A strong core is essential for any athlete, regardless of sport, and this is especially true for lacrosse players. A strong core helps transfer power, aids in balance and provides stability when engaged with another player.
Staying stable and generating power on a shot with a defender or two draped on you can only be accomplished with a tremendously strong core.
In this article, I’m going to give you my 10 favorite core exercises for lacrosse players to help maximize their performance on the field.
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Core Exercises For Lacrosse
I’m going to list all 10 exercises from beginners to advanced. So, whether you’re a complete beginner or an elite-level lacrosse player, you should be able to find a few exercises to add to your Lacrosse Strength Training to challenge you and help you improve your game.
I’m not going to list crunches, because I think we’re all too familiar with those. Instead, I’m going to give you another simple body weight core exercise that is one of my favorites – Toe Touches. Like crunches, Toe Touches are easy to learn and simple to do.
Having to hold your legs vertically in the air forces the lower abs to be engaged making them slightly harder than regular crunches.
But, the reason I really like Toe Touches for lacrosse players is it gives me insight into who is extremely tight in their hamstrings. Players with really tight hamstrings will struggle to get into a proper position and will struggle even more to maintain it.
If this sounds familiar then it’s time to start addressing those hammys.
- Lay flat on your back with your legs perpendicular to the floor (legs straight up in the air).
- From this position, keep your chin off of your chest, keep your arms straight and raise your upper body toward your feet.
- Touch your toes (or at least reach as high up your shins as you can) with your fingers and return to the starting position.
Athletes with tight hamstrings may find it hard to keep their legs straight up in the air through the duration of the exercise. Work to keep legs straight and vertical as much as possible.
Keep hands relatively close to the shins throughout the movement. Swinging the arms toward the head at the bottom causes momentum which takes away from the quality of the movement.
Okay, let’s ramp up those (boring) crunches and add a new challenge to your core routine. Suitcase Crunches are an advanced variation of regular crunches.
This variation greatly increases the overall time under tension, making your core have to work harder for longer. Suitcase Crunches also get the lower abdominals and hip flexors much more engaged than regular crunches as well.
- Start by sitting on the ground, balancing on your butt with legs and back up off the ground.
- Legs should be almost straight, feet roughly six inches off the ground. Torso should be leaned back at about a 30-degree angle.
- From the starting position, crunch up, bringing the knees and chest together above the hips (like a suitcase shutting)
- Lower back to the starting position and repeat until all reps are completed. (Feet and back should stay off the ground throughout the movement)
If you keep your feet uncrossed during the movement, your groin will be forced to stay engaged. This creates a small added bonus to the exercise.
There are so many reasons that I love programming Planks for athletes, especially lacrosse players.
First, it teaches and reinforces what it means to brace your core. Knowing how to properly, and effectively, brace your core is so important not only in the weight room but on the field as well.
Second, holding a plank can sometimes be as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging. I think anytime you can introduce situations (safely!) that get players out of their comfort zone and force them to strain is beneficial.
Finally, planks are extremely versatile. You can add weight or time to make them more challenging. You can switch to a side plank to incorporate more obliques and they also work great as a competition to finish a workout.
- Start on the ground on your stomach.
- Assume a push-up like position on your elbows and toes. Elbows should be directly under the shoulders.
- Position your body in a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and ankles.
- Brace the core tight. (As if you’re going to be punched in the stomach)
- Do not let the body slouch to the ground nor push the hips up high in the air.
The biggest mistake that I see with Front Planks is athletes holding the position, but not properly keeping the core engaged and just allowing the torso to slouch. So, while they are technically up on their elbows and toes, all they’re really doing is straining the low back.
The other mistake I see is the exact opposite and that is athletes shooting their butts into the air, resembling more of a Down Dog position.
The difference between the two is the second, having your butt too high, is easier to notice and corrected more often. However, letting the body slouch during a plank is often allowed to pass as ‘good form’ when it is not.
Being able to keep your torso upright so you can pass or shoot with a defender at your side comes down to having strong obliques.
