06 Jul Kettlebell Training For Lacrosse (The Ultimate Guide)
Kettlebells are “the” most underutilized strength and conditioning tool for lacrosse athletes.
I say this because most lacrosse athletes, or field athletes in general, don’t really understand how these simple training tools can help them translate to better field performance.
This is a sad fact.
The appropriate and correct applications of kettlebell training will not only help athletes improve performance, but also greatly contribute to reducing risk for injuries, yet few athletes use these highly accessible tools.
Why is that?
I have many thoughts, but the bottom line is this article will shed some serious light on the topic.
By using kettlebells, most athletes could improve speed and power measurements in just 6-8 weeks by following a structured kettlebell program. That’s not to mention the improvement of other intangibles – such as broad-movement skills, breathing efficiency, and overall durability.
I know these may appear as being bold statements, but I have first hand experience in seeing the benefits.
My goal is to make this the most comprehensive article available on the internet on the topic of kettlebell training for lacrosse athletes.
You won’t find much on this topic, until now.
If you’re a lacrosse athlete, parent, coach or anyone who works with lacrosse athletes, you can’t afford to miss out on this information, especially if you want to stay ahead in today’s game.
I believe that the proper application of kettlebells can be a legitimate “game changer” to improve athletic performance, especially for lacrosse players.
There’s a lot that goes into becoming a better lacrosse player, certainly improving general athleticism is a major part of that.
Here’s what I can say with absolute certainty.
Improving the qualities of strength (and there are many of them) will help any athlete become a better athlete.
I’ve felt this way for years and every top performance coach I know will tell you the same thing.
Even the premier lacrosse organization in the United States, US Lacrosse, now fully endorses the importance of meaningful approaches to strength and conditioning for not only elite players, but for youth athletes, as well.
For lacrosse athletes, one of the premier tools we have available is a kettlebell.
Yet it’s shocking to me how little information is available on this topic.
Kettlebell training for lacrosse may be one of the best strength and conditioning tools we have, yet there’s a huge gap in quality information available.
I want to repeat this one more time.
Kettlebell training may be one of the best tools available for the lacrosse athlete.
I want to clarify this by also saying this method is not the only tool to use, but simply one of the best options.
It’s an accessible tool to build explosive athletes (more on what I mean later).
What I will share with you now is an introduction to building strong, powerful, durable, and resilient athletes.
This isn’t hype, folks.
THE LACROSSE ATHLETE & THE ROLE OF KETTLEBELLS
I became immersed in lacrosse a couple of years ago because my daughters started playing the game.
I love the game and soon after I discovered it, I enrolled in 2 “live” coaching clinics to become a Level 2 US Lacrosse coach.
Since then, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the furious, fast-paced sport.
While lacrosse is called the “fastest sport on two feet,” speed is just one critical factor that makes a player successful.
My own background and expertise in strength and performance, as well as injury prevention strategies.
Regardless of the sport or skill though, I’m a teacher of human movement.
For the last decade or more, I have been obsessed with sharing how kettlebells can radically improve strength, explosiveness, speed, and human health for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Kettlebells offer a portable, simple, and highly effective training solution for people – and for athletes, it’s no different.
I’ve personally observed how this simple tool can transform people in many ways.
The biggest challenge for the athlete – or anyone for that matter – is learning how to use this tool the right way.
In other words, learning the proper technique with kettlebells is absolutely critical to maximize benefits and minimize risk for injury.
Kettlebells, when used properly with correct technique and intelligent programming, can dramatically improve an athlete’s strength, as well as other important physical qualities for on-field physical domination.
I wouldn’t say this if it weren’t true.
Although more programming ideas are surfacing nowadays, I think there’s a lack in programming approaches and methodologies for lax athletes.
For example, the LaxPrep Program is outstanding for ACL prevention program.
I call this one out because it’s simple to implement and addresses a specific goal – ACL injury prevention.
But the program is designed as a general approach to prevent ACL injury, not as a performance enhancement program for on-field performance.
Enter the kettlebell.
