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Is Your Off-Ice Hockey Warmup Working?

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 11/25/14, 2:45PM EST

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Effective and dynamic warmups that take athletes through all three planes of motion play a critical role not just prior to games but to practices and dryland sessions.

It is great to see more and more teams making time to warmup before games, however, many of the warmups consist of a slow jog around the rink with some static stretching added in. When you think of the game that’s about to be played, it’s easy to see why a more dynamic warmup is required.
 
A lot has changed over the years in the strength and conditioning world and warmups are no exception. Surprisingly, warmups consisting of a slow jog followed by a few quick static stretches prior to the start of a game are still very popular, albeit ineffective. A slow jog does little to benefit a hockey player unless you’re preparing them to perform slow jogging as their sport or activity. Slow jogging is a great tool for making young athletes good at being slow. Not something that’ll benefit hockey players at any level. 

I know it’s not easy being a hockey coach/parent volunteer and you have a lot of things on your plate, so let’s take a look at what an effective warmup is all about. Effective and dynamic warmups that take athletes through all three planes of motion play a critical role not just prior to games but to practices and dryland sessions as well. They’re a must for every athlete, and, like hockey skills, they must be coached and reinforced correctly each and every time they’re performed. Left to their own accord athletes will look for shortcuts while becoming sloppy and ineffective in their warmup movements. 

An effective warmup when executed with purpose and intent serves several functions: 

  • Reduces the incidence of injury 
  • Moves joints through a full range of motion 
  • Ignites the nervous system 
  • Increases body temperature 
  • Increases heart rate 
  • Stimulates and warmups the mental capacity of the brain 
  • Instills good habits 

An effective warmup progresses from slow to fast and from simple to complex. The warmup activities are a systematic and linear progression taking athletes from a state of rest to a high state of readiness both mentally and physically. The warmup will have athletes moving linearly; forwards and backwards as well as laterally; from left to right and right to left. 
Warmups may vary slightly depending on how much time and space you have available. Activities should require next to no equipment and can be done anywhere, anytime and include big bang for your buck exercises and movements. With a few exceptions, they can be performed while moving or while in place. 

Continued teaching and coaching of your athletes on the hows and whys of warming up from day one will go a long way to laying a foundation of physical literacy and fundamental movements skills, reducing injury, enhancing athleticism and improving performance over the duration of their hockey careers and into adulthood. 

There are no short cuts or quick fixes. Becoming an athlete is a long term process not a onetime event. Meet your players where they’re at. Use the time and space you have to the best of your ability. Seek out help when you need it. Let your players enjoy the process and they will reap the many benefits for years to come. 

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About David Kittner

David Kittner, aka the Youth Fitness Guy, is a passionate, caring and dedicated individual with over twenty years experience working with children. 

David serves as Director of Education for Hangtime Fitness and is the Youth Fitness Contributor for CTV Ottawa Morning Live and for TV Cogeco’s Wallis On Wellness. David is also a contributing author for the international bestselling book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance. 

For more information and to contact David please call 647.504.7638 or visit his web site at www.YouthFitnessGuy.com.

Five Tools to a Dynamic Warmup

Soft Tissue Work 

  • Use foam rollers, tennis balls and lacrosse balls 

Static Stretching 

  • Kneeling Hip Flexor 
  • Pigeon Pose 
  • Spiderman 
  • Lateral Squat 

Mobility/Activation 

  • Ankles - Knee drives and leg swings 
  • Toe touch squats 
  • Kneeling elbow to elbow 
  • Hip bridging 

Dynamic Stretching 

  • Knee to chest 
  • Heel to butt 
  • Heel to butt with hip hinge 
  • Leg cradles 
  • Overhead lunge walks 
  • Reverse lunge with hamstring stretch 
  • Reverse single leg deadlift with reach 

Dynamic Movements 

  • Skipping 
  • Rhythmical jumping jacks 
  • Side shuffle 
  • Crossover 
  • Straight leg kicks 
  • Backward running 
  • High knees 
  • Butt kicks 
  • 3-5 yard sprints