When walking up the stairs sounds like a squeaky door hinge,
When the sound of you getting out of bed closely resembles the snap,
and pop of your kid’s breakfast cereal,
When the muscles on the back of your legs closely resemble the wires of the San Fransisco bridge,
It may be time to dedicate some time to stretching.
When you sit in a desk,
Drive in a car,
Sit on a couch,
Or even play a forward-dominant sport like hockey,
Your muscles can get tight.
Like real tight.
And that’s no fun.
That’s why we wanted to give you some quick and simple tips for reducing those aches and pains,
For making your weekend hockey games enjoyable,
not a time bomb for muscle tears,
And for increasing your ability to train and play hard.
What is mobility?
Mobility is basically flexibility,
Or the ability to take your joints through their full range-of-motion safely and without getting biffed.
Flexibility can be both passive and active.
Passive flexibility is holding a stretched position for an extended duration.
For example, Jonathan Quick holding the splits.
Active flexibility is taking your joint through it’s range of motion while it moves.
For example, lunging forward, the skating stride or taking a slapshot.
So, when looking at these two kinds of flexibility,
It’s obvious which type lends itself to hockey performance.
And life performance too.
When our joints are being stretched, they’re usually also being moved from the power of our muscles.
That’s why this article will focus mainly on active flexibility or mobility.
Let’s dive in.
Why mobility for hockey
As mentioned above,
Much of your life happens in front of you.
You drive a car by holding a steering wheel.
You work at a desk on a computer.
You play sports in which the play is in front of you.
As a result, the muscles on the front of your body get tight from being in a shortened position.
For example, the chest muscles get tight when on a computer or when driving.
The other issue is that much of life happens in a seated position.
We sit when we work,
We sit when we drive,
We sit when we tie our skates,
We sit when we relax on the couch.
We are sitting all damn day.
If you don’t believe me,
Start a timer every time you sit today.
You’ll be shocked at how many hours per day you’re on your butt.
Nonetheless, this constant sitting can really tighten up the muscles around your hips and again, your shoulders.
Now, to add insult to injury,
Hockey movements like skating require large ranges of motion,
Particularly in the groin and hip flexors.
If the muscles don’t have the extensibility to withstand the stresses being placed on them…
You might be in trouble, dude.
But fear not, we have a solution.
Getting into a tight spot
As mentioned above, there are a number of structures that need to be prioritized for hockey mobility.
And the truth is you should be taking all of your joints through their full range of motion,
But for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on a few key areas.
The hip flexors
The hip flexors are basically a collection of muscles that span from the hip to the upper leg bone…one even goes right down to the kneecap.
These things can get TIGHT in today’s world.
The hip flexors have a huge influence on hip function and also a huge impact on low back health.
Not to mention, they are stretched out to near max when skating.
These guys need to be supple.
Here are a few moves to loosen up the hip flexors:
One more thing on the hip flexors…
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the lower-body cross that can often accompany hip flexor tightness.
We talked about this here.
The gist of it is that when the hip flexors get tight, they rotate the pelvis forward.
This rotation in the pelvis causes the abs to get lengthened and therefore weak,
The low back to get shortened and tight,
And the glutes to get lengthened and weak.
Also, the breathing can get mucked up too.
So, strengthen up the abs
Strengthen up the glutes
And work on your breathing
To help remedy the issue for good!
The groin gets a ton of attention in hockey circles,
And rightfully so.
This group of muscles on the inside of the thigh slows down the leg when you skate,
It basically prevents the leg from being shot out too far when skating.
It also brings the leg back in to finish each stride.
Pretty valuable muscle, don’t you think?
It’s important to mention that the groin muscle spans a wide range on the inside of the thigh,
So attacking it from a few different angles is necessary.
Just pick one of these drills and rotate through them every couple weeks
The hamstrings make up a huge part of the back of the thigh and they can get tight.
Like real tight.
Like bridge-wire tight.
Much like the groin, the hamstrings help slow down the leg when striding out.
Also, they produce some highlight reel power against the ice when skating.
As a result, they can use a little TLC as well.
And again, if the hamstrings are tight,
It likely accompanies a few other postural issues.
And you may have to loosen up your hips flexors.
The upper back and chest
Working our way to the shoulders…
We are going to pair up these two tight spots.
These spots take a beating when slouching over a computer,
Slouching over a steering wheel,
Or slouching forward between shifts.
The upper back gets lengthened and weak,
And the pecs get shortened and tight.
Here are a few moves to help this out
Again, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the accompanying with a slouched posture.
We already mentioned the tight chest and weak upper back,
But, don’t forget about the muscles around the neck.
The muscles on the back of the neck get shortened and tight,
The muscles on the front of the neck get lengthened and weak.
Check out this video to get your neck and shoulders back on-line.
The poor ankle.
It gets locked in a boot for over an hour as you play and therefore, can also get tight.
And again, sitting at a desk does not work wonders on some of those muscles that cross the ankle.
As a result, you should probably prioritize some ankle mobility along the way.
Here are a couple of our favourite moves.
A note on sets and reps
Improving your mobility will be a game-changer for your movement on- and off the ice.
But it may take time.
Just think about how long it took to get to this point of resembling the modern-day tin man.
When performing these drills, don’t rush the movements,
Take your joints through a range of motion that is difficult but not sketchy.
You don’t want to step into the “pain cave”.
Stay just outside of it.
Aim for 1-2 sets of 6-10 reps of your chosen moves for the day.
It shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes.
And don’t tell me you don’t have 10 minutes to look,
Feel and move better.
You can carve out 10 minutes.
Here’s a sample movement flow you can try:
A. Fetal breathing x 6 breaths
B. Deadbug x 6/sd
C. Side-lying windmill x 8/sd
D. Split-stance groin mob x 8/sd
E. Wall hip flexor mob x 8/sd
F. Rocking ankle mob x 8/sd
Everything we’ve discussed up to this point has focused on mobility drills to take your movement to the next level,
But foam rolling can work wonders too.
Foam rolling can help alleviate the tension in stressed and strained muscles of work, life and sport.
Here is a series you can go through on foam rolling
And here’s a series you can check on lacrosse ball rolling
Really, with foam rolling, you have two options.
You can do the “blanket method” and do all of the areas in these videos.
This may take a little extra time but it will be well worth it!
The other method is the “search and destroy” method where you find the tight spots and clear them out.
Just pick 1-2 spots each day and crush them for a couple minutes each.
Finally, all of this mobility work won’t mean a thing if you don’t clean up your posture.
You can mobilize until your blue in the face, but if you revert back to old positions,
Start slouching over the desk,
And walking around like Quasimoto,
Your issues are going to persist.
Good posture is basically the same as the set-up position we use for our exercises.
Check it out here.
So, when your standing in line at Costco,
Sitting at a desk,
Or driving a car,
Keep the bracing sequence in mind.
Whether you’re a desk jockey that needs to get out of pain.
A weekend warrior that wants to move better on the ice.
A dad that wants to be able to play with his kids without tearing every muscle in his body.
Or all three…
Mobility can open you up to new opportunities,
New levels of comfort,
New levels of enjoyment,
And a life of pain-free performance.
Use the ideas in this article to start now.