I want to cover motor patterns before we talk about kettlebell training.
Any sport requires complex motor patterns.
A motor pattern is where the nervous system and musculoskeletal system work together to perform a task to achieve a goal.
It’s really that simple.
In lacrosse, motor patterns and skills to be a successful player are things such as:
- throwing & passing
- recovering ground balls
- shooting on goal
- sprinting & running
- accelerating to goal
Kettlebell training, and strength training in general, help athletes build motor patterns to be more successful in their sport and contribute to the development of the things I just mentioned.
This doesn’t mean we’re training “sports specific,” which is often a misused and misunderstood term.
The point is that building strength and motor skills help athletes become better athletes, plain and simple.
Hope you understand this important concept.
PHYSICAL NEEDS OF THE LACROSSE ATHLETE
Indeed, the game of lacrosse is fast and the athletes need to be fast. Again, speed is only one physical attribute to be successful on the lacrosse field.
Needs for lacrosse athletes are (listed in alphabetical order):
-Mobility & Flexibility
-Motor Control & Coordination
-Speed & Quickness
-Toughness & Durability
Kettlebell training can address many of these physical needs.
Top-line benefits are strength, conditioning, power and explosiveness, but there are many qualities that are developed and improved through kettlebells.
There are also “hidden benefits” to using kettlebells for lacrosse athletes (ex. mental toughness, improved confidence, optimal back health, shoulder and upper body stability, and much more).
HOW KETTLEBELLS CAN HELP THE LACROSSE ATHLETE
How is a kettlebell different from any other training tool or method?
It’s well established that the use of Olympic Weightlifting helps athletes develop strength and power.
It can be said that the qualities developed in the weight room do translate to the athletic field.
Kettlebells are different though.
They offer 4 key benefits that I’ve written about in the past.
I call these benefits P.A.S.E. and will quickly summarize them for you below.
-Portability – you don’t need an expensive and extensive gym set up, all you need is a kettlebell or a few bells (*this is especially important in today’s climate where we all need space-saving, time efficient ways to train-at-home)
-Accessibility – kettlebells are truly “accessible” to anyone and everyone who wants to use them
-Simplicity – the tool is a simple solution to many health and fitness problems
-Effectiveness – when used properly, this tool is highly proven and effective
Kettlebells are very simple tools, but they require the appropriate coaching from a properly trained instructor to get the biggest bang for the buck.
While I have extreme passion for Olympic Weightlifting for athletes, kettlebells are significantly easier and faster to learn than learning the Olympic lifts and athletes don’t need access to a gym or purchase an expensive barbell system set-up.
Don’t get me wrong, kettlebells are challenging movement skills that must be taught properly from a qualified coach.
But, the truth is kettlebells are much easier to learn and apply than Olympic Weightlifting.
It’s a shorter learning process and it’s easier to manipulate the tool based on the shape and design of a kettlebell compared to a loaded barbell.
A kettlebell is a cannonball with a handle.
It’s the way we manipulate this tool that makes it so unique and highly-effective for athletes.
Again, the tool produces strength, power, speed, and explosiveness.
Here’s the most basic example.
A kettlebell swing is a skilled movement that requires an explosive hip hinge movement pattern.
When the movement pattern is engrained, it can be transformational for many people and it will produce a specific result depending on the training variables.
A kettlebell swing is not a squat and it’s not a front raise.
We’ll talk more about that soon.
A kettlebell (or a pair of kettlebells) offers a completely portable training system to build a more physically dominant, durable, and explosive athlete.
That’s fact not fiction.
Here are some specifics about the benefits and outcomes of kettlebells for the field athlete:
Remember what I’m about to tell you now. Strong glutes are the foundation for peak athletic performance. You name the sport and I can tell you how glutes and hip power are the key to performance. Using kettlebells strengthen the glutes and hip muscles to extremely high levels that are essential for sport performance. The kettlebell swing alone is unique in strengthening the powerful hip extensors.Strong glutes are the foundation for peak athletic performance. Click To Tweet
STRONG STABLE CORE
Kettlebell movements strengthen the “core.” While I’m not a huge fan of using the term “core,” most people understand that this means strengthening the abdominals, the trunk, and the muscles around the pelvis and hips. Training with kettlebells effectively strengthens the body as a unit, as one piece and not in isolation. As an athlete this is what we want. It is essential for these athletes to have the foundational component of core strength.
