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Agile Athlete: Training for Youth Lacrosse Players

Lacrosse is one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet. And while elite high school and college players are investing their time heavily into strength and conditioning, many youth lacrosse players are neglecting to develop the strength and power that would not only accelerate their development long-term but help them dominate the game now. 

The issue is, a lot of youth players and parents don’t know where to start – and justifiably so, with all the fluff on the internet and social media today, it’s tough to determine what is actually going to help a player’s development. 

That’s why we wrote this article. After working with hundreds of youth lacrosse players we wanted to distill the most essential exercises that all youth players should be using. 

And while it’s no secret the demand for speed, strength, and power is needed for college lacrosse players – the demands are no different for youth lacrosse players. 

Now’s the time to be developing the foundations that players can build on for years to come – so let’s dive in!


Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at why strength training is so valuable for youth lacrosse players. 

Many Coaches these days encourage ladder and quick feet drills or simply more lacrosse for youth lacrosse players, claiming that “on-field work” is more valuable than work in the gym. 

While work on the field is always undeniably valuable, developing a youth athlete requires a balance of skill/speed work and building foundational strength and power.

Let’s look at, what we consider, the top 5 benefits of strength training for youth lacrosse players: 


Lacrosse is tough on the body, and while Coaches encourage stretching to avoid strains, pulls, and tweaks – the reality is that strength is the greatest deterrent to non-contact injuries. In fact, one recent study found that stretching contributed to a 3% reduction in injury vs a 70% reduction from strength training. 

A well-rounded strength training program helps to build stronger muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making athletes more resilient to the physical demands of lacrosse. By targeting muscle imbalances and improving joint stability, strength training can reduce the risk of common lacrosse injuries such as sprains, strains, and overuse injuries.


It’s no secret that lacrosse has intense strength demands. But it’s important for parents to realize that strength is also the foundation of power – possibly the most valuable attribute on the field. 

By utilizing strength training, youth players have the capacity for more power in their shots and in their speed, cuts, and jukes. Not to mention players are better equipped to withstand the physicality of the game and get strong on loose balls.


Strength training not only improves raw power but also contributes to increased agility and speed on the field. By targeting specific muscles and movements, young lacrosse players can develop quicker reaction times, more explosive acceleration, and better overall mobility, giving them an edge over their competition.

We liken this concept to putting a Honda Civic engine in an F1 car. They could be highly efficient and skilled movers but they need to have the engine to generate some serious power.  

Strength leads to power which leads to speed and agility. 


Strength training can also have positive effects on a young athlete’s confidence and mental toughness. As they become stronger and more capable, their self-esteem and belief in their abilities can grow. 

We’ve routinely seen youth players, both boys, and girls, who start to get stronger in the gym and suddenly start playing more confidently on the field. They’re less shy of contact and have more confidence to engage players or get into tough situations. 

Furthermore, the discipline and focus required to stick with a consistent strength training program can help develop mental resilience and the desire for growth and progress, a valuable asset in any sport.


Introducing strength training at a young age can set the foundation for a lifetime of athletic success. By learning proper movement patterns, technique, and discipline early on, young lacrosse players are better equipped to continue progressing in their sport as they grow older. 

Strength training can also help prevent plateaus in performance, ensuring that athletes can continue to improve and excel throughout their lacrosse careers.

In summary, incorporating strength training into a youth lacrosse player’s routine is a valuable investment in their athletic development. By focusing on injury prevention, improved performance, enhanced agility, and speed, boosted confidence, and long-term athletic growth, strength training can help young lacrosse players reach their full potential on and off the field.


Alright, so now we understand why strength training is so valuable for youth lacrosse players, the next question is what are the exercises that they can use to actually develop the attributes that translate to the field and maximize their potential? 

This list isn’t meant to be a workout, but instead a buffet of options that you can choose from when building your own workouts. If you’re using each one of these exercises each week, you’ll be ahead of 90% of youth lacrosse players – so let’s get into it!


The squat is a fundamental movement pattern that serves to not only develop lower body strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes but also refine motor control and improve movement fluency. 

