11 Stretches Hockey Players Need To Do Every Day

The Best Stretches for Hockey Players

Hockey players are tight. 

If you have a conversation with a player at literally any level from youth, to a college player, to pro, to beer league – they’ll nearly all complain about something on their body. 

While some might be strains, tweaks, and legitimate injuries, many simply just live with a restricted and tight body that causes pain or movement restrictions. 

It’s because hockey, even without the contact, is tough on the body. 

Skating forces players into a hunched over position and to use movement patterns the hip wasn’t inherently designed for. Even holding a hockey stick puts the shoulders in two different positions that leads to imbalances and tightness through the upper body. 

So while hockey players know they’re tight, the next question becomes – what can they do about it? 

The positive news is that with just a couple minutes a day, hockey players can undo a lot of this stress on the body and start to develop a healthier, more mobile, and better moving body. 

We take a deep dive into mobility work, its impact on performance, and how to improve specific joints/areas of the body in the article Mobility & Stretching for Hockey Players: A Complete Guide, but if you’re looking for the best stretches to immediately put into action. 

So let’s dive into the top 11 best stretches for hockey players.

Stretch #1: Couch Stretch

This stretch is the GOAT, in fact if we had to choose just one stretch for hockey players, this would be it. 

Hockey Player’s have legendarily tight hips. So much so that many physical therapists refer to chronically tight hip flexors and quads as “hockey hips.”

Hockey players spend almost all of their time expressing force in a flexed & low hip position and then take a break by sitting on a bench in another flexed hip position. Spending extensive time in these positions shortens the hip flexors and quads – ultimately leading to ultra tight hips. 

This stretch aims to "open up" those hip flexors and quads and can be done either actively (flexing towards the end range) or be held for extended periods of time 60-120 seconds to get the muscles to really relax and release.

Trust me, if you’re a hockey player – you need this stretch.

Stretches #2: 90/90 Stretch

Hip rotation is vital for hip health. 

While this exercise is becoming more common in programs (it’s in all of our hockey workout programs nearly daily) – it’s still an exercise that not a lot of hockey players are familiar with and that a lot of players struggle with. 

This versatile exercises attacks mobility in-terms of both internal and external rotation at the hips and really allows you to lean into wherever is causing the most tightness. Often players will cramp in the upper glutes during this stretch - which is completely normal. This is usually followed by a release of the associated muscles, so while it might be uncomfortable upfront - it pays a lot of dividends.

We can start with just basic holds in this position, finding three different areas to “hangout in” and try to release. But the goal here is really to move to active flows that challenge that hip rotation and actively trying to improve dynamic range of motion. 

Both 90/90 variations and the Couch Stretch should be considered essential exercises for hockey players to begin to restore proper hip function. While we linked the most basic variations above, here’s three other versions you can use (in increasing difficulty):

90/90 Switches

90/90 Lift Offs.

90/90 Active Flows

Stretch #3: Laying T Pec Stretch

While we’ve discussed the strain that the low and forward leaning on-ice positions put on hockey hips, we haven’t looked at what it does to the upper body. 

If we work with 10 hockey players, we’ll see 9 that have tight pecs and restrictions through the front of the shoulders that create the classic forward rounded shoulder position.

The Lying-T Pec Stretch is a good place to start in order to begin to restore proper posture in the shoulders and loosen anteriorly through the upper body. Most of this can be accomplished by stretching the pecs. 

The goal is to feel this stretch all the way through your chest and into your shoulders. Hand placement can also be shifted higher to emphasize more stretch through the front of the shoulders. Players can use this either actively (pushing up & holding for 4-5 seconds) or more passively (hold for 20s).

A common alternative to these is mimicking this movement in a door frame or squat rack, but this stretch makes it easy to specifically get into those pecs. 

Stretch #4: Banded Lat Stretch

The lats (latissimus dorsi) are an absolute powerhouse muscle in the upper body. 

Every pull based movement goes through lats along with a variety of shoulder-based movements. While hockey players need to be developing strength in the lats, they also need to prioritize releasing them. 

The lats hold a ton of tension. And when they get short and restricted can wreak havoc on literally the entire upper body and back. 

Most players don’t realize how tight their lats are until they try this stretch and then immediately realize the insane release they get from it. 

We loop the band as high as possible and then sink to our hips to create a “pull” along our entire side body. While we’re here we really want to expand and open our rib cage – so we encourage players to take deep breaths. We can also further enhance this stretch by shifting our hips in the opposite direction – this goal should be to feel a stretch through the entire side body. 

