Before getting to work on the ice, it’s time to begin working while off it.
When considering what to accomplish before a game or practice, keep ice hockey stretches top of mind. A proper stretching routine before and after workouts helps to enhance a player’s flexibility and prevent injuries.
And making pregame stretches part of the hockey dressing room warmup will help players improve their performance by allowing them to move more freely on the ice and to expend less energy with each movement.
Stretches make hockey players:
- More flexible
- Less sore
- Less susceptible to certain injuries
How Do You Stretch for Hockey?
Stretches for players typically start after a light, 10-minute workout, which increases the blood flow and prepares the muscles for the warm-up stretches. Start your workout with dynamic stretching, and finish it with static stretching.
What Is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretches are active motions aimed at warming up the muscles. Players should perform dynamic stretching in their hockey training prior to a practice or game.
The best workouts for the day before a game should mimic the motions you’ll make on the ice.
Here are four dynamic stretching examples. These stretches can be done on ice, or adapted to work anywhere:
- Shoulder Flexes: Gripping your hockey stick with both hands in front of your body, lift your arms over your head and reach as far back as you can without arching your back.
- Shoulder Extensions: Gripping your stick behind your back with both hands, lift your arms as high as you can, again without arching your back.
- Trunk Rotation: Gripping your stick with both of your hands at shoulder height, move your trunk to one side and come back to the middle and pause before rotating to the other side. It’s important to not go side-to-side minus the midway pause.
- Thigh/Groin Stretches: Remembering to keep your back straight and shoulders square, glide slowly and place your left leg forward and bend your knee. Meanwhile, keep your right leg straight and extended behind you while pressing forward and down, without being bouncy. Hold for about 15 seconds and go through the motions another three to four times. Repeat with the opposite leg.
What Is Static Stretching?
At the end of an activity, players can use static stretching to loosen up muscles and increase range of motion and flexibility. This is done by holding stretches without moving for a short time.
Here are four examples of static stretching:
- Achilles Stretches: Standing upright, put one foot in front, and the other slightly behind it. While bending your front leg and keeping the back leg straight, push your back heel into the floor. The movement should be repeated with the back leg bent slightly as the back heel is pushed into the floor.
- Standing Quad Stretches: Gripping onto something solid, stand on one leg while bending the other and grasping and pulling the foot up to your buttocks area. Repeat on the other leg.
- Partner Hamstring Stretches: With a teammate standing over you, lie down on your back and allow your workout partner to gently push up one of your legs while the other leg remains on the floor. Remember to keep the elevated leg straight and the foot flat. Repeat this action with the other leg.
- Ankle Rotation Stretches: After raising one foot into the air, slowly rotate your ankle and foot in a variety of directions. This stretch can help your skating speed.
Tips for Improving Your Hockey Stretching
- Execute static stretches—holding a stretch for a period of time—with caution, performing them gently and slowly. Avoid bouncing during dynamic, or active stretching, and pull only to the point of feeling tension on the targeted muscle group.
- Hold each basic stretch for about 30 seconds. Retract and relax for about 15 seconds and repeat three or so times.
- Reminder: Overstretching can be counterproductive.
- If soreness persists while stretching, see a team trainer or family doctor.
- Hockey players should also include stretches for the lower back and hips.
- Pregame warmups during adolescence should still include stretching, but remember to breathe slowly and deeply during stretches—before and after workouts.
Hockey Goalie Stretches
To make the crucial saves in critical moments during matches, goaltenders need to be as flexible as possible.
Here are two important warmup stretches for netminders:
- Standing Groin Stretches: With your feet hip width apart, carefully expand them outward until you feel a slight stretch and hold for 30 seconds. As the tension begins to decrease, creep your feet out a bit more. Do this three times with your chest out standing up straight and three times bending forward with your hands touching the floor.
- Hip External Rotation Stretch: Most goalies today play some variety of the butterfly style, which makes comfortably stretching the hip’s external rotators imperative. Start this exercise lying supine (face up) with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the floor, just wider than your hips. Tilt your right knee inward towards the heel of your left foot. Attempt to keep the right gluteal muscle on the floor as you execute this stretch. Repeat with your other leg. Note: It may take time to achieve flexibility, but this exercise will provide a stretching sensation deep within your hip.
To succeed in hockey, players must be willing to work hard on the ice and off.
Beginning and ending each workout by executing the proper hockey stretches helps maintain a healthy body during play.