Lacrosse is a high-frequency game and it is considered an extreme sport since it requires the players to constantly run on the field. To be able to perform at their best, the players need to stretch and warm-up before actually playing the game. Stretching allows the muscles in the body to loosen up and they become resistant to impact and the chance of an injury decreases.
Without stretching, muscles become painful and tight and they are unable to perform their best when needed. (Source)
This is why constant stretching is important. Warming up the body before exercise does a similar job. It prepares the body for aerobic activity; it starts your cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to the muscles. In short, it allows for the body to function at its best and relieves muscle soreness; this is why the warm-up is done both before and after extreme exercise.
This article will detail warm-up exercises suited for Lacrosse payers. It will also detail some stretching activities and explain how to stretch properly and how stretching is different from warming up.
So what are some warm-up activities players can partake in before playing? Here are 14 warm-up exercises for lacrosse players.
1. Walking Knee Hugs
Walking knee hugs are a dynamic type of exercise. The players have to walk while they use one of their feet as a pivot and bring the arms under one leg and bring it to their chest. This exercise needs to be performed until the players reach 1×10 yards which is roughly 10 minutes. This exercise warms up the knee and the hamstrings making the leg more flexible.
2. The Slide
This exercise requires the players to take a step, spread their legs shoulder-width apart, sinking into a squat, and shift left and right. Then the player stands up and takes a step forward and does it all over again. This activity should be conducted for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The slide targets the groin muscles and helps stretch and strengthen them
3. The Quad Stretch
- The players will have to walk forward while completing this move.
- The player should stand, plat one foot on the ground.
- Bring the leg that is not on the ground towards the back by bending the leg at the knee
- Use your opposite hand to hold the leg flush with the back while stretching the other hand towards the sky.
- Stretch the hand upwards and rise onto the toe of the foot that is firmly onto the ground.
- Take a step forward and do the other leg.
- Do this exercise for approximately 5 minutes.
- The name makes it obvious as this warm-up targets the quad muscles and warms them up.
4. Lateral Sidekick
Like the other exercises, this exercise also requires the players to move while conducting the warm-up. The players will move horizontally to one side first while kicking the leg facing that way. Then the players will move to the opposite side and do the same thing with the other leg.
5. Ankle Bounces
This exercise can be done stationary or while moving forward. This exercise requires the players to put their feet together and use their ankles to bounce upwards constantly for 1 minute. This exercise warms up the ankles which increases the ability to jump and run and prevents the players from injuring or twisting their ankles.
6. Butt Kicks
This exercise requires the players to jog forward while they perform the exercise. Keep your shoulders back and abs stretched, stand tall and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Kick the foot back as if kicking the butt while still running forward. Pump your hands at the same time as you kick your foot.
This exercise warms up the body by activating the cardiovascular system, keeps the heart rate up, and burns calories. This exercise also strengthens the hamstrings.
7. Ankle Over Knee
Like the other exercises, this is a dynamic exercise and it asks the players to move forward while they perform the exercise. The players will run forward while bringing one ankle over the knee of the opposite leg. After one leg is done, perform the same exercise with the other leg. This exercise warms up the legs and the back.
8. The Star Drill
The warm-up can also function as a drill because instead of individuals, this warm-up requires the whole team to participate. Set the cones in a start pattern roughly 10 to 20 yards apart and line players behind all fife cones. Divide players equally and mix offensive and defensive players because all the players need to finesse running, catching, and throwing skills to succeed in lacrosse. Players behind cone 1 will pass to players behind cone 2 and the drill goes on until the ball ends up with a player behind cone 5 and then pass to players behind cone 1. After one player has received and tossed the ball once, he/she moves to the back of the line. This drill is conducted at a rapid pace to make it similar to the actual game.
You can add some variations to this drill to make it easier or harder for the players. You can put the cones closer together so the passes happen more rapidly. You can also introduce multiple balls to make the ball handing a bit faster and introduce ground balls so that players also practice scooping up ground balls with passing.
9. Extra Pass Warm-Up Drill
Group your players in groups of three or five and space them apart 30 to 40 yards apart. Player 1 will run towards player 2 who is 30 to 40 yards away. Player 1 will pass the ball to player 2 and player two will turn and place the ball back to player 1. This drill warms up the body and helps in building muscle memory and conditions the players. Make sure to tell your players to use both hands to pass and use both sides to pass and catch.
I know it sounds obvious but jogging is a great warm-up exercise and is often used to burn calories. Ask your players to jog both forwards and backward so the muscles are built both ways. This exercise also tones the leg muscles and makes them resistant.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and kick one of the legs as high as possible and follow through with the other leg. This exercise stretches the hamstrings and strengthens them.
12. Open the Gate
This is an individual exercise and you don’t need teammates to do it. To do this, place your feet on the ground and bring one knee upwards and keep it straight. Rotate the floating let to the side as if you are opening a door with your knee. This exercise stretches your hip flexors and strengthens them.
13. Arm Warm-Up
We did so many exercises that target the other parts of the body but arms are also very important in lacrosse. You use your hands and arms to score goals, pass, scoop and shoot so it is important to warm them up as well. Stand in front of a wall a few feet away from it and use your lacrosse stick to bounce the ball off the wall. Make sure to hit the same sport and catch the ball back.
If you can’t find a wall or if you have a teammate that wants to practice with you. Shoot the ball towards your teammate, he/she will catch it and shoot it back to you. Perhaps this is better since players in lacrosse are constantly in motion and passing to a static target isn’t realistic.
