Strength/ weight training absolutely plays an important role. How much of a role it plays, however, as well as exactly what it entails, will depend on the age and level of physical development of the player.
A properly designed strength training program that targets the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors working together as a unit), as well as various unilateral (one sided ) exercises to help improve balance, stability and coordination, can do wonders to help guard against ACL injuries.
That said, proper attention must also be paid to dynamic warm-ups, instilling good running/ change of direction, mechanics and encouraging your athletes to stretch regularly and use a foam roller. As you can see, that can become a bit time consuming.
In terms of trying to establish a balance between actual lacrosse training and the types of things listed above, it's difficult to quantify and really depends on the age and ability level of the players in question.
Generally speaking, older more advanced players will be devoting more time to lacrosse with travel teams, school teams, camps, clinics and such. That combination can result in a lot of overuse of specific muscles and movement patterns- which makes strength training (as well as the other variables listed above) that much more important.
It's also a good idea to get younger players used to taking care of their bodies at an early age as well though. Granted, they may not be lifting weights and such, but doing body weight strengthening drills and working on developing good running mechanics, balance and coordination will only help them as they get older.
While each player is different, I would say that at the high school level 2-3 total body strength workouts per week would be a good rule of thumb. These could either be combined, or alternated with a couple of sessions specifically dedicated to speed and agility training. And of course, daily stretching and foam rolling.
Younger players can get by with a couple of workouts per week that focus mainly on body weight strengthening and then add in light resistance in the way of medicine balls, dumbbells, resistance bands etc., as they get stronger.
Thanks for the question. Let me know if you have any follow ups. I absolutely love this stuff and would be happy to help out!
How should a coach determine the ramp up rates during a practice? Obviously you should start slower and move to more rigorous workout patterns, but how should you do that in a one hour session? Is there a difference in pressing for 90 minute or two hour sessions?
Determining how to ramp up the rate of intensity during a practice session depends on a number of factors as well.
You have to consider things such as what point in the season you're in i.e. can't go too hard, too early if your athletes are not yet in peak condition. On the other hand, later in the season, when you're approaching your most important games and tournaments, you don't want to overwork them either.
Another big thing to think about is how well fueled and hydrated your kids are. After all, pre-pubescent and adolescent athletes aren't always great about eating and drinking the kinds of things they should to help them power through the day. By the time they get to your afternoon practice after a long day of school, they might be running on fumes.
As a coach, you may have a great practice plan laid out with specific exercises, sets, reps and rest intervals, but if your athletes can't keep pace, they won't be getting anything from it- except tired! So it really comes down to reading your athletes and always being aware of what point in the season you're in.
As far as practice duration, unless you're talking about older, more conditioned athletes, you should be able to get everything done in 60-75 minutes. This should allow for ample time for a thorough dynamic warm-up, drill explanation, coaching tips and proper rest intervals. If you go much longer than this, kids attention spans will start to wane.
Here's a sample pattern I would use with kids in the high school age bracket for a complete conditioning session. Keep in mind that these are just estimated durations for each segment that might have to be altered based on what I was seeing during the session:
1. Foam Rolling 5-7 minutes 2. Dynamic warm-up 15-20 minutes (yes, that long) 3. Agility work, neuromuscular development 8-12 minutes 4. Speed and Change of direction work 12-15 minutes 5. Total Body strength training (with mini bands, resistance bands, body weight etc.) 12-15 minutes 6. Coll down stretch, session wrap up, assigned homework stretches and handouts 5-7 minutes.
Total time approximately 57-76 minutes.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have further questions.
The pricing is based on the number of athletes and how many times per week they train.
Say you have 15 athletes. If they train once per week, it's $12.00 per athlete. If they train twice, it comes down to $10.00 per for each session.
A couple of things to keep in mind. This is not just me coming in to give the kids a "workout". What I offer is a complete training system, that incorporates lots of education about stretching, nutrition and other types of things they should be doing at home to help augment the the actual training.
I also offer a free demo session so that coaches, players and parents can all get a sense of how the system works.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail through my website, or at (516) 662-9717.
After competing it would be great to get kids re-hydrating and doing some stretching rather than just have them sitting in the car driving home. Problem is, parents may not want to stick around for another 15 minutes or so.
At the very least, if you could encourage them to do some stretching and foam rolling once they got home, that would be helpful as well.
Just remember, the stretching recommendations are mainly for those age 14-15 & up, that are beyond those peak growth spurt years. The younger ones- who should stay away from prolonged static stretching in general- should instead be encouraged to do some light dynamic stretching during the cooldown period.
Thanks for the response. We (parents on our team) talk about this since our coach (town team) does not do any post game cool out with the girls like some other teams and we wonder whether it is hurting the players.
The more that can be done to start changing the culture and get coaches buying into the importance of this kind of stuff, the better.
Considering all of the fall tournaments that are coming up, I think I may put together a "tournament checklist" article that will include lots of pertinent information on things like warm-ups, hydration guidelines, what to eat before, between and after games, stretching ideas etc.
I'll get working on putting something like this together. Stay tuned...
And remember to keep checking back for updates later this week, including the all new resource page that will have lots of great information including age appropriate warm-ups and strengthening guidelines, nutrition and hydration tips, as well as corrective exercise strategies to help kids achieve more structural balance to help improve athleticism.
Here's that article I promised. Definitely a must read for young athletes that have started, or are thinking about hitting the gym on a regular basis.