POWERFUL, RESILIENT SHOULDERS
Building strong shoulders is critical for the lacrosse athlete. Why? Because developing strong shoulders and upper body strength helps players dominate the game and also stay injury-free. While the basic kettlebell exercises (the “core 4” that I’ll cover below) all help strengthen the shoulders at some level, the “get-up” exercise is something truly spectacular.
CRUSHING GRIP STRENGTH
Strengthening the grip means a stronger athlete. This principle applies especially to the sport of lacrosse where grip and forearm strength means better stick control and more powerful shots on goal.
It’s been said that “athletic performance begins with good breathing.”
Proper kettlebell training applies the principles of breathing to improve performance. If breathing isn’t done properly with kettlebells, we lose power and effectiveness, not to mention that it becomes a safety issue. Kettlebell training begins by teaching the basic application of diaphragmatic breathing and breath control. The technique of “power breathing” is used with kettlebells which matches breath to power production. This principle is central to effective training. The bottom line is that kettlebells teach improved breathing for peak athletic performance.
Explosiveness is simply being able to produce force fast. Think of a football player bursting off the line of scrimmage. The lacrosse athlete who quickly bursts from the 12 meter fan and goes to goal. Well, that’s explosiveness. Being explosive or displaying the ability to move fast is a critical component for many athletes, especially field athletes.
HIGH VALUE KETTLEBELL EXERCISES FOR LACROSSE (THE “CORE 4”)
Now let’s talk about which specific exercises are most beneficial for the lacrosse athlete.
While there are many exercises you will come across that are classified as kettlebell exercises, it’s always important to stick to the basics.
Become great at the basics, that’s the key to success in sport.
If there is a secret to successful training, it’s “have the courage to stick to the basics” as appropriately stated by the renowned strength coach and author, Dan John.
So, let me tell you about the most valuable exercises for lacrosse players.
These exercises are what I consider to be the absolute fundamentals and if an athlete can master these they will be stronger, faster and more durable as an athlete.
There are four fundamentals, what I consider to be the kettlebell “Core 4.”
1-KETTLEBELL SWING (the technique is Hardstyle – or Russian Style – kettlebell swing)
Now, here’s something to think about.
While these four exercises are extremely valuable for the lacrosse athlete, the truth is that if someone focused on just the kettlebell swing, they would experience tremendous benefits.
The swing is explosive and powerful, especially for field athletes, which makes me wonder why this exercise is not utilized more for the athletic population.
THE KETTLEBELL “CORE 4”
1-THE KETTLEBELL SWING: The Fat Burning Athlete Builder Exercise
It could be argued that there may be no more valuable exercise for the lacrosse athlete than the kettlebell swing. This exercise alone will help the athlete become more explosive for on-field-performance. Learning how to perform this exercise correctly can help a player become a more dominant player.
First, we need to clarify the TYPE of kettlebell swing we’re talking about.
This is so important because the kettlebell swing is often confused or misunderstood, so we need to clarify.
There is a kettlebell swing style that elevates the kettlebell overhead (called the American Kettlebell Swing) and it’s used most often in the CrossFit community.
This is NOT the kettlebell swing I am referring to.
A better option is the Russian Kettlebell Swing.
The Russian swing elevates the kettlebell to approximately shoulder height and teaches how to use the hips.
If you want to fully understand why the Russian swing is a better option, you can find my previous article here:
Beyond the scope of this article, are variations of the kettlebell swing.
For your understanding these are the most utilized versions of the swing, which are:
- 2-Hand Swing (Most Common)
- 1-Hand Swing
- Hand-To-Hand Swing
The swing stimulates and recruits the TYPE II muscle fibers, which are needed for speed, power, and explosiveness.
