Stretching + Your Muscles

by Adam Desloges

How many of you have pulled, tweaked or torn your groin or any other area of your body while playing ice hockey? If you have it is easy to know how painful it is and how hard it is to heal. If you have not then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. During my research the one thing that resonated over and over was the fact that stretching will not only help keep you limber, but is actually known to help reduce injuries. Whether you are playing ice hockey or not, stretching will help your body recover faster from injury and get you back on the ice.

Stretching cold muscles will not give you the same benefit as stretching warm muscles. So run a few laps around the rink and warm yourself up.

Stretching takes many forms, styles and level of flexibility, but one thing is for certain stretching can be done by anyone no matter their level of experience. The more you stretch the more flexible you will become over time and the more complex stretches you will be able to perform. One important factor to remember is stretching cold muscles will not give you the same benefit as stretching warm muscles. So run a few laps around the rink and warm yourself up.

Most pros know that ice hockey relies heavily on both upper and lower body musculoskeletal anatomy as well as aerobic and cardiovascular endurance. Among the most critical muscles used in ice hockey are:

Note: Triangle pose is one of the best stretches for ice hockey players

• Abdominal muscles
• Oblique muscles
• Erector spinae muscles and associated back muscles
• Hip extensors including the gluteal and hamstring muscles
• Hip flexors and quadriceps muscles

Take yoga for example. Most of us that have first tried it leave thinking “oh my god, will this get any easier”? Stretching is no different. When you first start off stretching begin with the basics and always follow the head-to-toe approach. Then split your body into three sections: upper, middle and lower. Start with the upper body by stretching the neck area, move down to the shoulders, both rotator cuffs, then arms (forearms), wrists, fingers and then hands. Next focus on your middle section starting with the hips/waist area, GROIN area, spine and lower back. Finally move on to your lower body and focus on the quads, obliques, calves, ankles and feet. Once you have completed your full body stretch take a moment to do a complete full body reach by lying on your back, extending your arms over your head and reaching as high as possible while pushing your toes out as far as possible. At this point you may feel a little lethargic so take a few more laps around the rink to get that blood flowing again.

Good proper stretching takes no less than 25-30 minutes. Stretching should start well before the game, continue while getting dressed and continue on to the ice until the drop of the puck. Find yourself a stretching partner to help each other out and keep it fun. Stretching between periods can also go a long way to preventing injuries or helping to stretch out a tweaked groin. How many of you stretch after your workout at the gym? Well ice hockey is no different. After the game is when your muscles are at their warmest and there is no better time than now to get in a good stretch (before you hit the showers of course). Not only will this help you be more flexible, but it is also a good time to let your body cool down and an even better time to replenish your fluids. Remember my previous blog, Sports Drinks vs Energy Drinks. If you have access to a sauna or steam room these are excellent places to get in a good stretch. These places helped Chris Chelios prolong his career a few extra years as he would regularly work on his cardio inside them.

Hockey Stretching Ideas

Canadian and Timmins native known as the Timmins Tornado and current Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Steve Sullivan, knows all about ice hockey injuries. While playing for the Nashville Predators, Sullivan missed the better part of almost two calendar years with a career-threatening injury. The injury Sullivan suffered was so severe that even back specialists were in doubt of Sullivan being able to resume his NHL career. Never backing down from a challenge, Sullivan endured two back surgeries and started his long road back to recovery, but even more importantly, back to the NHL. His recovery and road back were recognized when in 2009 Sullivan won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at the annual NHL Awards. The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

To avoid a long and agonizing recovery remember to keep yourself stretched and limber so you do not suffer a strain, tear or pull that will keep you out of the lineup. For tips on off-ice training and stretching check out these two sites:  and

Remember to follow me on Twitter @AdamOnHockey.

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Adam Desloges  |  Center Ice Hockey
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