Darn, I am happy ice hockey is back.
As a Canadian, we need our ice hockey.
When it comes to training ice hockey goalies, I always chat with Maria Mountain. Today, I have an article from her on the importance of glute activation and some research that backs it up.
Now don’t go away if you are not into ice hockey or an ice hockey goalie. I have learned a lot from Maria when it comes to hip movement and mobility, which is essential for goalies, but also very important to most people in the sitting world.
In the below article Maria talks about some great research that she is using with her ice hockey goalies but will benefit you, your clients or athletes.
Take it away Maria.
My goal in life is to help hockey players (and goalies in particular) win more games with fewer injuries and like Rick, I believe that it all starts with a proper foundation, with proper muscle activation and with efficient movement patterns.
So when I see a research article that touts: “Low load exercises targeting the gluteal muscle group acutely enhance explosive power output in elite athletes”, it gets my attention. (I will include the complete reference at the bottom of this article for the other research geeks out there.)
The basic structure of the study was this:
· The research subjects were Aussie Rules Football players, so experienced athletes.
· Three warm-up protocols were tested: activation exercises, whole body vibration and no warm up at all.
· The effect of these different warm up protocols on power was evaluated based on peak power production during counter movement jump testing.
The Results of the Study
Completion of the seven glute activation exercises prior to re-testing had significant improvement on peak power production. Here are the exercises they included for one set of 10 repetitions each:
· Double Leg Glute Bridge
· Quadruped Hip Extension
· Quadruped Hip Abduction
· Side Lying Clamshell
· Side Lying Abduction
· Prone Hip Extension
· Stability Ball Squat
Here is a Video where Maria Goes Through the Glute Activation Exercises
Now, you may be saying to yourself – ‘Who the heck is this Maria girl and what has she done with Rick?’ Well, that is a question for another article.
This post is for those of you who are saying – ‘But Maria, how can better glute activation help me stop more pucks and win more games with fewer injuries?’
The answer is ‘lots of ways’, but let’s start by reducing your risk of injury and go from there. You would be amazed at how many athletes (and elite level athletes) do not use their glutes. When you try these exercises, you will see that some of them, you can do just fine without the muscles in your rear end contracting at all.
There can be several reasons for this inhibition of such a powerful hip extensor, but one explanation is the fact that many of us sit for extended periods during the day and compress our glutes which is thought to contribute to this ‘glute amnesia’.
Regardless of how it occurs, here’s why it is important that we keep those glutes fired up! Using the hockey goalie as an example, picture the ready position – knees bent, torso angled forward, chest up. Basically, this is the picture of an athlete hanging off their posterior chain including the hamstrings, glutes and back extensors.
Now imagine taking the glutes out of the equation – now what you see is a player hanging off their hamstrings and back extensors – these muscles must compensate for the lack of contribution from the glutes. Anyone ever get a sore lower back or have tight hamstrings? So right there you are creating an overuse pattern in your back and hamstrings.
We could add to that the core stabilization effect the glutes have via their insertion to the thoracolumbar fascia and the impact they have on pelvic position – lazy glutes plus tight hip flexors and you have an anterior pelvic tilt which again can lead to back pain, hip flexor strain and even contribute to a sports hernia.
I think you are getting the picture of how glute activation is important from an injury reduction perspective and I bet you are convinced that it is something you should work on. Now let’s consider the role of your glutes in performance using the hockey goalie again as an example.
The glutes can move your leg, via the hip, in different directions, but basically any time you need to make a forward or lateral movement on the ice, you should be using your glutes. Need to seal the left post in a hurry to prevent a wrap-around – well then you are going to have to drive off the right leg and the more power production you get from your glutes the quicker you are going to get there and deny the scoring chance.
So, you will reduce your chances for back pain, hip flexor strain, sports hernia and chronic hamstring tightness while increasing your speed and explosiveness on the ice, sounds like one of those ‘win:win’ situations you hear so much about doesn’t it.
So try using these exercises as a pre-practice and pre-game warm-up if you think a little more power would help your game. The entire circuit only takes 5-7 minutes. As an alternative, you could pick 2-3 of these exercises to include in your current dynamic warm-up.
Remember that these are activation exercises, they are not meant to be part of your strength training, so do not worry if they feel muscularly easy, some of them will indeed be harder on your brain than your muscles.
I also don’t want you to add overload to them when you feel it gets to easy – we never do stability ball squat for strength, there are better ways to build that – this is just for activation.
Reference – Crow, JF, Buttifant, D, Kearny, SG, Hrysomallis, C. “Low load exercises targeting the gluteal muscle group acutely enhance explosive power output in elite athletes.” J Strength Cond Res 26(2):438-442, 2012
You learn more about Maria and how she can help ice hockey goalies over here.