Stretch #5: Side Lying Book Openers

Let’s continue with spinal mobility.

While the previous exercise looked to create extension, this exercise looks to create rotational mobility. The body loves rotation and yet a lot of hockey players are so tight and restricted that they’re limited in rotation throughout the body. 

This is especially true through the t-spine and back. 

While health range of rotation in the t-spine is an indicator therapists use to determine a health back or not, it also has direct performance benefits for hockey players. Improving your rotational capacity allows for more range of motion to generate power in slap shots and one timers. 

So while improving back health should be enough of a reason to use this exercise, consider shooting harder extra motivation.

Stretch #6: Hockey Stick T-spine Extension

While you can likely see the forward rounded shoulders in hockey players, you likely can’t see the havoc this is wreaking on the upper back. 

Hockey Players are almost alway tight and restricted through their thoracic spine region (often called the “t-spine” and making up the upper portion of their back). Not only does this affect performance by reducing the capacity for rotation, but it also leads to further poor postures and movement limitations through the upper body. 

This exercise looks to create extension through that upper back and stretch the various muscles that hold chronic tension through this region. Hockey Players love this stretch because they rarely enter t-spine extension and thus these are muscles that are rarely stretched.

This can easily be done at home with a hockey stick/broom off of your bed/couch.  Make sure this isn’t just being pushed into the lower back and that you’re intentionally creating that extension through your upper back. 

After a long day of sitting, this exercise feels absolutely incredible. 

Stretch #7: Toes Elevated Ankle Gliders

Ankle mobility is huge for hockey players. 

 Healthy ankle mobility is a prerequisite for elite skating. This isn’t just the ability to get low in cuts or battles, but even your stride mechanics. 

Improving your ankle mobility allows you to skater lower and generate more power in each stride. We’ve dove deep into this topic (and how hockey players can improve their ankle mobility) in this Youtube video here – but if you want to improve your skating, you need to be improving your ankle mobility. 

For hockey players, this is the most effective stretch we’ve found to improve ankle mobility. Throw your toes up on a foam roller, wall, or rink boards while watching a game and then drive your knee forward towards the toes creating to increase the range each time.

This one is simple but extremely effective.

Stretch #8: Active/Passive Hamstring Stretch

If you’re a hockey player, you likely have tight hamstrings. 

Can you touch your toes? Better yet, can you lay on your back and lift a straight leg until it’s completely vertical? Working with thousands of hockey players, we know that answer without even asking – and it’s probably no. 

While hamstring injuries are more common while off the ice, tight hamstrings can cause all sorts of compensations and restrictions from knee pain to low back pain to inhibiting your ability to fire the glutes effectively. 

This isn’t a common stretch, but we’ve found it insanely effective in hockey players because it creates both an active and passive/static release. 

Make sure that you’re keeping both legs straight the entire time. If you’re feeling a bend at the knee, it means that you’ve hit your end range. This is the range we’re looking at improving.

Stretch #9: Groin/Adductor Rocks 

Groin injuries are one of the most common non-contact injuries in hockey players – and they’re preventable. 

We encourage you to watch this youtube video where we take a deep dive into the groin (also called adductors) and the ways hockey players can stretch and strengthen these muscles. 

It’s essential to be developing adductor strength. We see a ton of hockey players who are both tight and weak in these muscles, and when they get overworked in a hockey season it almost always leads to a tweak, pull, or worse. 

So while weakness is a massive factor, we also want to address tightness. This is one of our favorites for hockey players and is extremely effective in releasing those adductors and reclaiming range of motion. 

If you’re a hockey player, you likely have tight hamstrings. 

Stretch #10: Scorpions

Low back pain is the number one musculoskeletal complaint in the world. 

While poor core strength and too much sitting are often to blame in the general population, even strong hockey players aren’t immune from a tight and restricted back. 

Of course, players should still look to improve hip mobility and core strength to fix the root of the problem – but we find that this one stretch can create immediate release through the low back.

By keeping your chest on the ground, you’re forced to find mobility in your lower back. When you take your heel to your opposite hand, take a couple of seconds to pause and intentionally try to relax before the next rep. 

If you have a tight back, this one will go a long way.

Stretch #11: Cossack Squats

This is more of a mobility exercise than a traditional stretch – but it creates massive release through the entire lower body. 

For hockey players, that low hip position is so valuable. But so few hockey players can really create the depth that their hips are designed for. This can often be attributed to a combination of tight ankles, restricted groins, and limited hip mobility. 

