Flexibility allows you to reduce your risk of injury and also to perform at the highest levels of your athletic abilities. With all of the aspects a hockey player needs to focus on, stretching effectively is one of the areas that is often overlooked. Today we would like to go over the basics to give you a foundation to work off of when incorporating this into your workout program.
Stretching focuses on three main parts of your body: your muscles, tendons and ligaments. To make sure we know exactly what we are doing, let’s define what each of these three things are. Wikipedia’s definition of “muscle” is:
A band or bundle of fibrous tissue in a human that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body.
“Muscles” are probably the most recognized of the three only because its usage is so widespread. You probably hear “muscle” in some form or fashion at least once a day. It can be used to describe any kind of physical feat as well. For example, “That winger just muscled off that defender!” Know that muscles are the reason 98% of people decide to workout… So they can show off their muscles.
Part two of the equation is “Tendons”. “Tendons” are defined as:
A flexible but inelastic cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue attaching a muscle to a bone and is capable of withstanding tension.
Tendons distinguish themselves by “joining muscle to bone”. The most common tendon found in the body would have to be the “Achilles’” tendon. The “Achilles’” as it’s often referred to, is found just above your heel on the backside of your leg. Because tendons join your muscles to your bones, this is the reason tendon strains and injuries can be so debilitating and time-consuming when it comes to recovery.
The last part of the equation is the “ligaments”. The definition of ligament is:
A ligament is a tough band of fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone or bone to cartilage and supports and strengthens joints.
The main role of ligaments is to make sure that your body stays in proper alignment and to prevent abnormal movements of the joints. Even though ligaments can be really strong, they can be stretched or torn. The most common ligament injuries are in the knees, ankles, and wrists.
Now that we know how these three body parts interact with one another let’s talk about how we can improve and strengthen them through increasing your flexibility. Before doing any kind of exercising, it’s extremely important that you warm up. Warming up doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Running the arena stairs, jumping jacks, or burpees are effective and basic warm-up exercises. By warming up, you’re allowing your body to get heated up, provide lubrication to your joints, and get oxygen and blood pumping throughout your body. Usually 10-15 minutes of warm-up is sufficient. You want to have a light sweat going after your done warming up. Once the body is warm, it’s a great time to start your stretching routine.
Stretching comes in two different varieties… Static and dynamic stretching. We’ve talked about the differences of these two types in an earlier post so we won’t go over them again but know that they each have a place in your routine. As a hockey player you want to make sure that you take the time to focus on stretching the six major areas of your body.
- Shoulders, Upper Back & Arms
- Wrists and forearms
- Lower Back
- Upper legs and groin
- Calves and ankles
In the upcoming posts, we are going to show you stretches that will help loosen up these parts of your body but in the meantime make sure you are spending at least two minutes one each one of the sections. Until then, here are some general stretching guidelines you should be following.
- Make sure you warm up.
- Stretching should be a “fluid” motion. Make sure your movements are not “herky jerky”.
- Don’t overstretch. Some tension is what you are going for. If you don’t feel the tension lessen after 5 seconds, loosen up the stretch.
- Don’t Bounce! Bouncing causes the body to contract its muscles which could lead to an injury.
- Optimal stretch hold time = 30 seconds; Minimum is 10 seconds.
- Stretch every day.
- Stretch with a partner.
- See a physician if a pain from stretching lingers for a few days.