We always like to say – a good squatter is a good athlete. Routinely the best athletes we see in the gym can perform flawless squats because it’s such foundational movement. For this same reason, we make sure that we’re using some form of squats with our lacrosse players in every single workout

Proper squat technique is crucial, so make sure young athletes start with bodyweight squats before adding any external resistance. Encourage them to maintain a neutral spine, keep their chest up, and push their knees outward as they lower into the squat.

Learning how to perform really clean squats at a young age is a phenomenal advantage as an athlete. 


Push-ups are a classic upper-body exercise that engages the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They’re a great way to develop upper body strength and shoulder stability for throwing and cradling the lacrosse ball. 

To perform a push-up correctly, make sure the body forms a straight line from head to heels, and the elbows are tucked close to the body as they lower and raise. 

Instead of having kids do high reps, which lead to burnout and ultimately break down of form – we like to have players focus on tempo. Going 3 seconds on the way and then exploding out will develop more strength and power, we call these Eccentric Push Ups


The lunge is another fundamental movement pattern that is essential to master. 

Along with developing the quads, hamstrings, and glutes – they help lacrosse players to start to connect the kinetic chains of their lower body and become more efficient and effective movers. 

We prefer the Reverse Lunge because it allows lacrosse players to be more strict with their movements and practice loading into the glutes/hips and then firing back up. We really want to emphasize having nothing collapse inwards (knee, ankle, foot) and toes forward. 


While we’ve looked at squats and lunges already, the last lower body fundamental movement pattern is a hinge. These are exercises that involve hinging at the hips and heavily rely on the glutes and hamstrings. These powerhouse muscles are what are most responsible for speed on the field, so it’s a priority to be developing them in youth lacrosse players. 

We love the Single Leg RDL because it challenges these muscles, the athlete’s ability to hinge, and their balance and stability.  We really want them to perform this exercise as slowly as possible, pushing their hips back and intentionally “feeling” their hamstrings before firing the hips forward on the way back up. 

We use this same exercise with our college and pro athletes, and it is insanely valuable. 


Alright, our last fundamental movement pattern – the pull. 

Pull-based exercises are so valuable because they develop essential upper body strength that translates to lacrosse shooting mechanics and builds bulletproof shoulders. 

Oftentimes we see players who, even as youth athletes, have a rounded shoulder posture from sitting and slumping forward. This posture limits the capacity for a lot of movement and range of motion and wreaks havoc on the upper body.  So while we encourage mobility exercises, we also encourage developing more back muscles to counterbalance this posture and restore the shoulders to a healthy position. 

While this might seem technical for youth athletes, all that you need to know is that pull-based exercises are insanely valuable and you should aim for doing 1 pull exercise for every 1 push exercise. 

Pull-ups and inverted rows are excellent upper-body exercises that target the back and biceps. If pull-ups are too challenging for younger athletes, inverted rows offer a more accessible alternative. Both exercises help develop the strength needed for powerful shooting and passing in lacrosse.

Alright, so those can be considered our “essential 5” that youth lacrosse players need in their training. That’s because we aim to include all 5 movement patterns: squat, lunge, hinge, push, and pull in every single one of our workouts. While you can use variations of these exercises, we still want to have something similar to them in each one of our workouts. 

These next exercises we can still aim to get in weekly for youth lacrosse players. 


For every single training session, we want to find a way to challenge core strength. Developing core strength is essential for every facet of lacrosse, in fact, we’ve written an entire article on the importance of core strength and the best core exercises for lacrosse players here. 

Saying that the Plank is still one of the most popular and effective exercises for youth lacrosse players.  

To perform a plank, have the athlete hold their body in a straight line, resting on their forearms and toes. Encourage them to actively engage their core by squeezing and staying locked in.  If a youth lacrosse player can hold this for over 90 seconds, we can move them to a plank variation such as the Superman Plank or Slider Planks.


This is another core exercise and one that we love with lacrosse players of all ages because it challenges them to create braced kinetic chains and find full-body stability. 

Physical Therapists often call the basic Bird Dog (with both knees on the ground) one of the most valuable low back exercises possible – and we agree. 

The Bird Dog (with a 5-10 second hold) is a great place to start for youth lacrosse players. Once they can master this without any shaking or collapsing we move them to the activated bird dog shown here. 

