|Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse: Bodyweight Training|
By Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS
“Will weightlifting stunt my growth (prematurely close my growth plates)?” This question never gets old and is commonly asked by parents and kids about strength training. The answer to this question is no. When done safely and accurately, weightlifting alone is not the cause for premature closure of the growth plates.
Growth plates occur in the long bones of the body (i.e., thigh bone, forearm, arm, etc.) and determine the length of the bone. Trauma such as fractures or excessive stress to the bones may lead to early closure of the growth plates. This is why it's very imperative to use proper progression in conditioning and strength training workouts. Proper progression means not moving on to more challenging and stressful exercises before you can adequately handle the basic exercise. A common mistake occurs on the first day back from a several week hiatus, when an athlete attempts to do his or her 8RM (repetition maximum or rep max) or some moderate-max resistance workout. It takes only two weeks of doing little or nothing to lose a significant amount of strength!
The #1 concern is whether the muscles, ligaments, and bones of the body can withstand such a drastic change in resistance from zero to almost moderate? The majority of the time, the answer is no, and the person usually ends up hurt. Running sprints at full speed before having a solid aerobic foundation is another common mistake. The heart is a muscle as well and requires training and proper progression as any other muscle would. A good way to avoid injury and/or to get back into your workout regime is to start by doing a simple bodyweight program your first few sessions. You may incorporate light resistance (12-15RM) with free weights, or cable machines, as this would be an appropriate progression.
For those athletes who still have concern for stunting their growth, bodyweight training may be an alternative method. Bodyweight training should always be at the forefront of training high school athletes and should be the foundation before progressing to more demanding exercises. An athlete who cannot perform 10-15 push-ups with perfect technique should NOT be bench pressing or using free weights. The use of free weights in this case is an example of an incorrect exercise progression; it's obvious that he or she cannot handle this challenge. It is highly recommended that athletes looking to get into a strength training program with free weights have a good relative strength of their own body weight BEFORE beginning a free weight program to avoid potential soft tissue injury. This is especially true for pre-pubescent athletes.
Bench Press: Assume position on the bench and maintain four points of contact: head, shoulders, hips, and feet should all remain in contact with bench or floor.
Optimal position of hand placement is to line up your wrist over your elbow. This will allow you to train using as many muscles as possible as opposed to a narrow or wide grip.
The bar is descended down slowly and should line up with the bottom of your chest. It should NOT be near your neck or stomach, as either position will increase the likelihood of injury.
Incline push-ups and push-ups are the proper progression before doing the bench press.
Box Squat: Squat down to the box/bench with hands behind head and touch the seat; do not actually sit down. Go down in a slow and controlled manner and come up forcefully, extending through your knees and hips.
You may use dumbbells or a heavy medicine ball as a progression, either at your side or at your shoulder (more challenging). A single leg box squat, as the name suggests, is done with one foot in contact with the ground.
Inverted Row: You can modify this exercise in many ways, with knees bent or knees extended. Using either position, it is important to maintain a neutral spine or flat back and keep your shoulders above your waist.
The progressions to the inverted row are negatives and then pull-ups, respectively. For negative pull-ups, for example, your primary focus should be on the eccentric (descent) portion of the exercise. Either with assistance from a partner or by jumping, get your chin above the bar and try to come down as slowly as you can.
Previous Strength & Conditioning for Lacrosse Articles
Billy J. Voltaire, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.