Playing hockey and ice skating are some of the best ways to improve (and maintain) your cardiovascular conditioning in the winter months. Like snowshoeing and skiing, you’ll need a good level of lower body strength and hip mobility to excel at these activities and prevent injury. You’ll also need excellent core strength and stability to maintain balance on the ice.
One of the most common hockey- or skating-related injuries is a strain, tear or rupture of the adductor (inner thigh) muscles — also known as a groin strain. The adductor muscles are engaged when your leg is pulled back toward the center of your body after a stride on the ice, and they’re stretched when your leg extends out to the side. To help you prevent this injury, the first exercise in our workout below will strengthen this muscle group.
Muscles and joints can become tighter as a natural effect of aging, so before hitting the ice, make sure you go through at least 10 minutes of a full-body warm-up routine. Incorporate these 3 strength moves into your regular workouts 2 to 3 times per week.
1. Sumo Goblet Squat
Groin strains, common in hockey and ice skating, often occur because of strength imbalances between the inner thigh muscles and those of the outer hip and glute. Most often, the inner thigh muscles aren’t strong enough compared to the outer thigh muscles. The sumo squat is an excellent exercise to strengthen your inner thigh muscles (as well as your quads and glutes) while also improving hip mobility.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width, with your toes pointed slightly out. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest height. Hinge your hips back behind you and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Press into the floor with your feet to return to standing. Make sure you keep your back flat and your chest up throughout the movement. Repeat for repetitions. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions with a weight that feels very challenging at about 7 reps.
2. Single Leg Deadlifts
This exercise strengthens the hamstrings and glutes, improves ankle stability and works your balance. It also mimics the hip hinge position you’ll need to assume on the ice.
Stand on your right leg, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your right knee slightly bent as you hinge your hips back and extend your left leg behind you. Reach halfway down your shin with the dumbbells, then press your right heel into the floor to return to standing. Complete all repetitions on the right leg, then switch sides. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps with a weight that feels very challenging at about 7 repetitions.
3. Stir the Pot
This is one of my favorite core exercises for my older clients. It’s very challenging but is easy on the wrists and knees for those with arthritis or other joint concerns.
Get into a plank position with your toes on the floor, feet hip width apart and forearms resting on a stability ball. Tuck your pelvis slightly to flatten out your low back. Brace your core muscles. Breathing smoothly, move your arms clockwise so the ball rolls in small circles. Complete repetitions, then switch directions. Make sure your body stays stable — only your arms should be moving. Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions in each direction. Once you’ve mastered that, increase the difficulty of this exercise by elevating your feet on a bench.
Assuming you warm-up adequately and regularly perform the strength exercises we list here, skating and hockey can be excellent ways of improving your cardiovascular endurance without the impact of running, which might be difficult for older adults with osteoarthritis or other joint pain.