B.A.S.E. Sports Conditioning – Articles 27

Sweat the Small Stuff

Training smaller muscles can lead to big gains.

By Mike Mejia, CSCS

Lacrosse, like many sports, is a game of inches. Sometimes being half a step quicker, or having the ability to shoot just a little bit harder, can be the difference between you ending up as the hero, or the goat. This is exactly why coaches are always preaching about the importance of doing “all the little things” to make yourself a better athlete. So, why is it then that when many of you hit the gym, you devote almost all of your time to training your biggest, strongest muscle groups?

Don’t get me wrong, exercises like squats, dead lifts, presses and Olympic lifts should indeed comprise the bulk of your program. It’s just that seeing as how a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, you’re going to need to spend at least some time training those smaller muscle groups that often get neglected. Here, I’m referring to things like the muscles surrounding your neck, wrists and ankles, as well as the chronically underworked medial glutes.

Deficiencies in one or more of these areas can set the stage for injuries that can keep you sidelined indefinitely, regardless of how “big and strong” you might be. So, in this first installment of a four-part series, I’ll be showing you some great strengthening exercises for your neck.

Given the dramatic rise in head injuries in recent years, you’d think that neck strengthening exercises would be given greater priority in the athletic conditioning hierarchy. After all, not every concussive injury is the result of a direct blow to the head. Often times a hard upper body check can cause a whiplash-like effect that can result in mild trauma to the brain. And while it’s true that having a stronger neck may not completely prevent this type of situation, it stands to reason that it would at least help reduce both it’s severity and occurrence.

The following five exercises offer a quick, easy way to address this critically important area. Done a couple of times per week, they’ll not only help increase the strength and stability of your neck, but they can also help improve posture in general. Start out with just one set of 6-10 repetitions of each of the drills shown below- making sure not to add any additional resistance until you can easily perform two sets per.

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