Obliques often get overlooked in core training, but they’re extremely important for lacrosse. Lateral Bridges are one of my favorite core exercises for training the obliques. They also have an additional benefit of a little shoulder stability as well.
- Start on the ground in a Lateral Plank position – on your side, one elbow down and feet, hips and shoulders stacked vertically above one another.
- The opposite hand (non-support arm) can be placed on the hip or held up in the air.
- From this position, lower the hips down and lightly tap the floor.
- Drive the hips back up to the starting position and repeat for the designated number of reps.
The biggest mistake I see with my athletes with Lateral Bridges is allowing the top shoulder to hunch forward. Both shoulders (along with hips and feet) should be stacked directly above each other. Do not allow yourself to twist forward toward the ground with your upper body.
Half Kneeling Cable Chop
The Half Kneeling Cable Chop is easily one of my favorite core exercises for lacrosse players because I believe they have an excellent transfer to the field.
Cable Chops force you to brace your core while moving a weight diagonally across the body. Improving the body’s ability to brace through this range of movement can be extremely helpful to improve shooting speed.
- Attach a cable attachment* and slide the pin to the top of the cable machine.
- Assume a kneeling position about a foot and a half away from the machine (may vary depending on what the machine will allow)
- The knee toward the machine should be up and the knee away from the machine should be on the floor.
- Start with both arms straight out in front, one on each side of the rope or bar.
- Allow the weight to slowly pull your arms up and to the side about a foot, keeping your arms relatively straight.
- Now, brace the core and pull the cable diagonally down across your body.
- Do not twist or turn or significantly bend the arms (a slight bend in the arm is okay).
- Control the eccentric portion of the movement back to the start and repeat.
*This movement is best done with either the rope attachment with the rope slid all the way over to one side or a straight bar attachment with the cable attached to one side.
Keep the torso upright during the movement. If you find yourself (or your athletes) leaning to one side or the other it’s probably an indication that the weight is too heavy. Lighten the weight being used and focus on maintaining that upright position.
Do not rotate through the torso. The goal here is to maintain a braced core and upright body position as you pull the weight across your body.
Med Ball Overhead Throw
The Medicine Ball Overhead Throw is another core exercise that closely mimics some of the movement patterns lacrosse players use on the field.
With this movement, the player will be standing on their feet, bracing their core, reaching a med ball overhead and throwing – generating as much power as possible. I like for lacrosse players to use a higher target on the wall than seen in the video above and to keep their torso more vertical throughout.
- Find a partner or solid wall and stand a safe distance away*.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Reach the medicine ball overhead and brace the core.
- Now, throw the ball as hard as you can – aim for maximum distance.
*If throwing with a partner, stand far enough away so that the ball will bounce before it reaches your partner. Catching a medicine ball out of the air can lead to a jammed wrist or finger. If throwing against a wall, allow enough space so the ball bounces once after it hits the wall before you catch it.
Med Ball Side Toss
Med Ball Side Throw is a rotational core exercise utilizing a medicine ball.
I love Med Ball throwing movements like Overhead Throws and Side Tosses because of how dynamic they are and how much power players are able to generate. Definitely beats laying on the ground and doing crunches every day.
In fact, I think rotational power movements like Med Ball Side Throws are so important for lacrosse that they’re actually one of my favorite upper body exercises for lacrosse as well. Whether you consider them an upper body exercise or a core exercise, lacrosse players should definitely be doing them!
- Grab a medicine ball and stand perpendicular to a sturdy wall*.
- Distance away from the wall will vary based upon the type of medicine ball you have**.
- Stand in a good athletic position, feet shoulder width apart, hips and knees bent.
- Begin by rotating away from the wall, reaching the medicine ball toward the back hip.
- Now, aggressively rotate toward the wall, turning on the ball of the back foot, opening the hips toward the wall and releasing the ball into the wall.
- Catch the ball off the ball, reset and repeat.
The biggest mistake I see athletes make is using their arms (and not their hips) way too much to throw the ball. Power for the throw should primarily come from rotating the hips and torso and the arms should be secondary.
