In hockey training, the degree of flexibility you need depends on the movements you do and the position you play. Mobility training for hockey goalies, for instance, requires more flexibility in movements that require hip abduction and internal rotation.
So what do most goalies do? They stretch—a lot. But that kind of flexibility training doesn't always translate to on-ice performance. Many goalies still get irritating and painful groin strains from season to season. Many live in quiet fear that this may be the day when they do some serious damage, after all the little "tweaks."
Before we go further, we need to make a distinction between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the range of motion you can move through. It can be passive—like someone taking your leg and moving you into abduction. It is just your available range. Mobility is the range of motion you can actively use and control. The muscular control element is the key, and is often overlooked.
Hockey Goalie Stretches and Mobility Drills
What hockey goalies need is more mobility. Below are four hockey goalie stretches. They are probably different from what you typically do, so I have put together a video tutorial. Please watch the video first.
This exercise highlights imbalances in hip mobility from side to side. You may feel moving in one direction is very smooth and almost effortless, whereas the other direction is jerky. You want to smooth this out. It is not so much a drill to improve your range but to improve your control in the range that you have.
Do three rotations in each direction. Remember to go slowly.
90/90 Hip Stretch
This is probably different from any other mobility drill you have done before. You work both hip external rotation (on the front leg) and hip internal rotation, which is where you get a wider butterfly flare (on the back leg).
The key to this drill is to combine static holds with static contractions, where you generate maximum tension in the muscle at the end of its range of motion. You are sending a message to your nervous system that you can produce enough force in that position to control and stabilize the movement.
Start with a 30-second hold. Then perform a 30-second contraction where you push your lower leg straight down into the floor. Gradually build up to maximum tension. Follow with another static contraction where you try to "lift" your lower leg off the floor or "pull" your torso further over your leg. Do this for 30 seconds. Hold the final position for another 30-second static stretch.
1/2 Kneeling Groin + Rock Back
You have likely done something like this to stretch your groin (adductors). The difference here is that you add dynamic motion, letting you stretch the muscle in different positions while it's under tension.
Do 10 Rock Backs on each side. Keep your back in a neutral position. Do not round your lower back as you rock.
Standing Adductor + Rotation
The purpose of this dynamic movement is to stretch your adductors and abdominal obliques, since they work together as a functional unit.
We see quite a few sports hernias caused by players stretching and training these muscles in isolation rather than in a chain or system like they work on the ice. Imagine reaching for a glove save from a kneeling position. A little bit of stretch from the adductors, abdominals and pecs will allow you to do that in a safe and efficient manner.
Perform 8-10 reps each way.
These four new ways to improve your mobility should give you the type of flexibility you can use on the ice. Start slow and pay close attention to the cues from the video.
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