Sam Bennett Can’t Do a Pull-Up? He’ll Be Just Fine.

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I’ll be honest right out of the gate:  I don’t follow hockey, let alone watch it. Truth be told I’ve never even been to a live hockey event.

I’ve lived in Boston for around seven years now, and the only time I’ve ever stepped foot in TD Garden – where both the Bruins (NHL – hockey) and Celtics (NBA – basketball) play – was to attend a Star Wars in Concert event when Lisa and I first started dating five years ago.

It was awesome. There was a GIANT screen playing scenes from all the movies coinciding with a live orchestra playing John Williams’ classic soundtrack.  And Anthony Daniels, C3pO himself!, was there emceeing the entire thing.

Lisa wore her hair in a Princess Leia bun (sooooooooooo hot, and it was then I knew she was a keeper), and I wore one of my 27 vintage Star Wars t-shirts.  We even took a picture with a StormTrooper.

Ah, young love.

So, um, yeah…..while I’ve trained a handful of hockey players in my coaching career, I have yet to go to an actual hockey game.

They score touchdowns in hockey, right?…….;o)

Last week I received several messages from people asking me my opinion on top hockey prospect, Sam Bennett, and how he failed to perform one single pull-up during the NHL Combine recently.

A quick search pointed me in the right direction.  Some headline highlights:

Top Hockey Prospect Fails to do a Pull-Up.

Top Hockey Prospect Sam Bennett Can’t Do One Pull-Up at NHL Draft Combine

Top Prospect Sam Bennett Posts No Pull-Ups at 2014 Combine.

You can read some of the headlines yourself HERE and HERE.

I’m surprised the media didn’t go even further and produce more headlines like Top Prospect Has Stinky Armpits or Sam Bennett Asked a Girl Out and She Said No….Hahahahaha.

WTF – way to throw the guy under the bus media. Nice job! Worse still were many of ensuing comments from people who have nothing better to do with their lives than leave anonymous comments.

Like this doozy from MOJO1120:

“This is kind of crazy. While many of the things would be difficult for me I can still do pull ups and I am 40 years old and slightly overweight.  Almost does not seem possible.”

Well shit, I know that pie is 3.14 (and then some, x infinity) but that doesn’t mean I can compare myself to a NASA scientist and think I can send a satellite to Mars.

I’d like to see this guy lace up the skates and see if he could last 30 seconds on the ice with Mr. Bennett.  My money would be on Sam.

And that’s just one rather mellow example. Perusing other articles and the subsequent comments I found any number of off-color dialogue and vitriol directed towards Sam.

“Is this what professional sports is coming to???”

“OMG, this kid won’t last a year in the NHL!!”

Blah, blah, blah.

A few thoughts:

1.  Last time I checked, one’s ability to perform a pull-up doesn’t necessarily equate to athletic prowess in one’s respective sport.  It seems Sam did okay for himself competing against his peers, tallying 55 assists and scoring 36 goals in 57 games this past season.

He may not be able to perform a pull-up (now), but that somehow didn’t deter him from dominating in the rink this past season. He can take all the other pull-ups everyone else did and compare that to the number of zeros he’ll see on his signing bonus check.

2.  Also, lets not forget that (absolute) strength (and relative strength) is just ONE aspect of athleticism. Athletes still need to develop force rapidly (RFD) and be able to accelerate and decelerate their bodyweight, as well as change direction in multiple planes to succeed.

As my boy Bret Contreras notes:  “if maximal strength were the end-all-be-all in sports performance, powerlifters around the world would be dominating the competition in various sports.”

3.  Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder took heat a few years ago when he failed to bench press 185 lbs at the NBA combine.  Much like Sam is now, Durant had to endure all the media and internet “hate” and many people questioned whether he’d last one season.

Well, one MVP, four scoring titles, and five NBA All-Star teams later…..he seems to be doing just fine.

4.  More importantly, what gets lost in the noise is that Sam is ONLY 17 YEARS OLD!!!! He’s a kid for crying out loud!!!

Chances are he’s spent the majority of his career playing hockey and more in the absolute speed side of the training continuum.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m confident he’s set foot in a weight room, but maybe hasn’t yet prioritized that component yet.

The fact he wasn’t able to perform a pull-up should be making NHL scouts, coaches, and General Managers salivate!!!

If he performs this well now, as a relatively un-trained athlete (as far as weight-room antics go), just imagine how much of a BEAST he’s going to be when he develops and adopts more of a strength base.

He has an almost infinite ceiling of adaptability as far as I’m concerned. The sky’s the limit! He’s going to be just fine.

Shut-up internet!

UPDATE:  I feel I need to add an addendum here.  By no means am I saying it’s a good thing that a 17 year old, elite level athlete can’t do a pull-up.  I see this all the time, unfortunately, with many of the young athletes who step through the doors at Cressey Performance.

