| | Power Approach to Lacrosse Training

Author / John

Power-Athlete-Lacrosse-Training-MarymountThis week marks the kick-off of the 2015 college lacrosse season across the country, including my boys in blue.  As America’s true pastime, lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and with 350 NCAA teams, more and more kids are presented with an opportunity to play at the next level.

I’ve witnessed Praxis in its purest form countless times from athletes who couldn’t tell their ass from their elbow in the weight room, but once they had a stick in their hand, get out of way.  The amazing display of athletic creativity in every face-off, possession, and shot on goal needs to be at the forefront when building a strength and conditioning program for lacrosse.

While more football players are finding the sport, lacrosse still lacks football’s weight training emphasis.  However, like football, lacrosse coaches without strength and conditioning programs apply practices they were exposed to during their college years.  Unfortunately, this fallacy will lead to sub-optimal results and potentially stunt a player’s athletic development.

Power-Athlete-lacrosse-training-chris-mcquilkinWhile the training demands of lacrosse may appear to be endurance, agility, and footwork; demands that win games are being neglected.  This article will present key lacrosse-specific components to strength and conditioning for athletes to develop size, gain a step, and hone the X-factor.

Disclaimer:  I was no All-American, and like any other d-middie, I was hidden on every stat sheet of every game.  I have more career knock-outs than goals.  But I’ve traveled the world meeting and working with the best strength minds in the world, and with every lesson learned my first thought was always how I could apply the tools to the game I love.
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You Gotta Build Armor

While finesse is crucial, the physicality of the game is often underestimated- your body takes a beating over the season.  Dan John said it best on a recent Power Athlete Radio, “you gotta build armor.”  Building armor is not only adding strength and size, but also realigning and educating bodies to reduce the forces of the game.

Going into college, I was one of few athletes on the team with any lifting experience.  Since then, not much has changed – to say the lacrosse weight training scene is lacking would be a severe understatement.

Solution: CrossFit Football’s Amateur Program.  This linear progression is unmatched for taking high school and college athletes to new heights in size, strength, and power.  The program focuses on accelerated adaptation while allowing athletes to train or practice the next day, all the while developing individual Swagger.  More on that below.

While bulking up protects an athlete from contact injury, there are other dangers on the field.  The athletic creativity and increased speed of the game from recent shot clock and box changes has raised the risk of injury as well.  These demands must be addressed in comprehensive off-season, pre-season, and in-season training programs.  Building power ankles, steel hips, and preventing ACL injuries (see our recent ACL Injury Prevention series) are key to keeping laxers on the field.  Combined with the Amateur Program, you have yourself one solid strength and conditioning program.

Power-Athlete-lacrosse-training-thompson-brothersCalculate To Dominate – Force Application

While peak strength, power, and speed is the difference between all-conference and all-American, an athlete will not need to display these every time the ball is in their stick or they line up against an opponent.  An athlete must make calculated, instinctive decisions for the amount of force per task on the field.  Not every shot needs to be max effort.  Not every drive on a player’s hip needs to be executed like a 1RM power clean.  How can an athlete practice applying ranges of force?  Force Application Training.

This component to training lacrosse players was first introduced in our Pre-Practice Protocols.  This is not blind justification for non-stop, sub-maximal training.  Athletes must still push their strength, power and speed thresholds.  However, used wisely, Force Application Training helps them practice task-specific force.  I have found it most effective to include these during every warm up before practice, before plyos (intramuscular coordination) or volume runs (lactic acid primer).

Speed Kills – Train The Top End

At best, long distance running is sub-optimal preparation for the demands of the current state of Lacrosse, as it takes away from the speed of the game.  Playing lacrosse prepares players for lacrosse, as not much else can truly prepare athletes for the game changing moments, bursts of quickness, and speed of transitions.  Thus, turn that pavement time into expansion-of-speed-time by implementing top end change of direction and linear speed into training.

Speed improvement occurs within a much narrower intensity range than strength and endurance.  Maximal strength improvements occur within the 80-100% intensity range.  By contrast, speed improvement only occurs at intensities over 95% of objective performance, not perceived effort.  Therefore, to maintain true intensity and drive a speed adaptation, there must be a full recovery between runs.

Replicating speed is essential to success in lacrosse, but without raising the top end bar, the replicated speed will not be optimal for performance.  The body’s ability to tolerate sprinting at the necessary intensity to drive a speed adaptation is very limited, so a balance of intensity runs, volume training and practice is required.  Linear sprint distances will be position specific, but max-effort short COD is all-inclusive.

Training top end speed also aids in injury prevention through stretching the hips and hamstrings in a manner impossible to replicate at lower intensities or during cool down stretches.  If a player gets into an all-out sprint situation in on the field without having trained full ROM at true intensity for their hamstrings, the results could be drastic.

Hobart-lacrosse-power-athlete-lacrosse-trainingEmpower Your Performance – Swagger

I believe Swagger and the culture of a team is cast in the weight room.  Even with a despised head sport coach or off-field conflicts, a team can still come together and build the ‘win’ mentality in training.  If done correctly, a strength coach can leverage Swagger to position a team to become an athlete-led, mutually accountable unit.

From freshman to senior year, the team dynamic and human development are extremely intricate and unique in each locker room.  Despite this, the weight room becomes the common place to fail, suffer, and fortify not only individual confidence, but confidence in the man fighting next to him.

Individual Swagger is developed during the CFFB Amateur’s steady gains, corresponding lessons, and self-discovery.  This program prepares for the countless reps and concept of perfection every lacrosse coach demands from their athlete, regardless of position.  After awhile, the barbell fights back.  Whether an athlete is feeling their best or like a bag of mashed up assholes, they must still execute – just like on the field.  Swagger is built on the days an athlete feels the most beat up – mentally, physically, or both.  Getting them under the bar puts them at a mental toughness crossroads at which they decide how it will be.  Will the bar win, or will they adapt, overcome, and execute just as they’ll need to on Game Day?

Shared Suffering
Most coaches put athletes in a shared-suffering, grinding conditioning situation, which undoubtedly brings a team closer together, but that very grind takes away from strength, power, and game-changing speed development.  Fuck that.  Be a performance whore. There are better ways to build leadership and camaraderie.

How can one create shared suffering with torpedoing performance?  Isometric holds and lactic acid tolerance training.  No athlete can hide from active iso-holds like Dead bugs, pillars, and inchworm walk out holds.  See who leads, who quits, and who disappears up their own ass under stress.  Lactic acid tolerance training will not dtract from speed expansion. For details, check out this article, Lactic Tolerance.

Mutual Accountability
Instilling a law of mutual accountability in the weight room allows an athlete to support and push during teammate’s big lifts, while quickly executing their own, just like they’ll have to on the field.  Have athletes spot each other for every rep, even if it is the bar.  Encourage chatter in the weight room that is positive and energetic, just as their coach will expect on the sidelines during games.  Use other tools like manual resistance and force application exercises.  They’re in close contact and one’s effort depends on the others…just like Game Day.

power-athlete-lacrosse-training-kean-collegeIron Sharpens Iron

Stop making your lacrosse players run long, slow distances through the neighborhood hills on roads that aren’t even fit for cars.  Practice is conditioning.  If you fear your athletes will gas out during the first game, make your practices more intense.  Nothing will prepare them for the metabolic demands of that first game, so spend more time building armor, expanding speed, and forging a team in the weight room.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Slager on February 17, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I wish we had an S&C program like this when I was playing. We basically just did P90X and mile repeats. I got in great long-distance shape, but playing long pole is all about speed and power. Thanks for the read and good luck this season @mcquilkin.

    • Tex McQuilkin on February 18, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Don’t start with the, “wish I had this..”‘s. All of our performances lacked from too many miles and sport coaches making us run until they puked. Put an end to this and pass this article along to any coaches you know in the game!

  2. difiore24 on February 18, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Might need to get a membership just to finish this article. I’m a former collegiate lacrosse player and current strength coach and high school lacrosse coach whose main clients are lacrosse players. CrossFit Football is exactly what these guys need. We’ve had a great results putting 8th graders and freshman through the Amateur Progression and continue to implement CrossFit Football workouts on a daily basis as these guys get ready for season. The difference on the field for guys with 6+ months experience in the weight room is incredibly noticeable.

    Tex did you play for Marymount? Interested in what year you graduated, I played at Stevenson University from 2008-2012.

    • Tex McQuilkin on February 18, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Those were Stephenson’s years, ya’ll were great. I always rooted for ya’ll against Salisbury State. We played against each other one year, and I coached against you the last three.

      If you’re wanting to take your coaching to the next level then you need a membership. Now.
      This is more than CFFB workouts. We offer complete strength and conditioning programs plus athlete and coach’s development tools. Take the red pill, and start here.

  3. difiore24 on February 18, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Great read, really on point. A lot of collegiate programs are so far behind especially at the D3 level. SU didn’t have a true strength program in place until 2013, which turned out to be their national championship year.

    This type of s&c is completely overlooked at the high school level for almost all lacrosse programs and it’s a shame because there are a lot of guys who could make huge strides in their games with a push in the right direction.

  4. Steve (a.k.a. Prof. Booty) Platek on February 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    @mcquilkin greta stuff Tex.
    I have already shared this and passed along to several of my lacrosse families. Also, I just found a youth sports program in a neighboring town that offers lacrosse. Unfortunately, kids have to be 5 and Spence is only 4, but next year I think he’ll love it. #juniorPowerAthlete

  5. Mex on February 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Great stuff Tex. I have been using CFFB linear mixed with all the knowledge I’ve attains from PAHQ, for my HS lax players the past 3 years. They love the variety, the challenges and of course, the results. The past three months I used a CFFB linear template with collegiate team. I mixed in lax specific sprint drills (with full rest of course) and more. The feedback was great and I can’t wait to see these guys hit the fields once the 3 feet of snow is gone.

    Lacrosse has exploded the last 10 years and the athleticism you see on the fields now is mind boggling compared to years past. It’s really going to be amazing to watch as it continues to grow with the added S&C knowledge that is coming to these kids and programs. Keep spreading the gospel guys, and don’t forget to keep these kids training in-season too.

    If anyone has any stuff they want to share please feel free to reach out: coachwarren12@hotmail.com. I have some fun lax-specific sprint work/COD drills

    @splatek, that’s awesome man. Does he have a stick yet? Just a plain old tennis ball off the wall with or without a stick, and catching on the bounce is a perfect way to get started with the hand eye work.

  6. Chretien Teitelbaum on February 19, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    @mcquilkin great article, I have been apart of enough lacrosse teams to witness the difference taking a serious approach to training can make. Teammates at my last school would say that they hear 1 set of 5 whenever the coach said 3×8 but their lack of seriousness may not have impacted their play on the field. The stick skill and general IQ aspect of the game allows players to excel without an increase in athletic ability but, as you noted, the sport is shifting away from that mindset. I believe force application is a vital component to being successful on the defensive end, something that I think offensive players understand better than defensive players. However, the 6 foot stick helps allows from a margin of error with defenders and teams like duke spend majority of fallball skill sessions giving their defenders short sticks to use. Unsure if that is still a thing but it definitely use to be.

  7. […] Don RicciBLOG: Should I Use Olympic Lifts with My Athletes by John WelbournBLOG: Power Approach to Lacrosse Training by Tex McQuilkinPODCAST: Power Athlete Radio 147: Mike […]

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