This really challenges trunk control and shoulder stability, two attributes that are vital for lacrosse players. 


Alright, let’s continue with one more core exercise – but potentially the most valuable for lacrosse players. We use some variation of a Pallof Press in almost every one of our workouts, no matter what age the athlete.

This is an amazing “anti-rotation” core exercise and will help lacrosse players be able to create ultra-braced positions on the field that let them play stronger and not get pushed around. In addition to this, by training our “anti-rotation” muscles – we actually train the muscles that are responsible for rotation. That makes this exercise essential for developing a more explosive shot. 

One key cue here to focus on is to really focus on bracing all of your abs, while also keeping the glutes and shoulders activated. There should be no movement throughout the body other than your arms.

To make it harder, you can simply add more band tension (taking a step out) or change the position from standing to a split squat, lateral lunge, kneeling, or various other options.  


While we wanted to keep this article focused on strength training and what players can do at the gym or at home, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to share some power development exercises. 

We say this because we like to integrate power work into each one of our workouts – in fact, we build speed/athleticism, power, strength, core/mobility, and conditioning into each training session.

This exercise is one that we use religiously to teach lacrosse players how to fire more aggressively and utilize their glutes/hips to generate more power. 

While we see a lot of youth coaches putting players through box jumps, we see this exercise as 10x more valuable. It allows for lateral expression (like a cut/dodge on the field), it allows for maximum firepower/power expression, and it’s far safer and more effective in developing power. 

This is an insanely applicable exercise for goalies and should be used often! 


When it comes to developing full-body power, there’s no better exercise than a med ball slam. This exercise is very similar to the movement pattern of a lacrosse shot, and best of all, it allows for maximum contraction and lets the player really let it rip

This exercise not only challenges power, but it allows players to better recruit power from their core in that overhead position – again, insanely valuable for improving shooting mechanics and velocity. 

This shouldn’t be done with a heavy ball, instead, we want to encourage youth athletes to focus on the slam as much as possible, feeling their core braced, and generating a full-body twitch. 


This exercise might not seem like much, but it’s super valuable for lacrosse players. 

Banded Pull Aparts are a simple, yet effective, exercise for strengthening the muscles of the upper back, particularly the rhomboids and rear deltoids. These muscles are essential for maintaining proper shoulder posture and stability during lacrosse movements. We consider this exercise essential for “bulletproofing” the shoulders. 

Hold a resistance band with both hands, palms facing down, and arms extended straight out in front. Keeping the arms straight, pull the band apart by squeezing the shoulder blades together until the band reaches the chest.


A question we often hear from parents is: “Is my kid old enough to start lifting weights?” Or sometimes we’ll even hear the old-school myths of stunting height growth or being bad for their joints. 

There are literally hundreds of academic papers at this point that have shown that strength and/or weight training is not only completely safe for kids but has a lot of value. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children can begin strength training exercises as early as 7 or 8 years old. This requires supervised instruction, gradual progression, and coaching from an expert. 

Personally, we feel this is a little young, but it’s not for safety considerations. We just feel that under 10s would be best served in developing a variety of movement patterns and utilizing more play-based movement training. We often even encourage gymnastics or another sport to teach this movement fluency. 

Saying that when we’re confident in saying that kids in the 10-14 age group can see significant development when they begin to develop strength. 

Whenever a youth athlete is starting training it is essential to prioritize bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, and light dumbbells over heavy weights to minimize the risk of injury. Workouts should emphasize muscle balance, functional movements, and core stability.

It is important in the early years to work with a qualified coach who can be hands-on with an athlete to teach them. If mom or dad have been training for years, it could be appropriate to train with them – but we always encourage them to use a program that’s specifically designed for youth athletes and remember that movements need to be taught. 


Alright, so hopefully this article made clear the value that strength training has and has given you some exercise that you can incorporate into your kid’s training program. 

Strength training really is like pouring rocket fuel on youth development. Not only will they start to take serious strides this season, but they’ll also be creating the foundations for development and performance for years to come. 

Even if lacrosse isn’t for them, whether they become passionate about another sport or something outside of sports altogether, building these habits and confidence in the gym will set them up for life. 

If you have any questions about youth lacrosse training, we’re always here to help!