It’s a testament to us as a society – in a negative way – that we’re in the midst of a generation who can’t perform simple tasks that many could do quite easily not too long ago.  Kids nowadays are more concerned with how fast they can send a text message than they are in their ability to do a proper lunge or squat pattern or handstand.

That being said, I do feel that many people are blowing this waaaaaaay out of proportion, which served as the impetus for my original post. I don’t feel there’s a need to attack the kid or make him feel like he’s an embarrassment to the human race like some (not all) are doing.

I guarantee once he starts a well-structured, CONSISTENT strength training routine (where he’s NOT playing hockey year round) he’s going to make people eat their words.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Roberto Aguilar

    Loved the final conclusion :)

    June 5, 2014 at 9:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lorne Goldenberg

    good points, but to be clear, pull-ups are more a function of relative strength, which has implications on general speed and power. Your ability to handle your own body weight is important. As is absolute strength in a game where Sam will have to compete against larger opponents. Although for Sam this pull up might be viewed as maximum strength as he could not do one.

    June 5, 2014 at 10:47 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Understood, and my apologies for not making that clearer. Yes, pull-ups are more a function of relative strength, but the main point I was trying to make was that he's most likely (I can't be certain) spent the vast majority of his teenage years to the right of the strength-speed continuum. He's excelled. Now that he's going to be under the guidance of a professional coaching staff and have access to a strength and conditioning staff, it's a safe bet that he'll spend more time to the right (strength) and who knows what will happen.

      June 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Aaron Schwenzfeier

    Interesting points, Tony. Thanks for sharing. A couple things: a pull-up isn't about maximal strength and comparing it to Kevin Durant and the bench press is apples to oranges. The ability to do 1 pull-up has very little to do with weight room and almost everything to do with being a human being (childhood climbing/play? physical education?). I get it, he can probably outplay most of us in hockey, so who cares if he can do a pull-up or not... however, the excessive admiration for specialization at the young ages and the 'writing off' of this inability (to do a pull-up) just furthers the collective settlement for general physical apathy, in my opinion.

    June 5, 2014 at 11:36 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      A pull-up is more about relative strength, I understand. And by no means am I implying that not being able to do one is a good thing. All I was implying was that he's been able to excel despite accumulating a lot of strength, and it's going to bode in his favor to spend more time focusing on strength (and all the different qualities of it). I agree that sports specialization isn't a good thing. We see it a lot with our baseball players to much of their detriment. It's amazing to see what he's been able to do despite a great base of strength. I'm in no way saying that not being able to do a pull-up is a good thing. He's 17 though. I don't feel we need to chastise him for it. He's got a lot growing to do, and I have to assume that with some dedicated strength training he'll be busting them out in no time flat.

      June 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Aaron Schwenzfeier

        I agree. It's not fair for this one kid to get singled out, and it's also difficult to blame him or any of the youth of this society as we've all had our part in creating the current situation. It is however, another piece of evidence that we need to correct course... with unfortunately one individual getting much of the current attention.

        June 6, 2014 at 7:00 am | Reply to this comment

  • Shelley

    I can do 4 pull-ups - does that mean I can join the NHL?

    June 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • AW

    "Shut-up Internet!" you made me smile :-)

    June 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Greg

    I once couldn't do a single pull up either but then I started a program of 10000 ez bar curls and 10000 tricep extensions. Now, I can do all the pull-ups. Thanks, Greg

    June 5, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kirk

    Threw a No-No. Do you think the media would be all over him if they saw him attempting a perfect plank or prone bridge. You article reminds me of the article: If he couldn't squat 300lbs do you think the media would criticize?

    June 6, 2014 at 7:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • John J Brooks

    I think you're right on, you look at how the kids get it done on the ice and then look how they've developed, if you've got a kid who is already an outlier, AND has room to grow that's the kid you want. When I first started coaching I remember reading a quote from a MLB scout.. and I wish I could remember where it was from.. Take two kids, both lefties, within a few hundredths of each other getting to first base, but the first kid is a clinic. comes out of the box strong. Comes down the line like a freight train, great running mechanics.. the whole deal. The second kid comes off his heels, runs down the line like a walking disaster.. which kid do you take? You take the second one. because you're going to coach him up, and he's going to be a half second faster than the first kid inside of two years.

    June 6, 2014 at 11:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sanjay Sajeev

    Pull up is an effective exercise that helps to develop muscles on our back and arms. Even one pull up can make drastic changes in your body muscles. Can pull ups help to strengthen chest? If yes. How is it possible?

    June 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    As of now he is a solid player, but for were he was picked he's a bust. With that said you should be able to do a pull up.

    March 16, 2021 at 11:29 am | Reply to this comment

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