Getting ready for the fifth season

It’s been said that in Canada, we don’t just have four seasons, we actually have five. Winter, spring, summer, fall and … “hockey season.”

We are a country that thrives despite long, cold winters. We win big at the Winter Olympics every four years and many of us learn how to skate before we can run. For millions of Canadians, playing hockey is a given. It’s a rite of passage and for many of us; it is something that we never willingly give up. There might be a time where your “bad back” just won’t let you play anymore or when your “old knees” protest every time you try to rush the puck, but, for those who play, the game is never given up easily.

Now that the season is nearly upon us, it seemed the right time to address some of the specific needs for older players who are about to return to the ice within the next 4 to 8 weeks.

When I design fitness plans for sports, I break things down into three areas. The exercises that I choose for athletes help them to perform at a higher level as well as help to protect them from injury and the demands of the game. These exercises can also be worked into a plan to help an athlete lose body fat or gain muscle based on their need.

For the mature, adult league player, I’ve highlighted three areas of the body that are susceptible to injury and need to be strong to play hockey at a high level:

• The lower body, specifically the knees and the hips

• The core (the lower back and abdomen)

• The upper thoracic area that includes the chest, shoulders and upper back.

From years of working with adult hockey players (I hate the term “Old Timers”) and from my own pre-season preparation, I’ve come up with a routine that features only 6 movements and can be used by someone who hasn’t been physical since last season or added to the routine of a regular exerciser. All you’ll need to complete the routine is a medium-to-heavy resistance band with handles. You can find a band like this at any department store that sells fitness equipment.

Here is the workout:

Warm up with 5 minutes of rhythmic movement such as marching, treadmill walking, stair climbing, stationary biking, jumping jacks or skipping and then get right into the routine. Perform each of the exercises for 15 repetitions and repeat the entire routine 3 to 5 times, 3 times per week.

1. Single Arm Band Pull. Wrap the resistance band around a banister and hold both handles in one hand. Extend your hand in front of you to start. Slowly pull the band back toward you and bring your hand to the bottom of your ribs. Your abdominals should be tight at this point. Pause for 2 seconds and then return the band to the starting position. Repeat for 15 repetitions and then continue with your other hand.

2. Single Leg Floor Touch. Balance on one foot and bend at the knee while reaching to the floor with the opposite hand to your working leg. Complete 15 repetitions and then repeat with your other hand and leg.

3. Resistance Band Core Rotations. Loop one handle of the band through the other and attach the band to your banister. While standing perpendicular to the attachment point on the railing, grab a single handle with both hands and extend them in front of you. Move away from the attachment point until you feel your abdominals contract. While keeping them tight, move your straight arms back and forth in front of you. The width of the movement should only be from one shoulder to the other. After doing 15 repetitions, repeat facing the other direction.

4. Pushups. Next, you’ll be doing a classic pushup, from your toes, with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Attempt to bring your chest to the floor before pushing back up to straighten your arms.

5. Plank. Following the pushups, stay on the floor and balance on your forearms and your toes. Hold this “plank” position for 30 to 60 seconds, keeping your abdomen tight and while breathing easily. This move is very important in developing core “stiffness,” which translates into a much stronger shot in hockey.

6. Elevated Hip Bridge. After the plank, roll onto your back and place your heels on a chair. With your hands down at your sides by your hips for stability, thrust your hips upward while contracting your hamstrings and the muscles in your buttocks.

If you want to create more of an endurance workout, perform up to 3 minutes of cardio exercise between each round and complete your workout with up to 12 more minutes of endurance work such as treadmill walking, stationary biking or stair climbing. You will be a much stronger, fitter athlete and will decrease your risk of energy when you perform this routine and develop your “hockey muscles.”

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