Most players have a pregame ritual that they go through to get ready for a game. For some players this might be riding a stationary bike followed by static stretching. For younger players the pregame routine might be static stretching in the locker room before going out onto the ice. For a lot of adult recreational players the pregame warm-up might only be a couple of knee-bends before the first shift!
Recently there have been a few research studies that suggest that static stretching, such as simple toe touches, is not effective at decreasing injuries. Also, static stretching can actually be detrimental to hockey performance because it can actually decrease the power output of the muscles. For our players we use a dynamic warm-up that incorporates the functional integration of the body as a unit. The dynamic warm-up gradually increases the athlete’s body temperature while stimulating the central nervous system. This prepares the muscles to generate the power needed to play hockey (see video above).
Ideally, the warm-up starts 45-90 minutes prior to the opening face-off. Rather than static stretching, which treats each muscle group as an isolated segment, we use the 3D stretch lunge to begin the warm-up.
The dynamic warm-up (see video above) consists of 20-30 foot forward and backward skipping drills with arm circles, skipping with hip rotations, skipping with high knees, repetitive heel ups, side-shuffles, and back pedal runs. This can be done in a hallway in the arena or even outside (weather permitting). Many players will also do a few short sprints. For elite-level players we will then proceed to do a weight room warm up consisting of low loads and high velocity. An example would be hang clean pulls for 2-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions at a light weight so that the bar is moving as quickly as possible. This could be followed up by 1-2 sets of 4-6 squat jumps. This workout will usually last 5-10 minutes and the player will usually feel “wired” afterwards and ready to play.
Another great idea prior to a game is to use a ball and stick handle with your gloves on to get a feel for your stick. If you have a solid wall that you can shoot the ball against, then your warm-up will get even better. Make sure to work on backhand shots as well.
We have found that this type of dynamic warm-up decreases injuries and has a performance enhancing effect. Try to work some of these elements into your pregame preparation and tell me how you feel.
To see a series of good on-ice warm-up drills check out the video below:
Dr. Chad Moreau is the President of HockeyOT.com, an online training site dedicated to improving the fitness level of hockey players of all levels. He was the former Strength & Conditioning/Nutrition Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and the Long Beach Ice Dogs (ECHL). For more information please visit hockeyot.com.