*If you have a partner, you can throw to each other instead of into a wall.
**The distance away from the wall will vary depending on what type of medicine ball you have. If you have a hard rubber medicine ball then be prepared for the ball to bounce a good way back off of the wall. If you have a soft Dynamax-type medicine ball then you can stand much closer as the bounce off the wall will be much less.
Too often when players think about doing ‘core work’ they only think of working their abs. However, low back work is just as important, but it’s often either overlooked or just ignored.
Hyperextensions are one of the best movements you can do in a weight room to focus on building a strong low back. Hypers will also work the glutes and hamstrings as well.
If you don’t have access to a Glute Ham Machine, you can try either Supermans or Back Crunches. Both also work the low back and require no equipment.
- First, you are going to want to get the glute-ham raise machine adjusted to the correct length.
- I recommend adjusting the machine so that your hip crease is at the end of the padding of the machine.
- Locking your feet in, facing the ground, keep a neutral spine by focusing your eyes on the floor below.
- Take in a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and keep your hands on the handles until you are ready to perform the eccentric movement.
- Once ready, take your hands off the handles, extend your body, keep your arms at your side, and control your body down until your torso is about perpendicular to the floor.
- Pause for 1 second in the bottom of the position to maintain stiffness in the muscles before coming back up.
- After 1 second of the isometric hold, pull yourself back parallel to the floor, engaging the glutes, hamstrings, and low back, while also keeping stiffness in the abdomen and upper back.
One of the easiest ways to make a mistake is going down too fast and “whipping” yourself back to the starting position. As with any exercise, the setup, initial breath before eccentric movement, maintaining control, pausing, and breathing out during concentric contraction are important.
It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back. Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering your body) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing your body back up).
Hanging Straight Leg Raises
Hanging ab exercises like Hanging Straight Leg Raises are some of my absolute favorite core exercises.
Not only are they very challenging ab movements, but they also provide extra benefits as well. They’re a great way to sneak grip strength into your workout and many also work the shoulders, back and biceps as well.
- Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang.
- Now hang from the bar and keeping your legs straight, drive them up to hip height (or slightly above hip height).
- Finally, actively lower your legs back to the starting position – don’t allow the legs to just swing down.
The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Hanging Straight Leg Raises (or any hanging ab exercise for that matter) is how to keep from swinging out of control.
To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement. Timing and rhythm are also both important for Leg Raises and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.
One of the hardest core exercises to do, hands down, is Windshield Wipers. It takes a tremendous amount of core strength and stability and will stress your entire core (and your upper body and grip too).
If you progress to the point where you can knock out a set of ten Windshield Wipers, you should feel pretty good about your core strength.
- Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
- Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang from the bar.
- Now hang from the bar with a slight flex at the elbow
- Keeping the legs straight, flex the core and lift the legs up until your toes touch the pull-up bar.
- From this position rotate your feet to the left about two to two and a half feet.
- Now swing them back to the top and over to the right about the same distance.
- Continue to rotate back and forth from the left to the right and back until all reps are completed (or until a break is needed to reset)
As mentioned at the top of this guide, this is an extremely challenging ab exercise. I would highly suggest mastering other hanging ab exercises like Knees to Elbows and Toes to Bar (both listed below under variations) before beginning to attempt Windshield Wipers.
Because you’re almost hanging upside down while doing Windshield Wipers, the grip plays an extremely critical role. If you ever feel you’re struggling with your grip AT ALL, you should stop your set immediately.
Are these the only 10 core exercises that I like to use with lacrosse players? Absolutely not. There are dozens of core exercises to choose from so there is no need to get in a rut of doing the same movements over and over again all the time.
You also don’t have to limit yourself to just bodyweight abs, like crunches and sit-ups, either. Grab a medicine ball or find a pull-up bar and add some variety (and difficulty) to your core routine.
Finally, don’t forget about that posterior chain! Exercises like Hyperextensions, Supermans or even Back Crunches can help strengthen your low back – an important part of your core.