Hockey Players: Strengthen Your Shoulders to Avoid Injury

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Body Checking NHL

Hockey is an incredibly physical sport, and the intense contact can damage your shoulder if it lacks sufficient strength. Forwards and defensemen must be able to give and take body checks—often with their shoulder as the primary point of impact—without injuring themselves. Even goalies need strong shoulders—to stabilize their arms when making glove saves or sprawling for a puck. Your shoulders must be stable, or you could get injured.

One of the best ways to stabilize the shoulder is to build strength around the scapular muscles (shoulder blades) in the mid to upper back. Although not directly on the shoulder, the scapular stabilizes and interacts with every movement your shoulder makes. (To see this in action, use mirrors to look your back. Move your arm and notice how much your scaps move.)

Below is a scapular stability program we use in our preparation phase and throughout the year. In addition to improving shoulder stability, these exercises are great for creating balanced upper body strength and improved posture. All exercises should be performed with shoulder blades down and pulled together; to prevent over-activation of the upper traps, avoid shrugging your shoulders.

Scapular Stabilization Dolphins

  • Lie on stomach with arms at sides
  • Pinch shoulder blades together to pull shoulders back
  • Lift arms two to three inches off ground and hold for five seconds

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

Bow and Arrows

  • Hold light resistance band with both hands, keeping arms parallel to ground and directly in front
  • Lower one arm to side so hand is at hip; keep opposite shoulder in starting position
  • Raise arm to return to starting position; perform on opposite side
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

Supine External Rotation With Band

  • Lie on back holding Thera-Band or light resistance band with elbows at sides and bent at 90-degree angle
  • Rotate shoulders to lengthen band, keeping elbows at sides
  • Rotate shoulder with control to return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

Physioball Rollouts

  • Kneel with knees together and toes off ground with physioball in front
  • Extend arms and rest hands on physioball
  • Lean forward to slowly roll ball forward until body is in straight line from knees to shoulders; keep core tight and back flat
  • Push hands down into physioball to roll back to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

Anterior/Pectoral Stretch

  • Lie on ground with foam roller positioned along length of spine
  • Rest arms on ground with palms facing up and elbows at 90-degree angle to form a "W" shape
  • Relax into position for specified time

Sets/Time: 5x30 seconds


Doug "Crash" Crashley is president of Crash Conditioning, a hockey performance center in Calgary, Alberta. Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and nominee Mike Green, along with other NHL players and prospects, come to Crash each year to prepare for their seasons. Crashley's training focuses on enhancing hockey performance through both physiological and psychological conditioning. He has been a lecturer and presenter for Hockey Canada, Hockey Alberta, Nike Hockey and CBC Hockey Night on Canada's Hyundai Nation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock