If you’ve followed the news recently you probably heard of a 17 year old hockey prospect named Sam Bennett who was unable to perform a pull-up at the NHL combine. The media, along with all the internet experts out there have blown this story way out of proportion. They’ve gone so far as to question his work ethic and dedication without ever talking to the kid. It’s been a while since my last blog post and many of our athletes and parents have asked our opinion on this so this is a great opportunity to debunk the myth of how important fitness testing actually is (Hint: it’s not that important).

Let’s look at the game of hockey, and the athletes that play it from a biomechanical perspective. I’m sure most of the media and “internet experts” have done this already…On a side note if you are one of those people that are bashing a 17 year old kid for not being able to do a pull-up, how many can you do?? Next time you feel like humiliating someone, get off the couch, put away the box of Oreo cookies and come try a workout with our hockey players for the week. I’ll be impressed if you make it past the warm-up. That’s not sarcasm, 95% of you wouldn’t last the entire week without quitting. By the way Sam had 91 points in 57 games this year.

If you train hockey players you’ll understand that they tend to have a kyphotic (rounded thoracic spine) nature. They also suffer a lot of AC joint injuries due to the amount of body checks they sustain. Most players can’t reach their arms overhead without some sort of compensation (lumbar extension, rib flare, etc). So maybe the media and internet experts can explain how someone who can’t properly get into that position, produce enough force to do a proper pull-up. We’re listening……….

But back to fitness testing and its relevance in the sporting world. Strength is important for an athlete but not the most important. I would place movement efficiency and rate of force development (how quickly an athlete can put force into the ground) ahead of strength. Here’s a quick tidbit on a few other athletes and how well they did in fitness testing...Kevin Durant couldn’t bench 185 pounds once. He’s got a league MVP and 4 scoring titles. Justin Ernest holds the NFL combine record with 51 reps in the bench press test. He didn’t last 1 year in the NFL.

There needs to be a fine line between preparing for fitness testing and actually working on things that will help you within your given sport. Do I really care how many sit-ups a kid can do, or what his sit and reach score is (both asinine/outdated tests). Coaches place waaaaay to high of an emphasis on how well an athlete does in fitness testing. Here’s the way I look at it…If both athletes perform the same on the ice, but athlete A finishes last and athlete B finishes first in fitness testing, who would you take?

Most coaches would take athlete B. Wrong choice. Here’s why…What happens when athlete A gets as strong as athlete B? The upside is way higher, as is the case with Sam Bennett. The room for improvement in a kid who put up 91 points is extremely high. If I’m an NHL General Manager I wouldn’t be deterred by these results. I would be anxious to see his potential.

For the most part fitness tests are outdated and have no transference over to a given sport. I’d rather see teams focus on things like movement quality in their “testing.” Fix the dysfunction and you’ll have a faster, stronger, healthier athlete. Take a look at Olympic athletes. There’s a reason why none of them move poorly. It’s that important.

In conclusion, the media and everyone else who is ripping this kid needs to chill out about the results. Chances are most of you can’t do a pull-up either. Coaches need to place less of an emphasis on how well an athlete does in fitness testing and more of an emphasis on how well they perform within their given sport. To Sam Bennett, I hope you have a long extremely successful career. To all your haters out there, see you at the gym.