Warming up before any physical activity helps with conditioning the muscles and ligaments and putting the central nervous system into exercise mode.

Since skating and stickhandling places stress on the muscles, insufficient pre-exercise conditioning can make a player vulnerable to injury and reduce his/her effectiveness during a practice session or game. For this reason, professional players spend considerable time warming up on and off the ice before every practice or game.

Sadly, efficient warmups in youth hockey are not always the standard. Off-ice warm-ups are typically never utilized properly. 

Here’s a short list of excuses: late arrivals, suiting up your child in a 10×10 locker room together with the other 20 families, packed lobbies, and late practice starts.  This will not help to form good habits, although in most cases, the real reason for skipping a warm-up is in the lack of prioritization by the majority of parents. Ironically, most of these parents will make sure to warm up properly before their own workouts, otherwise “bad things will happen, and working days will be missed”. 

In the section below we will discuss several ideas of how to facilitate warmups for children of different ages, and we will review examples of routines.

For the off-ice warm-ups, possible answers to the “where?” question can be: 

  • At home, if your commute to the rink isn’t long
  • Availability to find open space at the rink – empty hallways, unused fitness studios, passthrough under the bleachers
  • Parking lot, if it’s safe

Key points for the On-ice warm-ups: 

  • Try to get your child on the ice as early as possible.  Encourage him to do the warm-up drills, so they ease into their skating, avoiding the potential to pull a muscle.
  • Stickhandling, with or without a puck.
  • Your coach should start the session with pre-practice games for younger kids and warm up drills for the older kids.

Young Children:

Younger kids who are just learning to skate will not put a lot of training stress on their bodies. Putting the gear on and off and just gliding around the ice is challenging enough for them, so all physical activities are conducted as games or friendly competitions, otherwise, a child might lose interest. Off-ice warm-ups will help to form the right habits before practice, and the on-ice drills will facilitate structure and discipline prior to more complicated drills. 

Example warm-up routine, ages 3-4

Off-Ice, 5 min

  • Play a game that will include sitting/standing, jumping/pushing against the wall, swinging arms/legs and bending forward

On-ice, 10 min

  • 2 min laps around the rink
  • 2 min slalom between the tires
  • 2 min inside edge pushes, alternate feet
  • 2 min stickhandling, roll the wrists, no pucks
  • 2 min tag game

 

Older kids

The game element is less essential here since the older kids are more self-motivated. The warm-up routine should include exercises targeting the full body or large muscle groups. The main difference between routines for different age groups is in the complexity of movement patterns and drill durations. 

 

Example warm-up routine, ages 5-9

Off-Ice without hockey gear, moderate pace, 5-10 min:

Exercise Target Muscles/Ligaments
20 jumping jacks Full body 
10 wall squats Glutes, quads
10 toe stands Calves, feet
10 forward bends Back
10 arm rotations– 5 forward and 5 backward for each arm Shoulders
10 back extensions (superman) Lower back
15 knee or wall push-ups Upper body
10 forward-backward leg swings for every leg Lower body

 

On-Ice, 10 min:

Exercise Target Muscles/Ligaments
2 min rink laps, moderate speed Full body 
1 min stick side to side bends Upper body
1 min stick forward bends Upper body
2 min inside-outside edge transitions (hourglass) Ankles
10 static (or dynamic during gliding) squats Lower body
2 min stickhandling  Wrists
1 min rink laps, high speed Full body

 

Example warm-up routine, ages 9 +

Exercise Target Muscles/Ligaments
2 min jog (dynamic or static) Full body 
1 min high knees Core
1 min butt kicks Hamstrings
20 squats Lower body
10 forward bends Back
30 sec mountain climbers Core
10 back extensions – “cobra” Lower back
20 Pushups (knee pushups for smaller kids) Upper body
10 forward-backward leg swings for every leg Lower body
10 90-deg head rotations, in both directions Neck

 

On-Ice, 12 min:

Exercise Target Muscles/Ligaments
2 min rink laps with stick handling, moderate speed Full body, wrists
1 min stick side to side bends Upper body
1 min stick forward bends Upper body
2 min inside-outside edge transitions (hourglass) Lower body, ankles
2 min inside edge slalom Lower body, ankles
2 min outside edge slalom  Lower body, ankles
1 min forward crossover, in both directions, moderate speed Lower body
1 min rink laps, high speed Lower body

Recap: 

Warmups help to establish the correct training habits for smaller kids, and essential for older kids for optimal performance and injury prevention. For small kids, it’s more about keeping them active before the training session. For older kids, dedicating 15-20 min for the structured warm up prior to the main exercise block will improve performance and have long-term health benefits.