Hockey-Specific Warmup for Performance and Injury Prevention

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Welcome to a three-part series from SportsCare Performance Institute tailored for today’s athlete. With a focus on ice hockey, SportsCare’s Strength and Conditioning Coach and Athletic Trainer Scott Gunter takes a look at three areas of improvement from warm-up to prevent injury, maximizing on-ice performance and endurance, and reducing recovery time to stay on the ice for longer periods of time.

For more information on the SportsCare Institute, the proud physical therapy and marketing partner of the New York Red Bulls and a proud partner of the New York Rangers, visit them here.

PART I: Hockey-Specific Warmup for Performance and Injury Prevention

When we begin playing sports at an early age, the initial focus his skill development, coordination and affinity for the sport. As we develop and competition levels rise, our time practicing the sport increases and it becomes vital to further refine all aspects of our training to improve performance and prevent injury. This includes warming-up, nutrition, recovery, and psychology in addition to other interventions that may compliment your training. To determine the best regimen for your athletic development, it is important to perform a needs analysis of both the sport and athlete as an individual. Hockey players are subject to a unique set of stresses that must be taken into account. In this article we will take a look at how you can tailor your dynamic warm-up to the sport of hockey for a boost in your performance, more effective training, and reduced risk of injury.

A complete dynamic warm-up should be designed with purpose and distinct ordered phases. While there are many variations of this, I have seen great results with the following structure: Inhibition->Lengthening->Activation->Integration

During the inhibition phase, our goal is to essentially decrease tone to the muscles we are looking to stretch. We’ve all gone to practice with tight or sore muscles, and as such, we know this can hinder our performance and make us more susceptible to muscle strains or ligamentous injury due to altered mechanics. Common inhibition methods include foam rolling, stick rollers, lacrosse balls and massage.

These techniques are also effective for increasing blood flow to the area and essentially warming the muscles from the inside out. In hockey, we want to place high emphasis on the quads, adductors (muscles on the inside of the hip), hamstrings, and external rotators. Additional areas could include the lats and trapezius muscles of the back. Consider a vibration-based foam roller for increased range of motion following the inhibition phase.

The lengthening phase is where you take the muscles you have relaxed and effectively lengthen to up to your current range of motion. We are not trying to actually gain new range of motion as this is reserved for post-training recovery. For hockey, this phase should include hip mobility into both flexion, extension, internal and external rotation, thoracic spine mobility and global rotational mobility.

Once our muscles are effectively lengthened, it is important to activate them by waking up the as many muscle fibers as possible and further increasing blood flow and neuromuscular activity to the area. This involves strong contractions of the desired muscle groups and proper positioning of the hips and spine.

Hockey athletes should focus on activating the muscles around their hips, legs and core for optimal performance. Of note, many hockey players spend much of their time on the ice pushing back and out into hip external rotation. As such, they often lose some internal rotation of the hips, which can lead to postural imbalances and injury. Consider activations of the adductors and internal rotators of the hips as well.

At this point you should be ready to begin your dryland workout or training routine. However, you can further prime your muscles with an integration phase. Depending what you are warming up for (dryland power work, dryland strength work, on-ice session, game) the integration phase gets your muscles firing at the speed and force of your training session. Consider bodyweight plyometrics for speed and power training or strong isometric holds for strength training.

See the hockey-specific warmup below to improve your performance and keep you on the ice longer. Consider individual variations based on current strengths and target areas, prior injury history, and type of training you are warming up for:​

Hockey-Specific Warmup

1. Foam Rolling Series (20-90s each muscle group )
a. Quadriceps-straight leg
b. Quadriceps-with active knee flexion
c. Adductors-straight leg
d. Adductors-with active knee flexion
e. External Rotators/Piriformis
f. External Rotators-with passive hip IR
g. Hamstrings
2. World’s Greatest stretch x 5 ea side (breathe with ea. reach)
3. Squat-Rotate and Reach x 5 ea side (breathe with ea. reach)
4. Resisted Lateral Bound 2×6 bounds
5. Resisted Diagonal Bound and Stick 2×6 bounds
6. Lateral resisted Adductor Squat 2×8 ea. side (Also supports hip mobility and may be substituted
in the lengthening phase)
7. Hand Walkout + Hold x5 (Breath out in extended position)
8. Active Supine internal Rotation 2×5 (May also be substituted in lengthening phase)
INTEGRATION– See Part II Video for a bodyweight plyometric series that serves to both enhance hockey
performance and prime the muscles during the integration phase of a dynamic warm-up

Written Special to HockeyClan by:

Scott Gunter, ATC, CSCS. USAW. Pn1, FMSC
Video Credit: Decker Lindsay, CSCS, USAW, FMSC



Main Image: New York Rangers Head coach Tom Renney speaks to his players during a team training session at the PostFinance Arena on September 29, 2008 in Berne, Switzerland. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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