There are many ways to warm up; we choose to call it activation which gets the athlete ready for action. Activation refers to targeting a group of muscles or part of the body that are essential for the sport of hockey. In this particular case, we are focusing on the hip, glutes, and trunk of the body. A few simple tools such as strength bands and mini bands will be helpful in this process and can be purchased at treadmillfactory.ca. This inexpensive equipment will add to the movement by creating tension and assist the athlete in muscle contraction.
Strength Band X Walk: This exercise can be done by configuring the red strength band around the middle of the feet, crossing over at the midline of the body and into the hands. From there, maintain tension throughout the body, from the toes right up to the chin and proceeds with a lateral stepping motion using the band as resistance and keeping perfect posture. Typically this can be done for 2-3 sets with 10 steps on each side. This exercise is ideal for full body activation including a reinforcement for proper posture.
Mini Band Lateral Walk: This exercise is targeted for the glutes and trunk section of the body (skating muscles). Start by looping the mini band around both feet at the midsection. From there, create tension in the band by spreading the feet until the band is tight. Begin to take small steps laterally, maintaining constant tension on the band and keeping feet pointing straight ahead, with an overall athletic stance. The muscles should begin to work and feel as though the glute muscles are contracting. If you don’t have the mini band, this exercise can be done without equipment by performing a glute bridge. The glute bridge begins with the athlete lying on their back with weight in their heels. The athlete will dig their feet into the ground and lift their hips up, contracting their glutes and pausing at the top of this movement for 3 seconds. Proceed by bringing your hips down and repeating the movement 8-10 times.
Mini Band Hip Flexion: Begin with the mini band looped around the feet over the mid foot, the feet are kept at shoulder width distance apart. Proceed by lifting the leg from the hip as high as possible while maintaining dorsiflexion in the foot and good posture. Keep the planted leg straight by firing the glutes. This movement is repeated by alternating legs for 6-8 reps per leg while pausing at the top of the movement. If you do not have a mini band this movement can be accomplished by simply executing the hip flexion motion on its own and holding the top position a little longer. It can also be made more difficult by closing your eyes for 10-15 seconds at the top of the hold.
Activating the hip flexors and the glutes (skating muscles) will help you be better prepared for competition or practice. Activation exercises are a part of a complete warm up and should be done before any explosive movements such as jumping. Once athletes begin strength training outside of hockey, activation becomes increasingly more important and crucial.
Mark Fitzgerald is the owner of Elite Training Systems in Whitby Ontario and has been in the field of strength and conditioning for over ten years. He is the training and nutritional consultant for the Ontario Hockey League, head of the Canadian Hockey League combines and lead training consultant for Under Armour Canada.