|Player Conditioning Program
Developed For East Bay Lacrosse
This conditioning plan has been designed so that you can assess your team’s weaknesses and pick the exercises that address those weaknesses. The majority of the moves are simple to understand and perform and should be pain-free. It is important for the players to have good form on all moves.
As with any exercise, it is important to monitor players for breathing issues and joint problems. None of the exercises should hurt, they should be challenging but pain free. If a player is experiencing pain please have them stop and notify a parent. A player who is having uncomfortable shortness of breath or other breathing issues should stop exercising and rest until their breathing has returned to normal.
Another note, if your players have been standing still for any period of time they should warm up again before sprinting so they can avoid pulling a muscle.
Relay races - By breaking the kids into many small teams of about 3 players, each child can do a lot of running while still having time to recover before their next turn. It is up to the coach to decide the difficulty level of the actual relay. The players may just be running down the field, around a cone and back while cradling. Progressions might include evading a defender, shooting, scooping or trying to beat another player to the ball. Throughout the season the players should be able to progress to longer sprints and more repetitions.
Sprints – A basic sprint pattern is a cross-field sprint followed by a walk or slow jog back to the start. Repeat a few times and add more repetitions as they improve their fitness level.
Shuttle runs – Players sprint a short distance, usually to a cone or line on the field, turn, return to start, then sprint to the next cone or line. Shuttle runs can be done as ladders where the player starts by sprinting to the closest cone or line and ends at the one furthest away. They can also be done as a pyramid, starting with the closest, progressing to the furthest and then working back down to the closest.
180°s – The players run forward toward a mark (line or cone) and halfway they turn and run backward. Using a whistle or voice command as a cue to change directions, the coach can have the players transition from running backwards to running forward.
360°s - The players run forward and at the coaches cue they turn all the way around and continue running. The coach can cue more turns as the players get used to this drill.
Reverse runs - Running backwards to a mark.
Body Weight Cardio Moves
Squat Jumps – The player stands with feet hips width apart and bends their knees as they sit back. They then jump up and land with bent knees and repeat.
Jumping Jacks – Players stand with feet together and arms by their sides. They then jump up as they move their feet out wide and their arms come up overhead. They return to the starting position and repeat.
Jumping Lunges – Starting with their right foot in front and the left leg back the player stands with their feet wide enough apart so that they can bend both knees. The player then drops their hips toward the ground, jumps up and switches the position of their feet landing softly with bent knees. The players should use their arms for extra help in the jump.
Burpees (Squat Thrusts) – Players bend at the waist to put their hands on the ground, jump their feet back into a plank position, jump feet back to hands, stand up and go into a squat jump and land with soft knees. That is one rep. You can also have your players do a pushup while they are in the plank position to make it more challenging.
Lateral Hops – The player stands on one foot and hops from side to side over a line on the field. After a certain number of reps or an amount of time they switch legs and hop with their other foot. If this is painful for the player’s knees they can try to hop with both feet together. The player should have soft knees for each landing.
Front Hops – The player jump with both feet to the front. They can then hop back to start and continue hopping to a mark. The player should land with bent knees and land quietly.
Mountain Climbers – Begin down on the ground in pushup position. The player then lifts on leg and bends the knee into the chest. Next the player quickly switches legs by hopping off the foot on the ground and bringing the other knee into their chest. This should look a little like running.
Skiing Mountain Climber - From the plank position the player jumps both feet toward their left hand, then back to plank, then jumps both feet toward the right hand.
Jumps – see jumps above. These moves strengthen the legs but also work balance and raise the heart rate.
Squats – The player stands with feet hips width apart, bends their knees and drops their hips back until their thighs are about parallel to the ground. The knees should be close to 90°. Some players will have difficulty getting their thighs parallel to the ground due to flexibility. The biggest mistake that players make on this move is to have their knees too far forward. Their hips should be way back as if they are reaching for a chair.
Pulse Lunge – The player stands with one foot in front and the other back. They bend both knees to get the knees close to 90° degrees. It is important that they drop their hips straight down and keep their front knee at 90° to protect their knees. The player does 10 – 20 reps and switches legs.
Lateral Lunge – The player stands with feet at hips width and keeping toes, knees and hips facing forward they step out the right and bend their right knee while sitting their hips back. The player then pushes up to bring the right foot back to start. Do the reps on one leg and then switch legs. This should be pain-free.
Pushups - If they are unable to do a full pushup they can modify the move by having their knees on the ground and their knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line. This takes some of the body weight out of the exercise and makes it easier.
Diamond pushups – The player starts in pushup position with their hands on the ground, their thumbs and index fingers of both hands touching and making the shape of a diamond. The player then bends their elbows and does a pushup. This should be felt in the triceps of both arms.
Side plank pushups (a little more advanced than the diamond pushup) – The player starts on the ground on their side with feet stacked on top of each other or placed next to each other. They then place their back hand (if they are on the right side it will be their right hand) on the ground with the fingers pointing to the front. The top hand makes an “L” with the fingers almost touching the fingers of the right hand. The player pushes up to the start position and then bends both elbows to lower their body to the ground. The player then pushes up to the start position. This should be felt mostly in the triceps of the back arm.
Plank - The player starts in pushup position. Their knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. They hold this position for 20 – 60 seconds depending on their fitness level. They should not drop their hips lower than their shoulder and knees because that puts pressure on their low back. Another option for the plank is to have the player on their forearms (below right).
Up Down Planks – The player starts in plank position on their forearms. The player pushes up to a straight right arm and repeats with the left and then brings the right forearm to the ground, followed by the left, to return to start. That is one rep. The pattern is up-up-down-down. Halfway through the reps have the player switch their lead arm.
