Mobility is training that helps to increase the range of motion at joints and improves overall movement quality. This is essential in a sport like hockey which requires such extreme ranges of motion at times.
Lunging, tackling, passing. These all require large ranges of motion and the more range that you have available to you, the less likely you are to place additional stress on passive tissues.
Is Mobility the Same Thing as Flexibility?
This isn’t quite the same thing, no. Flexibility is a more clinical term referring to increased muscle lengths in isolation, not global movement.
Imagine an athlete completing a supine hamstring stretch in isolation - this is flexibility.
Now imagine the same athlete completing a well executed overhead squat to full depth - this is mobility.
The key difference between the two is that mobility relates to global movement and multiple joints working in harmony to produce quality technical positions.
Why is Mobility Training Important?
If your goal is to sprint faster, get fitter and become an overall better hockey athlete, then mobility training is essential. Mobility helps you to prevent injury, move more effectively, get into better positions on the pitch, and become an all round better athlete.
What are the Benefits of Mobility Training?
There are many benefits to mobility training. These include the following:
- Better power output. Power is (work/time), and work is (force x displacement). Without getting into a physics lesson, if you can move a load over greater distances in shorter time frames, you can produce more power. This relates to mobility because greater ranges = bigger displacements.
- Reduced risk of injury. In the ‘hierarchy of needs’ model, being available should be the firs and foremost concern for hockey players. Simply being on the pitch all season is a huge win, so neglecting mobility work is a great way to increase injury risk!
- Better technical positions. Wish that you could get into more effective positions on the pitch? Struggling to get into those low positions in the ‘D’ that you coach keeps telling you about? Mobility work is the key to enabling you to achieve this.
Who Should Be Doing Mobility Exercises?
In short, everyone. The benefits are not exclusive to the hockey pitch either, it impacts everyday life. This is particularly relevant if you spend a lot of time sitting in your job, or are less active during the day. The lower back and hips can become tight, and these are key areas of the body to focus on as a hockey player.
Mobility work is particularly important as you get older too. As we age, our range of motion begins to diminish, and this increases the risk of injury on the pitch. Regular stretching and mobility can massively help with this, keeping you injury free and on the pitch!
How Often Should I Be Doing Mobility Exercises?
A basic rule of thumb (based on the ‘rule of 2’) is to complete at least 2 mobility sessions per week. This can be incorporated into strength training sessions, pitch sessions or running sessions too in the movement prep.
Aim to complete at least 10-20 minutes twice per week as part of your training, in order to develop better ranges of motion and movement quality.
If you include them in your strength training sessions, these can be the first 10-15 minutes of your sessions in the movement prep. They can also be used as ‘fillers’ in rest periods. For example doing a relevant stretch to the strength training exercise that you’re doing (e.g. half kneeling quad stretch when doing bulgarian split squats).
You can also do shorter, sharper sessions throughout the training week, completing 5-10 minutes in each session per week.
If you are doing 3 pitch sessions and 2 gym sessions, that’s 5 opportunities to get into some good mobility habits!
What Are Some Good Exercises to Focus On?
The key thing for hockey players is to focus on the parts of the body that are at risk. These include the ankle joint, posterior chain, hip joint and thoracic spine.
For the ankle joint, the following are great options:
- Ankle rockers
- Calf pumps
- Banded ankle mobilisations
For the hip joint, these exercises work wonders:
- Spiderman stretch
- Lunge variations
- Squat holds
For the posterior chain, try these:
- Downward dog
Finally, for the thoracic spine, give these a go:
- 90/90 rotations
- Seated dowel rotations
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