Having a strong, powerful lower body is extremely important for Lacrosse Players. Lower body strength can help players with establishing position on the field, maintaining balance and can even help with endurance by becoming more efficient.
Leg exercises for lacrosse players shouldn’t just be taken from a bodybuilding workout though. Functionality is the key to choosing the proper exercises for lower body training.
By functionality, I’m not talking about standing on a balance ball and doing one-arm reverse presses. I’m talking about exercises that will improve strength and power that will translate onto the lacrosse field.
In this article, I’m going to discuss my 10 favorite lower body exercises for lacrosse players. Not just to improve performance, but to also help reduce the risk of injury.
Lower Body Exercises for Lacrosse
Lower body training for lacrosse should include a heavy dose of explosive exercises. I’m a big believer in utilizing the Olympic lifts to develop explosiveness in athletes, including lacrosse players.
Clean Pull is an Olympic lift variation that omits the catch. I’ll progress lacrosse players to doing full Cleans, but I always start with Clean Pulls and they always remain an integral part of lower body training.
- Choose a suitable weight on the barbell and position it over your mid-foot.
- With feet hip-width apart, grip the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, maintaining a flat back and shoulders over the bar.
- Lift the bar by powerfully extending the hips and knees, keeping it close to your shins.
- As the bar passes your knees, explosively extend your hips and rise onto your toes, shrugging your shoulders.
- The bar should reach maximum height, with your body fully extended and shrugging upwards.
- Control the bar back down to the starting position.
*An easy way to get your grip in the right position is to place your hands one thumb length away from the start of the knurling of the bar. This width will work for 90% of lifters. Wider athletes may end up sliding their hands just a bit wider and vice versa for narrow athletes, but it’s a good starting point for anyone.
**One of the biggest mistakes with power clean technique is that lifters will shoot their butt up first, locking their knees out and then pulling the bar with their back instead of their legs. This is most often caused by lifters trying to rush the first pull too much. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Hang Muscle Snatch
The Hang Muscle Snatch is another explosive movement. This exercise is a variation of the Snatch that over-emphasizes triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles.
A Muscle Snatch finishes in a tall position. So, with no need to drop into a catch, players can solely focus on being explosive and extending.
It’s a great exercise on its own and as part of a teaching progression toward more complex variations.
- Begin with a barbell, holding it with a wide grip, typically where you would grip for a snatch.
- Stand upright, keeping your feet hip-width apart, with the bar hanging at waist level.
- Start the movement with a slight dip by bending your knees, then aggressively extend the hips, knees, and ankles.
- As the bar travels upward, quickly shrug your shoulders and begin pulling with your arms.
- Continue pulling the bar overhead, extending your arms fully.
- Finish with the barbell locked out overhead in a wide grip and your arms straight.
Once the weight gets heavy enough, the natural adjustment of the lifter will be to want to bend the legs to dip slightly under the bar in order to get full arm extension. Resist this urge to want to dip the legs. If movement quality starts to break down, lower the weight.
Medicine Ball Cannonball Throws
Explosive exercises to improve vertical jump aren’t limited to just inside the weight room. A Medicine Ball Cannonball throw is a perfect example of this.
It checks many of the same boxes as Olympic lifts – starts in a good athletic position, explosive triple extension and develops power. All of this, in a beginner-friendly exercise that basically amounts to throwing a medicine ball as high as possible.
Medicine Ball Cannonballs are also a great first introduction to many of the body positions used in Olympic lifts.
- First, make sure you have enough ceiling height to be able to do Cannonballs. I recommend doing them outside to avoid this issue altogether.
- Grab the ball with both hands cradling under the ball. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Pull the shoulder blades back, engage the lats and core, slightly bend the knees and hinge forward at the hips.
- Allow the medicine ball to fall in between the shins.
- You should now be in a good athletic position that looks very similar to the starting position of a Hang Clean.
- From here, explosively drive the feet through the ground and aggressively extend the hips and throw the ball as high as possible.
Do NOT try to catch the ball directly out of the air. This is a great way to jam a wrist or a finger. Allow the ball to hit the ground first before grabbing it for the next rep.
Back Squat is still the king of building lower body strength in my opinion. Front Squat and Single-leg exercises are both great and both have their place within lacrosse strength training.
However, if the question is what exercise is the best at developing leg strength – the answer is Back Squat.
My biggest tip for lacrosse players when it comes to Back Squats: focus on range of motion and technique – not weight. The weight used will go up as you get stronger, but do NOT sacrifice range of motion or technique to add an extra plate to the bar.
- Place the barbell on a squat rack at chest height. Stand facing the bar.
- Grip the bar wider than shoulder-width apart and duck under it, placing it on your upper traps.
- Stand up, lifting the bar off the rack. Take one or two steps back to clear the rack.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointing outward. Keep your chest up and eyes forward.
- Bend your knees and hips simultaneously, pushing your hips back and down.
- Lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, keeping your knees over your toes.
- Push through your heels, extending your hips and knees to return to the starting position.
There are a ton of great single-leg exercises to choose from – lunges, pistol squats, etc – but for lacrosse players, I decided to go with Dumbbell Step-ups.
Out of all the single-leg exercises, Step-Ups are usually the easiest to learn and typically the least stressful on the knees. Having said that, I think it’s important to utilize a mix of single-leg exercises in a lacrosse training program.
- With the dumbbells at your side, hinge at the waist and bend your knees to lift. Keep a neutral spine as you are lifting the dumbbells.
- Use a box height that is going to allow your hip and knee flexion to be as similar as possible to your stride while sprinting or bounding.
- Place the right foot on the box, and drive the left leg’s knee up.
- The leg drive should be fast and explosive.
