How Hockey Goalies Get a Better Splits.

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I have never been a fan of video games.  In fact I have always thought they were the biggest waste of time ever.  When I see people in stores with that video game workout console thingy…I want to run up and smack them!

I think the last video game I was enthusiastic about was Phoenix.  The pizza place in the neighbourhood shopping plaza had one and we would go in there with a stack of quarters when we were about 10 years old and play for hours.  Fast forward about 30 years and in my attempt to be the coolest wife ever – I did buy Paul a PS3 for Christmas a few years ago.  He loves it and since I go to bed at 8:30pm, he has lots of time for gaming when I am asleep.

Okay…now comes the bad part…I found a video game that I LOVE!  I have pretty much played it everyday since I got it on Sunday.  It is called Rocksmith and it is like Guitar Hero, but you use your own electric guitar and it helps you learn to play.

Bet you never knew I played guitar.  I did take classical guitar lessons for two years when I was a kid – I was awful at it.  Then about 5-years ago, in his attempt to be the coolest husband ever – Paul got me an electric guitar (seen in the photo).  I love it and I have taught myself to play the basics “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” – not very well mind you.  I always wanted to be better, so Rocksmith is a way to help me do that.  It provides a structure for me to develop starting with basic songs, it helps me monitor my progress and it gives me drills to practice that are specific to my needs.  Just like a good goalie specific training program.  I will keep you posted on my progress – anyway now my confession is over and on to today’s article….

Stretch to Help Hockey Goalies Do The Splits

To many hockey goalies the holy grail of flexibility is the splits.  So it is not odd that I get several emails every month asking, “What stretch will let me do the splits?”  If only it were that easy my friends.

There are at least three things limiting any goalie from doing the splits.

  1. The bony structure of your hip.
  2. The quality of your connective tissue.
  3. The flexibility in your actual muscles.

So let’s look at each one individually and then I will show you a technique that can help you get lower into your splits.

The Bony Structure of Your Hip

Just like getting that wide butterfly flare, not every goalie is born with the hip structure to allow for the splits.  Once again the shape of the ball and socket may not allow for such range of motion without impingement.  Trying to force against the bony structure of the hip can lead to injury to the labrum and the development of bony spurs or osteophytes over time.  Both of which are painful.

So when you work on your splits remember, you are trying to affect the soft tissue structures, not the bony structures.  You should feel a medium stretching sensation in the muscles, not pain or pinching in the joint.

The Quality of Your Connective Tissue

This is based on my experience from the years I spent working as the exercise specialist at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.  We would routinely see athletes who seemed to have a very thick and stiff connective tissue.  They may come in with a hamstring strain, then return three months later with a rotator cuff injury, then a quad strain – – etc.

Although they were diligent with their rehab and did not rush their return to play, it appeared that some people just have a different quality to their connective tissue.  Can it be improved with soft tissue techniques such as massage or self myofascial release techniques like foam rolling?  Yes, this can have a huge impact and if your goal is to improve your splits then it is a key ingredient, but again just bear in mind that not everyone has the tissue quality to allow for such an extreme range of motion.

The Flexibility in Your Actual Muscles

I am amazed by goalies that seek help for getting a better splits position, but they currently do no consistent stretching program at all.  This is their number one mistake.  It is like asking how to run a four-minute mile without doing any running.  Step one….start running!

So get busy working on your stretches 5-7 days per week for the first three weeks, then you may be able to reduce your frequency to 3-5 days per week.  Again, this will vary from person to person.  You can find a goalie specific stretching program here and click below for a specific exercise that will help you improve your splits.

Stretch to Help Hockey Goalies Do The Splits

So there are the three things you need to consider when trying to improve your splits.  I will follow up with a second part of this post by sharing a few thoughts on helping young goalies develop their splits.  There are some serious considerations with long-term implications that I want you to be aware of.

Don’t forget to watch the video for the stretch to help goalies do the splits.