YCH Interview Series
Star Factory Fitness
Conor Doherty Interview 

Star Factory Fitness

Conor Doherty

  • Personal Training Specialist

1 – When was Star Factory Fitness formed?

In December of 2011.

2 – You are certified as a Personal Training Specialist. Please tell us what a “Personal Training Specialist” is and how it is a benefit to a hockey player?

A “Personal Training Specialist” is a certification that can be taken through the Canadian Fitness Professionals Association. Basically I’m certified to personally train people in any area of fitness that I feel appropriate for their situation. I’ve chosen hockey players because my passion is sports. I chose to pursue an area of sports performance that could reach the largest amount of athletes in my small town of Dryden, which happened to be hockey. I’m not trying to tell people I’m a hockey expert. When it comes to the X’s and O’s of hockey, that’s not my strong area. I’m a person that understands what types of fitness levels and attributes a hockey player needs to perform at a high level, so I felt I could use the knowledge that I have to best help hockey players in my area, as well as over the internet. A “Personal Training Specialist” would benefit a hockey player that needed a personalized touch to their training program. Training, unfortunately, is not a “one size fits all” type of activity. There are many things that need to be considered when choosing the types of training activities a player should do, and a Personal Training Specialist can assist in helping in that area. Besides being a Personal Training Specialist, I’ve also recently been certified as a “High School Strength and Conditioning Specialist” through the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Association). I thought that getting this certification would also assist me in helping athletes in that age group, as they’re the ones that could really benefit from sound advice so early on in their careers.

3 – What age groups does Star Factory Fitness focus training programs on?

I’ve mainly focused my training on Pee Wee and Bantam aged players in the past, (roughly 12-15 years old) and I’ve also helped train some Midget aged players. My online programs focus on players of all ages though.

4 – Does Star Factory Fitness train females differently than males and, if so, how?

I do train females and I train them just like the boys. I make sure that each of them can perform basic movement patterns in an efficient way before getting into any external loading. If they don’t have the basic movement patterns down, then placing an external load on their bodies will only cause more harm than good in the big picture. From there, depending on their experiences with training, I might introduce some resistance band exercises for strength and speed, or I might introduce adding resistance with dumbbells and barbells. It all really depends on the individual and where they are maturity-wise, strength-wise, and what their goals are.

5 - What are your thoughts on specializing in a sport at an early age?

I’m really not a big fan of kids specializing at an early age. I grew up playing everything I could. If there was a sport I could join, I wanted to join it. My friends were all the same as well. Now ever since Tiger Woods came along, everyone wants to stick to one sport from an early age thinking they’ll have some huge advantage over the competition. The thing is, Tiger Woods is the exception. This type of athlete comes along once in a lifetime and young athletes, in my opinion, should really steer away from this type of thinking. The first thing I think that’s wrong with specializing early on is that eventually players get burned out. The love of the game is lost because they’re playing so much, going to every tournament possible, trying to live up to the pressures of their parents and coaches, and eventually they just lose their love for the game, which is not a good thing. Secondly, specializing in a sport, especially hockey, puts a player in certain positions with respect to their bodies that isn’t natural. They’re bent at the hips and hunched at the shoulders for long periods of time and eventually they start developing muscle imbalances, tightness in various areas and this leads to a WAY higher chance of injury. The last thing about specializing is that players that play all kinds of sports pick up things that transfer over to other sports. Game awareness, thinking the game, being creative, and communicating in different situations rather than thinking there’s only one way to do things. In my opinion, the best players out there are the ones that play other sports besides just hockey. I can’t stand hearing hockey players say things about soccer players or baseball players or whatever. These sports can help you become a better hockey player.

6 – What are three things that players/parents should look for when choosing a fitness program for hockey?

I think the first thing they should look for is something that’s appropriate for their age, physical maturity, and goals. A 12 year old player shouldn’t be doing P90X or something like that because it doesn’t suit their needs. The second thing they should look for is something that is going to improve their quality of movement. Something that will address improving their movement patterns like squatting, hip hinging, and proper pushing and pulling movements. You don’t need something that’s going to make you want to throw up after each workout. I remember hearing Mike Boyle saying that a workout should make you feel good, not sore and beat up. Obviously there’s going to be some adjustment initially but once things get going, you shouldn’t be feeling worse than when you started. You should feel better. The last thing you should look for is whether it’s been proven to help others in their goals. If a program has helped other players’ perform better, get stronger, and overall just helped them feel better, then it’s probably safe to try.

7 – What are three things that players/parents should look for when choosing a fitness trainer for hockey?

