Lacrosse Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Lacrosse stretching exercises to improve your game and do away with lacrosse injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published May 1, 2010 | Updated August 11, 2017
The physically demanding sport Lacrosse was first played by Native Indian tribesmen in North America. To score, you have to shoot a small rubber ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long handled racket.
Lacrosse was also called baggataway, tewaarathon and deconchigwiis. It has deep spiritual roots in native culture and was thought of as "The Creator’s Game." It was believed to impart important lessons in courage, honor, respect and strength, and was often played to settle disputes between rival tribes as well as to train warriors for battle. Played with several hundred players, a game of tribesmen’s Lacrosse could last 3 days or longer.
The game was named Lacrosse by the French missionary Jean de Brébeuf in the 1600’s. William George Beers formed the Montreal Lacrosse Club and the modern rules in 1867. The sport was originally played outdoors but can now be played indoors as well.
With hundreds of Lacrosse teams the world over, the sport is predominantly played in Canada and the United States and on a smaller scale in the UK and Australia.
Competitive lacrosse players must be in excellent condition due the extremely demanding physical nature of the sport. In order to successfully play the game an athlete must rely on a range of fitness skill sets. Players need strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. Cardiovascular health is also an extremely important part of a player’s ability as they are required to sprint 25 to 50 yards at regular intervals as they move their way up and down the 110 yard playing field.
The primary muscles used by participants are the quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of thigh), trapezius and rhomboids (neck, shoulder and back), calves (lower legs), biceps, triceps, flexor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulinaris (upper and lower arm). There are several other muscles used to assist this primary group and these include the chest, hip flexors, obliques and abdominals.
The quadriceps are the four major muscles in the thigh region. These consist of the rectus femoris (middle of the thigh), the vastus lateralis (outer thigh), the vastus medialis (inner thigh) and the vastus intermedius, which is situated up top at the front of thigh and lies between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis. The quads are important for hip flexion, knee extension and are crucial to running, walking, jumping and squatting; all frequent body movements performed while playing.
Located at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings are actually made up of three separate muscles; the bicep femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. Much like the quadriceps, the hamstrings also work to support knee extension and hip flexion. The gastrocnemius and the soleus are more commonly known as the calf muscles, and these too are actively engaged when playing lacrosse.
The trapezius runs down the side of the spine from the base of the skull to the mid back and stretches across the shoulder area. A player actively uses both this and the rhomboids, also located in the back. These muscles work in conjunction with the triceps, biceps and forearm muscles to throw the ball. The forearm muscles and biceps are also the ones used to cradle a lacrosse stick.
The motion of throwing the ball involves the utilization of the core muscles in the torso. The rectus abdominis and obliques in the abdominal region together with the latissimus dorsi in the lower back play an important role in the quality of an athlete’s game. They assist the player in maintaining a good defensive body position and offer support when twisting the body toward the cage while shooting.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that help to provide free range of motion allowing the body to bend in to the hips, and the hips to be pulled in towards the torso. Squats and abdominal crunches are good examples of the hip flexors in motion. Strong hip flexors can not only increase speed and performance while sprinting, but can also work to prevent injury.
Most Common Lacrosse Injuries
The most common non-contact related injuries reportedly suffered by lacrosse players are strained or pulled muscles, particularly in the groin area, along with various repetitive strain injuries. A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a musculoskeletal disorder also known as an over-use or repetitive stress injury. This is the result of long term, repeated use of the body in the same motion over and over again.
Tendinitis and shin splints seem to be the most commonly suffered RSI’s among lacrosse players. A tendon is a band of connective tissue that attaches the body’s muscles to its bones. Damaged tendons can lead to a constriction of the muscle it is designed to move. Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendons and is the most common repetitive strain injury.
The shoulder and back are also areas that take frequent abuse from playing lacrosse as they are subjected to significant force when the player is throwing the ball or taking a shot. Several players suffer a muscle strain or pull in this area.
The hamstring muscles are sometimes at risk of injury if the hip flexors are tight resulting in a weak gluteus maximus. In this case, the hamstrings can easily be pulled or strained as they are forced to compensate for the work that the gluteus is unable to perform.
Groin strains are very common in any sport that requires the athlete to run and are the result of a muscle tear or rupture in the adductors. The five muscles in the adductor group are the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, the pectineus and the gracilis. Groin strains range from mild to severe and are graded from 1 through 3. A grade 1 groin strain is considered to be the least serious with a 3 being uncommon but rather severe. Fortunately there are ways to condition the body to maximize performance and effectively minimize the risk of injury.
Injury Prevention Strategies
To help reduce the potential for sports related injuries it is important to condition the body through regular training and exercise.
- Equipment: Using high quality protective equipment that has been maintained properly will help prevent many injuries.
- Warm up: It is also crucial to have a regular warm up routine that prepares the body for the physically challenging demands of the activity. Warming up will gradually increase blood flow to the muscles in preparation for more intense activity. Failure to incorporate a warm up routine can not only create severe post activity muscle soreness, it can also lead to more serious and painful injuries that require lengthy recovery periods or even surgery to repair.
- Strength & Conditioning: Strength training leads to reduced potential for injury as it increases the strength of the muscles as well as that of the supporting joints and tendons. Agility training is particularly helpful to a lacrosse player as it works to improve the ability of the body to quickly adapt to a change in direction, motion and velocity.
- Stretching: Stiff joints and muscles will ultimately lead to injured joints and muscles so improving the flexibility of the body will also work to decrease the likelihood of injury. Stretching is a key ingredient to any warm up routine and plays an important role in improving flexibility as it increases the range of motion in joints and the elasticity of muscles.
The Top 3 Lacrosse Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for lacrosse; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
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Get back to the activities you love. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite sport, or walking the dog, or playing with the grand kids. Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step. Or being able to work in the garden or play your favorite sport without “paying-for-it” the next day.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.