Just like the Olympic weightlifting movements, the kettlebell swing activates these type II fibers which help lacrosse athletes perform better on the field.
Benefits for the lacrosse player: Lacrosse is an explosive sport. Athletes need to be fast and explosive on the field to compete at a high level. The kettlebell swing builds strength, conditioning, and pure explosiveness that is nearly unmatched by the vast majority of exercises. My experience is that the kettlebell swing can also greatly contributes to speed development, although these findings are anecdotal.
The kettlebell swing will build strong, explosive, and more durable athletes on the lacrosse field, that’s what you need to know.
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KETTLEBELL SWING #demo . Two-handed kettlebell swing. Russian (or hardstyle) technique shown. . The ultimate athlete builder… . Simple – in concept. Does not mean easy. . Essential principles: . 🔹Hinge 🔹Power breathing 🔹Explosive hips 🔹Proper set up & finish 🔹Use of tension/relaxation . #kettlebellswingdemo #kettlebell #kettlebellswing #exercise #hiphinge #fatburner #power #strength #fast #speed #motorlearning #movement #conditioning #athlete #drive #learn
2-THE GET UP: The “Magic Bullet” Exercise
For simplicity, the get up (also known as the Turkish Get Up) involves getting up from the ground while holding a kettlebell and then returning back to the ground to the starting position.
I’ve said for years now that the “get up” is one of the most important exercises for ALL humans – athletes, recreational exercisers, and every individual – because it teaches skillful movement and builds functional strength.
The get up is one of the most valuable exercises for the human body and it’s also one of the most underutilized exercises on the planet, bar none.
While the get-up may be one of the more complex movements, it’s made very simple by breaking it down into small steps.
Benefits for the lacrosse player: Here’s the deal. I already told you how the kettlebell swing alone would vastly help build a stronger, more durable athlete. The same can be said for the get up. But, it’s different. Very different. While the swing produces “fast strength,” the get up is “slow strength.” That’s because the get up is a slow, deliberate, skilled movement. Get ups will make athletes incredibly strong and much more resistant to injury.
There is magic to this exercise for anyone who uses it and I like to think of this as a “magic bullet” exercise.
It fixes and improves a lot of different things.
For that reason, the get up is magical.
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THE GET UP #demo (aka “the Turkish get up”) ▪️Exercise 2 of the “core 4” kettlebell exercises… . Possibly, the most important exercise for true total body functional strength and resiliency… . For athletes? You bet! . For youth, the aging, and everyone in between? You bet! . Teaches the body how to move with control under load. . Builds durability, improves stability and mobility, skyrockets strength. . Forges Resilience 💪 . Essentials to consider for the get up: . 🔹Break down the movement into small steps 🔹Move slowly through the entire movement 🔹Practice (makes improvement) 🔹A get up a day can do amazing things for the body . Get Up to Get Strong! . #getup #turkishgetup #kettlebells #strength #resilience #shoulders #core #kettlebelltraining #strong #conditioning #movement #fitness #exercise #muscle #hips #athlete #athleticism #gripstrength
3-THE GOBLET SQUAT: The Essential Movement Exercise
Leg strength, lower body motor control, and the ability to perform full range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles is strongly desirable for all athletes.
The goblet squat is one of the most essential exercises that helps not only to improve total body strength, but reinforces good squat patterns. This simple exercise does not require the demands of a barbell back squat, yet it teaches your body how to squat properly under a load.
The goblet squat can be viewed as a staple strength, conditioning, and mobility exercise.
Benefits for the lacrosse player: Because lower body strength, mobility and flexibility are crucial for lacrosse athletes, the goblet squat is an essential movement pattern. And, since ACL injuries are significantly much more prevalent in female athletes, the goblet squat and squat variations can be invaluable for these athletes.
