BASIC POSTURE EXERCISES THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR SKATING. THE SQUAT.
Many youth players are starting to use dryland training exercises at the request of coaches and parents. Many hockey coaches are running these dryland training sessions themselves after looking up exercises on the internet or remembering what they did when they were kids. At hockeyot.com we offer a professional training package that can make your off-ice training sessions more efficient and rewarding. One of the most basic but necessary positions for ice hockey players to learn correctly is the isometric squat. The definition of an isometric exercise is one to strengthen specific muscles by pitting one muscle or part of the body against another or against an immovable object in a strong but motionless action. The process of holding the squat position is an isometric exercise. The key for the off-ice training professional is to teach the athlete the correct posture for the isometric squat since it is a position that will be used frequently during the sport of ice hockey. Many hockey players demonstrate less than ideal posture on the ice that leads to premature fatigue and a potential for higher injury susceptibility. Most coaches want their players to bend their knees and get lower to the ice in order to skate and be ready to shoot or pass. A typical mistake that many players make is to get low by flexing their low back instead of their hips, knees and ankles. The athlete should use a forward lean of the trunk but not an exaggerated bend at the waist. The lean should be from flexing the hips, knees and ankles while keeping the spine in a neutral position.
How to find your neutral spine position: To find the neutral spine position, stand with a slight forward leaning position and tilt your pelvis forward and backwards as far as you can (see picture). Now find the position between the 2 extremes of the pelvis that feels like the most comfortable position that you could hold for an extended period of time with little effort. That efficient position is your neutral spine position. The shoulders should be open and not rounded forward. The athlete should think about keeping the chest “big” during the squat position. Rounding the shoulders forward is a bad habit that puts the shoulder joint in a position that makes it more susceptible to injury. Body weight should be distributed over the entire foot. A common error is to see the athlete driving the weight over the toes and lifting the heels. The athlete needs to have the flexibility and strength to keep the heels planted during the squat. A big disadvantage of having your weight shifted too far forward towards the toes is that it is very difficult to move sideways when your entire foot isn’t loaded. Being able to move sideways is crucial when cornering on the ice. Try to jump sideways when your weight is shifted forward over your toes and you will see why this is undesirable.
Start with isometric squat holds of 15-20 seconds maintaining ideal squat posture the entire time. Advance to squat repetitions of 10-20 repetitions. This repetition conditioning should form good quality habits that are then replicated on the ice. See the pictures below for a demonstration of ideal squat posture.
Dr. Chad Moreau is the President of HockeyOT.com, an online training site dedicated to improving the fitness level of hockey players of all levels. He was the former Strength & Conditioning/Nutrition Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and the Long Beach Ice Dogs (ECHL). For more information please visit hockeyot.com