This exercise targets them all. 

While our workout programs often use this exercise with a plate to create a mobility/strength demand and developing motor control through those low ranges, we find that it’s also an amazing mobility exercise to do just bodyweight and really try to control those end ranges and get even deeper.

In Conclusion: 

After having thousands of hockey players go through our training programs, these are the mobility exercises and stretches that players routinely email us about being absolute game changers. 

Hockey players who are chasing both peak performance and career longevity need to have some sort of stretch and mobility routine. Our goal is to develop a pliable and limitless body that lets us not only feel better, but also move optimally. 

While we include mobility in all of our workouts, we also encourage players to add a dedicated mobility session twice a week. We’ve chosen the absolute most effective stretches & mobility exercises for hockey players in this article – spending just 10 minutes a couple times of week on these exercises and you’ll find noticeable release and improvements in your mobility. 

It doesn’t take much, but it does require action. So we encourage you to either do these stretches right now or screen shot the list below and promise to yourself that you’ll tackle them tonight before bed. 

Get stretching!

Frequently Asked Stretching Questions

Want to learn more about stretching, mobility, and hockey? We recommend you check out a couple of the questions below and head over to our deep dive article "Mobility & Stretching for Hockey Players: A Complete Guide" which looks at the role mobility has in hockey performance and breaks down joint by joint how you can improve your mobility.

What are the best stretches for hockey players? 

Let’s screenshot this so you have the complete list on your phone. 

  1. Couch Stretch 
  2. 90/90 Stretch 
  3. Banded Lat Stretch 
  4. Pec Stretch 
  5. Hockey Stick T-Spine Extensions 
  6. Side Lying Book Openers 
  7. Toes Elevated Ankle Gliders 
  8. Active/Passive Hamstring 
  9. Scorpions 

When should hockey players stretch?

Hockey players should use stretching and mobility exercises in four different ways: 

  1. Pre-Workout/Game Warm-Ups – this should be dynamic mobility exercises specifically used to improve range of motion and open up the body.
  2. Within A Workout – Often our workouts include mobility work that is combined with activation exercises to create a synergistic effect. 
  3. Post-Workout – we don’t call our post-workout mobility “cool downs,” in-fact some of our players call this “warm downs” because in reality the look more like other players “warm ups.” Either way, post workout or skate is the perfect time to take advantage of warm muscles and a fatigued nervous system that will be more receptive to mobility work. Use exercises that will intentionally increase range of motion. 
  4. At Home – all of our programs come with a guide of 20+ mobility workouts that our players do at home or separate from a workout/skate. While players can use “active recovery workouts” with bands and mobility work they can also just do lower key mobility stretches and foam rolling while watching Netflix or a hockey game. 

Should you do static stretching before hockey?

Static stretching is better after hockey than before. 

Saying this, it’s often contested amongst sport scientists if it’s worth doing “stretches” before hockey or if it should be only dynamic mobility exercises.

While research has shown that static stretching doesn’t impair performance when it’s combined with a dynamic warm-up, we still prefer our players to focus on more dynamic and active exercises in the warm-up and save static stretching for off-days or post-hockey. 

We believe in this for two reasons – first it allows you to take advantage of warm and fatigued muscles that you can stretch; and second it allows you to relax into stretch and create that “slow down effect” that will allow you to relax into stretches.

Do you need flexibility for Hockey?

Hockey players need flexibility to optimize their skating mechanics. 

Often when we start to work with a hockey player they’ll be surprised at the amount of mobility work in our programs. They know they should be stretching more for their health and body, but don’t understand the role flexibility has in their performance. 

After 1-2 weeks of mobility work they start to notice how they feel better and have less chronic pain/tightness, and then after 3-4 weeks they start to comment on how their stride feels smoother. 

Improving your flexibility, or more so mobility, will lead to lower skating mechanics that allows for more power and ultimately speed to be expressed in each stride. 

It sounds like an exaggeration, but we’ve seen dozens of players “stretch” their way to skating faster.

kyle kokotailo hockey training
Coach Kyle

Kyle is a Hockey Performance Specialist who’s worked with hundreds of hockey players from Peewee to Pro. A former elite hockey player, Kyle earned his degree in Kinesiology before becoming a Strength Coach that specializes in hockey performance. Today, he runs Relentless Hockey where he works with players across the world, including pros in over 20+ leagues including the NHL, KHL, and OHL.‍

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