Gym (not so) Dandy An athlete's guide to surviving the weight room. by Mike Mejia CSCS
In recent years, athletes have started taking their fitness much more seriously- especially young athletes. Following the lead of both collegiate and professional players by realizing the impact that improving things like strength, endurance, and mobility can have on their performance, male and female players alike are hitting the gym in record numbers. And while I think it's great to see teens taking a more active role in their athletic development, some of the things I regularly notice them doing are at the very least, cause for concern.
Whether it's bodybuilding inspired workout programs that promote muscular imbalance, or gravitating towards machine based exercises that offer little in the way of helping to improve functional performance, many young athletes are unknowingly wasting their time and in the process, actually increasing their risk of injury!
In order to avoid this scenario, I thought it might be helpful to outline the following list of "rules" designed to help young athletes navigate their way through the weight room. By following these five simple tenets of athletic training, before long you should notice that you're having much more enjoyable and productive workouts. Oh yeah, and don't be too surprised if you also get a lot stronger, faster and more resistant to injury in the process.
1. Move it or lose it: It's a pretty simple premise: before you start loading an exercise with hundreds of pounds, be sure that you possess the ability to move through a full range of motion first. Yet, I still constantly see athletes who lack the hip and ankle mobility to do a proper body weight squat, immediately load heavy barbells onto their backs! Either that, or they're bench pressing more weight than a small automobile, despite the fact that they can barely lift heir arms up over their heads!
Throwing excessive loading onto joints that are already at least somewhat restricted simply doesn't make sense. Even if you don't experience any problems right away, sooner or later, it will catch up to you. And when it does, the results can be disastrous. So do yourself a favor and start working on improving mobility now with exercises like the squat to stand, and the wall slide. Each will do wonders for your ability to handle the types of loads you'll eventually need to make major improvements in things like strength, speed and power.
2. Stop worshipping your "mirror muscles": Sure ripped abs and bulging biceps may turn heads on the beach, but focusing on the muscles that you can't see in the mirror is what's going to get people's attention on the field. Instead of doing endless sets for your pecs, quads, biceps and abs, start making it a habit to prioritize the postural muscles of your upper and lower back, as well as the powerful hip extensors. By doing more exercises like deadlifts, stability ball leg curls, inverted rows and external rotations, you'll not only be working to create more balance around key joints like your shoulders and hips; helping to reduce your risk of injury, but you'll also be targeting some of the most important muscles (the glutes and hamstrings) when it comes to speed and power development.
3. Rage against the machine: When you're out on the field sprinting to get past an opponent, or fighting to win a face-off, your body doesn't move along some predetermined path, so why would you train that way? The fact is, resistance training machines, for the most part, offer a poor conditioning option for athletes. The few exceptions being things like Free Motion cable devices and Keiser pneumatic machines that allow for movement in a three dimensional plane- which is the way our bodies move in real life.
Sure, some machines make it easy to isolate specific muscle groups, which can help in situations when you're rehabbing from an injury, or addressing muscles imbalances. Aside from those instances though, most machines are at best a waste of time and at worst, actually contributing to your chances of getting hurt!
The Smith machine, the plate loaded leg press and the pec deck are the leaders of the pack in the latter category. Not at all a "safer" alternative to free weights, as they're often touted as being, these overly popular machines can place some serious strain on your joints. My advice: take a pass and stick to exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups and various multi-joint, upper body pushing and pulling movements (i.e. horizontal presses, rows, vertical presses and pull-up variations) instead.
4. Pump up the volume?: By volume, here I'm referring to the total volume of work being done as measured by reps and sets. In my experience, there's just way too much volume in the typical weight room approach- especially when said volume does little more than contribute to overtraining and imbalance.
Believe it or not, you don't need 3-4 sets of bench presses, followed by 3-4 sets of incline dumbbell presses, followed by 3-4 sets of dips and then a few sets of flys thrown in for good measure. That might be a fine chest workout if you're training to be Mr. Olympia, but for an athlete it's absolutely pointless!
When it comes to training volume, think less, not more. Strive for total body workouts that train movements- not just muscles. Think exercises like cleans, squats, various types of presses, core stabilization and rotary drills etc. As a general rule of thumb, depending on the goals of the particular type of training cycle that you're in (hypertrophy, strength, power etc.), your total workout volume really shouldn't exceed more than about 18-24 total sets. If you train like a bodybuilder as detailed above, that equates to maybe two body parts per workout- if you're lucky!
5. Use a variety of tools: Even when they do manage to steer away from machines, the majority of athletes I see training in gyms tend to be way too focused on free weights. Don't get me wrong; I'm a huge advocate of free weight training and definitely rely on it as the cornerstone of most of the programs that I design. It's just that we're living in an age where there are so many other viable training options available, it seems a shame not to take advantage of some of them. Whether it's stability balls to help develop core strength, BOSU's, wobble boards and other types of balance devices, body weight suspension trainers, or resistance bands, today's athletes have a seemingly endless array of tools that can help to sort of "fill in the cracks" where a typical free weight program falls short. They also offer a nice change of pace, by keeping workouts from getting stale.
In case you're unfamiliar with the proper usage of some of these devices, be on the lookout for my upcoming article series, where I'll be highlighting a different training aid in each installment. Until then, keep these rules in mind the next time you set foot in the gym and see how much different, and more productive your workouts become.
Nice article - so many players that make the transition from High School to College are not prepared in the weight room when it comes to building strength, particularly on the girls side. Wish there was more qualified training to teach junior and senior year players about the importance of weight room training for NCAA plsy.
Thanks for reading the article and for your comments!
I couldn't agree with you more. It's absolutely astonishing how many kids get completely blindsided when they get into a collegiate strength and conditioning program.
