The 3 Best Stretches for Hockey
Improve your hockey and minimize injuries with 3 of the best hockey stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 31, 2010 | Updated April 16, 2019
Muscles used in Hockey
Like other sports, hockey also has different effects on different parts of the body. The most important muscles during a game are the core muscles. Core muscles include the rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus, which are the abdominal muscles, and both internal and external oblique muscles.
The strength and flexibility of the lower body is also very important. Hockey requires the players to bend over the hockey stick while playing, making it essential to have strong hamstrings, hips and lower back muscles.
Most Common Hockey Injuries
Hockey is a dynamic, fast-paced and aggressive sport, involving frequent collisions. Hockey players are prone to a variety of overuse injuries due to movement inherent in the game, as well as assorted acute or traumatic injuries. Players are also vulnerable to injury from impact with other players, boundary walls and goal posts. Additional risk of traumatic injury comes from possible impact with skate blades, hockey sticks, balls or pucks – some traveling more than 100 MPH. The most common injuries include:
- Concussion, ranging from mild to severe;
- Head, neck and spine injuries;
- Muscle bruises and contusions;
- Fractures of the hand and wrist;
- Shoulder injuries, including acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation, (also known as a separated shoulder);
- Knee injuries, particularly sprains to the medial collateral ligament and the meniscus;
- Groin or adductor strain; and
- Ankle sprain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
The aggressive and fluid nature of hockey leaves players vulnerable to an assortment of sudden injuries due to accidents on the ice. While these are difficult to prevent, other injuries may be reduced with the following:
- Always warm-up properly (including practice skating) prior to play.
- Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after-game stretching.
- Good cardiovascular fitness will help delay the onset of fatigue, which contributes to a high percentage of sports injuries.
- Strength training, especially in the lower extremities, will prevent many injuries caused by the constant change in direction and explosive movements.
- Speed and endurance training, to prevent fatigue in later stages of a match.
- Incorporate balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- Good flexibility training will help keep the muscles healthy and ready to move as needed.
- Skill development and attention to correct technique will help reduce overuse injuries.
- Always use helmets, face shields, mouth guards and other protective gear.
- Inspection of the playing surface and goal area for obstructions or damaged areas, should be carried out prior to play.
The Benefits of Hockey Stretches
Special attention should be devoted to regular hockey stretches before and after every game and practice session. A good hockey stretching program will help to increases your range of motion, which will help to gain swiftness, agility and puck handling skills. Your skating speed is likely to improve, as stretching increases flexibility of the hips, groin, quads and hamstrings. Goalkeepers become able to extend further by stretching. Regular hockey stretches can help prevent injuries. And finally, even the most basic hockey stretches can just make you feel better.
The 3 Best Hockey Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for hockey; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Reaching Lateral Side and Lower Back Stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, then slowly bend to the side and reach over the top of your head with your hand. Do not bend forward.
Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
Kneeling Heel-down Calf and Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.
Watch the Hockey Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for hockey.
These hockey stretches are best done after your hockey training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your hockey flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, March 29). Hockey, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Benson, B. Meeuwisse, W. (2005). Epidemiology of Pediatric Sports Injuries: Team Sports: Ice Hockey Injuries. Medicine and Sport Science. Basel, Karger, Vol. 49, pp. 86-119.
- Ebben, W. Carroll, R. Simenz, C. (2004). Strength and conditioning practices of National Hockey League strength and conditioning coaches. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(4), 889-897.
- Emery, C. Meeuwisse, W. (2001). Risk factors for groin injuries in hockey. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(9), 1423-1433.
- Tyler, T. Nicholas, S. Campbell, R. Donellan, S. McHugh, M. (2002). The effectiveness of a preseason exercise program to prevent adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(5), 680-683.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.