By Chad Zimmerman
It’s almost impossible to find a national champion-caliber program that doesn’t use Hang Cleans and Squats to develop speed, strength and explosion. Case in point: the men’s lacrosse team at Syracuse University, where these two lifts are cornerstones of their strength routine. However, to separate his athletes from the pack, Orangemen strength coach A.J. Mitchell has his own way of implementing the lifts to achieve the team’s objectives.
Like most programs, Syracuse does 2-4 reps per set of Hang Cleans when they’re working to improve power and strength. Where the Orangemen differ, however, is at the top end of the rep-range, when they’re working to build endurance. “We’ll go up to 8 repssometimes even 10,” Mitchell says. It’s during their battle to complete the sets while fatigued that they develop muscular endurance.
For the Squat, the Orangemen max out around 12 reps and go as low as 6 per set. “We never do sets of 2 or 3,” Mitchell says. “There’s no need to put that much weight on an athlete’s back. That’s just asking for injury.”
Start your training cycle at the higher end of the rep-set patterns, 3 to 4 sets of 8-10 reps for Hang Cleans and 3 to 4 sets of 12 reps for Squats. Every two weeks, cut back the number of reps until you’re doing sets of 2-4 reps for Hang Cleans and sets of 6 for Squats. Rest two minutes between sets.
The Orangemen start with Squats, follow them with other lifts, and end the day with Hang Cleans. Although few other programs follow this pattern, Mitchell says, “I believe in it because I’ve seen how it’s helped our athletes. They’re able to hit that next gear when they’re sprinting, and their 40 times have been dropping tenths of a second, which is a big deal.”
Mitchell’s athletes hit Squats and Hang Cleans on the same day, twice a week during their four-day off-season lifting plan. The program follows an upper-body/lower-body workout split, so they do Lunges, Romanian Deadlifts and Hamstring Curls on the same days as Squats and Hang Cleans.