The back door split is a great move that is just starting to be used, but I think it will eventually be the move of choice for widening out. We'll see that it is superior in a number of ways to the splits that are being used now: it's easier, safer, and covers better.

The pictures above show two ways of widening out: (left) The STRADDLE SPLIT. You'll see pro goalies using this move all the time; and (right) The FRONT SPLIT, used on the back door move, which you see very rarely. On the back door move, the right pad is down on the ice and the left toe is pointing up, whereas on the straddle split, both feet are pointing straight ahead and neither pad is on the ice yet. These, and several other differences make the back door move far better. Even goalies who don't have very good flexibility (like me) can use the back door move, and I use it regularly. However, you need superior flexibility to widen out like Fleury. If I tried that move, my career would be over. Frankly, I think the Fleury move is a career-shortener for anyone. There's a lot of strain on the body widening out like that, and if you're not wearing Overdrive, there are slipouts galore.

One way to look at the back door move is that it is the same move as the old style kick save, only in the opposite direction. Imagine, in the pictures to the left, that the goalie was dropping his left pad to make a back door save to his left. What you see is essentially the form his legs would use. Of course, the upper body would rotate to the left and a few other things would be different. Look again at the Tampa goalie above, and you can see the legs taking the same form, only for an old-style kick save to his left.

 

 

 

First, let's take a look at the move, and later we'll break it down to see how it's done. To the right is one of the few clips of a pro goalie using it. Further right are three clips of the front split move.

Please note that a lot of the Flash pieces now have multiple pages.

 

 

 

In gymnastics, there are two kinds of splits: the front splits (below left) and straddle splits, also called chinese splits (below right). These correspond to the two ways that goalies can widen out. Again, the straddle splits are now the common move.

 

 

In the front splits, the hips and chest are in line with the legs. In the straddle splits, the hips and chest are perpendicular to the legs. This means that different muscles will be stretched on the splits, and, importantly for goalies since they are on ice, different muscles will bear the load as they widen out.

 

 

In the front splits, the front of one leg (quadriceps) and the back of the other leg (hamstrings) get stretched. In the Hasek pic, his left hamstring and his right quads are being stretched. With the legs in this position, it is basically an exaggerated version of how the legs naturally swing, like a very long running stride, or a hurdler's stretch. Since this is how the legs swing, these two groups of muscles are very strong and are made to bear the load of the body.

 

 

With the straddle splits, the groin muscles widen out and take much of the load. They are shown in two separate groups on the skeleton. Since the body is not made to move by widening out like this (only crabs move sideways), these muscles are not really meant to be load bearing. They are more like stabilizer muscles to keep the legs in line.

 

Below is a Flash piece on the splits that shows how the back door move is simply a front split done backwards.

 

 

From the stance, the first thing is always to transfer your weight onto the pushing leg. In this case, he is moving to his right, so his left leg will take all the weight to allow the right leg to move. This sounds simple, but it does require constant practice to make sure you are not 'jumping' the move, or getting ahead of yourself and thereby losing pushing power.
For the sake of simplicity, we can think of this move in two parts - first: dropping the leg, frames 1-4; and second: widening out, frames 5-8. Actually, what you are doing in frames 1-4 is dropping the knee to the ice. Depending on the play, you can drop it straight down, as in a split-butterfly, or if you really have to widen out quickly, the knee may land farther to your right. Here, by frame 4, the knee has dropped down into a wide split-butterfly. Once the right leg is down, it's just a matter of widening out as you push off with the left foot. The beauty of this move is that you can widen out a little or a lot, depending on your flexibility. And it's much easier to keep your upper body erect so your hands stay in the play.

Below is a Flash piece on technique, some clips of me doing the move, and a Flash piece on how the feet should move. Note again that there are now multiple pages on the Flash pieces.

 

The back door is a far safer move than the front splits because it works a different set of muscles that are better suited to taking a load, and it strains those muscles less. As a side note, we have seen how the move resembles the old style kick save, and I don't think goalies in the olden days picked up the chronic groin injuries goalies have to live with today - goalies without Overdrive, that is.

However, since you are widening out, you can still injure yourself doing the back door move. I did recently in trying to improve the move for this page. I wanted the full splits and was pushing it, and whaddya know, I tweaked my groin. I don't think I'm meant to do the full splits.

 

One reason the back door move is safer is because of the support the muscles get. In the straddle splits (left) you widen out on both feet, spanning a great distance with no support in between, so there is a lot of pressure on the legs, especially near the groin. It's like a bridge spanning a large gap. With the back door move, this span is reduced because the knee drops to the ice, so there is more support for the muscles. With better support, the move is more controllable. In the straddle splits, once you start it, that's it, you are widening out - a lot, unless you bail out by falling forward. With the back door move, the muscles aren't as leveraged, so you can use them to better control how wide you get. In the pic above right, you can widen out to a full splits (a front splits), but if you want to hold that width, the muscles are not so wide that you can't control them to keep the leg at that angle. Also, note that the goalies are covering roughly the same distance.

 

From both of these positions, you can still widen out into a full splits, but as discussed, one will be a straddle splits while the back door move will be a front splits, both of them emphasizing different muscles. The piece to the left will remind you of the muscles, and below, we take a closer look at them.

 

 

Muscles used on a front split versus a straddle split. Widening out in the straddle splits pulls on the groin more than the front splits.

 

 

Widening out in the straddle splits pulls on the lower back more than the front splits.

 

 

 

 

Widening out in the straddle splits pulls on the knee more than the front splits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above are some clips to go with this piece. I'm going to end the page here, because it has been a difficult one, and I need to move on to the next subject. There will be some updates to this page, but I'll have to wait until I shoot some better video. If anything here isn't clear or you have a suggestion, please mail me.