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Lacrosse Season Starts: Should Players of All Positions Train in the Same Manner?

All of us are excited for the upcoming lacrosse season, well maybe? When dealing with any athlete, preparation is key to success; unfortunately not all of your athletes may be prepared at the start of the season.

Lacrosse is a sprinting sport, it requires agility, power, strength and endurance; not everyone is prepared for those components. So let’s look at a systematic approach to prepare them for their first contest, and to keep them healthy.

There are three metabolic systems that provide energy to athletes:

The ATP-PC or the Anaerobic system, sometimes called the Phosphagen system. This provides a high amount of energy at a fast rate from 10-30 seconds. This happens in the absence of oxygen.

The Anaerobic Glycolysis System or the Lactic Acid System supports activities with energy for 30 seconds up to two minutes -like a midfielder’s shift or a period in a wrestling match. This happens in the absence of oxygen.

The Aerobic System depends on oxygen and will provide energy for four minutes to activities lasting more than an hour. These activities are of low intensity with very little muscle tension such as long distance running, cycling etc.

So where does lacrosse fall in this metabolic spectrum. Lacrosse is about 70 to 85% anaerobic, and depending on what you read the other 15 to 30% comes from the Lactic Acid and Aerobic systems.

In lacrosse, some positions have a higher demand for energy than others. Midfielders probably expend more energy than any other player on the field, and probably should be the most fit, where goalies expend the least. Both have to be prepared, but not in the same way.

The attack, close defense, FOGO, and goalies will cover the least amount of the field, but need to be quick, strong and evasive. They should spend more time on anaerobic activities, such as strength and power activities, agility and quickness training, and, reaction drills, foot drills and explosive drills for goalies. These positions should spend a majority of their time in the ATP-PC system.

Midfielders are a totally different animal. They cover the whole field repeatedly, but also need the speed and agility training, coupled with more anaerobic endurance or training in both the Lactic Acid system and ATP-PC systems.

So where am I going with this? Lacrosse has evolved, there are bigger and faster athletes playing today than ever before and we can’t train them all the same. I have watched thousands of practices where the whole team does the same running, the same weight training, the same plyo program, etc., etc.

If athletes specialize in anything, they should specialize in improving their individual performance and injury prevention.

Injuries can happen because of improper training, training volumes that are too high, and not specific to the positions the athletes play.

So as your season progresses think about  the conditioning goals for your team.

When you want to train athletes for strictly speed, power and strength (Phosphagen System), the work-rest ratio is 1:3 to 1:5.  For example, if it takes a group of attack and midfielders to complete 40 yard sprints in 6 seconds, rest should be 18 to 30 seconds between each rep.  These are done at full effort, just like they would be running in a game (full sprint).  If not, and your players are just going through the motions, it will show up in competition. Same can be done with weight training and Plyometrics.  Agility drills are also an example of this metabolic training, but the drills should be specific to the athlete and done with good technique. Quality work not quantity, full recovery or close to full recovery is important in this type of training.

Agility ladders are great for warm ups and foot work, but technique and form are paramount. The athlete needs to perfect the movement before trying to get through the drill too quickly.  I use the agility ladder in the rehabilitation process, making sure that body mechanics are correct, and the athlete is absorbing force correctly.

If  you want to train the midfielder, the Anaerobic Glycolysis system comes into play and the work rest ratio is 1:2, so 30 seconds of all out effort to 1 minute of rest. These athletes cover the whole field; they need to be prepared for game situations, training in this system is important for their performance and injury prevention.

I have not mentioned the Aerobic System yet, but it is important for your field players performance.   This system helps the athlete recover in between repeated bouts of all out effort. It is their gas mileage.  Team sport athletes can train this system with a 1:1 work rest ratio, 1 minute of moderate work and 1 minute of rest.  Long slow distances don’t need to be done unless you are doing a full recovery day and should be kept to 20 minutes of light running or cycling (20 minutes max, followed by some stretching and stick work). Remember it is a recovery day, minimal effort.  This probably should be done as the season progresses and if teams are playing three games a week. If recovery is not built into the season we will see an increase in injury and performance decline.

When I start seeing an increase in knee pain, shin pain and muscle strains, I will have a conversation with the coach about backing off and making sure there is a post practice stretch. We also discuss post practice and post competition nutrition and hydration.  To replenish muscle energy stores, athletes need to fuel at least 30 minutes after practice or a game to get the best results.  A meal with lean protein and complex carbohydrates will be appropriate, but also keeping in mind rehydration.  Recovery from intense efforts is just as important as conditioning.

Have a great season!

NOTE: This article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as the advice or opinions of the authors, contributors, publishers, or directors of this blog, or any organizations or institutions which they are affiliated with.  Please consult with your physician or other health care provider for consultation, assessment, and treatment as necessary.

Luigi Rende
Luigi Rende has been a Certified Athletic Trainer since 1983, treating high school, collegiate and professional athletes. He is currently the Coordinator of Sports Medicine/Athletic Training Services at OrthoNY. He can be reached at