Strength Training with Hopkins Lacrosse

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Jay Dyer is a man on a mission. Not only does he work to destroy the training dogma that often harms high school and collegiate athletes, he preps his players for the ultimate challenge: overcoming themselves.

Many misconceptions are floating around the sports community about the most effective training for athletes: distance running for speed development; single-joint movements for strength; and a whole host of other follies. And Dyer, head strength and conditioning coach for the Johns Hopkins University men's lacrosse team, has heard and seen them all.

But Dyer doesn't complain. In fact, he just laughs and shakes 'em off.

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Jay Dyer is a man on a mission. Not only does he work to destroy the training dogma that often harms high school and collegiate athletes, he preps his players for the ultimate challenge: overcoming themselves.

Many misconceptions are floating around the sports community about the most effective training for athletes: distance running for speed development; single-joint movements for strength; and a whole host of other follies. And Dyer, head strength and conditioning coach for the Johns Hopkins University men's lacrosse team, has heard and seen them all.

But Dyer doesn't complain. In fact, he just laughs and shakes 'em off.

"Look, when you've got 48 guys who all train at the same time, you have to go with what works," he says. "There's no room for the beach-muscle training. We've got to get our guys strong so they can perform on and off the field."

So, how, exactly, should a lacrosse athlete train?

To the uninitiated—or even to lacrosse players who've never closely examined every movement made during a game—lacrosse looks almost chaotic, like some sort of weird hockey, with facemasks, pads and sticks. But if you take a closer look, you'll see that the players on-field moves are strikingly similar to some of their more conventional counterparts.

For instance, as in ice hockey, the ability to accelerate, change direction, load and swing with full force is a constant necessity for attackmen.

Likewise, if you've ever watched soccer, you've seen the same fast, up-and-down-the-field style of play that all lacrosse players must emulate.

Considering all of this, Dyer's method of training is meant to tax the athlete physically and mentally, encouraging growth in both areas.

"We don't do a lot of distance training or prolonged running," he says. "It's just not effective for our sport. We do lots of intervals, straight sprints and lactate threshold training," he says.

If you need a rudimentary course in lactate threshold training, just grab a weighted sled and push it until you can go no further. "You'll feel like you had cement injected into your legs," Dyer says. "[That exercise] is meant to prepare you for the stresses of the game. The guy who runs the fastest for the longest and can excel in the fourth quarter is the guy who really shines."

Most of Dyer's training focuses on strengthening muscle groups that benefit every position, such as lower body, abdominal and lower back areas. He also targets a few upper body muscles to give his athletes an edge. "A lot of our guys throw high velocity shots during the course of the game. We need to make sure their lats and triceps are prepared to do that work," he says.

And what about the mental muscle?

"If an athlete is passionate and has a willingness to learn and push, he's going to go far," Dyer says. "All it takes is hard work and dedication."

Lateral Lunge
Benefits:
Strengthens the muscles on the outside of your hips [abductors and glutes] and provides an active stretch for the groin.
Starting Position: The bar is racked on your back. Use collars to hold the weight in place, because it can shift during the movement.
Movement: Step laterally, while simultaneously moving your hips in the direction you step. Once you plant your foot, squat down, leaning back on your heel. Attempt to get your thigh parallel to the ground. Push off of your plant foot; return to start position. Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg.

Single Leg Hamstring Bridge
Benefits:
Strengthens both the hamstrings and glutes, two of the most important muscles used in sprinting. Using just one leg at a time ensures that both legs receive the same amount of work.
Starting Position: Lie on the ground with the sole of one foot on a bench [you can also use a physioball]. When you're first learning this exercise, leave your hands on the floor. Once you're comfortable with it, cross your arms over your chest.
Movement: Pressing your foot into the bench, raise your hips off the floor until your shoulder, hip and knee are in a straight line. The muscles in your lower back, glutes and hamstrings will contract. Return to start position. Perform 2 sets of 12-15 reps on each leg.

Plate Twist
Benefits:
This full-body explosive rotation movement works the core as well as the arms, shoulders and legs.
Starting Position: Hold a 10- or 25-pound plate with both hands. Squat down, holding the plate at your right hip.
Movement: Rise out of the squat position, while rotating your body. Move the plate toward your left shoulder, keeping your arms as straight as possible. As you rotate your body, pivot your right foot. When you become proficient in the exercise, accelerate the plate across your body and decelerate it as you reach the top position. Return to start position. Perform 2-3 sets of 8 reps.

Medicine Ball Throws with Sprint
Benefits:
Builds explosive power and increases acceleration and reaction time.
Starting Position: Hold a 10- or 25-pound plate with both hands. Squat down, holding the plate at your right hip.
Movement: Perform this exercise outside or where you have room to sprint 10 to 15 yards. Hold a 10- to 12-pound medicine ball to your chest, like you're going to throw a chest pass in basketball.

Straight Leg Abs
Benefits:
Build strength in the abdominals and core.
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your arms extended in a T position and your legs raised.
Movement: Lower your legs, keeping them straight. Point your toes [like you would at the top of a Calf Raise] and contract your glutes while lowering your legs. Make sure you maintain contact between your lower back and the floor. As soon as your lower back separates from the floor, bend your knees and pull them in toward your stomach.
Finishing Position: Straighten your legs; begin the next repetition.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock