Why do Hockey Players Ride a Stationary Bike After Games?

Posted on April 7, 2020 by Dan Kent

While most recreational hockey players can’t wait to get changed and showered after a game and then head out for a pint of beer, things are quite different for pro and other highly-competitive players. Once the final buzzer has sounded the pros aren’t finished for the night as they still need to take care of their bodies by properly “cooling down” physically.

Professional hockey players ride a stationary bike after a game as a way to flush waste products and toxins such as lactic acid out of their bodies. They ride the bike with light resistance for between 10 and 30 minutes as a way to help their bodies recover and to reduce the chance of suffering from tight, sore legs the next day.

Benefits of Bike Riding

When players ride the bike after playing it increases the flow of blood to the legs which in turn helps remove waste products while also providing oxygen to the muscles. The increase in blood flow can help in a player’s recovery by providing the necessary proteins needed to rebuild or repair the muscles.

This is achieved by replenishing the muscle with energy stores (carbohydrates) and removing any tissue that may be damaged.

Light Resistance

These types of bike rides aren’t meant to be intense since the exercise isn’t designed for conditioning purposes. However, players who don’t receive many minutes of ice time during games will typically ride a bike after a contest as a way to improve their conditioning rather than to cool their bodies down.

If a player’s legs start to burn, become fatigued or feel any type of pain when riding the bike after a game they should lower the resistance level of the bike. The purpose of the ride is to help the body recover and not to further tax the legs.

It’s believed that the cooling-down bike ride is an ideal way to fight off many common ice hockey leg injuries such as muscle pulls, tears and strains.

Dynamic Lifts

Hockey players who find themselves on the ice for fewer than 15 minutes per game often bypass the post-game bike ride to work on strengthening exercises. These players engage in exercises such as shoulder shrugs, arm curls and bench presses which are commonly known as dynamic lifts.

These weight-lifting exercises are designed to maintain or increase muscle strength in various parts of the body.

Players who receive more ice time will usually focus on various types of balance and core-training exercises, stretching, cyclin and working out with light weights.

What is Lactic Acid?

When the body’s muscles produce energy they also produce lactic acid. This is because muscle fibers will convert glycogen to ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a source of energy which muscle fibers use to make a person’s muscles contract. During this process, a compound known as pyruvate can be produced. Pyruvate can then be converted to energy while the excess results in lactic acid.

When exercising aerobically, the muscles use fatty acids, glucose and oxygen which is in the blood and used to create ATP.

Lactic acid can make a person’s muscles ache or feel tired and sore. The best way to relieve the aches and pains and to eliminate the lactic acid is through slow-paced exercise without placing any strain on the muscles. Receiving a massage can also help rid the muscles of lactic acid since it will help increase your blood circulation.

Does Lactic Acid Disappear?

There has been some debate about lactic acid since many experts will tell you that lactic acid doesn’t linger in the muscles as it will disappear by itself. In fact, lactic acid may process itself out of the body within an hour after a hockey game.

However, riding a stationary bike can speed up this process and rid the body’s leg muscles of other types of waste and toxins and also enables players to wind down mentally after a game.

Active Recovery

Riding a stationary exercise bike after a hockey game or other sport is typically known as active recovery whereas just sitting around is referred to as passive recovery. It’s quite simple really as an increase in blood flow in the muscles will help flush lactic acid and toxins from the body.

However, you need to make sure the muscles aren’t being worked too hard following a hockey game as this could lead to further muscle damage or fatigue. And that’s the last thing you need after leaving the ice following a grueling physical workout.

Research has shown there are numerous benefits to active recovery including a higher level of stamina and power as well as quickly-reduced levels of lactic acid. All of these are ideal for hockey players and that’s basically why you see them riding an exercise bike at low intensity after games.

Cycling Cons

Not all professional trainers favor bike-riding as a conditioning exercise or as an active recovery routine though. They point out that the hunched-over posture associated with riding a bike can decrease a player’s performance or lead to other types of injuries such as hip flexors.

This is generally blamed on the repetitive stress that is placed on the hips when cycling.

It seems that riding a bike after games has become a comfortable tradition or routine for ice hockey players these days and as long as they don’t overdo it it’s one that will probably remain for several years to come.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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