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THE GOBLET SQUAT #demo Exercise 3 of the “core 4” kettlebell exercises. . The goblet squat is an exceptional, essential exercise for mobility and general strength. . This is not done for maximum strength, such as the barbell squat. It’s different, but effective for many reasons and significantly improves mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles. . The squat – and variations – are essential for normal function and high performance. . Considerations for the Goblet Squat: . ✅Posture is key. Stay tall and upright during the movement. . ✅Proper breathing is also an integral part of this great movement. . ✅While this improves mobility and stability, baseline mobility & stability is required. #gobletsquat #squat #kettlebell #train #strength #kettlebellexercise #kettlebellworkout #posture #breathing #mobility #stability #conditioning #athlete #performance #movement
4-THE PRESS: The Pillar Strength Exercise
When doing the kettlebell press, your body becomes a pillar of strength
The kettlebell press, when done correctly, is a very distinctive and highly beneficial overhead movement for the overall health of the shoulders.
While the press builds strong shoulders, the value of this press variation is increasing upper body strength (that is much needed for lacrosse) and helping to prevent injuries from occurring in the shoulder region. I could write a book on this topic and the importance of keeping the shoulders healthy for sport.
The kettlebell press should also be thought of as a full body strengthening exercise, and not a “shoulder press.” This overhead press integrates the entire body and uses the principles of muscular tension to maximize strength development. The body becomes a pillar of strength to press the kettlebell overhead.
But why is this press different from any other?
The shape and design of the kettlebell encourages the press in a very natural plane of motion (called the plane of the scapula). This distinctive feature makes the kettlebell press uniquely effective and safe from other pressing variations (in the author’s humble opinion).
Benefits for the lacrosse player: Lacrosse players need exceptional upper body strength for stick skills and shooting effectiveness. Not to mention, preventing upper body injuries is crucial for these athletes.
The kettlebell press is a safe, simple and effective way to build strength in the body and help to protect the shoulders from injury.
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Kettlebell Press #demo Exercise 4 of the kettlebell “core 4” . The kettlebell exercise – that’s not just for the shoulders! . I’ve said many times how the kettlebell press is unique press variation for the shoulder. And, it truly integrates the entire body. . This press variation allows for what can be considered “the most natural” pressing motion. And if you’ve seen any of my previous posts on this, you know why. . 🔹To get really strong, press. 🔹To fully integrate the body, press. 🔹To build outstanding shoulders and upper body strength, press. . #kettlebellpress #strength #upperbody #shoulders #press #kettlebells #shoulderpress #lift #getstrong #workout #kettlebelltraining #strong #stability
The Swing, Get Up, Squat, and Press are the Core 4, but…
MOVING BEYOND THE “CORE 4”
NEXT LEVEL EXERCISES FOR THE LAX PLAYER
Kettlebell exercises for lacrosse athletes are built on the “core 4,” then expand from there.
Here are more exercises to progress from once the “core 4” are well established.
THE HIGH PULL
The high pull uses the same explosive hip drive that has been developed with the kettlebell swing, but takes the path of the kettlebell higher and in a different movement execution. This is a powerful exercise for the lacrosse athlete as it closely mimics pulling the stick back and up to pass or shoot the ball.
Additionally, the high pull is a wonderful precursor to learning the snatch, which we’ll discuss next.
Once a good hip hinge pattern is established with the high pull (and swing), the next progression is the kettlebell snatch.
This exercise is, for lack of a better word, bad-ass.
Hailed as “The Czar” of kettlebell exercises, the snatch is very humbling as it produces a high level of strength and conditioning.
In my opinion and experience, it is only wise to progress to the snatch when the hip power is really dialed in.
The kettlebell snatch elevates the kettlebell overhead with the shoulder and elbow in a locked out position, so there is a large range of motion that the kettlebell travels. It’s a fast and explosive movement that develops overhead strength and full body explosiveness, different from the swing.
There are a couple quick points to mention here about the snatch.
1-The hips must be explosive to elevate the kettlebell forcefully overhead. The more explosive the hips, the more easily the kettlebell will project upward to the top. Remember that.
2-The kettlebell should land “softly” when finishing at the top (this requires neuromuscular learning and practice) so that there is no “banging” of the kettlebell as it rotates around at the top. A “rookie mistake” is allowing the kettlebell to flop and bang the forearm.
