STRENGTH FOR THE AREA BETWEEN THE EARS

Before we start, I want to encourage every single one of you to keep reading. Even when it seems like this is just “another one of those articles” or it seems like it just doesn’t pertain to you. This topic is one that we must continue to talk about even when it is hard or doesn’t feel like it applies to us.

In the past six months, the mental health initiative throughout the athletic community, and pretty much the human community, has exploded. There is a mix of compassion and empathy as well as misunderstandings and negative attitudes. With this being said, the athletic community finds themselves in a polar divide as strong as the current state of political affairs. Many find themselves in the ideal of being the strong individual who only needs to rely on themselves or the “expressing how they feel is weakness.” This mindset has developed by generational transference through the athletic community. Passed down from mentor to mentee and the persona we place amongst athletes that they are indeed that – an athlete. They are the best of the best, the strongest of the strong, the greatest creation of human evolution. Survival of the fittest with the elite athlete being comprised of every human’s ideal form. Yet, at the end of the day, we forget one simple fact – they are human, just like me and you. We, as a human society misconstrued emotional strength for physical strength. Emotional strength is not the ability to handle everything on our own but instead the ability to understand what we can and cannot do by ourselves and the courage to ask for help when we cannot.

Me, Personally

I want to pause here for a little anecdotal information. In my 22 years of life, I have found myself living most of it from the area in which I felt I did not need another individuals help, in anything. I felt that being strong meant keeping everything locked up and handling it myself, or in some cases, lock it up and throw away the key. When I got to college, this internal process of mine was exacerbated, even though the personal stressors were piling up between the school, softball and social aspects of my life. It was suggested by a coach and two close friends that I seek out our Behavioral Health Coordinator, Dr. Lee Dorpfeld, for a chat. I remember thinking, “HA, that will never happen. I don’t need a psychologist.” For the next two and a half years, he and I played, what he calls, a game of cat and mouse. I would come in one day and then disappear from his office for four to six months. I would see him around our athletic facility and we would always chat or have a conversation but I avoided his portion of the facility with the same determination as a softball player attempting to avoid a slump. (You can see where this is heading.) Now, I am probably one of the slowest shortstops to ever have played Division I softball. It was joked that if you wanted to make me run fast, just put Dr. Lee at the opposite place you wanted me to run. You see, I fell into the misconception that we all have – the “ist” phenomena. Psychologist, dermatologist, orthodontist, therapist, etc. We often feel that professions ending in “ist” are all related to fixing someone.

It wasn’t until I sustained the first of my two major injuries that I started going to talk to Dr. Lee on a more “consistent” basis (I place the quotations because it wasn’t really that consistent but it was more often than four to six months). I began to realize how much less stressed I was because I had someone to talk through my stressors, uncomforts, and fears relating to my injury process. Slowly and surely that started to transition into topics regarding graduate school and relationships with others. My natural tendencies to “lock up” into self-protection mode slowly began to dissipate. I was starting to have real relationships and great friendships with people who mean a lot to me. My ability on the field finally came to full fruition as well. I was able to remain focused and locked in. Simply put, I felt lighter in everything I tried to do. No, sadly I did not get physically faster by releasing these personal loads but I was mentally faster. Understand this, I didn’t have to be “fixed” or wasn’t diagnosed with a condition as everyone fears. But, I found a safe place to be vulnerable and release myself from unnecessary stress.

Start By Changing Your Definition

You see, the ability to open up and discuss what is on your mind, whether good or bad, is “strength.” It is the understanding that we all need that person to talk to. Often, we lock athletes into this bubble that places them on a pedestal above the standards of the normal human. In actuality, their competitive profession places them in an area of high stress and personal demands. We need to re-educate the athletic community, starting with the youth athlete all the way to the professional, that asking for help or admitting your stressed isn’t weakness, it IS strength.

