Becoming a more powerful skater takes time, effort and training. However, because the skating motion is difficult to replicate off the rink, off-ice workouts to improve skating are hard to come by. There is one relatively unknown method to hockey players that can improve skating quality and speed — the utilization of foam rollers.
This technique, also known as self-myofascial release (SMR), helps alleviate tight, sore and painful muscles. This is achieved by placing your body weight on a foam roller and moving it through your muscles. It’s a wonderful pre-stretch workout, as well as a postgame cool down.
Rolling before games helps prepare your muscles for vigorous activity by softening them. Postgame rolling promotes recovery, assisting your body to avoid muscle stiffness and soreness.
HockeyNow writer Mike Fabbro, a hockey trainer and former multi-sport athlete, explains why foam rolling is beneficial to hockey players:
Rolling is a simple activity that massages the muscles to increase circulation and “melt” fascia, a sticky fibrous web that wraps all of your muscles, connective tissues, bones and vital organs. When you wake up in the morning, you feel stiff and tight because your fascia is dense, sticky and dehydrated. As you move and bring circulation to your muscles, the heat of the blood flow and movement softens and hydrates your fascia, thus making it more elastic and promoting better movement.
This is why, over time, you find yourself able to be a better skater in all facets, including cornering, quickness and reaction time. You want your muscles to be as elastic and ready as possible when you take to the ice to acquire the best results.
Obviously, if you have a tender muscle area that you would normally ask a massage therapist to focus on, you would do the same with foam rollers.
There are different techniques you’ll want to run through when foam rolling. You can choose to either run reps or a set period of time, but most physical therapists suggest setting a time requirement. Your muscle areas that are often used in hockey (glutes, hamstrings and quads) will require more attention than others.
Try these exercises for each muscle area once you are ready to get started.
To work out your glutes, shift to one side and work on one glute at a time. Roll back and forth while your feet are planted as they appear in the video. This will help your range of motion on the rink as your strides can be longer if your glutes are fully stretched out.
The calves can be the most sore after games or practices. It’s important to stretch these out before and after games. Simply place the roller underneath your calves and roll it back and forth. Remember you can also rotate your legs to work different muscles as needed. You can also work one leg at a time to really work out muscle knots and soreness.
Place the roller in the mid-back region and put your hands behind your head. Lift your hips and continue to roll back and forth as your back thrusts toward the sky. This will assist in rotation of your body, allowing you to have a more pronounced wingspan as you move your arms across your body.
If you’re looking for a lat workout as well, we recommend a bit different from what you might expect (especially if you tried the other exercises in this series). The roller itself mostly stays stationary while you move your body side-to-side on the roller. Your arm shouldn’t bend or curl while working this exercise. You know your body better than anyone else; stay focused on an area if you find some tension or push back while rolling.
In this video, the trainers are using a different instrument than foam rollers. However, this same workout can be used with your roller.
The inner thigh workout requires a bit more room than others. In order to successfully complete the inner thigh roll, stretch out as you see in the video and make sure the bottom of your foot is facing outward. Roll out the inner thigh as shown, but make sure to stop in tight areas. straightening your knee could potentially make some areas more tender, so keep the knee bent if it’s possible for maximum stretching.
For those extremely tight areas, we recommend using baseballs, softballs or lacrosse balls as opposed to foam rollers. These balls really work out any muscle knots you may encounter.
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