More than ever, athletes of all sports are focusing on muscular mobility rather than sheer strength, power, and agility in order to better perform their duties. There is not one single position in any sport I can think of that mobility is more prevalent than that of a goaltender – and to their credit, most goalies (meticulous as they are) have already developed some sort of pre-game/pre-practice routine that they feel helps them get loose and feel comfortable prior to skating.
As I said before, most goalies after a certain age will take the time to at least do something in terms of stretching or a warm-up that they think helps them. This could be an individual routine or a generic team warm-up. This is a great thing that so many goalies now realize that they have to prepare their bodies in order to perform well. The problem lies in WHAT they actually do – a ton of static (stationary) stretching, and focusing on areas that physically FEEL tight (“My hips are tight – I’ll do a hip-stretch”). Although it’s definitely a start, this is not ideal if your goal is to feel/play better and be able to move in ways you couldn’t before.
As a current CIS goaltender and CGD coach, I understand that goaltending techniques in today’s day and age are much more demanding on the body than those of previous generations. You need to be able to contort your body into positions that are unnatural, and those positions can often cause pain (and goals) if not executed properly. I have teamed up with a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist and Strength Coach, Ryan Williams, in order to find out the best ways to loosen up commonly used muscles and joints in the crease. Our main focus was hip, groin and adductor movements.
Ryan specializes in the FASCIA of the body, which is a web-like coating around all muscles. It is a specialized connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones and joints, providing protection and support while giving structure to the body. The particular fascia that surrounds the muscles is referred to as MYOFASCIA. Fascia holds UP TO 10 TIMES THE AMOUNT of neuroreceptors than a muscle, which means it IS 10 TIMES MORE SENSITIVE. When we feel TIGHT and RESTRICTED in our movements, it is often due to our “fascial chains” restricting our range of motion. More on Ryan Williams
IS HIP MOBILITY NEGATIVELY AFFECTING YOUR GAME?
If you have a narrow butterfly (left), then there is no question you cover less net than if you had a wide butterfly (right). A goalie with a wider butterfly will inevitably be hit with the puck more often, even if they don’t see it. It also gives them more stability and power.
Which one of the above photos looks most like you? Are you able to seal the ice while maintaining good vision of the puck and keep your upper body stable and balanced (photo 3), or do your hips, groins and leg muscles make you feel like you’re not taking up the maximum amount of net you could be (photo 1 + 2).
WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO NEED:
AN OPEN MIND – In order to achieve movements you never have, you’ll need to try things that you’ve never done before, and change or even abandon some of the ineffective routines that you have been doing.
GYM BANDS (GREEN, PURPLE, RED) – You can find these at any fitness store, or at any gym that you already work out at (such as Complete Athletics). At least one of these should be in your hockey bag at all times. You will also need an attachment point for these bands (generally a squat rack works, but if you’re at home, a banister or pillar in your basement works well too). -see bands-
MYOFASCIAL RELEASE TOOLS – Tennis ball, Lacrosse Ball, Foam Roller
HOW TO START FIXING THE PROBLEM
START WITH A FOAM ROLL
But this time, do it strategically. In the first group of photos, I rolled my Quad on the front of my leg. This is typically one of the most overworked muscles in the body. In order to loosen it up, start slowly applying weight to the muscle on the roller, until you find an area that feels tender. Then to really get to the root of the problem, you should put the muscle through a small movement sequence, such as bending your leg at the knee in this case. This can also be done on many other muscles such as the groins, hamstrings, butt, calves, adductors, and IT bands as well as the upper body.
The example below shows that rolling on either the tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or in my case a medicine ball can be beneficial as well. In this case, we rolled the butt (or glutes), as it is a key muscle used to hold a powerful stance and be able to push hard when necessary. Again, we started in a position where the muscle was elongated or lengthened, then put it through a movement pattern by pulling the knee towards the chest.
USING MOVEMENT PATTERS TO FEEL BETTER AND STRETCH OUT
In this first group of photos, we started with a standard lunge position with the knee on the floor (picture 1, far left). From there, the aim is to slowly push the hips forward towards the heel while keeping a straight back and raised chest (picture 2, middle). Lastly, along with a big exhale of breath; the chest should dive forward (picture 3, far right) before returning to the original position. This movement should be done slowly, almost like a flow in yoga to achieve best results. This is sure to loosen up those hips and increase range of motion. It should be done on both sides.
The same movement can be done with two small variations, and once your hip has slightly more mobility and less tightness. By raising my arm, it further elongates the muscles not only in my lower body, but also incorporates my oblique’s and goes into my shoulder and back. The other variation could be adding a small twist in Picture 2 (middle), to focus my eyes on my raised hand. Again, go in steps and make sure all movements are a comfortable stretch. Nothing should be jerked or moved too quickly. The motion should be smooth and relaxed.
Lastly, we added a third variation to this movement by changing the angle of my back leg. I still made sure to utilize my breath properly (big breath in at the top, exhaling as I fold), and had my chest turned and opened up toward my raised hand, but now began to work not only my left hip but also the feeling went into my right. This change in angle focuses on the adductors as well as the hip joint itself.
All of these movements are aimed at making you more mobile in the crease. In doing these, you should always be careful and aware of your joints’ limits. If there is any pain, slowly release or come out of the stretch. By doing these before a game or practice, it ensures that your hips, groins and adductors will be in perfect playing shape. By continuing to do them long-term, you will undoubtedly increase the distance you’re able to stretch for pucks, the ease with which you perform various techniques, and the power you’ll need to get across the crease.
Performing a mobility sequence such as this took only 10-15 minutes, and can be done with little or no equipment.
After I was done, I felt an immediate improvement in the way my lower body felt and I was ready to get into the net without hesitation.