I’d like to emphasize another point – this doesn’t have to happen with a psychologist. It can be a friend, a coach or teammate, a mentor – anyone who you feel comfortable expressing yourself too. If you are fearful of the “ist” phenomena then I encourage you to find someone in your circle. It can be powerful to hear that someone feels the same as you, that you are not alone, as we most often are not. I look to another personal example that occurred with one of my closest friends.

Honestly, it happens quite frequently between the two of us so I cannot remember the context of the first one specifically but it went as most of them do. I was feeling quite overwhelmed with something softball wise and I blurted out during dinner, “can I ask you something?” She responded with “oh boy,” as she’s come to associate that question with something of grand context. I stated my point, as normally is not a question but a statement, to which she responded, “Cass, I feel the exact same way and I haven’t told anyone either.” It was a moment of mutual appreciation and understanding, as we both finally felt legitimized in our thinking. Now, I am not saying that this is always going to happen. Sometimes, you are going to open up and someone won’t feel the same way or understand it. That does not mean you hunker down and lock up – as with anything like athletics, there is going to be “failure.” But I want to reframe this thought as well; opening up and having someone not understand or feel the same isn’t a failure – it is just the process of human connection. Not one person is going to have the same sequence of events in their life as you but they will have general experiences similar to you; it is in this that the bond is created. We might not have the same exact feelings, but they will be close and possible to relate to – that is where you must find the comfort.

Why Athletes Warehouse

Athletes Warehouse is a prime example of changing this part of the athletic culture. We strive to challenge our athletes from a physical and mental perspective. We often incorporate mental skills training into most of our classes and large groups as we deem it as important as the physical skill set we can provide. We thrive on relatability – as all of our staff consists of former collegiate athletes which is effective as I find there is a slight difference in the natural tendencies of an athlete. We strive to create a safe environment for our athletes to challenge themselves and test their limits. We encourage open communication and discussion amongst staff and through the coach-athlete relationship.

I encourage any athlete, coach, or head of an organization reading this to let this message sink in. We are all human, so why don’t we allow athletes to act like it? Change doesn’t occur overnight. It takes one person impacting another and then another and this cycling continuing over and over to perpetuate change.

Let’s start now,

Cassidy

12 STRENGTH Exercises Your LACROSSE Athlete Should Be Doing

This article is about lacrosse exercises to improve performance.

by Jack Gladstone

  1. Front Squat

We utilize the front squat for training lower body strength as well as to challenge the midline control of the athlete. The movement promotes stability through the pelvis, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and abdominals. By loading the barbell in the front rack position we minimize the risk of loading the pelvis and lumbar spine into a lordotic position (increase stress on the lower back as the pelvis is tilted forward). The front rack helps the athlete gain control over a maintaining a neutral spine. Whereas most of the musculature in the human body is meant to create motion, the muscles of the midline are meant to brace or resist motion. This is a vital component to preventing injury in an athlete but will also aid in an increase in power during the violent action of shooting a lacrosse ball. The front squat is fantastic for the lacrosse athlete in that it promotes strength, stability, and durability throughout the entire system (ankle, knee, hip, spine, abdominal, shoulder) all of which are crucial when sprinting, jumping, cutting, checking,  or even absorbing a check.

      2. Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift has many of the same benefits as the front squat in the sense that it challenges the integrity of the entire system. However, during the sumo pull, it’s important to cue the athlete to drive their knees out towards the outside of their foot, attempting to “spread the floor.”. Why is this so important for the lacrosse athlete? The sumo deadlift will aid in building hip and external rotator strength which is extremely crucial in a lateral dominant (ie. cutting) sport like lacrosse. The sumo deadlift can also be safely utilized dynamically for power development.

     3. DB Lunge

We utilize the dumbbell lunge as an accessory exercise to a main lift (For example: We would do these after completing our squat, press, or deadlift). The dumbbell lunge is a tremendous unilateral exercise that is critical for developing strength through the glute, hamstring, and quad. By creating this unilateral strength and stability via the lunge, the athlete will also promote stability and strength throughout the knee joint. This is vital in a sport that sees too many knee injuries throughout the course of a season.

