Lacrosse Training: Shooting
What have you missed when training the lacrosse shot?
During my time as the head strength coach for the University of Denver lacrosse team I was always asked by parents and younger players, “how do I make my shot faster?”. Most parents would think that their sons and daughters would need to get stronger in the weight room. Many athletes somehow think that the more you can bench press, the faster you can shoot. While strength is an important factor in your lacrosse training it is not the determining factor when you are looking to improve your shooting.
To really understand how to improve your shot, let’s first understand the physics behind the movement.
Newton’s Second Law: Force = Mass x Acceleration
The acceleration that is applied to the lacrosse ball directly determines the force of the shot. This is because the mass of the ball remains constant. This acceleration comes from the conversion of linear (forward) momentum into rotational momentum. So, the shooting motion is a total body rotational dominant movement driven from the top down (shoulder rotation) and ground up (foot).
Ever wonder why lacrosse coaches tell you to reach your arms back while shooting? That’s because the farther an object is from its axis of rotation, the faster its linear speed. So, the farther the stick head is away from the axis (center of the body) the greater velocity. But one big issue is that in order to reach your arms back during the shooting motion you need thoracic spine (upper back) mobility. When you are going through the shooting motion, the thoracic spine goes through type two motion (rotation with same side lateral flexion). Our athlete’s environment is not built to maintain our type two thoracic motion. We spend countless hours sitting in class or on the couch. Only to get up and head to our first day of practice where a coach yells at us to reach our arms back and our thoracic spine yells back we don’t move like that!!! We need to prepare our athletes for the sports specific movements on the field. We need to spend less time locking down the thoracic spine and more time opening it and gaining new ranges of motion to utilize on the field. That way when we go to reach our arms back we have more distance from the axis of rotation and can create more velocity. Bottom line if your training program does not apply three-dimensional thoracic spine mobilizations, find a new one!!!
Hip Internal Rotation
One of the most important motions during the shooting motion is opposite hip internal rotation. In the main photo above you will see the right-handed player shooting and rotating around toward his left plant leg. That players left hip is going through the internal rotation. That means that his left glute and hamstrings can activate and efficiently decelerate the shooting motion. If that player shoots and lacks proper opposite hip internal rotation, other areas of the body such as the lower back and same side shoulder will have to pick up the slack. This can create not only issues with proper shooting mechanics but lead to injury. This is where a proper movement evaluation is important for athletes to get before and after the season. Remember, hip internal rotation is one of the most common limitations in athletes, so be proactive.
Connective Tissue Health
When a lacrosse player shoots a ball there is not one muscle doing more work than another. It is a total body movement and if you’re trying to make individual muscles strong, you don’t understand how the human body works. The human body is a tensegrity model held together by our connective tissues or fascia. Fascia was defined at the first Fascia Research Congress as an all collagenous fibrous that can be seen as elements of a body-wide tensional FORCE transmission network. That means that the real power of your shot comes from the ability of your fascia to transmit force throughout your entire body. If you have a disrupted fascial network your body will limit the amount of force you can absorb and create. So if you want to improve your shot and stay healthy we need to take care of the fascial network. First is movement, it not only stretches our tissues but facilitates fluid dynamics. This allows our connective tissue to stay healthy. For example, if you injure your shoulder and get placed in a sling for an extended period of time your fascia will adapt to its new environment. But now when you get out of the sling you cannot lift your arm over your head even though you could do so before the injury. Movement directs forces into our fascia which influences the directional flow of fluid and molding our connective tissue. If no movement occurs the connective tissue is inefficiently arranged. So, we need to ensure our fascia adapts to three-dimensional movement to maintain health and elasticity. Hydration is one of the most important factors for health and performance. In the human body, 99% of our chemical reactions require water. It also acts as a lubricant between joint surfaces and reduces friction. If body fluid has decreased, an increase in sympathetic activity can cause pain from increased tissue resistance. That’s right…pain is a symptom of dehydrated connective tissue!!! Other signs are irritability, heartburn, constipation, fatigue, and hypertension. Lastly, nutrition is paramount in the health of our fascial network. Sugar promotes inflammation in your connective tissue which leads to densification and stiffness. This process is called glycation – when high levels of sugar in the blood have nowhere to go and attach to a protein molecule. We should be focused on eating natural foods such as vegetables, coconut, avocado, organic meats, wild caught fish, low sugar fruits, and spring water.
Anatomy Trains Thomas Myers
McPherson JD, Shilton BH, Walton DJ. “Role of fructose in glycation and cross-linking of proteins.” Biochemistry 1988;27:1901-7.