How Hockey Goalies Can Get More Flexible for a Better Butterfly

STACK Expert Maria Mountain presents techniques for improving your flexibility and range of motion in goal.

If you're a hockey goalie, you probably pride yourself on your positional play, so why does the puck still end up in the back of the net? Even a tiny gap can offer enough room for a shifty forward on the other team to squeak it in between your skate and the near post.

Two more inches on your butterfly flare, and you could have sealed that gap. But how to do it? You may stretch consistently but feel like you are never making progress. That's because your flexibility involves connective tissue as well as muscle.

Here are some better approaches. You may not achieve the ultra-wide flare of an NHL goalie—not everyone has hips that can tolerate that extreme range of motion—but you can certainly improve.

One-Minute Flexibility Drill

Grab a tennis ball or something similar. Now, take off your shoes.

Stand with your feet touching side by side and keep your knees locked fully straight. Bend forward and see how close you get to touching the floor in front of you. Can you touch your fingertips? First knuckle? Palms flat?

Make a mental note of your "before."

Now, roll your foot on the ball, pushing on it so you feel strong pressure but not pain. Roll over all surfaces on the bottom of your foot from your heel to the base of your toes. Do this for one minute on each foot.

Now re-test your toe-touch experiment. Make sure your feet remain touching and your knees are locked straight. Typically, we see an increase of 2 to 3 inches in reach, with just this one intervention.

How does this help your butterfly? To get a wider butterfly, you need more internal rotation at your hips. It has nothing to do with getting more flexibility in your knees, as some will tell you. It is all coming from the hips.

You still need to work on your internal rotation—using the Supine Hip Internal Rotation stretch, for example—but you can make huge gains in your flexibility by using the same technique you tried with the ball.

Called Self Myofascial Release (SMR), it targets the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle. Simply stated, if the connective tissue and the underlying muscle get "tacked down" to one another, no matter how much you stretch, you will not see improvements on the ice.

SMR lets you get in there and break up some of those bonds to get the tissues gliding again. That will set you up for greater gains with your stretching.

As you saw from the "ball-on-foot" experiment, there will probably be some nervous system responses to SMR as well (either that or voodoo magic).

RELATED: Mobility Training for Hockey Goalies

Three Areas of Focus

1. Glutes/Lateral Hip

Use a lacrosse ball or something similar for your glutes; it lets you get a little deeper with a little more pressure. Work on your glutes two ways: first, with your glutes in a relaxed position with both feet flat on the floor and your knees bent; and second, in a stretch position with one foot up on the opposite knee. If your left foot is on your right knee, roll your left glute.

When rolling your glute, sit on the ball and roll from your butt to the outside of your hip. Cover the entire area.

Do 30 seconds on each side, relaxed and stretched.

2. Adductors

You can use a medicine ball or a foam roller for this one. Lie face down with the inside of one leg up on the roller. Divide your upper leg into thirds—just above the knee, middle and just below the hip. Spend about 15 seconds on each third.

3. Hip Flexors

The lacrosse ball is a good tool for this one. Before you start, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place your hand or thumb along the crease at the front of your hip and lift your leg off the floor. You will feel a bundle of muscle contract under your hand. It will feel like a rope.

This is where you want to roll.

Now lie face down, sandwiching the lacrosse ball between the floor and that thick rope of muscle tissue. You can roll along the length of the hip flexor bundle or across it.

Spend 30 seconds on each side.

Key Points For SMR

Stay off bony areas; do not roll where bones are close to the surface or you will pinch your skin between the foam roller and the bone.

Go slowly. Think of it like a massage, not a carnival ride.

Do your SMR first and then your stretching.

Learn 5 exercises designed to help you perform a butterfly save.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock