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Difference Between Speed and Conditioning

One of the things that makes lacrosse such an intense sport is the physicality and speed at which it is played. But to play it well, you need to have not only great speed and agility, but also a solid set of lungs and some serious grit to go with it.

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[mks_separator style=”solid” height=”4″] When lacrosse athletes prepare for a season, they often overdo the conditioning side of training and don’t spend enough time training their speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ).

SAQ and conditioning are two separate components of a well-rounded lacrosse athlete, and need to be developed separately to make your game fully complete.

Here are 3 key rules to remember when training speed and conditioning for lacrosse.

#1) Speed Training is Not Conditioning Training


In order to be fast, you need to train fast. Seems pretty straightforward, but here is where a lot of athletes get it wrong. They treat their speed work AS conditioning work—running sprint after sprint at sub-maximal effort levels with minimal rest between sets.

But speed training means you need to be A) going ALL-OUT, and B) FULLY RECOVERING before the next sprint or drill. Speed work is about quality over quantity. As soon as too much fatigue sets in, you’ll no longer be in a position to drive adaptations in speed.

Focus on training either speed OR conditioning, and you will train both RIGHT.

#2) Long Miles Don’t Translate to Fast Breaks

Athletes often think that running long miles is the best way to get into game-shape.

It’s not.

You never run long and slow during a lacrosse game, do you? The game is made up of multiple high-intensity sprints with some light recovery. Running extended miles may get you into better shape for long-distance running, but it won’t get you into better shape for a lacrosse game.

Proper conditioning for lacrosse should improve your repeat sprint ability (RSA). The ability to move quickly, recover, and go right into another sprint is crucial to being a game changer.

Long Distance Running

Now, having good RSA doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the fastest athlete on the field, but it does mean you can last the whole game and still have enough in the tank to compete at a high intensity when others fatigue.

Running long distances does have its place in building what is called an “aerobic base,” which is shown to help with overall recovery from high-intensity sprints, but it shouldn’t constitute the majority of your conditioning training.

#3) Train Speed Early, Train Lungs Later

Notre Dame vs. Maryland Men's Lacrosse 2014 NCAA National Championship Semi-Final Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

Early in or directly before your training or practice should be reserved for fast-paced drills, all-out sprints, or combinations of the two with FULL RECOVERY between drills.

At the beginning of your training session or practice, train SAQ drills, speed ladders, or all-out sprints up to no more than 10 seconds of work. Make sure you rest NO LESS than 2 minutes between sprints in order to fully recover.

Your conditioning work should be saved for the end of practice, when you can exhaust all that’s left in your tank. This is where you build that mental toughness and develop your ability to stay strong late in the game.

Longer sprints with shorter rest times, or shuttle drills consisting of quick changes in direction after quick sprints of 20 to 30 yards, are ideal for building repeat sprint ability. Unlike speed training, conditioning training requires you to be in fatigue.

If you can push into the red zone, recover, and repeat, you’ll be fit and ready in no time.

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