When 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.
Darn, I am happy ice hockey is back.
As Canadians, we need our ice hockey.
Now don’t go away if you are not into ice hockey or an ice hockey goalie. I have learned a lot from Maria regarding 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.
Enjoy. Take it away, Maria.
My goal in life is to help hockey players (and goalies in particular) win more games with fewer injuries. Like Rick, I believe it all starts with a proper foundation, muscle activation, and 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 and experienced athletes.
- Three warm-up protocols were tested: activation exercises, whole-body vibration, and no warm-up.
- The effect of these different warm-up protocols on power was evaluated based on peak power production during countermovement jump testing.
The Results of the Study
Completing the seven glute activation exercises before re-testing significantly improved 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
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 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 how many athletes (and elite-level athletes) do not use their glutes. When you try these exercises, you will see that of them; you can do just fine without the muscles in your rear end contracting.
Keeping the Glutes Fired Up
Regardless of how it occurs, here’s why we must keep those glutes fired up! Using the hockey goalie as an example, picture the ready position – knees bent, torso angled forward, chest up. 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 you see a player hanging off their hamstrings and back extensors – these muscles must compensate for the lack of contribution from the glutes. So, you are creating an overused pattern in your back and hamstrings. Does anyone ever get a sore lower back or have tight hamstrings?
CLICK HERE to watch the YouTube video
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.
How Glute Activation is Important
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 by using the hockey goalie again as an example.
The glutes can move your leg, via the hip, in different directions, but 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, you will 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, reducing 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 ‘wins: win’ situations you hear so much about.
Using these Activation Exercises
The entire circuit only takes 5-7 minutes. 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. Alternatively, you could pick 2-3 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 too easy – we never do stability ball squats 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