Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse: The Back Squat

By Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS

Probably one of the most important exercises implemented in any strength and conditioning program around the country, the back squat is more than just an ordinary exercise; it is vital for speed development in lacrosse athletes. Many athletes who lift for the first time are usually concerned with the risk of lower back pain (LBP), stunting their growth, or that it's “bad for my knees.” When done safely and correctly, the back squat is one of the most effective exercises at increasing lower body strength and power as well as potentially decreasing the risk of injury.

Before starting any exercise program, athletes should be injury free and consult their physician. If uncertain on proper technique or adequate resistance, ask for assistance from an individual (certified personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach) who is certified to instruct you on exercise technique. The back squat targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, back extensors, and gastocnemius, to name a few. These are the same muscles used to help improve your power, sprint speed, ankle/knee stability, and shot velocity.

Figure 1

Figure 2
Note: Hips should be parallel to the ground, knees should not travel further than toes, and heels should remain in contact with the ground at ALL times.

Proper Technique

1. The barbell should be placed on the rack at a level just below your shoulder and no higher.

2. Step under the bar and place bar on your upper back (trapezius), off of any bone and sitting comfortably on the “shelf” created by bringing your hands towards your shoulders (see Figure 1).

3. Maintaining a flat back, stand up straight and take two steps back away from the rack.

4. Keep a neutral head at all times and look straight ahead. Looking up is incorrect and unsafe!

5. Take a deep breath and slowly descend by flexing (bending) your hips (butt) until your thighs reach parallel to the ground (see Figure 2). Note: Keep the weight over your mid foot, and keep your chest up!

6. Exhale as you push through your heels and accelerate the bar back to the starting position.

Repeat for the prescribed amount of repetitions. Use weights that are challenging enough that you are fatigued at your last repetition.

Suggested prescription to increase size and strength

Warmup: 5–7 min. (bike/treadmill) & dynamic stretching
1 set of 15 repetitions (very light weight)
3 sets of 10–12 repetitions (3 x 10-12)
Rest: 90–120 seconds

Terms to Know

Repetition: One complete cycle from start to finish.

Sets: Total number of repetitions to be completed continuously without rest.

Rest: Once completing a set, allow your body time to recover before continuing to next set. Note: It is very important to keep the rest period strict and neither too long nor too short.

Dynamic stretches: Active stretches that prime the muscles before activity such as weight training, practice or games. These stretches are done in a controlled manner to help stretch the muscles as well as increase body temperature (to be addressed in video series next month). Examples include butt kicks, straight leg kicks (tin soldiers), and knee hugs.

Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. He can be reached at

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