It’s been a long summer, like many of you I kept tabs on the Islanders throughout the offseason through both stories on their website and on their Twitter feed. If you haven’t caught this multipart series on the Islanders strength and conditioning Coach Jesse Demers, you should certainly check it out!
Demers has installed a new program that every player in the Islanders organization takes part in. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if an amateur hockey player goes through what the pros do, wonder no more as I got to see (and feel) first hand just how tough it can be. This story ties into this summer’s training camp and the Islanders stories on Demers perfectly, as you can picture your favorite players doing many of the exercises and stretches that I was put through.
This is a multi-part post due to the length and descriptive nature, so please don’t forget to check back later in the week for the follow up post!
I met with Jesse on a Monday afternoon at Iceworks, the Islanders practice facility in Syosset. We had introduced ourselves, explained what I was looking to accomplish for my blog and after asking me a few questions about the level of my play, decided on an abbreviated workout strategy to go through with me. I had jokingly asked him if he was planning on killing me, and he told me I would be fine.
In our pre-workout chat, Demers stressed the importance of working out and warming up for players of every level. He explained that often times most injuries can be prevented by stretching before going out on the ice. I had to remind him that as amateurs, we aren’t afforded the same time before games as pros – but he countered my point with one of his own, “Well, many of the stretches and exercises I will show you can either be done at home prior to coming to the rink, or even in the locker room”. I guess there isn’t an easy way around the right warm-up! With that, we started my workout.
We began my workout with a simple exercise – jumping rope. I thought jumping rope wouldn’t be difficult, but I got scolded right out of the gate. Demers told me that I was jumping too high, and using my legs too much. He told me that he wanted me to use my ankles and feet to jump, jumping just high enough to pass the jump rope under my feet. Once I got the technique down, I completed three sets consisting of 25, 50 and 75. At this point, I could see that this was going to be a very long workout.
Slightly embarrassed that I couldn’t make it through one exercise without being corrected, we moved onto some dynamic stretching. Demers explained that the stretches he would show me, were all used to prevent injury and focus on stretching your legs, hamstrings, knees, gluts and other areas.
For the first stretch, Demers had me stand up tall and lift one knee up into my chest, grab it with both hands and hold it up. He stressed that it was important to bring my knee up without helping it, in order to do the stretch properly. He asked if it felt like my muscles were fighting me, which they clearly were – but he told me that with time they would become built up and would feel fluid and natural. Once I held my knee up for a few seconds, he wanted me to release it, take a step forward and do the stretch with the other leg. I completed a set of ten of these leg stretches for each leg.
The next stretch was similar to the first, I was told to stand tall – but this time I had to grab my ankle and my knee. Demers told to put downward pressure on my knee and pull my ankle upwards. We would again repeat this stretch for the opposite leg and alternate back and forth completing a set of ten stretches for each leg.
The third stretch was a sort of backwards lunge. With my arms stretched straight above my head, I took a step back, keeping the back leg straight and the forward leg bent at the knee. Using only the front leg, I had to lift myself into a standing position. I essentially walked across the room backwards while doing this stretch, all the while alternating between my left and right legs, again completing a set of ten stretches for each leg. It was one of the first stretches that really got my muscles burning; my thighs got quite the workout.
For the fourth stretch, Demers had me stand in a similar position with a leg out behind me straight and my forward leg bent at the knee. This time however, I wouldn’t be doing a reverse lunge – instead I would reach over my head across my body and reach as far as I could in the stretch and hold that position. After a few seconds, I would walk into a standing position and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. I completed a set of ten per side once again. My thighs already on fire from the previous stretch, they got a similar workout, as did my upper body from the reach.
The next stretch I had several problems with, it seemed that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get my body to cooperate much at all. After being shown no less than five times, I was finally able to manage the proper stance, but only after physically being corrected in my stance and posture. Standing with both feet flat on the floor, I had to keep one leg stretched out straight to one side, I had to bend my opposite knee and put all my weight out over my stance by leaning back almost into a skating position by putting my butt out as far backwards as it would go. I then placed my hands out in front and held them there. As you can tell by these photos, it was not the easiest or the most comfortable of stretches. I think Demers showed mercy on me here though as he only had me complete five of these stretches per side.
Having built up quite a bead of sweat at this point, Demers handed me a bottle of Gatorade and told me to hydrate. We chatted for a minute or two more about my blog and some more about the hockey leagues I am in. He must have thought I was enjoying the break too much and quickly got me right back to work.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my workout with Islanders Strength and Conditioning coach Jesse Demers later this week!
Check out more of the photos from this workout in the gallery below!