Around the fitness world, it’s well known that many workout fanatics enjoy sculpting their bodies based on a vision that encompasses the sand and surf—the so-called beach body fad, which mainly focuses on a chiseled upper body. But for broad-framed New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo, his workout joy lies in his lower extremities.
“Legs,” Okposo tells SI.com, without hesitation about his focus in his fitness regimen. “Upper body—I’ve never really liked to do it. A lot of people like that swell and I just don’t. I like doing legs—it’s fun. I like the burn and the way it makes you feel afterwards.”
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Okposo, who returned to the Islanders lineup on March 10 after suffering a potentially-devastating eye injury following a Jan. 19 contest against the Philadelphia Flyers and missing 22 games, makes his workouts even more distinctive by placing greater emphasis on hip mobility and warm-up.
“I have really tight hips,” says Okposo, the Islanders’ alternate captain. “I want to get those a lot looser and make sure I can get in the right position for skating. I spend a good 20 minutes making sure my hips are loose before I workout, especially during the offseason. It’s not just a regular warm-up—I’m using bands to stretch them out.”
27 years old
Body fat percentage: 8.5-9.0%
One exercise essential to on-ice performance: One-legged squats.
Favorite exercise: Squat holds. “A minute hold with a band above your head where you get a good burn throughout the exercise.”
On his offseason training program: “I go back home and train. The trainer [Andy O’Brien] that I use is based out of Toronto, so I go see him about once a month and he checks my routine—it’s pretty diverse. I use a lot of body weight and Keiser machines for my shoulders. I’m pretty trap-dominant, so I want to make sure that my shoulders are strong. I have a pretty big frame and want to make sure I’m skating as efficiently as I can. … [I also do] a lot of core. At the beginning, my core strength was a little bit weak and I wanted to make sure that was a lot stronger, and my hips too.”
His go-to exercises in the offseason: Plyometrics. “It’s about keeping that quickness and form—a lot of lateral shuffles, crossover steps and [exercises] that pertain to hockey.”
On his off-ice activities: Golf. “The game itself—anybody can play it but you can never perfect the sport. So, it’s kind of the drive to be as good as you can—keeps those competitive juices flowing in the summer. It’s frustrating as hell but it’s a fun game. … Also, playing with my daughter and chasing her around—that’s going to be most of my active rest. But we actually just got a pool this summer, so I’m sure I’ll be doing quite a bit of swimming.”
On his in-season training: “A lot of active rest is important, but we do workout and get some good strength-building in during the season. Our trainer for the Islanders is really big into maintaining that strength throughout the season. We use quite a bit of weights and [there’s] a lot of hip strengthening to make sure our groins and hips are strong, because that’s probably the biggest injury among hockey players for muscle-based injuries.”
On his eye injury: “After the last game before the All-Star break, I noticed I had some blurry vision on the way home and kept blinking my eye—it was out of focus and wouldn’t go back, so I knew something was wrong right away. The whole night I was freaking out a little bit. The next day I went to the eye doctor and he said, ‘you have a detached retina and need to have surgery [right away].’”
Importance of flexibility: “It’s pretty big to make sure that you’re maintaining the right body posture, because most of the sport is played on one foot—some people don’t realize that but it’s all about transferring your weight.”
On working out to music: “Either way—a lot of people really like to crank the tunes. If I have music, great, if not, that’s fine too. I don’t mind [to have it off] and just kind of get lost in your thoughts.”
Nutritional intake: Ground turkey, chicken, fish and gluten-free pasta. “During the season you can pretty much eat whatever you want because you’re burning so many calories, but you try to stick to the lean proteins and veggies … you definitely need your carbs in there [too]. Offseason, it’s a lot less carbs and a lot more lean proteins.”
Favorite pregame meal: Gluten-free brown rice pasta with meat sauce.
Favorite celebratory drink: Red wine—cabernet. “I love wine.”
Future fitness outlook: “To be a better skater, a more efficient skater—being able to stay low in a good position for the whole season.”
Fitness advice for amateur hockey players: “The game is turning a lot faster—you have to be able to skate. You have to be strong too, but it’s a different type of strong—it’s strong on your feet. You have to work on your efficiency, making sure your body holds up.”
Guilty pleasure: Cinnabon. “That’s it, it’s my favorite. My wife and I, that’s our guilty pleasure. There’s one in the mall about five minutes away [from where I live].”