Crunches are popular among hockey players, but they aren't the best core exercise, because repeated lumbar flexion (the crunching motion) can cause disc herniation. For a safer alternative, I've put together three hockey-specific exercises in a workout that will help you build a strong core and stay on your feet—while sparing your lumbar discs the repetitive trauma of crunching.
Click to see video demonstrations of each exercise.
Staggered Cable Pec Flys
This is a favorite of mine because it works a player's hips, torso and upper body in an integrated and functional fashion. Many of the players I train like it because, well, it's a Pec Fly, and who doesn't want a bigger chest?
You can do this one with either foot forward. The difference is this:
- When your outside foot is forward, you put more load on your adductors (groin). I like it for that reason, because you are using your adductors and abdominal obliques together as a functional chain. You will not be able to handle as much load in this position.
- When your inside foot is forward, you put more load on your lateral hip, which is great because the hips are your most powerful skating muscles. The exercise helps to stabilize the hip when you are balanced on one foot and sweeping at the puck along the boards with the other foot. You will be able to handle heavier loads in this position.
I recommend alternating. Do it with your outside foot forward in one workout and your inside foot forward in the next.
- Bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees and hold that position throughout the exercise. Do not let your back knee straighten.
- Keep your shoulders square to your hips and don't allow your torso to rotate.
- Focus on your abdominals as you complete your first couple of reps. Feel how contracted they are.
- Your arm will stay rigid with very slight bend in the elbow. Do not let your elbow bend more as you lower the weight out to the side.
Sets/Reps: 2-3 sets of 8 on each side.
Partner Hockey Stick Stabilization
The big benefit of this variation is the unpredictable pattern of stabilization it requires. Just like in a game, you need to stabilize in a variety of positions.
Play around with your foot position—neutral, staggered or skater stance. If you want to increase the difficulty of this drill, close your eyes.
Hold the stick out front and brace with your shoulder, abdominals and hips to resist any movement of the stick at all. This should be a battle. If your partner manages to "tap" you out of position, he or she should let you return to your neutral starting position
Sets/Reps: 2-3 sets of 20 taps.
Bear Position Superman
This is probably the least "functional" of the three drills. You don't really want to be on all fours during a hockey game. I included it because it is a good variation on the Quadruped Superman exercise, which requires stabilization of the diagonal chain of muscles across the back and front.
Skilled athletes often exhaust the challenge of the quadruped version quickly. This hands and feet version ups the ante.
Just make sure you are actually stabilizing. That means no wiggling around. It is not a balancing drill. It is a stabilization drill. You should be able to balance a foam roll on your back for the entire exercise.
Sets/Reps: 2-3 sets of 6 reps on each side with a 3-5 second hold.
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