Plank Step-outs – From plank the player steps one foot out wide (about 6” to 12”) and then repeats with the other. Then the player brings the first leg back in and then the second. So the pattern is out-out-in-in. The hips should remain as still as possible.
Plank knee-ins – From plank position the player lifts one leg, bends the knee and brings the knee to the chest and then returns the leg to start and repeats with the other leg.
Plank knee-outs – The player starts in plank position and brings their right knee as close to their right elbow as possible. The player then repeats with the left.
Side planks – The player is on the ground on their right side with their feet either stacked or staggered and resting on their right hand or right forearm. They hold their hips off the ground and keep their body in a straight line. They hold this for 20-60 seconds.
Superman and Flying X’s – The player begins face down on the ground with arms extended in front of them and legs extended straight back. They then lift their arms and legs off the ground and hold for up to 10 seconds. They then lower to the ground and repeat. For the Flying X the player lifts both arms and legs off the ground but widens them to form an X with their body. After these exercises it is good to have the players sit back into child’s pose to release the low back muscles. For child’s pose the player lifts to an all fours position from the ground and then sits their hips back so that their butt is resting on their heels.
Bird dogs – The player starts either on all fours or in a plank position (more advanced version) with wide feet. The player lifts their right arm and left leg in the air and holds for a count of three and then slowly lowers to start. Repeat on the left side. If the player is doing the advanced version a 1 second hold is sufficient.
Bridges – The player starts on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Then they push through their heels to lift their hips off the ground. Next they lower their hips until almost touching the ground and push back up. Repeat 10-20 times. A more advanced version is the 1-leg bridge. The player starts in the same position but lifts one leg in the air and lets the other leg push their hips up. They then pulse their hips up and down without touching the ground. Repeat 10-20 per leg.
As you know, when playing lacrosse you never move just one body part and you never rely on just strength or just speed or endurance. To mimic game play it is beneficial to combine both muscle and cardio strength training into the fitness plan for your team. Here are some ideas on how to combine these elements.
Strength into speed – Line your team up on a line or use cones. Have them do a set of strength moves and as soon as they are done go into a running move. Do as many sets as they can tolerate. Some suggestions are below.
15 pushups into a sprint – slow jog back
30 second side plank into shuffles – jog back and repeat on other side
20 squats into carioca – jog back
15 pulse lunges on each leg into a reverse run – jog back
10 1-leg bridges per leg into sprint – jog back
20 plank knee-ins into a 180° run – jog back
Cardio bursts during drills – These are great to have your players do when they are finished with their part in a drill and may have to wait a few minutes until their turn comes up again. They can do 1 or more sets.
10/20/10’s – (one of my all time favorites)
10 – Jumping jacks
20 – Mountain climbers
10 – Burpees
Use any other body weight cardio exercises in place of these to switch it up.
Age Levels and Appropriate Exercises
Sharks – This age group will just need some relay races or other fun running added to their practices.
1/2 - This group should stick to one set of no more than 15 reps for strength moves. Jumps should also be limited to 1 set of 15 or less reps. Total strength work should be no more than 5 minutes per session and this includes the body weight cardio work. This group will need to acclimate to the cardio conditioning so add it slowly.
3/4 – This group can work their way up to 8-10 minutes of strength and jumping. Their cardio work can be more challenging than the 1/2s. If doing a lot of the body weight cardio, reduce the time of the other strength and jumps. Start adding turns (180°s and 360°s) to their cardio to get their bodies ready for those moves in a game.
5/6 – This group may begin to have more joint issues due to growing so watch for signs of knee pain with jumps, squats and lunges. You may have to ask your players if these moves are pain-free because some of them will not tell you. If pain-free this group can do up to 2 sets of strength and jumps and more challenging cardio work. Their total strength time should not exceed 10 minutes. At this point it is important to add the lateral hops and bridges to strengthen the hamstrings and to work on balance.
7/8 – This oldest group can work their way up to three sets of strength work and jumps. They may still have growing issues and experience knee pain so make sure they are working pain-free. Their total strength time can be 15 minutes, can be up to 3 sets of exercises, and their sprinting and other cardio work can be done more frequently and at a more intense level. At this point they should be doing lots of bridges, lateral hops, squat jumps, sprints and turns.
A Note About Repetitions and Sets
At the beginning of a season the players may be challenged by doing only one set of these exercises. As they get stronger and faster you can do more sets per practice. For strength moves the players can do 10 – 20 repetitions of exercises. You may have players for whom 10 reps is a challenge and some who can do 20 easily. You can also time their exercises such as doing pushups for 30 seconds. This allows players of different fitness levels to match up. If you have two practices a week it is best to do some exercises each practice session. That could look like this;
This is just to give you an idea of how to split up the exercises. You can also have your players do bodyweight cardio sets between drills to help them get their energy out so they can focus on what you are teaching that day.
Cool Down and Stretch
It is very important that you incorporate some kind of cool down into practices. A slow jog across the field, and even a walk, is a good idea. Your players can then stretch while you give them a recap of practice or talk about the next game.
Hamstring Stretch – The player sits on the ground with their legs out in front of them. Bending from the waist and keeping their backs flat with no rounding, they lean forward and try to touch their toes. The toes should be held straight up and not pointed. They hold for about 30 seconds. Sit up and repeat. The player should be stretching just to the point of feeling the stretch.
Quad Stretch – The player lies on their side and reaches back with their top arm and grabs the top of the foot of their top leg. They pull their foot toward their butt and hold that stretch for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Figure Four - The player sits on the ground with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. They lift their right leg and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Next they position their torso close the legs until they feel the stretch in their outer hip. Switch sides.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer