Hockey Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Hockey stretches to improve your performance and do away with hockey injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 31, 2010 | Updated November 12, 2018
Whether field hockey or ice hockey, incorporating regular stretching exercises into your hockey training will help players perform at higher levels of intensity without getting fatigued for longer periods. Off-ice hockey training also improves overall performance on the ice, while enhancing players’ fitness levels.
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. To condition these muscles well, your hockey training must include hockey stretches.
Most Common Hockey Injuries
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. Back muscle strain or back ligament sprain, groin strains, hip flexor strain, adductor strain, and tendonitis of the hip, pelvis, and groin; hip, knee or shoulder injury, wrist, hand and finger injuries, head and neck injuries including concussion and assorted contusions are all commonplace.
Hockey is a dynamic, fast-paced and aggressive sport, involving frequent collisions. Players are vulnerable to injury from high-impact 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:
- Lacerations (cuts) to the head, scalp, and face.
- Contusions, which may occur in the upper or lower body.
- Neck and spine injuries.
- Knee injuries, particularly sprains to the medial collateral and capsular ligaments.
- Shoulder injuries, including acromioclavicular, or AC joint separation, (also known as a separated shoulder) as well as shoulder dislocation.
- Gamekeeper’s thumb, resulting from the tearing of the ulnar collateral ligament.
- Fractures of the hand and wrist.
- Concussion, ranging from mild to severe and involving brief to extended periods of unconsciousness.
- Skate bite – a friction injury produced by the tough leather of the skate boot pressing on the tendon in front of the ankle.
Injuries to the shoulder joint (as a result of checking with the body of another player or hockey stick) occur frequently in the game. The shoulder joint is composed of the humeral head and the glenoid fossa of the scapula. This highly mobile joint is relatively exposed, making it highly vulnerable to injury. Subluxation of the shoulder occurs when the humeral head slips out of joint, occasionally causing temporary paralysis. Fractures of the clavicle are also a common affliction, requiring proper medical attention.
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 proper conditioning, attention to correct technique, protective gear, etc. Strengthening and stretching programs will help reduce the incidence of strains, sprains, muscle tearing and a range of overuse injuries.
The following safety points should be strictly adhered to:
- Always warm-up properly (including practice skating) prior to play.
- Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after-game stretching.
- Always use helmets and face shields. They have been shown to reduce the incidence of head and facial injuries.
- Inspection of the ice surface for obstructions or damaged areas, as well as the goal area 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. Here are some benefits of a good stretching program:
- It increases your range of motion when you are training both on and off ice. You tend 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. This enables then to move quickly and efficiently around the crease and make tough saves.
- Regular hockey stretches can help prevent injuries like:
º Rotator cuff tendinitis, a condition that causes acute irritation in the shoulder tendons and muscles.
º Knee tendinitis, a condition that causes irritation in the knee tendons and muscles.
º Musculotendinous overuse injuries, generally of the lower leg and knees.
- Finally, even the most basic hockey stretches can just make you feel better. Glossing over it in your regular hockey training, however, could cost you dearly.
Despite the numerous benefits, it is important to bear in mind that stretching can have detrimental effects when done incorrectly. Improperly done stretches can over time cause permanent damage to ligaments and joint. When performing the stretching exercises below, be sure to warm up first and if any of the exercises cause pain or severe discomfort, discontinue immediately. Review my article on the rules for safe stretching for more information.
The Top 3 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 very beneficial stretches for hockey; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Reaching Lateral Side 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 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 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 below
Click on the play button below to watch the 10 minute hockey stretching exercises video.
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About the Author: Brad 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 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 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.