I see it all the time in a wide range of sports- including lacrosse. Whether it's because they're training the wrong way, or just not training period and relying on sheer athleticism, far too many young athletes get "thrown to wolves" when they have to start cleaning, benching, squatting etc. And you're right, much more of a problem with girls.
You've given me a good idea here. Perhaps there's something I can put together to address this issue.
The more that can be done to start changing the culture and get coaches buying into the importance of this kind of stuff, the better.
Considering all of the fall tournaments that are coming up, I think I may put together a "tournament checklist" article that will include lots of pertinent information on things like warm-ups, hydration guidelines, what to eat before, between and after games, stretching ideas etc.
I'll get working on putting something like this together. Stay tuned...
Coach Mike - As president of a town lacrosse program, and a town and travel team coach, I'd LOVE to have a checklist, like the one you describe above. I just started reading this thread, and so far, it's been great! I think the coaches at the town level can use all the help they can get, as many are simply dads, volunteering their time. Many have little to no formal training, especially when it comes to fitness, etc. Thank you very much.
Finally got around to finishing that tournament checklist article. Take a look and let me know if anyone has any questions.
Hope this helps!
Tourney Timing How to get ready heading into a big tournament. by Mike Mejia, CSCS
With the fall tournament season practically upon us, now is the perfect time make sure that your players have all the information and resources they need to compete at their best. Let's face it, the demands of playing multiple games over the course of a weekend can be daunting; especially for kids who've been spending more time acclimating to the school year, than honing their lacrosse skills. So, in addition to game planning and making sure all of their equipment needs are met, parents and coaches need to devote at least some time to addressing their athletes' physical preparation, as well as their nutrition and hydration status both leading up to, and during the event.
Realizing that you likely already have your hands full, I've put together the following "Tournament Checklist" that covers just about everything a young athlete needs to do heading into a big weekend competition. It doesn't matter if you're working with elite level high school players, or a bunch of little one's who are just learning the game, the information contained here on things such as proper warm-up strategies, pre-game meals, hydration guidelines and more, will definitely come in handy.
I've gone ahead and put these tips into chronological order, according to the way they would need to be addressed leading up to the tournament. Go through each one and see how your athletes stack up. Then simply make any necessary changes and note what happens. Chances are, both you and the athletes that you work with will have a much more productive and enjoyable experience.
1. Good nutritional habits should be followed as often as possible: Although this is more of a generic tip, I would be remiss if I didn't address it right off the top. While it's certainly important to eat a good breakfast the morning of the game (and I'll cover exactly what that entails in just a second), doing so isn't going to magically make up for any longstanding nutritional deficiencies. Kids need to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, get lots of high quality, low-fat protein sources throughout the day, drink adequate amounts of water and consume predominantly complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, potatoes and brown rice- on a regular basis. Not that they have to be perfect about their nutritional intake; they are after all just kids. Try to get them following an 80/20 split- where they're making an effort to follow the guidelines listed above about 80% of the time and can have a little more freedom with the other 20% of their dietary intake.
2. Game Day breakfast: Assuming that they are doing the right thing from a nutritional standpoint, what they eat the morning of a game can indeed have a major impact on their performance. As a general rule, you want to keep them away from high fat foods that take a long time to digest (i.e. bacon, sausage, eggs with lots of cheese etc.). You should also have them avoid high sugar foods and other types of carbohydrates that break down into sugar very quickly in the bloodstream. These include things like doughnuts, muffins, sugary cereals, white flour waffles and pancakes loaded with syrup, as well as plain white breads and bagels. Instead try and stick with whole grain versions, topped with things like fresh fruit, peanut butter and low fat cream cheese.
Here's a listing of some other more acceptable game day breakfast choices:
Yogurts (preferably Greek- due to their higher protein content) Oatmeal Eggs Low fat Turkey bacon/ sausage Cottage cheese with fruit Smoothies made with milk, yogurt and/ or fruit Lean sandwich meats (sliced turkey, chicken) on whole grain breads Nut butters Granola or Muesli
3. ALWAYS have your athletes do a full dynamic warm-up prior to each game: Once you get them to the field (hopefully after allowing at least an hour for proper digestion), make sure that your athletes go through a full dynamic warm-up prior to each game that they play. You can find an example in the video embedded on page one of this post.
Dynamic warm-ups are important because they help to properly prepare the muscles, connective tissue and central nervous system for upcoming physical activity. This business where we have kids just do a couple of static stretches immediately prior to explosive athletic movements has simply got to stop! It doesn't prepare their bodies properly, and can in fact increase their likelihood of injury.
4. Hydration Guidelines: Being properly warmed up and adequately fueled is a good start, but you also need to ensure that your athletes are hydrated as well. Young athletes are notorious for not drinking enough water and it can be a major problem when playing several games over the course of a weekend. Exactly how much should they be drinking and when? The following chart should help clarify things:
Pre & Post Game Hydration Guidleines
When to Drink Amount 2 Hours before 16 oz. 10 to 20 minutes before 8 oz. Every 10-15 minutes during activity 8 oz. After 20 oz. for every pound lost to rehydrate
One final word on hydration, Sports drinks are fine for activities lasting one hour in duration and offer a good way for athletes to replace electrolytes lost through perspiration. And speaking of electrolytes, coconut water can also serve as an excellent option here, as it hydrates even better than many of today's more popular sports drinks. Just make sure to also have some good old H2O on hand as well and avoid giving kids too much in the way of fruit juice due to the extremely high sugar content. You'll also want to keep them away from soda and any type of carbonated and or caffeinated drinks, as the carbonation can cause stomach discomfort and caffeine acts as a diuretic.
5. Warming down is often just as important as a warming-up: Think about for a second. After sprinting all over the field, making lots of rapid direction changes, absorbing and dishing out checks and unleashing countless shots on goal, is it a good idea for your athletes to immediately go find a spot and sit down until their next game starts? Of course not! Their bodies (and minds for that matter) need a chance to get out of "competition mode" to allow them to adequately rest and refuel.
Having them do a slightly lower intensity version of their pre-game dynamic warm-up would be a great idea. Just five to ten minutes of some light jogging interspersed with a few dynamic flexibility drills is an excellent way to avoid cramping, by gradually allowing their muscles to cool down. This will also help redistribute blood flow away from the extremities (arms and legs) and back towards central circulation to aid in the digestion of any between game snacks, or meals.
5. Between game snack/ meal ideas: As far as what they should be eating between games, once again you want to keep the focus on healthier food options and stay away from anything that's too high in fat, or sugar. This is where packing up a cooler the night before comes in handy. Because as convenient as they may be, the food choices offered at most tournaments leaves a lot to be desired from a nutritional standpoint. Things like hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries for instance, will just sit in kids' stomachs like lead. While things like ice cream, cookies and candy will get them hopped up on sugar for a short while, only to have their energy levels crash shortly thereafter.
Among the more acceptable choices here are things like granola bars, fruit, peanut butter and jelly, or turkey/ chicken sandwiches on whole grain breads, trail mix, whole wheat pretzels and chocolate milk.
6. Keep them moving between games with low level physical activity: Once they've gotten something to eat and had a chance to relax and rehydrate, get them up doing some low level activity to keep their blood flowing and reflexes sharp. Tossing a football or frisbee around, or passing a soccer ball are great ways to keep them active without tiring them out, and give them a nice way to work on hand-eye coordination between games. Not to mention the fact that it keeps them from just sitting there and texting away on their smart phones!
7. Post game nutrition: Once the last game of the day has been played, your thoughts should turn towards getting your athletes properly fueled for the next day's competition. The main things they'll need here are some protein, as well as some good complex carbohydrates. Excellent choices include things like grilled chicken with pasta, steak with either mashed, or a baked potato, as well as macaroni and cheese, and even pizza and chicken fingers in moderation. Although those last few items may seem more like "junk food", remember that they are still just kids and will be looking forward to eating some of the things they love after a tough day of playing. With choices like these, they'll at least be getting some nutrient value (i.e. protein from the chicken and cheese and carbs from the pasta, breading and crust), while at the same time, satisfying their taste buds.
You also want to try and work some vegetables into the equation for fiber and some extra nutrients, and should of course encourage them to drink plenty of water. About the only things you want to stay away from during this period are really high fat food options that are difficult to digest and don't offer a lot of nutritional value. Allowing them to pig-out on massive quantities of french fries, onion rings, hot dogs and hamburgers will probably not bode well for the next day's competition. Neither for that matter will allowing them to skip meals, or trying to pass off things like ice cream, chips or popcorn as "dinner".
I realize that there's quite a bit of information here, so I don't expect you to be able to enforce all of it at once. Even if you pick just one thing- like having your athletes start incorporating dynamic warm-ups, or getting them more aware of the importance of proper hydration- it will be a step in the right direction. The main thing I want parents and coaches to take away from this is that there's a lot more to tournament preparation than just having kids show up at the field on game day with sticks in hand. Getting them more educated about the things they need to do to take proper care of their bodies- even at an early age- will only serve to benefit them throughout their athletic career.
The popularity of things like Crossfit and bootcamp style workouts has definitely filtered down to youth athletic level. Here's part one of a recent article I did for Inside Lacrosse on why that might not be such a good idea:
Unhappy Campers Why young athletes and boot camp workouts don't mix. by Mike Mejia CSCS
With the popularity of lacrosse at an all-time high, more and more players are looking for ways to stand out from the competition. This has invariably led to a growing number of teens hitting the gym in an effort to improve things like strength, speed and power. And while there are a variety of ways that young athletes can train to achieve these objectives, "boot camp" style workouts should not be among them.
Easily one of the hottest trends in the fitness industry, boot camp classes are turning up just about everywhere these days. You'll find them offered at local gyms, outdoors in parks, and even in specially designed facilities stocked with truck tires, plyo boxes and other alluring types of equipment.
Yet, despite their undeniable popularity, there's plenty of reasons to be wary of this ultra high-intensity approach to fitness- especially if you're a young athlete. Sure, they'll give you a "good workout", but at what cost? Do you think, perhaps, that the constant overuse of specific muscles, combined with what is often faulty technique, might actually increase your likelihood of injury? Or, are you one of the many who buy into the hype that training this way will give you the ultimate edge on the playing field?
Count me amongst the former group. I've seen enough of this type of training over the past several years to know that it's not something I'd recommend for developing young bodies. I don't care whether it's labeled as boot camp, Crossfit, or any other slick marketing term meant to lure in impressionable young athletes, the end product is usually the same: tons of overuse with an almost blatant disregard for proper form.
Rather than just randomly bash this popular workout style, though, I'm going to break down exactly how I feel it comes up short. Then, in part two of this article I'll offer up an alternative approach that's both safer and more effective.
Quantity over Quality:
One of the biggest problems I have with this type of training is that more often than not, how much you do takes precedence over how well you're able to do it. As I just mentioned, I've seen plenty of these classes in action over the years. And while it's true that some instructors do a much better job of monitoring their students than others, it's tough to keep an eye on everyone and maintain a certain pace to the workout when you're dealing with what are often large groups.
