Talking Hockey and Training with Penguins Strength Coach Mike Kadar

I was recently able to sit down and talk hockey and training with Pittsburgh Penguins strength coach Mike Kadar. In addition to being a Stanley Cup Champion, Mike has dedicated a lot of time to the development of CoreStix, a unique, innovative, and very effective product on the fitness market. Read on for more about his thoughts on the Penguins, training, and much more.

You can go to the official website for Core Stix for more information (including some exercises and workout ideas).

Angus: Mike, what was the inspiration for the Core Stix? I haven’t really seen any fitness product like it before. What was the thought process that went into the design of it?  

Kadar: I thought of this whole idea about 12 years ago when I was working with my dad on our cattle farm back in Western Canada. A small farming community called Elnora, Alberta. We were building a cattle fence. And if you have ever had to dig post holes… you have to take this metal bar, jab it into the ground, wiggle it around, take it out, jab it into the ground again, and  continuously do that until the hole is deep enough and wide enough to put the post in.


If you have ever had a chance to do that type of work, it is extremely tough. Your core is always engaged. Its core training from the ground up, if that makes sense.


And that’s how I thought of Core Stix. At the time, it was all about function and core training [in the fitness industry]. That whole thing was on the rise. I was training and working for the Los Angeles Kings as their strength coach at the time and felt the professional athlete was a great testing ground for Core Stix.

Angus: For sure.

Kadar: I ended up meeting Kregg Koch, who is now my business partner. It was two lockouts ago. Kregg and I became friends, I told him about the Core Stix, and he loved the whole idea of it. It was a perfect marriage. I had the idea and the training background, and Kregg happened to be a patent attorney and engineer – the two people that I needed the most. It was awesome.


It has been seven years, and now we have international patents everywhere. We have been on the market for close to two years. We are focusing on the trade show circuit. The neat and unique thing about the Core Stix is it is functional training in an upright position, on a board that is portable, light, and easy to move and store.


It is not like a bike or treadmill. At times, it is a tough sell because of that. But when you get people on the board, then they are like “I get it, I feel it.”

Angus: It is something you can add in as a tool to keep training interesting.

Kadar:  we have group exercise classes on it. You can do that type of training it. The versatility is dynamic.

Angus: And with regards to your training with the Pittsburgh Penguins – how would you use the Core Stix? Power? Strength? Conditioning?

Kadar: Because the rods flex, you can be slow and controlled, or fast and dynamic. You could really work on all three [endurance, strength, and power]. As soon as you start adding different accessories to the Core Stix –such as an Airex on the floor, you are bringing another level of difficulty.


As a result of its versatility We have a 92-year-old gentleman using it. We have MMA fighters using it. And we have high school kids using it.

Angus: Where do you see the business going in 5-10 years?

Kadar: I have always said, “Bigger than Bowflex.” For us, we have three different versions of the Core Stix – The group exercise board, the pro board (which has the three arcs and is a little heavier and wider), and we have the floor mount system. We take the arcs off the board and secure them right to the floor. This is the set up we have in the Pittsburgh strength room. So now you have a bigger footprint – the floor is the board.

We are also getting some attention in the rehabilitation field. So not only are we hitting  strength and conditioning, we are making a difference in rehabilitation.


Not sure where we will be 5-10 years from now.  We are presently focused on getting the word out and letting people see results for themselves.

Angus: That Pittsburgh facility is quite impressive. Did you have much input into it when the new arena was being constructed?

Kadar: I did.  Management and ownership were great about letting me do my thing.

Angus: That must have been pretty fun – designing a top-notch gym must be every trainers dream.

Kadar: It was awesome.  Having the ability to have a large budget and get what you want is every trainer’s dream, I would think. Mapping it out, putting everything where you wantwas a lot of fun.

Angus: I would assume it would entice all players to train.

