Al Montoya is gearing up for his ninth season in the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens backup goalie has his younger brother to thank for his longevity.
At the beginning of his career, Montoya spent his offseasons working out at the Chicago Bulls’ facility in Deerfield; however, he didn’t feel like he was at full strength due to tightness in one of his legs.
Carlos Montoya opened his gym in 2010 in the brothers’ hometown of Glenview and about four years ago, he started training his brother in the summer.
Al Montoya said he made the switch because he needed to continue to build his strength and conditioning to sustain his NHL career.
“I stopped playing on one leg because of Carlos,” Al Montoya said. “He got all the muscles to fire right. I’ve started playing with two legs and it’s been like night and day.”
In 19 games last season, 32-year-old Al Montoya had a 2.67 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. He finished with a record of 8-6-0-4 and helped Montreal reach the playoffs.
Carlos Montoya said he helped his brother develop the muscles in the back of his legs with glute-ham raises and hip bridges.
“When you’re playing goalie you rely on your front,” Carlos Montoya said. “When you strengthen your back muscles you function better and you play better.”
Carlos Montoya emphasizes variety at his gym, which is called Conjugate Fitness. People he trains do lifts like squats and dead lifts, but he has them perform the exercises a little bit differently each time they work out, according to a video on the NHL website.
“He really helped send my career in the right direction,” Al Montoya said. “The change in what I’ve been able to do on the ice is unbelievable.”
Carlos Montoya’s motivation comes from his experience as a rower at Loyola Academy and Wisconsin. He said he got burned out with the Badgers and stopped rowing after a year. He transferred to Illinois and earned an economics degree. He did not row there.
“Part of the reason I got burned out was I didn’t have the longevity,” Carlos Montoya said. “You need the tools to be able to go on forever. I want to give them those tools whether it’s an elite athlete like my brother or my 94-year-old grandmother. You should see her pull a sled.”
In 2007, Carlos Montoya took CrossFit certification courses to become a trainer and coach.
“We had access to some of the best coaches in the world,” said Carlos Montoya, adding that he and his Conjugate Fitness business partner Christos Liagridonis “made connections with them and continued to learn from them on our own.”
After serving as the business manager at his mother’s medical practice in Chicago for a few years, Carlos Montoya got in touch with Matt Baldino, his Loyola rowing coach. Baldino liked the idea of Carlos Montoya training his rowers and there was a base for his new business.
Baldino said Carlos Montoya handles all the Ramblers’ dry land training. Baldino said Carlos Montoya has both the patience and knowledge to help teenagers get stronger. Different athletes on the same team need varied programs and Baldino said Carlos Montoya understands that.
“He is able to match their values to the skill set he is training,” Baldino said. “He is able to get them to get 100 percent out of what he is teaching them. He uses his drive to get the most out of people.”
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.