Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Improving Hip Range of Motion in Hockey Players

Back to cleaning up groin pain issues in your hockey players

After improving soft-tissue quality through foam rolling, “lacrosse balling”, and manual therapy, the next step is to stretched the newly “released” muscles.  It’s particularly important to focus on the muscles surrounding the hip.

As a reminder, the side-to-side discrepancies in range of motion or strength are the greatest risk factors for injury.  In general, when your athletes have a side-to-side discrepancy, you’ll want to stretch the tight side and strengthen the “looser” side, but use your judgement here based on what you found from your previous analysis.

I’ve posted a few of these videos before, but it never hurts to see them again.  These are all mobilization videos, but almost all of these positions can be held as stretches.  Make sure you’re moving/stretching in all three planes (frontal, sagittal, and transverse), so you aren’t lengthening the same parts of the muscles every time you perform a stretch or mobilization.  This tri-planar movement idea was popularized by Gary Gray years ago during the Functional Training Frenzy, but has since been reinforced by Mike Boyle and Brijesh Patel.  They make a good point-if athletic movements involve movement in all three planes, so should your training.

On to the videos:

Lying Knee-to-Knee Mobilization (If athlete lacks internal rotation ROM)

Rectus Femoris Mobilization This is a good one if your athlete has tight hip flexors (All athletes have tight hip flexors)
You should also perform this without grabbing your back foot and with varying levels of internal and external rotation of the back leg.  In all cases, you’ll want to maintain some tension on your butt of the side of the back leg.  This will help keep your pelvis stable and core tight so you’re mobilizing your hip flexors instead of your low back.

Adductor Mobilization with External Rotation
Like hip flexor restrictions, almost all hockey players have very strong and tight adductors.  This is a great one to loosen up the adductors of the stretched leg, including the gracilis (which doesn’t get lengthened in stretches where the knee is bent) and the medial hamstrings.  It’s somewhat hard to see in the video, but basically all I’m doing is shifting my hips straight back, not allowing ANY movement of the lower back (neutral lumbar spine).  Stop when you feel your lower back rounding or when you reach the end of your range.

Wide Standing Hip Mobilization
It’s important to include standing mobilizations as well since the role of the nervous system changes when you move between lying, seated, kneeling, and standing positions.  Because most sports are played from an upright position, this is the most relevant environment for the nervous system to be trained in.  In a nutshell, it’s not enough to improve mobility in lying, kneeling, or seated positions.  This improves hip rotation ROM.

Diagonal Standing Hip Mobilization
Similar to the above mobilization in concept, this exercise adds a more hockey-specific hip position.  When you rotate away from your back leg, do so my contracting your glutes hard on the back leg.  Remember, everything should be actively pulling your body into these positions.  Nothing is passive or momentum-based at all.

In-Line Split Squat
This improves hip mobility in the frontal plane by taking both hips into relative adduction.  Line up both feet and drop your back knee straight down so that it falls in the same line as your feet.  Keep your hips and shoulders level and square to straight ahead as much as possible.  You can make this more challenging by adding a rotation over your front leg or a side bend to the side of your front leg in the bottom position.

Reverse Crossover Lunge
This is a great exercise I borrowed from Brijesh Patel.  This brings everything together, improving hip range of motion under the control of musculature that’s functional to athletic movement.  You can add a side bend or rotation to this as well, but most people find it difficult enough as is, at least in the beginning.

Try performing these exercises for 8 repetitions on each side in a circuit.  If you feel extra locked up or restricted during any exercise, or on one side of an exercise, repeat it for that side in that exercise only.  I’m guessing your hips will feel “freer” than you’re used to after you go through these.

Keep working hard.

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.