A somewhat relaxed grip on the kettlebell and then a “ punching” or rolling of the hand through the kettlebell allows for the kettlebell to rotate and reposition at the top.
This is so key and once this is learned, it becomes automatic and effortless.
Again, there should be no banging as the kettlebell rotates around at the top of the snatch.
The snatch enhances athleticism, without question.
THE KETTLEBELL LUNGE or OTHER UNILATERAL EXERCISE
I really like the kettlebell lunge because it’s valuable for working on unilateral stance (one leg stance). For many athletes, this exercise is probably underutilized and it’s one of the “easier” kettlebell exercises to learn.
In addition to the lunge, the single leg deadlift is also wonderful to learn the hip hinge pattern and to develop single leg strength.
Certainly there are more kettlebell exercises that can be incorporated for lacrosse athletes.
As mentioned earlier, the smart athletes stick to the basics and work to master the fundamentals.
As far as exercise programming, keep things simple.
“Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” -Bruce Lee
Kettlebell exercises can go deep, depending on the athletes needs, goals, and experience.
To cover the topic of programming would be best served in another article.
Programming is a big topic and most people go about it all wrong to be very honest.
In general, there are 2 primary ways to look at exercise programming for lacrosse athletes.
In-season and off-season.
The goals and variables will be changed based on “in-season” and “off-season” approaches.
In basic terms, in-season training training will be done less frequently and with lower intensity so that the athlete can focus on the sport.
Off-season training will be intensified to build up strength, conditioning, and other qualities to improve performance when it’s game time.
I do want to say this about programming.
With kettlebell training or any training approach, the goal should NEVER be to exercise until you throw-up or train until you are completely annihilated lying on the floor in a pool of sweat.
The “train until you collapse” attitude is for amateurs and doesn’t have a place in a sound coaching philosophy.The 'train until you collapse' attitude is for amateurs and doesn't have a place in a sound coaching philosophy.Click To Tweet
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of exercise is not to kill yourself at the end of a workout.
As a matter of fact, if you work with a coach or trainer who believes that this is the way to train, fire them and move on.
Of course, you can do what you want.
What I will leave you with is that all training should be done to make the athlete a better athlete.
For athletes, skill development is huge and transfer to sport is highly desired.
All strength and conditioning goals should be geared to:
1-Improve movement skills
2-Empower athletes for the long term
3-Build overall strength & the many qualities of strength
4-Enhance athletic performance on the field
5-Minimize risk for injury & build durable, resilient athletes
6-Improve speed and power
Kettlebells can help these things and do it in a simple, time-efficient training approach.
That’s the bottom line.
Again, the single biggest challenge for the athlete (just like learning the Olympic lifts) is learning how to correctly use this tool to maximize results.
This information is just the “tip of the iceberg” on this topic, so you may see more follow-up content coming.
In short, this tool can make you better, stronger, and faster as an athlete.
If you understand the information that I have shared, then there are really only 2 things you need to get started.
GET A QUALITY KETTLEBELL (or access to kettlebells) (NOTE: Finding kettlebells these days can be a huge challenge. My #1 recommended kettlebell brand is still the Rogue Kettlebell for quality and price)
FIND A CERTIFIED KETTLEBELL INSTRUCTOR (you need to find a coach who can teach you how to use this tool the right way)
You need the tool and you need the coach.
It’s as simple as that.
Then, you need a good programming approach to deliver a result.
When I began this article, I stated that kettlebell training was the most underutilized “secret weapon” for training lacrosse athletes.
I stand by that statement and now you know why.
Kettlebells will build strength, improve speed and explosiveness, and forge durability for the lacrosse athlete – unlike many other training tools that make kettlebell training a highly effective performance solution.
There is so much more to share about this topic.
Kettlebells are a “game-changer” for these athletes, yet there’s a scarcity of information out there on their applications for lacrosse.
Why is that?Kettlebells will build strength, improve speed and explosiveness, and forge durability for the lacrosse athlete.Click To Tweet
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