1 – Ankle Mobility
As a hockey player you spend a ton of time in a skate. All of this time in the skate leads to some seriously tight ankles in almost all hockey players, making it extremely important to address ankle mobility often.
Quite often, it’s the little things that make a big difference in improve on-ice speed and performance➖something as simple as improving ankle mobility.
Improved ankle mobility = Improved Forward Lean/Improved Shin Angle = Improved Acceleration Mechanic
To perform this drill, start by taking a staggered stance with your front foot approximately 6 inches from the wall. Keeping the front foot firmly in the ground (don’t let that heel come up off the ground), drive your knee as far forward over your toe as you can. I typically instruct people to drive their knee over their 4th and/or 5th toe.
If you have adequate ankle mobility, you should be able to touch the wall with your knee without your back heel coming off the ground.
Typically, we will perform anywhere between 10-15 reps per ankle prior to the workout or on-ice session. Furthermore, be on the lookout for any mobility difference between ankles – additionally work may be required on one side.
You can also perform this drill from the ½ kneeling position.
2 – Leg Lowers
Hockey is a sport that is played primarily on one leg – whenever a hockey player is on two legs they are gliding or skating backwards.
Because of the amount of time spent in a single leg stance, single leg stability is extremely important.
One of the best drills to work on single leg stability is the leg lower, a drill that not only helps with stability, but also helps with mobility and hip separation.
Maintain a slight bend in the knee on the hamstring stretch. Keep a braced core throughout the movement by pulling your belly button into the spine. Lower the leg over 3 seconds and raise it back up over 3 seconds.
We will typically perform 1-2 sets x 10 reps on each leg.
3 – Adductor Rock
The skating stride places a TON of stress on the adductors (groin)!
Groin injuries are near the top of the list when it comes to injuries in the sport because of the amount of stress placed on the muscle group. There are a handful of things a player can do to improve the quality of the muscle tissue, one of which is the classic Adductor Stretch.
Start by getting down on the floor in a position with both your hands and your knees on the ground. Slide your knees out so that both knees are outside of your hips. From there, take one leg and place it straight out to the side with your foot flat and toes pointed straight ahead. Rock your hips straight back getting a stretch on the groin.
Typically, we will perform 8-10 reps on each side prior to each workout or on-ice session.
4 – V-Stance T-Spine
As we have discussed, shoulder injuries and pain are a major issue in the sport of hockey. Like much of the exercises that we have discussed already, improving thoracic spine mobility is going to go a long way in improving shoulder health.
There are a lot of thoracic mobility drills out there, but the V-Stance T-Spine Rotation may be my current favorite. In this variation, you are forcing the hips into abduction and the trunk into flexion which helps to really lock the lumbar spine so you can force rotation through the thoracic vertebrae.
5 – 1-Leg Glute Bridge
Hockey is played in a flexed hip position with constant tension on the quads and hip flexors resulting in the muscle groups being facilitated. This leads to a backside (glutes) that are often inhibited and not doing their job…which is hip extension.
We perform some type of bridging year-round to help keep the glutes working properly, but there is no time that is more important then the beginning of the off-season to work on getting the glutes to work properly and extending the hip.
We will start this movement on our backs. We will bring our legs up so that they are about 6 inches from our butts. We will then bring one leg towards our chest. By driving through our heel on the down leg, bridge up, squeezing your glute at the top and holding.
These can be done either through reps (8-12), holds (5-20 seconds) or a combination of the two (10 second hold + 10 reps).
Additionally, if you feel the quads or hamstrings firing and doing the majority of the work and not your glutes, focus more on driving through the heel of the down leg, and emphasizing squeezing the glute.
6 – Spiderman
The active spiderman stretch is a great all around stretch that I would recommend you do with pretty much all of the athletes you train, not just hockey. The stretch so phenomenal because of it’s ability to effectively stretch both hips simultaneously.
The positioning of the drill allows you to stretch the hip flexors of the back leg as well as the adductors and glutes on the front side hip.
The drill can be done both in a static position by holding the stretch for time.
However, I think this stretch is best done actively, having the athlete alternate sides and contract the backside glute with each rep.
Start by getting in a push up position with the hands directly under the shoulders. Bring one foot all the way up to the same side hand, then drop the back knee on to the ground.
When we are performing holds we typically hold the stretch for approximately 30 seconds, actively squeezing the glute of the down knee leg.
When we are performing the alternating version of the exercise we will typically perform 5-8 reps on each side, pausing at the top to squeeze the glute and get an active stretch on the hip flexor.
7 – 90/90 Hip External & Internal Rotation
90/90 hip mobility work is highly effective for improving functional range of motion of your hip joints – it may be my favorite general hip mobility drill.
Start by sitting with your front leg bent at 90 degrees and the back leg bent at 90 degrees (this is why its called the 90/90 position).
While maintaining great posture (back flat, no rounding) pull your belly button towards your front shin, getting a hip external stretch. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds. From there, place your hands behind your buttocks and rotate your belly button so that it is ‘pointing’ at the back knee, getting a hip internal rotation stretch. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds as well.
Switch your position so that the other leg is now in front, then go through the same process are you previously did.
8 – Adductor Stretch with T-Spine Rotation
We’ve already touched on the importance of both groin tissue length as well as improving thoracic mobility.
So how about a combination of the two?
Here is a stretch/mobility drill that I stole from Eric Cressey that we’ve started to add a little more with our with our hockey players that addresses both groin tissue length as well as thoracic spine mobility, both much needed in the hockey population.
It’s also a drill that really exposes my lack of t-spine mobility!
9 – Hip Flexor Functioning/Strength
One of the most common muscular deficiencies found in ice hockey players is a lack of strength and/or lack of activation of the deep hip flexors (psoas). The psoas, a hip flexor that is active when the hip is flexed greater than 90 degrees, is generally weak. Players will typically an incredibly hard time isolating their hip flexors in that above 90 degrees without compensation.
My current favorite way to improve this is through 1/2 kneeling Hip Flexor Holds.
The Front hip start in 90 degrees, meaning all movement of the hip has to be above 90 degrees.
1/2 Kneeling is a more difficult position to create some type of compensation. In many other hip flexor activation exercises, compensation though lumbar flexion is commonly seen. In my experience, this helps to eliminate some of that lumbar flexion compensation.
We’ll simply perform 5, 5 second holds on each side, or take it to the next level and add diaphragmatic breathing to the movement, with a 5 second exhale at the top of the movement.
By the way, if you are interested in more hockey content, check out my Ultimate Off-Season Training program for hockey.
You can grab that HERE!