Off-Season Training… (Part 1) – Maximizing Hip Health and Strength in Hockey Players

Victoria Royals play the  Kelowna RocketsBy Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, FMS, PES)

The hip is to the hockey player as the shoulder is to the baseball player.  Unless you want a short hockey season, you need to take care of it.

Seventy percent (70%) of all hockey players have abnormal hip and pelvic MRI’s. This does not mean that they are necessarily in pain but continuing to ignore the situation may get ugly further down the road.

I’m not a doctor or a P.T. but I am a certified strength and conditioning coach.  We train a lot of hockey players here at RPP and we see a lot of groin pulls during the season in young athletes who didn’t prepare properly in the off-season.  So without trying to turn this into an anatomy lesson, let’s talk about what could be a few of the causes as well as what we can do training wise to avoid them (I think it’s very important to review the causes, so just bear with me for a second):

  • Weak Psoas and Illiacus Muscles:  These muscles are major hip flexors (muscle that flexes a joint is called a flexor) that aid in bringing the knee up past 90 degrees.  When these muscles are de-conditioned, the smaller Adductor Brevis and Pectineus (adductor/flexor muscles) have to take over in such big movements as the crossover or recovery stride while skating.  Groin strains will usually originate in these two muscles.Thigh_Muscles
  • Lack of Symmetry in All Planes of Movement:  A groin injury or “sports hernia “ is a reaction of the abdominal walls to a change in mechanics of the hip joint.  When the core has to try and take up the slack for lack of movement in a specific plane, there is undo stress placed on the pelvis and groin.  Our goal is to create mobility through training in both the saggital (front to back) and the frontal (side to side) planes equally.
  • Lack of Hip Internal Rotation:  Hockey players live in external rotation. Working to get the internal rotation back through training helps create the symmetry we are trying to achieve.

And here is how we address these topics at RPP to help reduce the risk of injury to keep you on the ice all season long:

1.     Foam Roll Adductors:  When I say foam roll I don’t mean stretch.  Hockey players already have long stretched out adductors from being in the frontal plane so much.  Foam rolling will increase the quality of the tissue without stretching them out any further.  Check out RPP coach Simon Wineberg below:

2.     Dynamic Warm-up to Increase Hip Mobility:  Split squats, lateral squats and rotational squats are a great way to acquire active hip mobility in all three planes of movement.

3.     Heavy Sled Crossovers:  Sled crossovers really strengthen the adductor longus and adductor magnus, two of the main muscles used in hip extension, not to mention a great “sport specific” movement in hockey! Take it away Simon:

4.     Single Leg Work Over Bilateral:  Single leg exercises help strengthen the muscles that help stabilize the pelvis (glute medius, adductors and quadratus lumborum).  These muscles are much more active in single leg exercises than in bilateral (both legs) exercises.

5.     Sprint, Don’t Run – No Technology Necessary!!:  Bikes, stair-climbers and ellipticals all involve incomplete hip extension which is o.k. while in-season when athletes are already getting enough through skating, but off-season there is no better exercise for hip extension than sprinting.  And I do mean sprinting not running.  Running is the gift of slowness.  So, Sprint!

Making sure your off-season hockey program includes good hip strengthening and mobility work is crucial in order to maximize your time to get strong.  You’ll reap the benefits on and off the ice.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series of blogs on off-season training.

The RPP Skaters Program is a complete top to bottom off-season protocol for ages 13+.  It is comprised of 8-week training programs, meeting 2x per week for a total of 16 sessions in each eight week cycle.  The programs begin in March and end in September just before the start of the new high school season.  Please register by clicking here if you are interested.