Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse: The Dynamic Warm-up

By Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS

Stretching is commonly used for therapeutic reasons and to elicit increased flexibility. Some of the benefits of stretching include recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness (typically 24-48 hours after intense activity), reduced muscle tension, and increased range of motion (ROM) to name a few.

Prior to any athletic event, whether practice or game, most teams typically begin with a stretch of some sort. Athletes and teams often go haphazardly through their routines prior to their event, attempting to warm up. Considerable research has been conducted in recent years on the effects of stretching prior to games and its effect on power production. The research supports why we should be moving in a different direction in regards to pre-game warm-up.

There are various types of stretches: dynamic, static, ballistic, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), and passive. Some coaches still have athletes run through static stretches. A static stretch is one that is held for a period of 15-30 seconds at a point of mild discomfort. This form of stretching has been traditionally used for physical therapy or after games, workouts, or practices to increase flexibility.

Holding a stretch for this long can fatigue the muscle and potentially decreases its ability produce maximum power. With that said, why do we continue to do these stretches before competition? Static stretching is better suited for post-competition, when you can take advantage of the increased core temperature to increase flexibility.

Prior to competition, the goal is to warm up muscles and joints and prepare the nervous system. A dynamic warm-up is one that incorporates all the necessary components of stretching without losing anything. Dynamic stretches are rhythmic exercises that gently take you through the limits of your range of motion. They are similar to ballistic stretches except there is a controlled movement, not a jerky one (e.g., toe touches and bouncing to reach the floor).

Depending on the goal of the workout or event, I may include form running or plyometrics into the warm-up. But typically I include controlled movements, some form of static stretching, a few sprints and keep it sport-specific. In studies that analyze the difference between dynamic and static stretching prior to competition, some have found no difference, but many have shown that dynamic stretching can improve muscular performance.

Dynamic Warm-up Examples

Sample warm-ups using dynamic stretching are illustrated in the video below as well as outlined in the box beneath it.

Sample Warm-Up
  • Sprint: 75% effort
  • Ankle Hops/Jumping Jacks: Jumping off balls of feet – dont allow heels to contact ground.
  • Frankenstein: Keep legs straight; kick target (hand)
  • Walking Quad Pull: Pull leg and opposite arm back to effectively stretch hip flexors.
  • Walking Knee Hugs: Pull knee into chest to stretch hip extensors (gluteus maximus).
  • Sprint: 75% Effort
  • Walking Lunge Twist: Keep knee an inch off the ground; push hips forward and rotate trunk to either side.
  • Sumo Squat: Go through full ROM with wide stance (outside of shoulders) to stretch groin muscles.
  • Spiderman: Push-up position; bring one foot to hand; attempt to get elbow to touch ankle or ground; hold briefly.
  • High Knees: Quick contacts off the ground; keep heels from touching.
  • Butt Kicks: Variation 1 of 2; attempt to kick your butt with foot rhythmically.
  • Carioci: Quick movement at the hips; movement should be fluid.
  • Backpedal: Athletic position, back flat, looking straight ahead, sitting into position and staying on the balls of your feet.
  • Full Sprint: 100% effort

Rules of Thumb

1. Include an aerobic component, (e.g., moderate sprints, shuffles, and/or backpedals).

2. Make your primary goal to warm up the body, so asking athletes to sprint full speed throughout the warm-up may be contraindicated.

3. Keep the warm-up sport-specific, targeting muscles that will be used predominantly during the activity.

4. Keep distances to 20 yards or less.

5. Limit the warm-up to approximately 10 minutes or to the point of perspiration.

Terms to Know

Ballistic Stretch: A type of stretch that is not held for a given time frame; instead, the body is forced to increase ROM by bouncing.

Form Running: Basic track exercises that focus on the technique needed to be an efficient and faster runner.

Plyometrics: A mode of exercise that uses the bodys reflexes to aid in increasing power production.

Range of Motion: The available range that a given extremity has to move through.

Additional Reading

McMillan, D., Moore, J., Hatler, B., & Taylor, D. (2006, October). [Review of Dynamic- vs. Static-Stretching Warm-up: The Effect on Power and Agility Performance.] Strength & Conditioning Journal, 20(3), 492-499.

Riewald, S., (2004, August). [Review of Stretching the Limits of our Knowledge on Stretching.] Strength & Conditioning Journal, 26(5), 58-59.

Previous Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse Articles
The Back Squat

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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