Invariably, you're going to get a few sloppy reps here and there, and it only takes one wrong move for someone to get hurt. This holds especially true for teens; many of whom have very limited training experience to begin with. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid injury, though, doing exercises with poor form just to keep up with the pace of the workout, instills bad exercise habits that can set the stage for problems down the road.
Take the use of Olympic lifts and plyometric exercises in these types of workouts, for example. When done with proper technique, they offer some of the best ways imaginable to improve explosive strength and power. That is, provided of course you also stay within a repetition range deemed to be most effective in helping to bring about these types of improvements. The fact is, the average person simply won't be able to maintain proper technique for 10, 15, or even 20 reps (and sometimes more!) of these types of drills.
They're far too technically and metabolically demanding for that! If you think I'm wrong, watch someone the next time they do a high-rep set of box jumps and see if those landings don't start getting louder as they get up past the 8-10 rep range. Or better yet, watch the bar speed of someone doing a power clean drop precipitously as they get further and further into the set! And trust me, when the fatigue starts to build, form usually goes downhill in a hurry!
Besides, even if you are well conditioned enough to somehow hold proper form for high reps, you'll essentially be negating any explosive benefits that could have been derived from doing these exercises in the first place. In fact, you'll actually make yourself less explosive by teaching your body to move more slowly! And for what? Just to be able to say that you endured doing X number of cleans, or plyo jumps, or those ridiculous "kipping" pull-ups (don't even get me started on those) in a specified time? Congratulations! Maybe you can mention that to your opponent the next time they go blowing past you!
Hurst so good?
Jarring landings atop plyo boxes and using subpar form during Olympic lifts aren't the only ways that boot camps beat up your body. Take something as seemingly innocent as the Burpee. This body weight exercise and boot camp staple can either be a brutally effective conditioning drill, or an injury waiting to happen. It all depends on how you do it.
If you're able to drop down lightly and quickly into a squat without bouncing, kick back into (and hold for a split second) a proper push-up position, kick back into a squat and then hop back up, these may be to your liking. Unfortunately, this is seldom how Burpees are done.
More often than not, what you see are people bouncing down into the squat position and then allowing their hips and head to drop as they kick back into the push-up position (yeah, that's great for your spine). Then it's one more jarring slam to the knees as they kick in and attempt to get back up. Oh yeah, and did I mention they're then expected to repeat that same sequence at least a dozen more times!
But wait, there's more! I haven't even mentioned how imbalanced these workouts tend to be. Chuck-full of all sorts of push-up and pull-up variations, there's certainly no shortage of internal rotation dominance going on. Meaning that over time, this style of training can wreak havoc on your posture by causing the shoulders to pull forwards. Throw in what is often a heavy abdominal focus with lots of crunches, sit-ups and the like and it won't be long before you're sporting the posture of a shrimp!
As far as the lower body is concerned, all of the squatting and lunging that's called for can put some serious strain on your knees- especially if you're overusing your quads in favor of those often underworked glutes and hamstrings. But hey, what's a little muscle imbalance in the name of a great workout! Right?
Instead of trying to prove what a bad-[lacrosse] you are by testing the limits of what your body can endure, why not opt for a much more sensible approach. Trust me, you're still going to work hard! You'll just be doing so in a way that eliminates a lot of unnecessary orthopedic stress.
In part two of this article, I'll show you a sequence of exercises designed to give you an excellent conditioning stimulus, while at the same time, stressing the kind of balanced development an athlete needs to help steer clear of injuries. So be sure to give them a try- just don't be too surprised if after doing so, you decide to give the more traditional approach boot camp training the "boot".
Unhappy Campers Part II The Anti Boot Camp Workout by Mike Mejia CSCS
In part one of this article, I filled you in on why I think boot camp style workouts aren't the best option for young athletes. So, in this second installment, I've put together a group of exercises designed to give you the kind of conditioning stimulus boot camps are known for- just without all of the overuse and orthopedic stress.
After going through a full dynamic warm-up, do each drill for the prescribed number of repetitions and then immediately proceed to the next one. Then, once you've completed them all, rest for 90-120 seconds and repeat the entire circuit. Aim for 2-3 rounds, depending on your current level of fitness.
One word of caution: before you just dive right into the workout, be sure to read the exercise descriptions, as well as the reasons behind why each drill was selected. This will help you gain an appreciation for how to put your own workout together in the future, based on the program objectives.
Hang Clean to split jerk: x 6 reps
Purpose: Increase explosive strength and power. Low reps target the appropriate energy system and help ensure fatigue doesn't negatively impact technique.
Execution: Stand holding a barbell at arms length in front of your thighs, slightly wider than shoulder's width. Begin by quickly driving you hips back and bending your knees until you reach a quarter squat position. Then, drive the hips forward as you simultaneously shrug the bar upwards to initiate the pull. When the bar is up about chest height, with your hips, knees and ankles fully extended, quickly drop under the bar and "catch" it across the front of your shoulders. Stand back up, and then in one rapid motion, push the weight up overhead as you drive one leg forward to land in the split position. Lower the bar back to the shoulders, then flip it back down across the thighs and repeat- this time driving the opposite leg forward as you press the weight up.
TRX row: x 10-12 reps
Purpose: Strengthen the scapular stabilizers of the upper back to help guard against shoulder injuries. Required position also engages the lower body and core.
Execution: Grab onto a TRX suspension trainer that's attached to a sturdy overhead anchoring point. After properly positioning yourself by walking your feet forward until you feel enough resistance, begin by pinching your shoulder blades together to initiate the pull. Continue pulling with your arms until your elbows drive past your torso and your hands line up next to your chest. Hold for a second, lower and repeat.
Multi-directional Lunge: x 4-5 rounds
Purpose: Increases hip mobility and builds deceleration strength for better change of direction.
