June 29, 2020

Ali Emery is one of our S&C coaches, part of the Education Programme.  Here she writes her first blog with some things to consider before returning to action on the ice.

As the lock down starts to ease, we’re all tempted to get back to sport. Here are some simple ideas to consider when preparing to return to ice hockey. We hope to increase awareness of potential de conditioning due to the lock down, help reduce injury risk and minimise the effect that Covid has had on the standard of English ice hockey.

With the cessation of ice hockey across Great Britain from mid March we have found
ourselves buying hockey goals for the garden, inline skating in the park or participating in, at
home, land based exercise just to try and recreate some of the hockey magic we all miss. As
Great British ice hockey players we love the game, and are used to cramming in as much ice
time into a week as possible. With all of that gone overnight and no glimpse of summer
training on the horizon, can you honestly say that you have stayed ‘game fit’ throughout
lockdown?

As the EIHA have now published their return to play 2020/2021 season planning document,
there is hope for next season not to be a complete write off. With that in mind, the EIHA
Strength and Conditioning team would like to hand you some advice to assist in your
physical preparation for the season.

Many would say that you need to play the game to get game fit. Where in some cases that is
very true, we are without that luxury of the game at the moment and need to think smart
about our return if we want to be successful and injury free. Firstly, we need to be honest
with what we have been doing since our ice rinks closed down in March. It’s highly unlikely
that during lockdown we’ve managed to mimic the demands of our sport, no matter how
‘active’ we think we’ve been. This, unfortunately, will lead us to becoming de conditioned for
ice hockey. Using football as an example, the Bundesliga in Germany was the first major
European league to resume competitive matches after the league was postponed due to the
Covid outbreak. The first weekend saw 14 injuries to these players who undoubtedly would
have been given highly specific training programmes from their clubs medical team before
resuming full training and games. It is unusual to see this amount of injuries over one
weekend and can most likely be linked to the change in training type that Covid-19 has
brought about.

One of the advantages of this Covid outbreak is that we have been given an extended ‘pre
season’ to help us prepare. Usually pre-season training would commence 6-8 weeks prior to
the season starting and should contain a lot of on ice conditioning and high load, high
volume resistance training. It’s likely we have several months until the season starts so now
will be a perfect time to start thinking about building a foundation of strength.

The movements we create on the ice differ greatly from most of the common movements we
produce on the ground, such as running or cycling. Therefore, where it’s great for your
cardiorespiratory fitness that you have increased your running capacity since lockdown, it’s
not so great at preparing your musculature to withstand the forces of skating. With each
skating stride, as we push off and extend our leg out, we are mainly using our glutes and
quads to create this movement. To enhance our skating stride we need to be able to
contract these muscles as powerfully as possible. We also need to consider the muscle
groups which are most ‘at risk’ of injury during the skating stride which are the adductors
(groin) and hip flexors. These muscle groups are working opposingly to the glutes to
decelerate the leg and you powerfully push off. If these muscles aren’t conditioned well, this
movement could create a muscle injury.

We have to get creative with how we can target these muscle groups in this current climate
with the limited equipment we have. Firstly we need to ensure we are performing the right
movements, for example, any movement which extends or abducts the hip and knee (moving
your leg out away from your body). This could be as simple as a squat or a lateral lunge, two
great exercises for loading the glutes and quads if performed well. To condition your groin to
help reduce the risk of groin strains, exercises such as the Copenhagen exercise and a
bulgarian split squat will expose those tissues to loads which they will face during the skating
stride.

Here’s a link to some progressions of the Copenhagen exercise: >> click here <<

These exercises should be used to build strength. Simply increase the reps for endurance
strength, or increase the load for more maximal strength.

Secondly, we need to consider the speed at which we are moving. As we move closer
towards the start of the season we need to put our newly formed strength to good use and
start exposing our bodies to explosive, high velocity movements. Again, not forgetting the
movements we have been practising previously, extending and abducting our leg out. This
time, with a little more speed and power, for example, lateral hops or skater bounds (they’re
called that for a good reason). Also, slide pads are a great, inexpensive piece of equipment
which can be used to help recreate that lateral ‘slide’ movement to help target these muscle
groups.

These are some simplistic ideas, which hopefully will spark some interest and thought for
your physical preparation for the season ahead. We would all like to get back to hockey as
soon as possible and after such a long off season we might as well ensure we come back
performing well and are robust enough to last the season without an injury. For now, the
EIHA S&C team urges you all to stay safe while training and conditioning. We need to
respect the guidelines we are given and hope for a safe, controlled return of ice hockey in
the UK as soon as possible.

Ali Emery for EIHA S&C team