How Harry Selkow Trains the Arizona Sundogs

TAGS: selkow, hockey, arizona sundogs, coach, strength training, strength coach

[Harry Selkow has been a friend of mine for many years. I first met him at an EFS seminar in California five years ago and knew right away that this guy was different. Extremely passionate and knowledgeable, Harry is the real deal. This letter was something he sent me in response to some questions I asked about how he trained a hockey team. Enjoy. —Jim Wendler, EFS]

Hey Jim,

Good talking to you yesterday. I even tried to keep you on the phone longer since I knew you had to hit the “head” to relieve yourself. I have to tell you, I always walk away refreshed after talking to you. It makes me realize that there ARE other nuts out here with a different view and that’s good stuff.

As per your request to keep you posted on the development of the Sundog team, let me recap what has already taken place.

The Arizona Sundogs are a CHL team, which is like the AAA league in baseball, only in hockey. Their affiliate NHL team or “father” team is the Colorado Avalanche. This is the first year of the Sundogs existence, and there was no budget for a strength and conditioning program. However, I had been training the head coach, and he brought the owner in to participate in one of my sessions. The owner was “sold.” They needed a strength and conditioning program, and they needed me.

If you remember, I had called you to ask what kind of “dinero” some of our peers were making at this level. I took your advice and shot square with the coach and owner as to what it would cost them. I was made an offer and was named head strength and conditioning coach of the Arizona Sundogs hockey team. You can check us out at Specifically, you can check me out at

If you read the bio that was written, I stole it from a combination of yours, Joe DeFranco’s, Jason Ferruggia’s, and James Smith’s. As the law states, “I now own it” because I gave you guys credit three times. This is the same technique that we all use around the strength and conditioning field. If a technique works, that’s great. Use and give credit to the source three times and then you can call it your own. Anyway, more about that later. Back to the Sundogs…

We opened training camp last week (October 8th) in Flagstaff, Arizona. Base camp is at an altitude of 7000 plus feet above sea level. This alone would get the athletes’ attention with the lower oxygen levels. The head coach is an awesome hockey technician. He knows the game inside and out. He ran two 50-minute practices back to back separated by the Zamboni and time to let the ice dry. Then it was out to the tennis courts where I set up the “off ice” conditioning area. Our “off ice” was a total of 60 minutes each day in the bright sunshine and alpine air. Some of the guys actually were a little nervous because of all the sun exposure to their virginal skin. (SPF dude. Always wear your SPF.)

One of the things I’m doing with these guys is removing my ego from the equation. Like we discussed, I’d been guilty like so many other strength coaches of wanting to put up the big numbers. More about the remedy of that with my high school football team later. So instead of killing these young professionals, I submit to you the methodology that I use—“spinal stability, hip mobility, squat until they PUKE!” (Or until they’re sick and tired of being drilled in the fundamentals of the squat and all of its variations.)

The first thing we did was ask this very simple question—how are you feeling? The response determined how much volume we did. Remember dude, we’re at 7000 feet, and these guys ( I had to assume) are in no shape at all. “Gassing” them is not a difficult thing to do. We wanted to train, not plain strain for the pain.

Next, we took time to do some self-myofasical release techniques with foam rollers and medicine balls.   We then went though the “Parisi Warm-up” DVD. This got our guys ready for body weight squats, split squats, single leg squats, frontal plane squats, rear stepping lunges, single leg reaches, push-ups, “burpees,” push-ups with twist to one hand, front pillars for time, and mini band “woodchops.” We picked up the tempo for a few running sprints against jump stretch bands. These sprints were done forwards, sideways without crossing over, and sideways with the crossover. We then did a few agility drills to pick up foot speed using a standard ladder and some cones for some good old fashion “T” drills. The only thing different here was that we split the guys into two teams. There’s nothing like a little competition to get them motivated. We finished with some blast strap exercises.  The pushes and pulls of life where incorporated. If you pushed one time, the next time you had to “tug” in equal amounts.

This routine went on for the first three days of camp. I varied the exercises a little bit each day so there would be some variety (I have adult ADD) and so we wouldn’t get bored. I kept an upbeat tempo. Remember, this isn’t punishment—this is conditioning. Since the routine was basically callisthenic by nature, we could do it everyday.

The team is on the road right now playing in games. They’re 2–0, both of which were overtime victories that I attribute to the strength and conditioning program, not to the excellent coaching or the great genetics that the athletes have. Yea, right! When they get back next week, we will start in with the Prowler and the Russian kettlebells part of the program. More about that when it takes place.

I’ll let you know how our team progresses and what things we’re doing on a day to day basis. Hockey is a different beast only in the amount of games they play and the travel schedule. I have to schedule in a lot of mobility work. At this level, the bus rides takes their toll.

Well amigo, I have to train Mr. and Mrs. Bagodonuts and time is short. I'll keep you posted.

Your friend,


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