Execution: From a standing position, begin by lunging forward until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is almost touching it. Push back up and then lunge forward at a 45 degree angle with the same leg. After pushing back up, lunge out directly to the side with the same leg, making sure that your foot and knee point forward. Next, take a lunge step 45 degrees behind you, making sure to keep your torso as upright as possible. Finally, lunge straight back behind you, until your front thigh is again parallel to the ground, and back knee almost touches it. After pushing back up one more time, you now have the option of repeating the entire sequence again from the beginning, or switching legs.
* You can hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length to increase the difficulty.
Push-up with elevation change: x 8-10
Purpose: Increases core and shoulder stability while cutting down on the amount of repetitive motion associated with doing too many push-ups.
Execution: Start in a plank position with your weight resting on your forearms and the balls of your feet, with your core held in a neutral position. With your feet positioned about shoulder's width apart, begin by bracing your core and getting up into a push-up position, one arm at a time. As you do this, try to keep your hips and lower back as sill as possible. Once in position, do a controlled push-up and then lower back down into the plank one arm a time. Now start with the other arm and once again, get back up into a push-up position. Continue for the prescribed number of reps.
Unilateral Romanian Deadlift and Reverse fly combination x 6-8 per leg
Purpose: Builds strength in the posterior chain and upper back, while simultaneously working on balance and stability through the hip, knee and ankle.
Execution: Stand Balancing on one leg with a pair of light dumbbells in your hands. Begin by putting a slight bend in the working leg, and doing a "hip hinge" by bending over forward at the waist. As you lower yourself over, keep your torso nice and long and lift your back leg behind you, while simultaneously pinching your shoulder blades and working your arms up into a reverse fly position. When your torso is just about parallel to the floor and your arms held out to the sides at shoulder's height, pause for a second, then press your heel into the ground to stand back up as you lower the dumbbells. You may then either continue on the same leg, or alternate until you've completed the prescribed number of reps with each.
Band Woodchop: x 10-12 per side
Purpose: Builds rotary strength in the core without putting unnecessary strain on the lower back.
Execution: Stand aside a sturdy object with a resistance band attached to it. Grab the band and step out enough so you have enough resistance on it. With your feet about shoulder's width apart, knees slightly bent and arms extended across the front of your body over your shoulder, begin by bracing your core and rotating down to one side. As you do this, turn your entire torso and hips by pivoting the hip further away from the side you're turning to i.e. if you're turning left, pivot your right hip. In the finish position, your arms should remain extended with your hands just outside your opposite thigh. Hold for a second and then return to the start position and repeat.
Pull-up Burpee combo: x 8-10
Purpose: Improves overall conditioning level and pulling strength, while allowing you to concentrate on proper technique for each exercise. Be sure to maintain a controlled pace as the metabolic demand will be high. There's no need for rushing here.
Execution: Stand beneath a pull-up bar and make sure you have some open space behind you. Begin by reaching up and grabbing, or jumping up to the bar and do a single pull-up. Next, lower or drop down, and do one burpee by quickly descending into a squat, kicking back into a push-up position, kicking back in and popping back up. Go into your next pull-up and continue this sequence until you've completed 8-10 reps of each (or as many as you can with proper form).
So there you go. Seven challenging exercises in their own right, that when combined, make up one of the toughest conditioning circuits you'll ever attempt. Yet despite the level of difficulty, you can rest assured knowing that you'll not only be getting a great workout, but you'll also be doing plenty to improve your athleticism and protect your body from injury.
Here's a different take on pre-game warm-ups that I did a few months ago. It involves warming up along what are known as myofascial lines.
So coaches, if you don't have time to out your athletes through a full dynamic warm-up, at the very least have them do something like this:
Hope this helps,
Mike - The information you're posting on here is unbelievably helpful, and well-presented. You've covered some topics in depth, and others in very simple terms, which is great, depending on who's reading it! As president of a large youth lacrosse organization, I'm planning to pass along many of your ideas to our coaches, on both the boys and girls side. Many of our coaches are dads, with no formal training, especially when it comes to fitness, conditioning, warmups, etc. Thanks again!
Thanks for the kind words. And believe me, it's my pleasure to help get this kind of information out there!
I have plenty more stuff to post in the upcoming weeks. Beyond that, keep in mind that I do give presentations to groups such as your on a wide variety of topics. So, if you'd like to plan an event for your organization, just let me know.
Thanks again for taking the time to read my posts.
Are there any special considerations that you would highlight for players staying sharp with indoor winter training (box lacrosse, leagues, practices)? Does the warm-up process vary when you have constant motion and action with "off the wall" lacrosse?
Because the game is so different from field lacrosse, especially in terms of the need for more quick changes of direction and shorter, generally more intense shifts, if anything I would lean towards lengthening the warm-up period.
Besides just increasing body temperature and blood flow, I would want to make sure to that the warm-up devoted enough attention to increasing both ankle and hip mobility, to prepare athletes for all of the direction changes.
I would also want to make sure that nervous system activation was especially high, given the increased need for quick reactions and split second timing. This can be achieved by including some "quick feet" and reaction time drills using things like an agility ladder, or having athletes perform rapid lines hops etc.
Having them do some tennis ball reaction drills would also be a good idea here. A coach could stand several feet in front of two athletes holding a tennis ball in each hand at shoulder's height. Athletes would then adopt a "ready" position and as soon as they saw the balls drop, they would sprint forward and each would try to retrieve their ball on just one bounce.
Another good drill you can try in your warm-up is sprints from non-ready positions. Because of the increased contact experienced during box lacrosse, players are even more apt to be knocked to the ground. Having them work on getting back up as quickly as possible and sprinting into the play can be a great way to prep them for game action.