The first thing parents/players should look for is someone with some sort of accreditation. That accreditation should be something other than a weekend course or something achieved over the internet in an afternoon. Certifications from associations with a reputation for developing the individual rather than looking to put out a money grab. There’s also people out there that think they know it all because they go to the gym a couple times a week. This industry is the worst for know-it-alls. Guys that have a six-pack or big biceps think that they know what’s best but in actuality, they only know what’s worked for them. Most of the time though, they’ve just followed a bodybuilding program that they found in a magazine or they do the typical Arms Day, Chest Day, Legs and Back Day, or whatever, and keep doing that over and over and over, and really are just trying to look better. So players and parents should really be mindful of things like that. The second thing they should look for is whether the trainer does some sort of testing at the beginning. Not just performance testing either. They should be asking about health history, training history, injury history. A good trainer will take those things into account when developing a program that’s suitable for the individual. The last thing I think that’s really important, and maybe not something that’s not really considered, is personality. Is the trainer someone that’s going to look out for the individual or is it someone that’s just really concerned with looking in the mirror? Is the trainer someone that’s going to someone that’s going to teach you something or someone that’s going to make you provide a fun experience or someone that’s just going to yell and scream at you? Is the trainer teaching you or making you feel like you’re doing everything wrong? Little things like that can really improve the experience of the individual and as a result, that person will achieve far better results.

8 - What are the benefits of teaching proper movement patterns and full body exercises vs isolation exercises for a hockey player?

Well, teaching proper movement patterns has way more of a carryover effect to real life. In sports our muscles work together, not in isolation. Basically teaching movement patterns is going to have way more bang-for-your-buck. Why program someone to do a bicep curl, when you can show them a rowing pattern? Instead of just working your bicep, you’ll be working your bicep plus the muscles in your back. Just seems like common sense to me.

9 – How much rest should a minor hockey player take once the season is over before he/she starts preparing for the next season?

My recommendation, and this isn’t a golden rule or anything, is between 1 to 3 weeks. There’s obviously things to consider, like injuries, how deep your team went in the playoffs, the level you’re playing at when deciding on how much time to take off. If you’re a peewee player and you don’t have a playoff season, then a week should be sufficient. But if you’re a midget or junior player that just went deep into the playoff season, and you have a strained hamstring or something like that, then starting your off-season training program should be put on the back-burner for a few more weeks.

10 – What ratio do you recommend for games to practice to off – ice training to rest for best performance?

This again depends on the level a player is playing at. Generally, I think teams around the peewee and bantam age groups practice 2-3 times a week and play about 2 games a week. That’s basically 4 or 5 times a week you’re on the ice. So your in-season training is going to be based around the amount of time you have available and the intensity of your level. Two times a week in the weight room during the season is definitely enough for most players at the ages that I train.

11 – Please tell us about your “Complete Hockey Training System”

The “Complete Hockey Training System” was developed because I thought there was a need for a sound training program for players of all ages. It’s called a system because players from all ages can start at the point in the programs that’s appropriate to their age and physical maturity. I could throw a program together for an elite junior player but if a 12 year old beginner to weight training is looking for something to improve their strength, this isn’t going to be a good fit for them. So I made sure to include manuals for all types of players with all types of training experience. The first manual is “Youth Hockey Training” and is meant for players around the ages of 8-12. Now most people will think that an 8 year old is too young to be doing weight training, and they’re probably right, they should be playing other sports instead, but for some a training program will be beneficial if put together correctly. I included things like bodyweight exercises and resistance band exercises in this program so that the program is safe and fun. You won’t find me putting a 10 year old underneath a bar to do squats on the first day of training, so this manual focuses on developing movement patterns. The second manual is called “Junior Hockey Training” for players around the ages of 13-15 and this is where players are going to start being introduced to barbell and dumbbell exercises. If a player is a beginner to weight training and is in this age group, they should really start with the Youth Hockey Training manual first to develop those proper movement patterns, but for those that have them down, this is a very appropriate program. This program also includes many mobility exercises to make sure that players are working on all the movements their body is capable of so that they remain healthy. This manual also includes speed and agility exercises appropriate to this age group. Proper mechanics as well as focusing on deceleration patterns are going to help the individual become faster and less susceptible to injuries. The last manual is called “Pro Hockey Training” and is meant for elite players with a lot of training experience under their belt. I don’t train pro players, just to be transparent, so the name might throw you off a bit, but it’s meant to be an elite training program. Something that’s going to take your performance to a different level. I’ve always been someone that’s preached about players needing to get stronger. It’s something that needs to be done in order to improve in all other areas of your performance. If you get stronger, you’ll give yourself the potential to be faster, quicker, and more explosive. That’s the main focus of this program, to get the player stronger. 

12 – What is next for Conor Doherty and Star Factory Fitness?

Well, I’m a full-time teacher, husband, and father of a beautiful 16 month old boy, so life is pretty busy for me without the training. I train players on the side when I have the time. As for more online training programs, I’m currently in the process of putting a test group of players through my newest program. This program will be geared towards players looking to regain their performance they may have lost over the years since their competitive careers have ended. You know, the weekend warriors that love to play, but aren’t necessarily still competing at a high level. It’s going to include tons of video content that will be like having me there as your trainer. I’m pretty pumped about it and I think it’s going to be a program that even high level players can benefit from.

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