MONTREAL -- An NHL player can spend his summer months doing a variety of things to stay in shape, and some take that offseason maintenance a little more seriously than others.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang can be counted among that group.
He has spent his summer working out daily and sometimes twice a day at the Adrenaline Performance Centre under the watchful eye of Jonathan Chaimberg, who trains a number of NHL players during the offseason and looks after a docket of MMA stars, including current welterweight UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
For Letang, there is no problem finding the motivation to hit the gym.
"I've always been a fan of workouts, nutrition, sleep, all those things that help you to be healthy," Letang told NHL.com after a workout earlier this week. "Some guys like to play golf, but [working out is] kind of my passion."
Letang was coming in for his second workout of the day, and there was a lot on his schedule.
The workout began with a basic footwork drill to warm up, weaving his way through a rope ladder lying on the ground at speeds so high, his feet were a blur as he did them.
Once that was done, Letang hit the hurdles, five placed a short distance from one another, each of them at a height of 44 inches. Letang jumped from a standstill above the first, then just as he landed he generated enough power to go over the second, and the third, and so forth. If he clipped the tape on one of his jumps, he started over.
A kangaroo would have been jealous.
"What I love about hurdles is that it's a repetitive burst of power," said Chaimberg, a former freestyle wrestler who became a trainer for elite athletes. "You see other athletes are doing box jumps, which is one burst, there's not a lot of acentric load when you're doing a box jump. When you're doing a hurdle, you have to regenerate power over and over again."
Letang then did an exercise with a 14-pound medicine ball; he rotated his upper body to throw it as hard as he could against the wall and catch it, which works on his core strength and is "great for exploding rotationally," Chaimberg said.
Then it was time for chin-ups, but not just any chin-ups. Letang, who weighed 201 pounds last season, strapped a 100-pound barbell around his waist for his version of the age-old exercise, doing sets of three.
By the time he leaves for training camp in Pittsburgh in the first week of September, Letang will be doing them with a 120-pound barbell.
"He's right around that mark," Chaimberg said, "so he'll be there by the time he leaves."
The lower-body workout consisted of Bulgarian squats, when one leg is raised behind him so all the weight is supported by the other leg. Letang did his holding a 45-pound bar with 240 pounds of weight on it because, well, he had outgrown the equipment the gym had available.
"Kris usually does it with a 40-pound vest and some 120-pound dumbbells in his hands," Chaimberg said. "But we've been doing it this summer with a bar because we didn't have heavy enough dumbbells for him. We actually have to bar him off one leg because we don't have [130-pound dumbbells] at the gym."
For endurance and explosion, Letang did sets pulling weight on a sled. It's an exercise Chaimberg calls a cornerstone because it teaches an athlete to have bursts of explosion, then rest and recover, then do it all over again, just like the course of a hockey game.
Letang ended the workout on something called Jacob's Ladder. It is a cross between a ladder and an inclined treadmill, forcing the athlete using it to climb the ladder at an incline as fast as he can. It is a test of endurance, cardio, quickness, footwork and strength wrapped into one.
In this case, Letang did 30 seconds on the machine and set a new gym record of 129 steps. Setting a record in this gym is no small feat.
Though most people likely would have collapsed gasping for air after a workout like that, for Letang it was another day at his summer office. It is all calculated to make him perform at his best for the Penguins.
"They all have a purpose to translate to my game," Letang said of his routine. "If we start by the [hurdle] jump, I'm a guy that really jumps in the rush and I need to be explosive, so the jumps really help to bring that explosiveness in the game. I want to be able to play 25 to 26 minutes a game with a good pace, so when we do sled we try to do a power endurance, matched with the Jacob's [Ladder] which is a high-intensity 30 seconds, that is really like a shift. For the rest with the power, I'm not one of those big guys that can outmuscle Zdeno Chara and those guys, so I try to be as strong as them with some exercises."
A typical offseason day for Letang begins with a light breakfast and a 9 a.m. workout, followed by a snack and a skate at noon. Then lunch, a nap, perhaps another workout, supper and bed. There is no gluten or carbohydrates in any of those meals or snacks, just fruits and vegetables and protein (chicken, salmon or steak).
"I try to eat carbs-free because during the season we eat pasta before games, so I try to keep it as green as possible for the summer," Letang said. "Nutrition and working out has always been a passion for me over the summer, so it takes up 100 percent of my time."
Not everyone can do a workout like Letang's. But he said the first thing anyone who wants to get in shape and lead a healthy lifestyle needs to discover is the will and the pleasure in doing it.
"You have to find something, either a personal trainer that follows you everywhere in the gym, it can be a spinning class, but you need to find something you really want to do," Letang said. "Because the day you come to the gym and you're dragging your feet you won't really get anything accomplished.
"So if I have one advice to give, it's to find something you love and you're really going to succeed."
Author: Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com
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