14. Spider Shooting Drills
The player will stand at the line closest to the goal and the coach or another player will constantly throw balls from outside the ground that the player at the yard line has to catch and shoot. You can add some variation by rolling some ground balls that the players have to scoop and shoot.
How Are Stretching and Warming Up Different?
When players get injured we usually hear both from the players and the people who enjoy watching sports that the player got hurt because they didn’t stretch properly before the game. While stretching may result in an injury, not warming up before an exercise is a bigger culprit.
Stretching increases the range of motion of the body and improves flexibility. Warming up is different from stretching because stretching is static while warming up is usually dynamic. A proper war-up gradually increases the blood flow, heart rate, oxygen, and nutrients in the body. Warming up makes the body more pliable and increases the range of motion of the joints so that the body is more flexible overall (McMillian, 2006). (Source)
A warm-up should look like a low-level version of the activity you are about to perform so it is similar to the motions in the same and targets and stretches the necessary muscles. Static stretches can never be considered as a warm-up since it doesn’t bring the heart rate up.
The players should warm-up before stretching since the best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm so that they are more pliable.
To summarize, stretching aims to increase joint motion while the aim of a warm-up is elevation core temperature. Since we already discussed warm-ups, let’s discuss some stretching activities that can follow your warm-ups.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bring your left foot back and use the front of your toe to balance the body. Bring the right leg towards the front of the body and bend it at the knee so that it is parallel to the ground. Do this rapidly until both of your legs are stretched.
2. Leg Swings
Stand with your feet shoulder with apart, use one of your legs as a base and swing the free leg left and right so that the hip muscles get stretches. Do this exercise for roughly 1 minute and perform it with other legs.
3. Arm Swings
Similar to leg swings, plant your feet on the ground and move one of your arms back and forth to stretch it. Remember to target both of your arms.
4. Back Stretches
Bring both your arms to your chest and cross them in an x shape. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart and rotate just your upper body to the side so that you are stretching your back.
5. Triceps stretch
Stand with your feet firmly planted. Bring one of your elbows upwards so it points towards the sky, fold the arm so the hand touches your back. Use your other hand to pull the bent elbow towards the face until you feel a stretch. Do this for a couple of seconds and remember to do it to bother elbows. This exercise stretches the triceps.
6. Lower Back Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees up, let them naturally fall to one side of your body while you lie straight. Let your hips and back fall with the legs so you don’t injure yourself. Do this for 30 seconds for each side of your body
7. Shoulder Stretch
Stand with your arms bent so that your fist is towards the sky. Place a stick behind your arm and grab it one end. Pull the bottom of the stick forward so that the stick pulls your fist towards your shoulder. This stretches both your arm and your shoulder.
8. Seated Stretch
Sit with your feet in front of you. Open your legs as much as possible and put your arms on the ground and stretch forward so that you are lying parallel to the ground. Bend forward as much as you can and don’t push past your limit. This exercise relieves tightness and soreness in the lower back by stretch the lower back and inner leg muscles.
Sit with one of your legs stretched behind your, bring your other leg in front of the body, and bend it at the knee so it is pointing towards the shoulder of the opposite leg. This exercise stretches the outer hips and glutes which are muscles that are very important for lacrosse players because they are used for sprinting, changing direction, and shooting; basically, anything involving a squatting motion.
10. Forward Stretch
Stand with your feet apart; fold forward so that your chest is parallel to the ground. Bring your arms to the back of the body and stretch them by bringing them towards the sky. This relieves the tension in our muscles that are responsible for changing directions; it also stretches your shoulders and chest.
11. Hamstring Stretch
Position your body as if you are about to squat but instead of going into the position fully, place one of your legs forward, place both hands on the knee and stretch the leg so that you feel a tug in your hamstrings.
How to Stretch Correctly?
It is important to stretch but it is also important to stretch properly. Lacrosse is a dynamic sport which means that lacrosse stretch has to be both dynamic and static.
The best time to stretch is when your body is warm after you have warmed up. You can also stretch after the match or even between matches. Dynamic stretches are warm-ups that mimic your game activities; static stretches improve overall flexibility and are more effective as a cool down.
When you are stretching make sure to move through your range of motion instead of swinging your arm or leg back and forth. While you exercise, you have to keep control of your appendages. While stretching it is common to feel a stretch or pull but no exercise should be painful. If you feel pain while stretch you are doing something wrong and probably hurting yourself so be mindful while stretching.
Start slowly with low-intensity movement first and then move on to more intense warm-ups and exercises. For static exercises, hold your position and don’t jump or jerk any muscles. Usually static stretch lasts about 20 to 30 seconds. You need to stretch and warm-up before each game and need to cool down after each game.
Lacrosse is a hard sport and it asks the players to be in motion constantly. In such a case, it is important to stretch and warm-up the body before playing because it prevents injuries and gives the body, joints, and muscles more flexibility and motion. Warming up brings your heart rate up and helps get your blood pumping so that you play at your best.
Just like warming up, stretching also helps the body of the players and prevents injuries. It is important to stretch before the game and after the game as a cool down. Players should pay attention and stretch properly because improper stretching can actually hurt the body in return so it is important to stretch properly, following the rules of stretching.
Remember, it is important to stretch and warm up before playing an intense sport such as lacrosse.
McMillian, D. (2006). Dynamic Vs. Static-Stretching Warm-up: The Effect On Power And Agility Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 492-499.