Have players lie face down on the ground and then get up and sprint on either a visual, or audible signal. You can also have them try it laying flat on their back. It's a really effective drill and kids love it.
I hope this helps. Thanks again for your question. Keep them coming!
I just sent out the latest version of the BASE newsletter. It's packed with lots of great info including: what to look for in a trainer for young athletes, signs of iron deficiencies in kids and I even answer a common question about weight training for female athletes.
Here's a brand new article series I just started about the importance of training those lesser-used muscle groups. I thought some of you might find it interesting:
Sweat the Small Stuff Training smaller muscles groups can lead to big gains. by Mike Mejia, CSCS
Lacrosse, like many sports, is a game of inches. Sometimes being half a step quicker, or having the ability to shoot just a little bit harder, can be the difference between you ending up as the hero, or the goat. This is exactly why coaches are always preaching about the importance of doing "all the little things" to make yourself a better athlete. So, why is it then that when many of you hit the gym, you devote almost all of your time to training your biggest, strongest muscle groups?
Don't get me wrong, exercises like squats, dead lifts, presses and Olympic lifts should indeed comprise the bulk of your program. It's just that seeing as how a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, you're going to need to spend at least some time training those smaller muscle groups that often get neglected. Here, I'm referring to things like the muscles surrounding your neck, wrists and ankles, as well as the chronically underworked medial glutes.
Deficiencies in one, or more of these areas can set the stage for injuries that can keep you sidelined indefinitely, regardless of how "big and strong" you might be. So, in this first installment of a four part series, I'll be showing you some great strengthening exercises for your neck.
Given the dramatic rise in head injuries in recent years, you'd think that neck strengthening exercises would be given greater priority in the athletic conditioning hierarchy. After all, not every concussive injury is the result of a direct blow to the head. Often times a hard upper body check can cause a whiplash like effect that can result in mild trauma to the brain. And while it's true that having a stronger neck may not completely prevent this type of situation, it stands to reason that it would at least help reduce both it's severity and occurrence.
The following five exercises offer a quick, easy way to address this critically important area. Done a couple of times per week, they'll not only help increase the strength and stability of your neck, but they can also help improve posture in general. Start out with just one set of 6-10 repetitions of each of the drills shown below- making sure not to add any additional resistance until you can easily perform two sets per.
Here's one last article and video for 2012. Hope you all find it useful!
Sweat the Small Stuff Part II: The Wrists by Mike Mejia, CSCS
In part one of this series, I wrote about the importance of strengthening the muscles that surround the neck, as a means of helping reduce head trauma from intense hits, as well as promoting better overall postural alignment. This time around we'll move down the body a bit to the wrists. Though often overlooked, having good mobility and strength in the muscles surrounding your wrists is crucial in a sport like lacrosse. Not just because of the important role they play in cradling, facing off and shooting; having a strong grip so that you can hold on to your stick is absolutely essential to you being able to even do any of these things in the first place!
So, in this second installment of my series, I'll be showing you some great mobility drills, strengthening exercises and stretches for the muscles surrounding your wrists. If you thought wrist curls and reverse wrist curls were the be all, end all of forearm training, you're in for a big surprise! Check out the video below and if you have any questions or comments, be sure to drop me an e-mail at Mike@basesportsconditioning.com
Found a great post that I wanted to share from renowned strength and conditioning coach MIke Boyle.
I love doing plyometric work with athletes (so long as they've been properly progressed physically and possess the coordination, strength and mobility to execute them effectively), but always cringe when I see kids jumping up onto huge boxes and platforms.
Coach Boyle does a great job of explaining why this is such a bad idea:
Check out part three on my "Sweat the Small Stuff" series. Make sure you don't overlook those hip abductors!
Sweat the Small Stuff Part II: The Hip Abductors by Mike Mejia, CSCS
If you've been following along with this series from the beginning, by now you should have a pretty good sense that the exercises it features aren't your typical weight room fare. In fact, some may have already earned you some rather confused looks from your fellow gym rats. Don't worry; this is a good thing. It means that you have enough common sense to not just blindly copy what everyone else is doing and instead, take a real interest in keeping your body properly balanced to help avoid injury.
In keeping with that theme, we'll continue working our way down the body towards the hips. Aside from the powerful gluteus maximus and hip flexor muscles, there are also some smaller, lesser known muscles that play a major roll in helping keep your knees in proper alignment during exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges; as well as while you're out on the field sprinting and making raid changes of direction. Chief among these are your medial glutes- which are responsible for taking your leg out away from the midline of your body.
Failing to spend at least some time strengthening this decidedly unglamorous area, can set you up for all sorts of problems down the road. For starters, weakness in these muscles can adversely affect the ability of your knees to "track" properly- causing widespread misalignment during weighted exercises in the gym, as well as when landing from jumps and other explosive movements while you''re playing. Reason enough why you'll want to incorporate drills like the one's featured in the video below into your training regimen several times per week.
Here's the final installment of my series "Sweat the Small Stuff", dealing with ankle mobility. Hope you find it useful.
Sweat the Small Stuff Part IV: Ankle Mobility by Mike Mejia CSCS
As we come to the final installment of this series, my hope is that it's given you an appreciation for the tremendous impact that training some of the lesser-worked areas of your body can have on your overall athleticism. Although it may not be as glamorous as doing things like heavy squats, flipping tires and flinging medicine balls, making a concerted effort to strengthen your neck, and deep hip musculature, as well as improving mobility around your ankles and wrists, can go a long way towards improving performance and preventing injury.
