At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Sidney Crosby is far from the biggest guy on the ice. He’s fast but not the fastest, strong but not the strongest, tough but not the toughest.
But he’s arguably the best.
Off the ice and in the gym, there are plenty of other NHLers who can press more, pump more, lift more, lug more. But what sets Crosby apart, according to his trainer, Andy O’Brien, is he can combine multiple movements in training and translating them into game situations.
“Some of the players that do really well from an off-ice perspective are not great players and some of the players that are really good players they don’t do well in a lot of those traditional things (in training),” O’Brien said. “When you get into something like making a play…it’s in a totally different context. There are moving parts, there are elements of timing, there are elements of anticipation, elements of stability.”
O’Brien uses workouts in which multiple body parts are engaged in exercises such as the single-leg Bosu handle. It's a hockey-specific movement that builds strength, stability and balance. And it's exercises like this that have helped shape Crosby’s power down low in the offensive zone.
“One of the things that comes up with Sidney all the time is that he’s really strong on the puck…but he wouldn’t necessarily squat more than the next guy or out-lift the next guy,” O’Brien said. “But one thing he’s really, really good at is getting low to the ground and he’s good at moving his body, his hands, his upper body and torso, without compromising that stable low position.
“He’s got great range of motion in his torso and he’s got really, really good flexibility that allows him to get really low to the ground.”
Sheer brute strength is how players like, say, Jaromir Jagr are able to stay so strong on the puck. For Crosby, however, the key is flexibility. It became an important part of his training in the summer of 2008 after he’d sustained a high-ankle sprain midway through 2008-09. O’Brien incorporated foot and ankle biomechanics into Crosby’s workouts to strengthen his ankles and that's one of the main reasons why Crosby has become such a force on the puck despite being average-sized by NHL standards.
“He’s got really good ankle flexibility to maintain a nice stable position when he gets down, so he’s harder to knock off the puck if he’s lower than everybody else,” O’Brien said. “Not a lot of people would think that ankle flexibility is responsible for his stability on the puck or not many people would think that his torso rotational flexibility is such an impact on his ability to maintain speed when he’s making a play.”