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Abductor strains, or groin strains, are one of the most prevalent injuries in hockey. (See Keys for Prevention) Groin strains are common in hockey because, unlike basketball and football, which are primarily played in the sagittal plane, skating requires movement in both the sagittal and frontal planes. Essentially this means that the hips, abductors and adductors are all responsible for portions of the skating stride. Yet these muscle groups are rarely targeted during conventional leg exercises or sprinting.
Between 1991 and 1997, the NHL reported a total of 617 groin injuries. Recently, NHL players have adopted off-season training methods focused on strengthening this area. And it's paying off. One study of 33 NHL players counted only three adductor strains compared with 11 preceding the training program.
How do you strengthen these areas?
You know those machines that look like some sort of medieval birthing device? The abductor and adductor machines might not have the best reputation among meatheads in the gym, but they can be very effective at strengthening the muscles they're intended to engage.
I wouldn't recommend going in cold and starting your training off with these machines. Save them for later in the workout when you're thoroughly warmed up. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself on an exercise intended for injury prevention.
Use a weight with which you can get a minimum of 15 to 20 reps. Don't try to push heavy weight or you'll risk injury.
Start on the adductor machine to work the inner thigh muscles - 2-3x15-20
- Smoothly bring your legs together
- Squeeze and hold for a second or two at peak contraction
- Return under control to start position without letting the weight stack rest
In the same fashion, move on to the abductor machine, which focuses on the outer thigh muscles.
I recommend these finishing exercises once a week on leg day until the season starts, then maybe scale it back to every other week as a maintenance protocol.