Mellon Arena

Kadar: We used to be at Mellon Arena – which I loved. That building had a lot of tradition and a great history. But the weight room wasn’t very big. You get seven guys in there and it would be too busy. Whereas at our new facility, you can have the whole team involved together.

Angus: Do you use a specific screening tool?

Kadar:  I like to screen our athlete’s as much as I can, in a short amount time that will give me a “big picture” of each athlete. Part of our screening is taking video of guys performing double leg and single leg squats, jumping and turning 180, jumping and turning 360, watching how the knee tracks, and how shoulder, hips, and ankles move,  I also like to look at overall posture – I am getting all of this information to find any red flags and to try and eliminate anything that may occur down the road. In terms of an injury.


After in depth screening we test a multitude of strength exercises such as split squat power.

Angus: What is the split squat power test?

Kadar: We use the Keiser equipment.

Angus: With the power gauges, yeah.

Kadar: When it comes to the split squat test, we take 60 percent of their weigh-in weight that day. We use that on the Keiser air load system, and load 60 percent of their weight on the bar. The player then gets into a split squat position with one knee on the ground,  and  explodes up measuring their power.  We compare right from left.


If there is a 10-15 percent difference between legs, I take a closer look.

Angus: Is that common?

Kadar: It depends on the player. There is always a learning curve for the exercise for the new guys, which you have to keep in mind. But we typically see a difference between right and left leg strength.

Angus: How do you program for the players as individuals? 

Kadar: If you take somebody like Sid or Malkin – other teams play those guys hard, and they already have high minutes. So it is matter of keeping them healthy and their energy levels up, and Injuries down. That sort of thing.

Angus: So you would train them differently than a fourth liner.

Kadar: We have a foundation of exercises we believe everyone can benefit from.  The difference on what guys do depends on the screening, results we found, as well as minutes played, or any existing injuries.


Some guys are in the medical rooms, some guys will do some conditioning – you are constantly asking guys how they are doing, how they are feeling. This also plays a part on how we train them.

Angus: It is essentially problem solving on the go.

Kadar: Hockey is performance based. It’s a business within a business – every guy is his own business. You are trying to help each guy succeed individually for the whole of the team. Your problem solving can be anything from training, to being a good listener, to being a good mentor.  Sometimes you can play it soft, other times you have to be a hard ass and maybe tell them things they might not want to hear. Either way, you are there for the athlete.


Guys are so professional today – most of them know what they need to do to stay in the game.

Angus: What is your role with nutrition and diet?

Kadar: It is under my scope, but we have a nutritionist that comes on board and helps me with developing different food choices that we use in house, on the plane, and on the road.


I look after that with her. And that is how we balance things out.

Angus: Did you go to Russia this year to train with Malkin?

Kadar: I didn’t go this year, simply because Geno had two different Olympic camps, and they were happening at the same time that we agreed to be me going over. It just didn’t pan out this year.

Angus: It looked like your past two summers over there were quite the experience.

Kadar: It was very cool. Geno is an exceptional person. When we weren’t training he was always wondering where I was, constantly staying in touch, making sure I was OK. He gave me a full time driver that took me from the hotel to the training center, or wherever I needed to go.


He’s unbelievable that way.  Just a great guy, very caring.

Angus: It sounds like you and Malkin have a unique relationship. I was reading the story about him splitting his 50th goal puck in half and giving you half of it.

Kadar: Are you kidding me? I had never heard of that before.

Geno is just a really good, down to earth person. I can’t say enough good things about him. He may never score 50 goals again – and I got half of his 50 th goal puck.


What does that tell you about him, right?

Angus: Most definitely. Thanks for the interview, Mike.

You can read more about Core Stix here. I am not being given anything by Mike to share information about his product, and I don’t really push anything on my blog that I don’t believe in. The Core Stix aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they are providing a new way to get great results in the gym, regardless of your goal (strength, fat loss, balance, coordination, injury recovery, and so on). Mike’s passion for his work and this product is obvious from spending some time talking to him.

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