Elite professional athletes, have spent their entire lives maximizing physical and mental development. That is what has enabled them to make a living from sport.
During the season, athletes concentrate on maintaining their weight, strength, conditioning, and recovering from the constant grind of competition and travel. In the offseason, after some time off, they look to make incremental gains in their conditioning and sport-specific strength.
“If an athlete can make 1-3% improvements in strength and power before the season, that will give them an enormous advantage,” says former NHL Strength coach and founder of The Hockey Summit, Justin Roethlingshoefer. Though 1-3% sounds very small, when you’re already at this elite level of physical development, incremental gains like this are very hard to develop.
Studies have shown that less developed individuals, who start at lower levels of strength, power, and conditioning, show the largest incremental increases from training.
In our work with collegiate and professional hockey players at The Hockey Summit, we’ve seen first hand that making even minor improvements in strength and conditioning over the course of the offseason can be incredibly challenging, even for the most dedicated athletes.
In fact, we’ve seen that more often than not, players at the top level actually struggle to make any improvements at all over the offseason, even when their nutrition, training, and recovery are being expertly monitored by strength and conditioning coaches.
The Hockey Summit is a 13 week off-season, fully immersive training program that provides pro athletes idealized nutrition, supplementation, off-ice training, on-ice training, specialized recovery, as well as luxury accommodations. Some athletes participate in the entire 13 week program and others choose selective weeks based on their busy personal schedules.
14 players participated in the program implemented by an NHL strength and conditioning coach. The programs goals were aimed at increasing sport specific anaerobic conditioning, anaerobic power, and honing on ice skills.
Players participated 5 days a week with 4 off-ice resistance and anaerobic conditioning training sessions, 2 yoga sessions, and 3-4 ice training sessions. Off-ice training emphasized squats, deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, single leg progressions, plyometrics series, and eccentric (kbox) training.
Each player consumed a normocaloric diet and supplemented with whey protein at breakfast and post-training. They also participated in active recovery, utilizing massage, icing, and intermittent compression post-training.
Six of the players also consumed Muscle Performance Optimizer (MPO), a supplement that contained the active ingredients of phosphatidic acid, HMB, HICA, beta-alanine, and creatine monohydrate, prior to each off-ice training session.
Every week, players were tested for body weight, resting heart rate, 6 second sprint distance using the 1080 motion device (1080M), 6 sec average power on the stationary bike (SB) 6 second peak power (SB), 6 sec maximum number of revolutions (SB), 6 seconds watts per kg (SB), and long jump watts (1080M).
At the conclusion of the program, we performed a basic regression analysis of the six metrics we measured and used correlation coefficients (r) and p-values (p ≤ 0.05) to evaluate the statistical significance of our findings.
The results were very surprising.
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Exercise Performance in Elite Hockey Players
All of the players and trainers felt that significant improvement had been made during the course of the camp.
Seven out of the eight athletes not taking MPO showed no statistical improvement across any of the six metrics. One athlete showed a 5.5% increase in 6 second average power but no significant changes across the other 5 metrics.
Though the athletes felt that they had improved and were better prepared for entering training camp, no statistically significant improvement in anaerobic power or conditioning were demonstrated.
Most athletes’ performances in the non-MPO group, therefore, were ultimately stagnant across the 13-week program; one individual even saw significant declines in multiple performance measures over the course of the study, although he did leave the program feeling that he was better conditioned.
Five of the six athletes using MPO, on the other hand, demonstrated significant improvements in their metrics. 50% demonstrated statistically significant increases in both power and endurance.
Four out of six athletes demonstrated statistically significant improvements in their measured average power output, ranging from 11% to 18.5% improvement.
33% of those who used MPO also demonstrated significant improvements in peak power, seeing an 18.9% increase on average. 50%, on average, demonstrated a statistically significant 4.5% improvement in anaerobic endurance.
The athlete who used MPO but did not demonstrate statistically significant improvement was present at the camp for 1 week followed by 3 weeks of absence, then 3 weeks of participation, 5 weeks of absence, and finally 3 weeks of participation. His endurance and power did improve, but due to the lack of enough measures, statistical significance could not be determined.
What we found was that while all of the players and even their trainers came out the 13-week program feeling that real measurable improvements had been made, by and large, only those who had been taking MPO during the training program actually saw statistically significant improvements in their power and endurance (p ≤ 0.05).
Although on paper, the offseason seems to be the ideal time for elite athletes to make improvements in their strength and conditioning, our work with top-level hockey players suggests that making such improvements may often be difficult even with the proper nutritional and training procedures in place.
In fact, we’ve found that more often than not, players at the top levels struggle to make any kind of real, measurable improvements in strength and conditioning over the course of the offseason even when they’re being closely guided by some of the best trainers and dietary experts around.
That’s because whether it’s in the sport of hockey, or any other sport for that matter, elite athletes have amassed thousands of hours of training experience over the course of their competitive careers, which ultimately means that their bodies are already highly adapted to the demands of their given sport.
At the end of the day, that means it can be incredibly difficult to make even a 1% improvement in performance over the course of an entire offseason.
However, we’ve seen first hand through our work with Justin Roethlingshoefer and the Hockey Summit that together with the right nutritional and training programs, supplementation may be the key to overcoming performance plateaus in elite athletes.
More specifically, our findings suggest that regularly taking MPO can drastically improve your chances of making real, measurable improvements in your training performance over the course of the offseason.
That’s because MPO contains 5 different WADA and USADA approved ingredients that have all -- through their own unique pathways -- been shown to improve muscle function and performance in multiple clinical trials.
Substances like phosphatidic acid, HMB, HICA acid have all been shown to have significant strength-enhancing effects, helping to stimulate a series of biochemical pathways directly involved in the strength-building process.
On top of that, substances like creatine monohydrate and beta-alanine have also been shown to have endurance enhancing effects as well, helping to increase available energy in your muscle cells and decrease the build-up of performance-inhibiting chemical by-products like lactic acid.
Together, the potent ingredient synergy in MPO can help even those with the most extensive training backgrounds overcome plateaus in the offseason. And better yet, there’s non need to cycle on and off of it -- like you have to with many pre-workouts -- in order to continue to see results.
Many strength and conditioning coaches consider a 2 - 3% improvement in the offseason to be substantial, so not only are the athletes on MPO making real, measurable improvements, but they’re far exceeding what most professional trainers consider to be substantial.
We saw that those in the MPO group on average made much higher increases in both anaerobic power and endurance :
13+% increase in average power on the 1080 machine
And 4.5% improvement in 6-sec sprint distance
It’s also important to point out that the gains and improvements we observed in our study occurred without the athletes adding any additional bodyweight. Adding mass was not the target for these athletes and the results were obtained on a normocaloric diet.