     4. Box Jump

The box jump is utilized for the lacrosse athlete to promote lower body power through triple extension of the ankle-knee-hip, critical in sprinting, jumping, and cutting. Triple extension is a key aspect in transferring energy from the lower half to the upper half – something all lacrosse players know is vital to their sport. Additionally, the eccentric strength capabilities required from landing on top of a box will be instrumental in bulletproofing the athlete from injury.

     5. Hang Power Clean

Similar to the box jump, the hang power clean is a great exercise to generate power throughout the entire system. However, unlike the box jump, the clean a great deal of kinematic sequencing (ensuring the timing of the lower half and upper half are in sync) in order to execute the movement properly. While it is a great power development exercise, it is a great movement for the lacrosse athlete in that it teaches the athlete to generate force and simultaneously absorb force.

    6. DB Push Press

The push press is a great way to train the upper body while still demanding full body awareness. The push press applies much better to the field athlete than a traditional strict press would. This movement allows the athlete to generate rapid extension through the knee and hip which will then translate to the momentum and power needed to thrust the weight overhead. Additionally, anytime an athlete is loaded in the overhead position, the movement is demanding midline strength and stability (ie. not allowing the back to arch or sway). This rapid extension combined with midline bracing correlates to a lacrosse athlete throwing a check and pushing off of an offensive player.

7. Renegade Row

Lacrosse has a tremendous demand on the athlete being able to generate and resist rotation. The renegade row is a great exercise to train the body to stabilize the pelvic region during rotational exercises. By not allowing the hips the rotate, we train a domain that is referred to as “anti-rotation.” Some professionals even believe that anti-rotation is even more critical to the rotational athlete than a weighted rotational exercise. At the end of the day, the idea of being able to generate force through the transverse plane is irrelevant if the athlete cannot stabilize it first.

8. Alternating Goblet Lateral Lunge

The lateral lunge trains the anterior midline and overall hip strength in the frontal plane. Creating strength in the frontal plane is critical in lateral movement on the lacrosse field. The movement also trains aspects of the posterior chain as well as adductor in that it requires a tremendous demand on ranges of motion throughout the lower body in order to complete a full range repetition. As most injuries happen at the extremes of the movement, the lateral lunge is very beneficial in preventing common hip flexor and groin/adductor strains that happen in the sport of lacrosse.

      9. Sled March

The sled march is beneficial to the lacrosse athlete for the purposes of acceleration. Offense is entirely predicated on getting a single extra step on the defender, and vice versa for the defensive player. By focusing on the rapid extension of the back leg, the sled march continuously trains an aggressive and powerful first step.

10.  Single Leg RDL

We train the single leg RDL for the lacrosse athlete as a unilateral posterior chain exercise. The single leg RDL is used as a great tool for training the hamstring, a critical stabilizer of the knee as well as extremely important for speed development. This exercise has great implications for injury prevention as well as performance enhancement.

11. Farmers Walk

The farmers walk trains the athlete to stabilize their hips while moving forward. It is very beneficial for the overhead athlete in training stability of the shoulder girdle while the humeral head is depressed downward, rather than overhead. Additionally, overall grip strength and body awareness will be improved due to demanding the body to hold and control heavy weight at their side.

12. Box Squat

In a similar manner to the sumo deadlift, the box squat is a movement that is extremely beneficial to hip strength and hip health. While the box squat is technically a bilateral, sagittal plane movement, it’s beneficial for the lacrosse athlete for lateral stability and power, as the coach will cue the athlete to generate force towards the outside of the athlete’s feet. The athlete should work to brace their midline in an attempt to drive straight upward so that their hamstrings and glutes get more involved in the movement opposed to just their quads. This will also be beneficial for an athlete being able to take pressure off of their knee joint when squatting.

Lacrosse exercises are great for people wanting to do lacrosse exercises. Lacrosse exercises are sweet in the gym when you’re looking for lacrosse exercises. Lacrosse exercises can help your performance because the lacrosse exercises make you stronger.