The Best Hockey Stretches

Hockey players have been stretching prior to games, practices, and workouts for a very long time now.

Sometimes correctly, and sometimes incorrectly — even to the point where they are harming their own performance potential.

I have discussed the proper science and application of both static stretching and dynamic stretching in great detail in past articles and videos here and here if you’re interested on understanding the “why” behind the “how” of proper hockey mobility training.

I would HIGHLY recommend reading/watching those if you haven’t already, this is must-know information for hockey players everywhere.

Context Is Everything

Although within this article I’m going to pull from my years of experience and from my scouring of the scientific data on this topic to come up with my favorite stretches for hockey players, it’s important to point out that there is no “one best stretch” for absolutely everybody.

Generalities can be made for sure when it comes to hockey athletes as they consistently run into the same issues (due to the nature of the sport, it’s natural that there are common trends among athletes).

But, in some cases you get those oddball players who have a mobility issue unlike any other athlete in the sport. And for those people, I really recommend you read this and also give this a go for a couple months.

The Common Problems

Hockey players consistently have mobility issues within the:

  • Hips + Lower Back
  • Shoulders
  • Calves + Achilles Tendon
  • Hamstrings + Vastus Lateralis

Let’s have a look at each one and solve them one-by-one with the best stretches for hockey players.

Hips + Lower Back

If you look at a hockey player’s posture and movement throughout the game, he/she is bent over at the waist for pretty much the entire game.

During a face-off, when taking a shot, when skating, and even sitting on the bench. They are in constant hip flexion (as opposed to extension, which would represent a straightening of the hips, or, “thrusting” motion).

This chronic hip flexion shortens and tightens the hip flexors which can lead to a whole host of postural issues including pain in the hips during movement, tightness in the hips, rounded shoulders, shoulder impingements, low back lordosis and a forward lean in the neck.

My favorite exercises to alleviate pain and correct these tightnesses include:

Rear Foot Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch

Iron Cross

Deep Squat Hold With Alternating Reaches

Shoulders

When you’re standing in a relaxed position, your shoulders shouldn’t be pulled forward.

They should be at your side.

Also, in a relaxed position they should be symmetrical in height.

One shoulder should not be higher or lower than the other. This type of tightness usually results in a forward head and neck lean as well (which ties into the same “root cause” reasoning as the hips/lower back).

Addressing shoulder tightness with hockey players is extremely important for puck handling ability, shot power, and shot accuracy.

The internal and external rotator muscles work together to create a lot of this motion and hockey players normally have a bigger issue with their external rotators, and specifically their scapula retractors (muscles that pull your shoulders blades into a “flat” position with the back, as opposed to having them stick out like bat wings).

My favorite exercises to alleviate pain and correct these tightnesses include:

Supine Shoulder Slides

Side Lying Windmills

Push Up ISO Hold With Hands Elevated

Calves + Achilles Tendon

The combined Achilles tendon and calf tightness pops up in tons of hockey players, and I believe it is mainly due skating mechanics in comparison to running mechanics.

When running you have a much greater ability to fully extend the foot (pointing the toe downwards) in a straight-on movement.

Whereas in hockey, the foot is pointed slightly sideways and there is much less overall extension, but still a ton of tension which can create tightness over time.

Tension plus no extension equals a lot of force that gets “stuck” in one joint and the surrounding area.

It also doesn’t help the issue that hockey players feet are completely stuck in a right angle for 6-8 months out of every year in the skating boot. When you’re locked in like that, in comparison to a running shoe which is very free movement, you’re bound to run into localized tightness.

My favorite exercises to alleviate pain and correct these tightnesses include:

Deep Squat Hold With Toes Elevated

Knee To Wall Ankle Mobilization

Lower Leg SMR

Hamstrings + Vastus Lateralis

The biceps femoris muscle of the hamstring in combination with the vastus lateralis muscle in the quadriceps both get tightened for the same reasons, they are prime movers in the force generated during a skating stride.

One of the biceps femoris main jobs is to point the foot outwards, which is the position hockey players feet are in whenever they are skating. The vastus lateralis is that big quad muscle on the outside of your thigh, its job to apply force down on the ice to propel you forward.

Both of these muscles get overused during hockey due to the volume of skating performed over the course of the competitive season, which leads to both of them slowly becoming tight as a rock.

For most hockey players when it comes time for the offseason training to begin, I have noticed they have biceps femoris and vastus lateralis muscles that resemble steel rods. Way too tight in order to function properly.

My favorite exercises to alleviate pain and correct these tightnesses include:

Cossack Squats

Knee Hug Into Reverse Lunges

Rollover Into V-Sit

Final Thoughts

Stretching for hockey players falls into the same world as everything else in strength and conditioning, it will only ever be as good as its application.

If you have these issues, working on them the right way (and at the right time) will allow you to become an all-around better hockey player.

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About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

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