Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse: Plyometrics (Power Training)

By Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS

Like most sports, lacrosse requires you to have adequate strength, muscular endurance, speed, and power. The term power in lay conversation is one that is often used interchangeably with strength. However, the two concepts are completely different, yet work in tandem.

Strength vs. Power

By definition, strength is the maximal amount of force generated in one effort. Power is calculated based on the amount of force you can generate and how fast or explosive you are able to produce that force. The two work hand and hand. Without improving strength, it is difficult to improve your explosive abilities or be “powerful.” Strength is usually measured by your 1RM (one-repetition max) and determines how strong you are.

Power can be determined based on your vertical jump, broad jump, or medicine ball chest pass. Power training is an integral part of any strength and conditioning program, especially when your goal is to improve speed and agility. Plyometric training has also been proven to significantly decrease the likelihood of injury in female athletes.

Plyometrics is a mode of training that uses the body's basic reflex (myotatic reflex) to produce fast and explosive movements. Every time we run, jump or hop, we are doing some sort of plyometric movement. Plyometric training is only effective when done efficiently, which requires you to be fast and explosive. There are several different subcategories of power: starting power, accelerative power, and power endurance, to name a few. Each position on the field has different demands, and training should be specific and tailored to these demands.

Starting power is simply the ability to explode from a resting or starting position, as done in a face-off, for example. Accelerative power is the ability to be continuously explosive with each stride as you sprint down field. Power endurance, as the name suggests, is the ability to maintain optimal power production over a long period of time while being resistant to fatigue (e.g., the work of a midfielder).

Explanation and Examples

The foundation to plyometrics is the stretch-shortening cycle. As mentioned in the Romanian Deadlift article, eccentric contractions occur when a given joint is rapidly stretched and, as a protective mechanism, our body contracts to slow down the movement. During this quick stretch, the body reflexively counteracts this movement by producing a concentric contraction to prevent further stretching. Plyometric training focuses on using this reflex to facilitate an even more explosive movement.

An example to best illustrate this point is in basketball: When jumping for a rebound, most if not all athletes quickly squat down (quick stretching of the gluteus maximus and quadriceps) and without hesitation jump (shortening) as high as they can. Another example is in shooting for lacrosse: The offensive player almost always “winds up” (stretching) by quickly bringing the stick to the opposite side of the body followed by an explosive rapid movement (shortening). Without this pre-stretch, the power output our body produces would be significantly less. Think of jumping from a standstill versus jumping with this pre-stretch.

The period between the quick stretch (eccentric contraction) and the explosive movement (concentric contraction) is called the amortization phase. Each of these three phases build off of the preceding phase and require coordination, balance, and speed. If the pre-stretch is not fast enough, or the amortization phase is too long, or the movement is not explosive enough, we gain little to no benefit from the repetition.


Figure 1


Figure 2
Guidelines for Incorporating Plyometrics

The following guidelines should be considered when incorporating plyometrics into your strength or speed training program.

  1. Prior to engaging in power training, you should be able to squat/bench press 1-1.5 times your body weight at least once.

  2. Landing is KEY! Being able to land safely and efficiently is integral to both training and safety.

  3. Balance is important when it comes to safety. For low intensity exercises, athletes should be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds (Fig. 1). For advanced exercises, athletes should be able to maintain balance on one leg in a semi-squat position for 30 seconds (Fig. 2).

  4. Landing surface should be of low impact. Ideal surfaces include: suspended wood floors, turf, or grass.

  5. As with any exercise, get adequate rest. Rest intervals should follow a 1:10 work-to-rest ratio. Rest at least 48-72 hours between sessions.

  6. The progression for these exercises is as follows:
    • Sticking the landing → continuous jumping
    • Height of hurdle or box (low → high)
    • Weighted vest (advanced level only); requires great balance, coordination, and strength
    • Increase repetitions before adding increased level of difficulty.

Note: Plyometric training is not recommended for prepubescent athletes because of the stress placed on the joints and its risk of premature closure of the growth plates.


Proper Technique
  1. Same posture as the back squat, with feet a hips width apart, flat back and chest up.

  2. Center of mass (body weight) should be evenly distributed (midfoot).

  3. Landing should replicate the starting position, and weight should be evenly distributed between the ankles, knees and hips. All joints should be in the flexed position. (Note: You should not feel all body weight shifting forward.)
Sample Exercises
Foundation (Technical Drills)Low IntensityModerate IntensityAdvanced
(Submaximal Effort)
Hop (in place)
Drop Squat
Broad Jump
MB* Drop
Pogo
Box Jump
Squat Jump
MB* Wall Toss
MB* Chest Pass
Alternate Leg Bounce
Double Leg Speed Hop
Skater Hops
Depth Jump
Box Jump (MR**)
Lateral Hops

  * medicine ball
** multiple response




Suggested Prescription to Increase Power
  • Warm-up: 5-7 minutes (bike/treadmill) and dynamic stretching*
  • Rest: 1:10 (e.g., 10 sec. jumping followed by 1.5 min. rest)
  • Contacts:
    • Beginner: 80-100
    • Intermediate: 100-120
    • Advanced: 120-140
        * should include low-intensity plyometrics

Sample Workout
Skater Hop 3 x 8
Broad Jump 3 x 15 yds
Box Jump 3 x 6
Squat Jump 3 x 8
Wall Toss 2 x 12
MB Chest Pass 3 x 12


Terms to Know

Amortization: Period between eccentric and concentric contraction. Emphasis must be placed on getting off the ground as quickly as possible to limit time spent in this phase. Too much time in amortization is wasted elastic energy and loss of power!

Triple Extension: Full extension of the body from hips, knees, and ankles.

Contacts: The number of times your feet make contact with the ground with each jump.



Additional Reading

The science and application of plyometrics goes well beyond what has been discussed in this article. For more information, feel free to contact me or refer to the following references:

Hewett, Timothy E., Stroupe, A., Thomas, N., & Noyes, F. (1996, December). [Review of Plyometric Training in Female Athletes Decreased Impact Forces and Increased Hamstring Torques.] American Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(6), 765-773.

Thomas, K., French, D., and Hayes, P., (2009, January). [Review of The Effect of Two Plyometric Training Techniques on Muscular Power and Agility in Youth Soccer Players.] Strength & Conditioning Journal, 23(1), 332-335.




Previous Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse Articles
The Romanian Deadlift
The Dynamic Warm-up
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 voltaire@laxpower.com.


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