Russian Twist

For All Exercises:

  10 reps on each set for weeks 3-4 then aim to shift up to 15 before increasing the mass of the ball
  Start with one set, work up to two
  Use a 6- or 8-pound medicine ball work up to 10-12 pound balls
  Do this two days per week

Sit-up and throw - Sidearm throw - underhand throws 

Upper body

Making the most of all of that leg and core power through the transfer or transition phase means a strong upper body; arms, shoulders, lats, chest,wrists. 

Conventional free weight and isometric routines including push-ups, chin ups ( weighted and unweighted ), dips, bench press, lat pull downs, shoulder presses, upright and bent rows are mandatory basics. You can include kettlebell workout routines of which there are a million online sites and videos to help out.

Medicine ball workout for upper body

And to me, the secret sauce - YOGA.

Yoga exercises

Yoga is an integral part of quite a number of strength and conditioning programs in the NHL (ice hockey what North Americans refer to as hockey) yet it is rare to see it fully understood let alone recognised by elite field hockey conditioners. Yoga is instrumental in aiding the tensile strength and conditioning of major muscle groups and aiding breathing and relaxation techniques essential to focus and skill acquisition. Including yoga routines as part of your drag flick strength and conditioning sessions will provide an insurance policy on better balance, strength and injury prevention.

Here are some asanas for hockey players you may need a spotter for these to look after safety.

I'd add to these the following:

Dolpin Front plank

Side plank

Upward plank pose

Forearm balance pose

Next month - Circuits

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  1. Are kettlebells good strength training equipment?
    It is for use by people serious about developing muscle strength training equipment.
    For more information: strength training equipment

  2. I've heard of some guys using SARMs for their strength training, although in any kind of serious league that may not be allowed.

    Check out this site for info