A typical warm-up for the teams I played for growing up was not much more than some lighting jogging followed by a few minutes of stretching and it was usually very similar for other teams I viewed from a distance. Growing up, I always dealt with the issues of “tightness” before athletics (games, practices, training, weight room...etc) and it often interfered with my ability to play my best, especially in the first few shifts. I asked my coaches and trainers what else I could do for this chronic "tightness" I felt (mostly in my hamstrings and hips). There responses were more or less the same thing; just stretch. I am sure you all know the drill, if your hamstrings are tight than you should do that typical bent over hammy stretch, where you touch your toes, and hold for 10-30 seconds. If it did not work, they would usually tell me to stretch longer.
But it never worked.
This is not a story to express that stretching or warming up is useless- my method was simply ineffective. It took me years away from the sport and extensive research with my own personal testing, to finally get a better understanding of what athletes should and should not do before training or competition. It is still an ongoing learning process, but the routine I follow now is far more useful and efficient. After implementing these new techniques, I feel I am ready from the get go, not the second shift, or the second period.
In order to understand how to properly "warm-up" we first have to first know... What exactly is TIGHTNESS?
When we feel tight, we stretch it thinking that it will lengthen and loosen up. Yet in fact, this is not how muscles work. Our muscles are not necessarily shortened (unless you were inactive for a long period of time) and it does not need to be stretched out. The tightening is our body bracing itself because it feels unready.
So holding that bent-over toe touch for 20 seconds will not do much to benefit your health or performance before athletics. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Think in terms of a rubber-band, what happens if you stretch it for a long time. ANSWER: It looses its strength and durability.
This type of stretching is known as a STATIC STRETCH. It has a time and place in your training and fitness but not exactly an appropriate method to prepare for high-intensity sports.
DYNAMIC STRETCHES can be best explained as "Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching beneficial in sports utilizing momentum from form, and the momentum from static-active stretching strength, in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one's static-passive stretching ability."
In simpler terms, its stretching within your capacity through various movement patterns that you may find within your specific sport.
THE DYNAMIC ROUTINE
The dynamic routine is simply the method you follow to be at your physical peak before athletics.
Most teams I have come across both as a player and a coach did not implement dynamic routines into their game plan. It is not because we did not care- we were just not aware. It is a shame, as it’s been the most useful tool in getting ready for a big game or even in a training session. I have watched professional athletes, like many of Gary Roberts’s NHL trained players, do something similar to this for a while now, but I will admit it took a while for me to deviate from what I grew up with and turn to something totally different.
Trust me when I say I consistently faced hamstring tightness, no amount of touching my toes worked. This quick and simple routine did. This is why I encourage all athletes to try new things.
Incorporate bits and pieces from a multitude of sources to do what is best for your own body. Pregame routines should not be a one size fits all practice. In fact, my specific dynamic routine is a mesh of various things I learned in soccer, Jui-Jitsu, Rugby, wrestling and more!
Below is my specific dynamic stretch routine that I encourage you all to try out.
Note, whether you listen to my advice or not, I still urge all of you take your warm-up more seriously. Research a bit of different athletes you look up to and how they prepare for a game.
A proper warm up will raise your core body temperature, “loosen” up the muscles and prepare your mind and body for explosive movements. It will increase your performance and decrease your chances of injury.
WHERE TO START?
Ask yourself- is my body 110% ready for this game? If you’re one of the many athletes who said no, then it is time to take your preparation to a whole new level. If your team has its own warm up, I suggest you do your own prior to that, to assure yourself being fully ready.
It does not take long, just about a good 10-15 minutes should do it.
RAISE THE CORE TEMPERATURE (est. 3-5-minutes)
Remember the rubber-band metaphor I mentioned above, well remember that the most important part of warming-up is actually raising your body's temperature. A rubber-band has less elastic capacity in the cold than it does in the heat.
You can do this in a cornucopia of different ways, such as, jogging, biking, rowing, jumping jacks, burpees and my personal favorite- jump-rope. The jump-rope is effective because its intensity can be controlled easily and it’s relatively low-impact on the body. About 100 signals should do the trick (3-5 minutes).
You know you did the trick when you break a slight sweat.
I usually try to knock-out 10 reps of slow air squats, slow push-ups and 10 burpees. Ill finish off with 2/3x - 30 seconds of planks.
*** If you feel that you are not conditioned enough to do this, then what makes you think that you are conditioned enough for 3 periods of hockey? ***
MY DYNAMIC STRETCH ROUTINE (est. 5 minutes)
The Dynamic stretches are short and sweet.
They consist of kicks, twists, jumps, lunges and a bunch of movement patterns to prep your body for any sport.
