Forearm and grip strength are often overlooked in a lacrosse athlete’s training plan—but definitely shouldn’t be.
The muscles of the hand and forearm are the final point at which energy is transferred from your body into the stick, and having a stronger grip will allow you to put more force into each shot.
Likewise, a stronger grip helps you to keep your cradle skills effective to avoid losing the ball to a poke check and prevents you from falling victim to the “yard sale.” Everyone loves the yard sale until it happens to you!
Although developing a solid foundation of forearm and grip strength isn’t a traditional focal point of athletic training, it can be as easy as a few added exercises at the end of each workout. Even a few small tweaks can yield some huge results on the field.
Building grip strength can be done in one of two ways: directly or indirectly.
While training your forearms directly can help strengthen them—and thereby increase your grip strength—quickly and effectively, it can become tedious. Indirect training of the same muscles results in your forearms and grip strength developing as a byproduct of another (primary) training goal, which can be more efficient in the long term. Both strategies will effectively increase your grip strength—it simply depends on your goals and time limit in the gym.
To train your grip strength directly requires high repetitions of wrist flexion and extension against resistance.
There are three commonly prescribed hand actions to train when focusing on grip strength: crush strength (strength of finger to palm); pinch strength (strength of fingers to thumb); and support strength (overall grip endurance).
Specific strengthening tools like forearm rollers and crush grippers will help develop your grip strength—as well as grip-challenging tasks like hang variations or plate flips, pinches, and turns. If you have extra time at the end of a standard training session, adding in some direct forearm training can be very beneficial. But remember, it matters when you train your forearms in this direct manner—it’s best done during the off-season, so you can afford to be sore the next day without sacrificing your ability to cradle.
Indirect training places a high workload on grip and forearm strength in order to accomplish a different movement or challenge.
Take pull-ups or chin-ups for example: this movement challenges the support strength of the forearms and hands, while primarily working the muscles of the arms and back to complete the repetitions.
Using heavy dumbbells in movements like lunges and step-ups can also have an accumulating effect on developing good support strength.
My personal favorite way to develop grip strength while not focusing on grip strength is the farmer carry.
This movement places a heavy demand on upper-back strength and stability, as well as promotes functional core strength by demanding that you keep your torso upright and in a strong position. And the thicker the handle, the more challenging the movement becomes to your grip.
Adding towels over the bar on pull-ups or supine rows is a fun way to increase the grip difficulty—the same idea applies to using a thicker barbell for deadlifts and rows.
Strongman training in general focuses on high grip strength (while being just plain crazy strong overall). But if strongman training isn’t your cup of tea (or protein shake), exploring non-lacrosse activities like rock climbing can be a fun and active way to build serious grip strength—while benefiting from the challenge of new athletic tasks.
Don’t let your game be limited by your grip strength—approach its development as you would any other weakness. Only training with purpose will improve your play, especially when it comes to forearm and grip strength.
And, as an added bonus, developing your grip will come in handy while trying to earn handshake respect from your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s dad!