The number one tool you have in hockey, or any sport for that matter, is your own body.
If you can move more efficiently and effectively than your opponent, then you will consistently put yourself in a better position to be successful. You do this multiple times over the course of a game or competition and chances are you will have a favourable result at the end.
In order to move our body well we want to be strong, have good body composition and have great mobility. We use the term mobility over flexibility as the latter usually solely involves stretching. Mobility is a much more global approach which includes soft tissue work, stretching, and activation exercises to ensure joints move properly.
Having good mobility means that you can move through a full range of motion, restriction free. Having proper mobility allows for increased performance. Basic fundamental hockey skills like shooting and skating are dependent on you having the proper mobility I order to perform them.
If your skating stride is short due to tight hips and you can’t access full extension in your drive phase, you will not generate as much force as you potentially can. In other words, without proper mobility you are leaving stuff on the table.
Mobility is also important for proper transition between on-ice and off-ice training. As an example: Players experiencing a decrease in ankle mobility during the season as they are always in fixed ankle position (hockey skate). When this player enters the gym, whether it be for in-season or off-season training and attempts to perform power or speed exercises (sprints and jumps), which place a large amount of stress on the ankle they are no longer in a safe position as they lack the proper amount of mobility or movement at the joint.
At this point injuries are at a higher risk of occurring, and as an athlete staying healthy is always the No. 1 priority.
On the topic of injury, proper mobility also helps decrease the chance of injury during competition, especially with a contact sport like hockey where your body can be forced into compromised positions. The four main parts of the body — in which we always want to make sure we have adequate mobility — are the ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders. Even though, as mentioned before, the hockey skate limits ankle flexion and extension there still is some in our skating stride. Having proper mobility at this joint help you get lower in your skating stride.
Hip extension is what propels the skating stride. Having proper hip mobility will ensure that we have a complete full skating stride that puts you in the best position to generate power.
The thoracic spine is the name for the area of the spine which runs from the mid to upper back. Making sure we have great mobility in both our extension and rotation will benefit you in keeping your chest up while you skate and with developing a harder shot.
The shoulders are one of the most injured joints in contact sports. Making sure we have a strong, stable, mobile shoulder will help reduce injury through contact and also help with skills like stick handling and shooting.
There are many moving parts that are included in a successful hockey training program. Make sure that mobility is one of them and you will reap the benefits of increasing performance and reducing injury both on and off the ice.
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach
Originally published in Game On Magazine