For my first ever created content, I filmed my own routine for you to follow. Its a 4-minute video of the various movements I work on before pretty much any activity and it WORKS!
*** Like the song? Support the artist! https://www.facebook.com/soCroMusic & https://soundcloud.com/socro ***
In my video, I work on these movements
Notice how I start off with a light jog. I transition into a backwards jog. You need to prep for both. For hamstrings, I like to do quick toe touches, then transition into side kicks, then into parallel kicks and finally some high-end punts. Once again, I start off light and pick up the pace. The extents of my movements do not reach beyond my capacity. I save the real stretching for my yoga days and flexibility sessions.
There is no specific order here outside of that rule. I recorded this about 7x, and each time I had something different. I could have also included high-knees, butt-kicks, inch worms, bear crawls and way more!
Film your own little dynamic routine and send it in for us to review! Try to remember the basics, but feel free to show me something I have not seen.
STATIC STRETCHES (est. 3-10 minutes)
I am sure I sound like I am against all static stretches; truthfully I am just not for the amount of static stretches we find ourselves completing. I stretch all the time, throughout the day and I like to include some yoga in the week. Before a game, as long as I work on my Dynamic Routine, it is okay for me to complete some quality stretches.
I actually enjoy doing a forward bend and touching my toes, however I try to stay away from 10-second counts. Instead, I work on breathing exercises, and while I exhale, I look to stretch deeper. Note, my exhale is a maximum inhale to exhale length. I will pick a few stretches that I feel target muscle groups I am not comfortable with and work on it for other 5 or so minutes. These usually include stretches to the glute and the thoracic spine.
Depending on time, I will perform all or some of these. No need to stress about getting this all done. Work within your own time constraints and challenges.
The best thing I can do for all of you here is to check out www.mobilityWOD.com.
Kelly Starret works with hundreds of elite athletes and he has been a huge help in understanding fitness.
As you noticed, I save my warm-up for off the ice. Its generally the same warm-up for all activities.
Once I am fully dressed, I will start practicing stick handling and passing in the locker rooms with teammates. Once the door to the rink opens up I am one of the first to jump on. I might join my fellow teammates in their on-ice stretches for about a minute or so, if I feel like I truly need some extra work, but I should be ready to go.
Within the first two minutes, I work on my skating motion and edge work. I might even do some skating sprints to get ready for the high-paced sport we love. Its too late to have your first sprint of the day be in the game or drill.
Other methods of preparing for a hockey game
Self Myofascial Release: A more specific means to massaging the body. There are a lot of benefits for this in terms of preparation and for use in recovery. What you may know is the use of a foam-roller.
I have also used lax balls, rolling pins and my own hands to do the same trick. However, I consistently use these throughout the day and not so much just for a game or practice. Though it does wonders right before you suit up.
Hanging: Always feels good to hand and let loose. However, never really utilized it for more than a 10 second good spinal decompression before I heard about Ido Portal. Ido is a movement coach and he swears by this to help with physical and mental stress.
Hydration/Nutrition/Sleep: Deprivation of water, good food and quality sleep will be your biggest challenges come game-time. Do not lose focus on any of this as these have the greatest impacts on your performance and health. Look to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, especially before a game. Review your diet, where can you improve?
Meditation / Breathing: If meditation is too hippie dippie for you, then look it as breathing practice. You breathe, you should not stop. You breathe even more during hockey or training. How come we practice squats and hockey skill, but we never practice our breathing. Well, you can. Start with simply laying down an hour or so before a game (apply music if it helps) and just work on deep inhales and exhales.
Furthermore, visualize yourself in the moment. Visualization has helped many successful people claim their dreams, and personally its helped me hit personal records (PR) in the gym. The best games I have had are the ones where I take a moment to reflect on the game and envision myself in the position and role I need to play to be the best for me and the team. Try it out.
Afraid of what others might think of you for doing weird jumps and skips in the middle of the rink hallway? Fearful of what your teammates might say if they see you meditating or doing deep breathing exercises?
Do not make this an excuse to skip any of this. Simply do it at home if its such an issue. Do it right before you get to the rink, or do it in the darkest parts of the rink.
The video I made was not done in the locker room, but the parking garage where it was quiet and peaceful.
It does not matter where, just get it done.
All of this and more can help you be the best athlete when you need it most. It will reduce that tightness you may be feeling. It will increase your mental game as well.
The worst thing you can do is not give it a try. The second worst, only trying it once.
Apply it for a month and see what works and what does not.
In the end, you will benefit greatly from it.
Hope you learned a thing or two! Hope I inspired you to move!
Good luck this season.
4th Line Hockey!