By: Scott A. Strande, Senior Writer
When Chris Walker goes to work at Atlas Performance Training in Chandler, AZ he understands the work his students put in that day will not be measured until a later date, and he is just fine with that. Walker an Arizona native and former professional hockey player himself provides off ice training for those looking to achieve the highest level they can in the hockey world.
Walker approaches his day with one goal in mind, making sure his students make steps toward reaching their goals no matter how big or small they may be. Having gone through the process himself Walker knows what it takes to achieve lofty goals. After learning the game of hockey in the youth program of Arizona, Walker worked his way to the professional ranks and is now using his experience to help others be the best they can be.
While the game of hockey is still the same fundamentally, those playing it have become stronger, faster and more knowledgeable about what it takes to be successful and one of those areas is off ice training, which Walker says is essential if a player truly wants to achieve their ultimate goals. “Basically what we do here (at Atlas Performance Training) is take every facet of the game and we turn it into an off ice program,” said Walker. “So if you are a player that has great hands and good around the net but can’t skate very well you are not going to go very far, so we focus on your skating whether it’s your start, stride or whatever and work on strengthening that aspect.”
To play the game of hockey effectively today, a player must be in good physical shape; in fact fitness testing is a part of hockey now at literally every level. “If you want to play 30 to 40 minutes a game, you have to have the lungs, the flexibility and the strength,” said Walker. At Atlas Performance Training they offer a complete program that enhances the stamina, strength and flexibility of hockey players of all ages, both male and female. Now entering their sixth month in business, Walker says the goal is simple at Atlas Performance Training. If you want to be an athlete you have to train like and athlete.
Walker trains athletes of all ages, but says the ideal age for starting an off ice program is 14 years old. “I think 14 is the perfect age to get kid started in an office program, because if you start them too early they are still growing
Improving the player’s weaknesses are key, however Walker says providing a well-rounded conditioning and endurance program should be the goal of every hockey player who is looking to be the best they can be. Walker says that for most players preparing for the upcoming season the first step is to get into the gym and start working on perfecting their form to prevent any potential off season injuries. “With most of our students we get them in here and make sure that their form is correct,” added Walker. “There is no worse phone call to make than to call your coach and tell them you will be missing the first month of the season because you hurt your hamstring or hurt your back.” Once the player’s form is perfected, the strength building begins, an area Walker says is equally as important as a player’s skill level.
and it really is not good.” said Walker. When bringing in a new player into the program, Walker says the first thing he recommends is a series of fitness tests to see what kind of shape the kid is in and then perhaps the most important thing is to sit the player down and talk about their future goals. “It’s really important to understand what the player’s goals are,” added Walker. Once those two things have been completed the next step in the process is building strength and Walker says that needs to start from the ground up. “Hockey players are built like no other athlete, they look like parking cones, big at the bottom and thinner at the top,” said Walker. “At Atlas Performance Training we have all kind of equipment you need to work all areas of your body, but the focus first is on strengthening the lower body.”
One of the newest and most versatile pieces of equipment at Atlas Performance Training is the VertiMax. This unique machine is one of just a few on the west coast of the United States and Walker says it gives an athlete resistance training like no other. “The VertiMax is my favorite piece of equipment here, because it helps people with their explosiveness, whether it’s delivering a check or the just the first few steps off the faceoff,” said Walker.
Off ice training is the key in building confidence on the ice; something Walker says is the biggest thing he sees in players who do off ice work and those who don’t. “Confidence is so important in hockey and if you get out on the ice and know you have worked harder than the guy next to you, you know you will be better than him or her,” added Walker. Becoming a complete and confident hockey player can be the difference between achieving or not achieving a player’s goals, and Walker and the team at Atlas Performance Training are in the business of helping every hockey player who enters their building simply be the best they can be.