For hockey players of any age, injuries are bound to happen, especially when the season heats up. Hockey players spend most of their time standing on forward-angled skates with their torsos upright and their hips flexed, a position that usually leads to large quads, inactive glutes and tight hip flexors.
Unfortunately, living in this position further tightens the hip flexors and removes the glutes—the largest and most powerful muscle group in your body—from the skating stride.
The body always takes the path of least resistance, so the active hip flexors usually take over for weak and inactive glutes. Your hip flexors help you push off the ice and pull your knee up toward your chest in preparation for your next stride. Although they were not intended to contribute to backside mechanics, the hip flexors now do so at the expense of your spine.
In reality, the glutes should be the first muscles that fire when you push off the ice, followed by the external rotators, the quadriceps (which straighten the knee) and the hamstrings (which extend the hip)
Below are a few exercises for strength and stability that will keep hips and knees healthy for hockey players. These exercises can be done easily at home with minimal equipment.
Forward and Reverse Bear Crawls:
Crawling mimics the movement pattern of skating, while training the core to remain completely motionless. It reinforces stride mechanics, and you get a killer core workout.
Single-leg Goblet Squat:
When you stand on one leg, the muscles attached to your hip work overtime to keep you stable, improving your core and hip support. This exercise should be done with body weight first working on proper mechanics before an athlete should load up with weight. Sit back and down into your hip (like sitting on a chair), then drive your hips up and forward as you stand back up.
Eccentric Leg Curls:
Strong hamstrings reduce the risk of groin pulls, because they reinforce co-contraction of the hamstrings and glutes. These can be done from a bridge position laying on your back, making sure that your feet can slide on a surface. Contract your glutes as you bridge your hips up, flexing your knees and bringing your heels toward you. Eccentric phase comes when you slowly lower and extend your knees back down, should take 3-5 seconds.
Single Leg Deadlift:
The slightly bent knee position of the Single-Leg Deadlift mimics the position that the leg and hip assume during the contact phase of skating. You promote proper muscle recruitment and a faster, more efficient stride. Key here is maintaining a neutral pelvis and not arching low back or allowing any hip rotation.
These exercises are a great way to take a preventative approach to common hockey injuries. When injuries do happen, TRIA’s Orthopedic Urgent Care is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week with locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Woodbury.