Before the puck drops, you typically have a very small window of on-ice time during which you can warm up and stretch. Many times, this time frame can be a matter of 3-5 minutes and during this time you’re expected to warm up your legs, arms and goalie. Luckily, you can start while you’re waiting for the Zamboni door to close and even some before you put on your equipment.
An active warmup is best for playing beer league hockey. While most of this is done on the ice, there are things you can do off the ice before the game that are active. Kicking a soccer ball and riding a stationary bike as well as moving stick twists, arm raises and knee-ups are just some.
Warming up is all about preparing your body for the physical exertion of the game. This is not a full workout, just a guide to getting you prepared for the next hour of game time so that you can emerge from it as comfortably as possible. If you are unable to work all of these into your pre-game routine, then focus on the active warmups and prioritize those ahead of the post-active stretches.
Let’s tallk about how to warm your body up for the game given that you have such a limited window of time to do it and space to operate in. We can divide these into on-ice and off-ice warmups. Some of these are active warmups and some are more stationary. Regardless of whether you are on the ice or off, you will want to do active warmups first before any others.
There are usually a couple of guys who show up way too early to the game. You might be one of them. If there is a usual crew of early birds then bring a soccer ball play some two-touch soccer. This starts by players standing in a circle and the point is to keep the in the air. You can touch the ball once or twice per attempt, and then passing the ball to someone else in the game. Think of it like hacky sack except with a soccer ball.
If nobody else is available, then you can always work on your skill by doing some freestyle with the ball and kicking it to yourself.
Riding a Stationary Bike or A-Marches
If the rink has a stationary bike available, inquire about using it. Most rinks have a workout room with some of these things. If this is the case with your rink, see what would be involved in being able to use the stationary bike. Ride the bike slowly at first and then ramping up to a faster pace for the last thirty-seconds of a two minute ride.
In the event this is not something available at your rink. Then get your legs warm with a similar movement called an A-March. This is where you take deliberate steps, in place, raising your knees as high as you can in a marching posture. Do this for 20-30 seconds or until you get a solid leg burn.
The best way to do this is face the wall with your arms outstretched so you can put your palms on the wall. Stand with your feel shoulder-width apart. Swing one leg side-to-side while balancing on the other. This will work to stretch out your hips and groin as well as serve as a good active warmup for skating crossovers.
Be sure to warm up both legs. This can be harder when warming up your weak side similar to weak-side crossovers, but do two sets of eight reps on each leg. This should take you about 90 seconds.
A hip flexor circle will help to increase the range of motion in your hips and provide a greater range for pushing off with either leg. This helps with acceleration and stride.
To do this exercise, stand with both feet together. Lift one leg so it is bent at a 90 degree angle and the move it laterally in a circular motion and bring it back down to the floor. So for the right leg, you would stand on your left leg as you lift your right in front of you, swing the bent leg out to the side and then back down to the floor. Repeat this ten times on each side.
This is one of those exercises that can be done either on the ice or off. This should be incorporated into your active warmup routine and not part of any stretching.
This can be done with or without gear on and a lot of times you will find yourself doing this without thinking about it. Putting a little more thought and purpose in it can turn this from a nervous twitch into a really good stretch.
The basic arm swing involves your arms being at chest height and swinging them back and forth across your body. When doing this, be sure to alternate crossing your arms with the left over right and then right over left. Do eight reps on each arm (for a total of 16) and do two sets.
This can be modified into a forward arm swing by doing the same repetition but with your arms down in front of you instead of at chest height.
Again, this should take you 60-90 seconds
Body Weight Squats
A body weight squat is just what it sounds like. You’re basically doing a standard squat, but with no bar and no weights. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your arms straight out in front of you. Crouch down into your squat and try to go lower as you progress through your repetition. If you can get your knees to 90 degrees without hunching your back over to do it, then this is a good squat.
You don’t need to do a lot of these, but try to do two sets of eight with a thirty-second break in-between repetition. This will help warmup your glutes, hamstrings, calves, groin and hip flexors which are critical parts of your on-ice health. Be sure to start this slow and work your way up.
