In this article, I’m going to show you how hockey players should be warming up prior to intense physical activity – whether it be a hockey game, practice, or off-ice training session.
Why Hockey Players Should Warm-Up
Before partaking in any intense physical activity, it is very important to warm up. If you do this properly, you will accomplish two major things:
- You will be doing something very effective in preventing injuries.
- You will be doing something very effective towards maximizing performance outputs.
A ton of hockey players (and unfortunately, their coaches as well) put a half-hearted effort into seeking out optimal ways to warm-up prior to hockey games and practices and normally just do the standard warm-up drills (a few stretches, some jogging, jumping jacks, etc.)
Don’t overlook the importance of warming up — I don’t care if you’re pressed for time or if you find it boring.
A proper warm-up is essential because it prepares the body for hard work, and since a warm-up improves performance you can also expect quicker rates in progression from your training.
The Benefits of Properly Warming Up
The basic benefits of warming up are the prevention of injury and the enhancement of performance.
The warm-up accomplishes this in many ways.
- A muscle contracts more forcefully and relaxes quicker than one that is not warm. Thus, potentiating speed, strength, agility, and power.
- Warming up a muscle increases the sensitivity of nerve receptors and their transmission speed. Thus, increasing both speed and reaction time. This is sometimes coined as “waking up the nervous system”.
- Warming up increases the temperature of the blood which allows for more oxygen to be transported to working muscle tissue during exercise.
- Warming the body up enhances vasodilation which allows for more substrates to enter working tissues (such as carbohydrates and electrolytes) and this same vasodilation also allows the body to remove more wasteful products out of the muscle at a faster rate (such as all of the metabolic by-products associated with muscular fatigue.
- Warming up improves range of motion and mobility prior to hockey. Thus, leading to greater functional outputs in a real sport-specific setting as well as a decreased risk of injury since you have a more active range of motion available to you.
As you can see, there is A LOT to discuss here (especially if you dive into the deep science behind all of the above points).
Long story short, the majority of the benefits that come along with the warm-up result from an increase in body temperature.
This impacts your energy metabolism, range of motion, joint lubrication, blood saturation of working muscles, and overall vasodilation of the body.
An Underrated Aspect of Warming Up
If all of the above wasn’t enough, there is one major aspect of warming up that routinely gets overlooked even by experienced coaches.
A warm-up allows a hockey player to practice the event.
By performing parts of a movement at low intensities, a hockey player can work on technical mastery and simultaneously become more psychologically focused.
So, we already have the “physical” benefits of everything that comes along with increased core temperature, but, if you create a warm-up well then you can also expect the hockey player to “get in the zone” quicker and also improve technical mastery of certain movements they may be struggling with.
For example, many athletes struggle with performing A-Skips and B-Skips properly for weeks before they finally get them right.
But once they do, it’s a movement that can help enhance their speed output in training and therefore their speed output on the ice.
Technical mastery means higher quality training, and higher quality training means better results.
When you tie that in with the psychological benefits of going through your warm-up routine, it’s a real no-brainer to me and truly amazes me that anybody would skip this.
Your warm-up should always be centered around increasing your core temperature, rehearsing the movements you need to rehearse before the workout/game, and using the time to get psychologically/emotionally engaged with what you’re doing.
General vs. Specific Warm-Ups
Just like there are general and specific exercises for hockey strength and conditioning, there are also general and specific warm-up strategies.
Specific warm-ups are essentially “build up” exercises because they are simply lighter versions of whatever exercise you’re about to perform.
They act as a vehicle to slowly get to the intensity that you’re going to perform your working sets at.
For example, if you’re going to run sprints – it’s ideal to do some light runs first before going full throttle.
Similarly, if you’re going to do some heavy squats you shouldn’t just start with your working weight, you should work your way up there through several progressive sets.
Put simply, the general warm-up is in place to elevate body temperature whereas the specific warm-up utilizes exercises that simulate those to be performed in your training but at a lower intensity.
Since the “specific” nature of this warm-up design activates the muscle groups in a fashion that is similar to the event you’re about to do, it acts as a perfect “rehearsal” so you don’t have a slow start in either a workout, practice, or game.
In a perfect world, you would perform a general warm-up and then follow it with a specific warm-up before starting your hockey training.
Creating Your Hockey Warm-Up
The length and intensity of a warm-up will depend very much on the level of the athlete because what may be a warm-up to one athlete may be totally exhausting to another.
Beyond this, the nature of the workout, the temperature of where the workout is going to be performed, as well as what weaknesses an athlete currently has all play roles in how a customized warm-up would be designed.
As mentioned previously, it’s best if you use a general warm-up first and then follow that up with a specific warm-up depending upon what it is you’re doing.
Jogging, skipping, and dynamic flexibility movements all make for great general warm-up exercise options.
Something as simple as 5 minutes of jogging plus 3-5 dynamic flexibility movements should make up the general warm-up.
Pretty simple here, but don’t let this simplicity undermine how many benefits we have already discussed. This is simple and effective.
Once that’s complete, then you move into the specific nature of the warm-up which will consist of 2-5 agility/speed based movements.
Each exercise from the general category should be performed for 1-2 sets, whereas the specific movements should ideally be performed for 2-3 sets each.
Again, how many sets and how “hard” you make this warm-up depends on how advanced the hockey player is.
General Hockey Warm-Up
Use this warm-up before hockey games/practices, and training sessions, and follow it with one of the specific warm-ups found below.
- Jump rope x 5 minutes
- Knee hug to reverse lunge x 8 per leg
- Walking spiderman with hip lift and overhead reach x 5 per side
- Yoga push up x 10
- Cossack squat x 8 per leg
- Zombie squat with reach through x 10
- Leg swings x 10 per leg
- Horizontal leg swings x 10 per leg
*Perform each movement for 1 or 2 sets each depending on current needs state based on the above criteria.
Hockey Game/Practice Specific Warm-Up
For most hockey players, the general warm-up above will be enough to get the body ready to step out on the ice.
Once you are on the ice the “specific” warm-up before games or practices would be the first few minutes on the ice getting warm with your skating (incorporating crossovers, mohawks, long strides, etc) and some stickhandling and shooting.
Take your on-ice warm-up time seriously!
Many hockey players just “go through the motions” of a warm-up without actually focusing on getting the body prepared for the game (which is why some players and teams start slow).
By incorporating a general warm-up before getting dressed, and a specific warm-up when you are on the ice you should be 100% ready to play at full speed at the drop of the puck.
Dryland Training Specific Warm-Up
Here’s a sample specific warm-up that you would use before speed, conditioning or agility training after completing the general warm-up:
- A-Skips x 20 yards
- B-Skips x 20 yards
- Backpedal x 20 yards
- Carioca x 20 yards
- Skater bounds x 2 per side
*Perform each movement for 2 or 3 sets each depending on current needs state based on the above criteria.
Weight Lifting Specific Warm-Up
When it comes to your weightlifting, the “specific” aspect of your warm-up is simple 2-4 light sets of your first exercise.
So for a weightlifting workout, you would still perform a full general warm-up, but then you can move right to your first exercise and perform low-intensity rehearsal sets there.
My objective with today’s article was to open your eyes as to how many benefits a hockey player can receive by doing warm-ups properly.
I hope you were able to pick something up from this and that the sample warm-ups gave you a great general idea of how to move forward with this knowledge.
If you’re interested in becoming the best hockey player you can possibly be by applying this knowledge perfectly (alongside a ton of other dryland and on-ice work!) then you have to check out the Hockey Skills Accelerator today.