- Engage the glutes and pause for a brief second at the top of the movement.
- Carefully lower the left leg back down and prepare for the next repetition.
A stable box cannot be overstated here. If the box is not stable, do not do step-ups.
Box height is very important to benefit from this movement. If the box height is too short or high, there will be less sport or movement-specific training.
Trap Bar Deadlift
I like Trap Bar Deadlifts for lacrosse players for a few reasons. First, they’re simply a great exercise for building lower body strength, especially for the posterior chain.
Being able to use a trap bar allows the weight to be shifted slightly more towards the hips which will take a bit of strain off the low back (compared to regular deadlifts).
- Load the trap bar with the desired weight and stand inside it.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, aligned with the bar’s handles.
- Bend at the hips and knees to grab the handles, palms facing your body.
- Take a deep breath and brace your core, keeping your back flat.
- Push through your heels while extending your hips and knees to lift the bar.
- Fully extend your hips and knees, standing upright with the bar.
- Reverse the movement, lowering the bar back to the starting position.
Pro Tip: Don’t have a trap bar? Here are 10 alternatives for Trap Bar Deadlift that don’t need one.
Easily the most common mistake for deadlifts of any kind is allowing the back to round, placing unnecessary stress on the back. Keep the back flat throughout the movement and the core braced.
Do not bounce the bar off the floor between reps. Yes, bouncing the plates off the floor into the next rep may make the lift easier to do, but it’s also a good way to allow your technique to break down. Reset for each rep.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Romanian Deadlifts, or RDLs for short, are another great exercise for developing strength through the posterior chain.
- Begin by standing upright, holding a barbell in front of you with an overhand grip.
- Feet should be hip-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
- Keeping a neutral spine and your chest up, hinge at the hips, pushing them backward.
- Allow the barbell to slide down close to your legs. Your back remains straight throughout.
- Lower the bar until you feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings or it reaches mid-shin level, whichever comes first.
- Engage your hamstrings and glutes, then reverse the motion, bringing the barbell back to the starting position.
The ‘depth’ that each person gets will be different and absolutely solely dependent upon hamstring flexibility.
Do NOT try to ‘reach’ the barbell toward the ground because you believe the plates should touch the floor. If you have tight hamstrings you may be doing well to get the bar to mid-shin.
Floor Slider Leg Curls
Floor Slider Leg Curls are one of my favorite hamstring exercises for lacrosse players. Not only is it great hamstring work, but it also engages the glutes and core muscles. Win-Win.
- Lie down on your back and bend your knees at about 90 degrees.
- Place the sliders under the heels of your feet.
- Drive your elbows into the floor and keep your abdomen tight.
- Drive your hips to the ceiling and engage your glutes.
- Keeping your core nice and tight, slowly slide your heels away from your body until your knees are almost fully extended.
- At the end range of this movement, your body should be straight, hips up, and core engaged.
- Engaging the hamstrings, pull your heels back to the starting position and squeeze the glutes to resume the starting position.
One of the most important points about this movement is the surface you are sliding on and the type of slider you’re using.
The furniture slide should freely move with little resistance, I would say carpet is ideal if available. If there is resistance, this may affect your technique and coordination.
Remember to always squeeze with the glutes and actively engage the hamstrings. Do not round the back and push your belly to the sky. Keep the anterior core locked in throughout the movement.
I couldn’t do an entire list of lower body exercises for lacrosse players and completely leave off plyometric training. The problem was which plyometric drill to pick.
I ended up going with probably the most popular and well-known plyometric training drill. Popular, but still extremely effective. Box Jumps.
Box Jumps will help develop explosiveness and take a lot of wear and tear off the joints by landing on a higher surface instead of all the way back to the ground each rep. Just focus on proper technique and avoid trying to jump on boxes too tall to do properly.
- Select a box or platform that is a challenging, yet safe height.
- Stand facing the box, feet shoulder-width apart, and a few feet away from it.
- Begin by slightly bending your knees and hips, arms back, readying for the jump.
- Powerfully extend your hips and knees, swinging your arms forward and propelling your body upward.
- Aim to land softly on the box with both of your feet fully on it, knees slightly bent.
- Stand straight, stabilizing yourself on the box.
- Carefully step back down to the starting position, one foot at a time.
Pick a box that is an appropriate height. You should land on the box in roughly a quarter-squat position. All too often I see athletes jump on a box that is way too high, causing them to have to land in a full squat position.
This is wrong for two reasons. First, picking your feet higher so you can land in a full squat doesn’t actually mean you jump any higher. Second, having to land in a full squat to make it onto the box eliminates any room for error. If you jump perhaps even an inch not high enough you could end up missing the box.
You may not have expected to see sprinting on a list of lower body exercises, but that’s just how important I believe sprinting is for lacrosse players. This sprinting can be part of a full program complete with sprinting drills, but it can also be as simple as just getting out and sprinting.
I think too many lacrosse players have gotten away from doing sprints in their training programs. I see so many players lift, condition and do far too many ladder drills. However, going out, lining up and running as fast as possible is neglected far too much.
If you want to run fast, you need to run fast. Even more, if you want your hamstrings to be prepared (and not pull) to do a full sprint once you’re on the field – then you better be doing that in your training.
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Are these the only lower-body exercises lacrosse players can do to build strong and explosive legs? Of course not.
But, in my opinion, your training program should have all (or at the very least, most) of these exercises incorporated into it at some point.
Just make sure to focus on technique, don’t try to use more weight than you can safely handle and don’t slack on your nutrition and recovery. Do all of these things and you should see a big-time improvement in your performance on the lacrosse field!
Finally, if you found this article helpful, then you may also enjoy checking out my favorite core exercises for lacrosse players.