Take the present topic for instance. Ankle mobility (or more accurately, a lack thereof) is a huge problem for many young athletes. When you lack proper range of motion (and strength) of the area surrounding the ankle joint, you leave yourself much more susceptible to injury. This holds especially true in a sport like lacrosse with all of its quick starts, stops and rapid changes of direction.
The important thing to realize, however, is that while ankle mobility has gotten the lion's share of the attention in recent years, as an athlete, you also need a certain amount of stability to exist in the joint as well. After all, it does you no good to have an ankle that's hyper-mobile which can lead to more frequent strains and sprains; yet you also don't want the joint to be so stable that it makes it difficult to move efficiently.
So in essence, there's really a continuum that exists between ankle mobility and stability that is constantly changing, depending on the types of movements that you're executing at the time. In the videos that follow, you'll find a variety of drills designed to address this fact.
After starting off with a great drill to improve soft tissue quality, I'll go on to show you one of my favorite ways to increase range of motion around the joint, that you can do right on the field as part of your pre-game warm-up. I'll also feature some easy to execute, yet brutally effective strengthening drills that will help lessen your likelihood of suffering an ankle injury.
In the end, I think you'll find that adding these drills to your current training program a few times per week will pay huge dividends. After a while you should find that you're not only moving faster and with greater efficiency on the field, but you should also see an improved ability to perform exercises like squats, olympic lifts and various types of lunges when training in the gym.
Not bad for targeting an area that many of you may have previously regarded as being relatively insignificant.
Strength & Conditioning 101 College prep isn't confined to the classroom. by Mike Mejia CSCS
Now that spring sports have started up, high school seniors are undoubtedly looking forward to finishing their varsity careers on a high note. And while graduation will signal the end of competitive athletics for most, others will move on to compete at the collegiate level. It's what awaits them there that's often the problem.
Besides having to deal with homesickness, intense academic demands and fitting in socially, incoming freshman athletes will also get their first taste of a collegiate level strength and conditioning program. For a few, this won't pose much of a problem; as they'll have trained intensely for several years leading up to this point. For others though, it will prove to be the ultimate reality check.
It's one thing to excel athletically at the high school level, where commitment to physical conditioning runs the gamut from "gym rat" to "forget that". Once you get to college though, keeping yourself in the best shape possible is considered a prerequisite to even being able to step onto the playing field.
In my years as a strength and conditioning coach to high school aged athletes, I've seen this more times that I care to remember. Talented kids, with absolutely no work ethic when it comes to putting in their gym time. It's a phenomenon that holds especially true for female athletes, who ironically often need this kind of training as much, if not more than their male counterparts, due to an increased propensity for injury.
Many avoid the weight room and track like the plague, fearing it will "bulk them up", content to let practices and game participation serve as their sole means of keeping fit. Imagine their surprise when they show up for the first day of workouts with their college team, only to be thrust right into a 4-5 day per week program chuck-full of Olympic lifting, plyometrics and heavy weight training!
They're not the only one's who get caught off guard, though. Many of the aforementioned "gym rats" also struggle; do in large part to the fact that the bodybuilding inspired training most teens tend to favor is nowhere near adequate preparation for the likes of cleans, tire flipping, battle ropes and the other forms of functional training that are such a big part of collegiate strength and conditioning programs today.
Add in the fact that all of this is typically accompanied by a radical increase in practice intensity and it's easy to see why so many freshmen struggle. There is a way to avoid this scenario, however and get yourself prepped and ready for whatever your college strength coach will throw your way!
1. Improve mobility around the ankles, hips and shoulder girdle: One of the easiest ways to get hurt in the gym is attempting to execute Olympic lifts, or other advanced free weight exercises when you're tight as a drum! Lacking the lower body mobility to get down into a proper squat, or being unable to get the bar in a good "rack" position during cleans is a recipe for trouble. So, before you just start loading up, take the time to increase your range of motion with some non-traditional mobility drills specifically designed to address these areas. The high kneeling hip flexor and thoracic mobilization, shoulder dislocates, barbell roll unders and the dowel ankle mobility drill are a few that immediately spring to mind.
2. Strengthen everything you can't see: Protecting your shoulders, lower back and knees from all of that heavy weight and increased practice intensity requires strengthening everything on the back side of your body. This will lead to much more balanced physical development and better structural support for your joints. Be sure to include plenty of rowing variations, reverse flys, glute ham raises and other exercises that target these often neglected areas. I'm especially fond of drills like the squat to row and the TRX unilateral squat with reverse fly, that work lots of muscle mass by combining several motions at once. They also work on integrating the movements of the hips core and shoulder girdle.
*For a video of the drills mentioned above, make sure to check out our facebook page early next week!
3. Gradually increase the volume of your workouts: You can't go from hitting the weight room 0-2 days per week and jump right into training 4-5. Start out slowly and look to increase your workout volume over time. If you're currently training 2 days per week for 45 minutes at a time, shoot for three for the next few weeks. Then, try and extend the workout duration to a full hour for a while, before adding a fourth day and so on. Even if you're currently not doing anything besides playing your sport, if you start now, by the time September rolls around you should be ready for just about anything.
Keep your eyes open for a special program coming to B.A.S.E. this summer that's specifically geared towards helping high school seniors prepare themselves for training in college!
Far beyond a simple workout, this interactive program will provide student athletes with a learning environment, where they'll gain in depth knowledge on topics including:
Improving flexibility and mobility Strength and power training Proper postural mechanics Speed development and agility training Optimizing nutritional habits Improving soft tissue quality and more!
So, be sure to check the B.A.S.E. website for updates, as well as the program start date!