Skating with Crossovers
This is your basic pre-game skate. Do a couple of laps from your side of the center-ice line around the boards and behind the net back up to center-ice. If you have been doing some mild off-ice active warmups, then be sure to get in a couple of really good, deep crossovers. Don’t worry about handling the puck during this, just concentrate on getting your legs activated for the rest of the warmup.
If you can skate backwards, try to do a couple of trips across the ice backward. Doing laps this way may not be feasible with the limited space available. If you can’t skate backwards, then you can practice this, but it may not be best to try to warmup doing a motion you are not familiar with. That is what stick time is for.
Shoulder Stick Twists
Actively warming up your neck and shoulders helps with your stick handling and shot – especially if you’re the type of player who likes to take a big snapshot. Full disclosure, I am much more of a wrist shot player. That said, upper-body ups for the shoulder and neck will help you with all the pretzel shapes you find yourself maneuvering your stick into when you are battling for the puck or getting into position for that epic one-timer.
This active stretch involves skating around the ice at a slower pace with your stick resting on your shoulders behind your head. Place your hands on the stick a little more than shoulder-width apart.
While moving, move your stick while keeping your core and pelvis as straight as you can. Also be sure to keep your head and back upright and straight. Do not force your arms to twist your upper body, engage your shoulders and twist holding your stick for balance and to keep your posture. Your head and shoulders will twist left to right as you do this. Do this for 15-20 seconds to get a good stretch.
Groin Frog Stretch
A groin frog stretch is usually the first stretch I do after my crossover and shoulder stick twist skate. This is best done with your legs at least partially warmed up from a good pregame skate and with your gear on.
To perform this stretch, place your stick down and drop to the ice on all fours. While resting your knee pads, spread your legs out in spread eagle style and push your hips lower to the ice as best you can.
This is a great stretch for groin and thighs and is a generally good lower body workout. If you want to add in a back stretch as part of this, extend your arms down on the ice so your back arches up while your hips are still as close to the ice as is comfortable.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip flexors are key when it comes to opening up your hips. This is especially the case when you are pivoting from one direction to the other or opening up to take a backward skating forehand shot. The ability to open up your hips also opens up a world of possibilities with your skating and properly stretching them is key to unlocking those doors.
This is a variation of the kind you would do off the ice where you are in a kneeing position with one leg out in front of the other bent 90 degrees. In this case, the rear foot should not be elevated when doing this stretch on the ice and in gear. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds on each site and do two repetitions.
Forward Glute Stretch
Getting a good stretch on your glutes is key to being ready to skate. Because most of the power in your stride comes from pushing off the glutes, having these well stretched and warmed up is a big part of any pre-game skate.
To perform this stretch, bend one forward and under your abdomen. Lean forward while stretching out your back leg. You will feel a slight pull on the same side as the back leg. This feels really good when done after a skating warm up. Repeat this on the other side and really get a good stretch in.
Leg Crossing Back Stretch
The leg crossing back stretch is designed to stretch out the lower back and provide greater mobility for turns, crossovers, pivots and getting around the ice in general. This is definitely one to add to your repertoire if you have not used it before as it can greatly increase your mobility. While this stretch can be done off the ice, it is usually better to do this as part of an overall active
To perform this stretch lay down on your back. While keeping one leg straight, twist the other over the straight leg while being that leg at the hips and the knee. Try to keep your back on the floor as much as is possible. Stretch your leg over as best you can and get a really good back stretch. Repeat the process with the other leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds each side and do twice on each side.
You don’t have to be super fit or flexible to get in a good warmup before your skate. And given the limited space and cleanliness of most hockey rinks, you can accomplish these stretches and exercises in small spaces and without getting up-close and personal with the various surfaces in the Petri dish that is most ice rinks.
Combined, you can accomplish most of these in about 10 minutes. This is less time than it likely took for you to read this article. And you don’t have to be in top shape to do them. These are designed to activate muscles and mobilize joints and because rinks are cold, the off-ice exercises should be in a track suit, sweat pants, or leggings.
For additional information on active warmups and stretching, you can checkout the videos below. While some are geared for younger players, you can look at these exercises and decide what is best given your fitness and competitive level of play.