Lacrosse is a competitive sport derived from the historical North American Indian game known as baggataway. The game requires two teams of multiple players using long-handled implements to catch, carry, and throw a small ball down the field into the opposing teams’ goal. Men’s and Women’s lacrosse vary slightly in that only Men’s lacrosse includes body checks, therefore requiring the players to wear helmets and pads. In addition, Men’s lacrosse only has ten players on the field for each team, whereas Women’s lacrosse has 12 each, respectively.
Lacrosse also has two different styles, field, and box. The primary difference is that box lacrosse is played indoors while field lacrosse is played outdoors. In addition, box lacrosse is played with only six players per side and can often be more physical due to the boards being present, much like ice hockey. Globally speaking, lacrosse is somewhere in the neighborhood of ~60% Anaerobic/ATP, ~20% Anaerobic/Lactate, and ~20% Aerobic. Essentially, lacrosse is dominated by a repetitive series of fast, explosive movements interspersed with low-intensity movement or rest periods. This varies depending on the pace of the game and the position of the player, as noted below:
The ‘attack’ or forwards are the players who play primarily on the offensive side of the field and are directly responsible for scoring the ball.
These are the ‘hybrid’ players required to run perhaps the most out of everybody and play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field.
These players are directly responsible for defending the attackmen from getting shots on the goalie and can be noted from their 6 foot long sticks. Rarely do they ever enter the offensive side of the field?
A goalie is the last line of defense to defend against shots that can travel 100+ mph—wearing significantly more padding and gear to defend against these shots. An important distinction between box and field lacrosse is that the field lacrosse goal is much larger than the box lacrosse goal.
Conditioning For Lacrosse:
Many movement and running are involved in lacrosse, sometimes upwards of 3-5 miles per game (depending on position). With that in mind, many coaches gravitate towards heavy doses of long, slow aerobic training to ‘build up their athlete’s conditioning. While there is a time and place for this, there is a better way to approach training. It’s important to note that not all of this running in a game is done at one time, in fact, as previously mentioned, the sport of lacrosse itself appears to be only ~20% aerobic by nature. What is more important rather is to build off their speed/anaerobic endurance so that they continue repeating bouts of explosive runs throughout the game without fatiguing to the point of inadequate performance. How is this done, you may ask? One way is to implement Sprint Interval Training (SIT), popularized by legendary track coach Charlie Francis.
To spare you a boring physiology lesson, the basic premise of this type of training is to perform bouts of high-intensity effort (i.e., 15-20sec) followed by lower intensity bouts of action (i.e., 45sec-1min). We call this the work to rest ratio (W: R), and the numbers do not have to be fixed in any particular fashion. How they are manipulated depends on the outcome a coach is seeking and the current level of fitness the athlete(s) have. Check out the example below:
Sprint Interval Training
Sit and Foam Roll 3-5min
As you can see, this is a fundamental way to implement SIT. Still, with effort, creativity, and sound periodization methods, it can make a world of difference for the athletes over logging endless hours of long slow cardio. One important last note, this is still important for goalies as well. They need adequate levels of conditioning too.
Strength & Power Training
Conditioning is only one piece of the puzzle for a complete lacrosse player. These athletes need to be strong, powerful, agile, and mobile to both perform well and evade injury. While I could practically write an entire book on strength and power training for the lacrosse athlete, I will give some of the big rocks to focus on here instead.
We want to build a robust athlete that has great rotational power, an excellent rate of force development (RFD), a strong core, a strong posterior chain, and strong symmetrical single-leg strength. That may sound like a lot, but fortunately, a well-written program with properly performed movements can get the job done without being overly demanding. Below are some of my favorite movements for the lacrosse athlete, with a brief tagline of what they help do.
Hang Power Clean:
There’s a lot of debate about this one with coaches today, but in my humble opinion and experience, I find it to be a great way to teach athletes triple extension and increase their overall RFD.
Landmine Rotational Press:
I previously mentioned rotational power being important for lacrosse, and this is one of my go-to movements for helping to address that. The focus should be on movement the bar quickly and efficiently, not a heavy, slow movement.
Single Leg Landmine Glute Bridge:
This is a bit of a two-for-one movement, strengthening both the posterior chain and single-leg strength in one. I also like this because you can add weight to the movement. However, I am just performing it with the bar in this video.
Trap Bar Deadlift:
The trap bar deadlift is a no-brainer for nearly all my athletes and clients. It’s a compound movement that targets so many body parts and can build some serious strength.
Bird Dog Ab Rollout:
Your core stabilizes, rotates, and resists rotation more than what people think of in the classic sit-up flexion position. I’ve talked a lot about loaded carries, paloff presses, dead bugs, etc., but honestly, I chose this one to give you all something new to try. It combines two of my favorite ‘core’ and stability exercises into one, the ab rollout and the bird dog! I’m not sure what the actual name is or a movement, but I made it up in my head. Enjoy.
While the movements in isolation certainly will not make a lacrosse player great, they are certain pieces to the puzzle that fits into a well-rounded program with excellent coaching.
Every sport poses its unique demands on the athletes and coaches. Lacrosse is no different. Effective strength and conditioning methods must be implemented to help foster the most well-rounded athlete possible.
In part 1 of this 2 part series, we’ve covered both effective means to condition lacrosse players and basic movements for strength and power. In part 2, we will cover two more critical pieces, speed/change of direction and mobility training. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.