November 7, 2016
Denver's Connor Cannizzaro was the perfect prototype for strength and conditioning coach Matt Van Dyke's new training model. All exercise photos by Trevor Brown. (John Strohsacker)
Denver's Connor Cannizzaro was the perfect prototype for strength and conditioning coach Matt Van Dyke's new training model. All exercise photos by Trevor Brown. (John Strohsacker)

Train Fast, Play Fast: Denver's Gym Rat Connor Cannizzaro

by Megan Schneider | USLaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Schneider Archive 

After transferring from Maryland following the 2014 season, attackman Connor Cannizzaro reached new heights at Denver, setting the Pioneers’ single-season record for points en route to the program’s first NCAA title in 2015.

When strength and conditioning coach Matt Van Dyke joined Denver as associate director of sports performance last fall, bringing with him a philosophy that the body learns in the manner it is trained, he noticed Cannizzaro immediately.

“Connor consistently demonstrates tremendous effort while training in the gym,” Van Dyke said. “He truly understands the effects of training on his level of play and has dedicated himself to the critical, and commonly overlooked, physical performance aspects required in lacrosse.”

Due to the sport’s fast pace, Van Dyke’s model starts with energy system development, then moves to strength and power, and finally speed. The last phase of speed, which implements three movements, injects tempo into training.

Cannizzaro was the perfect prototype. He led the Pioneers with 69 points this past spring and was one of five finalists for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award.

Cannizzaro demonstrated three movements that help develop speed. 

Lunge OC Hops

Works on hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads
Helps with explosiveness, speed
2-4 timed sets of 5-10 seconds

1. Begin in a split-stance position.
2. Jump for maximum height. 
3. As soon as your feet leave the ground, immediately pull into the split-stance position mid-air, with the same leg forward as step one. 
4. Land in the split-stance position, with the same leg forward as step 1, and immediately jump again.

Progression 
1. Beginner: Bodyweight split squat. Hold for 5-10 seconds to teach the position.
2. Moderate: Weighted split squat. Add strength to proper positioning.
3. Advanced: Split squat jump. Add jumping, but don’t pull into position mid-air.
4. Elite: Lunge OC hops. Follow steps above.

Dumbbell Split Squat Drop Jump

Works on hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads
Helps with explosiveness, speed
2 reps per leg for 3-6 sets

1. Begin in tall position with your feet in a neutral position, hip width apart.
2. Actively pull into the split-stance position.
3. Land in a loaded split-stance position.
4. Drive out and attempt to jump for maximum height.
5. Rest at tall position and repeat.

Progression
1. Beginner: Bodyweight split squat. Add eccentrics for 5-10 seconds to teach the absorption of force.
2. Moderate: Weighted split squat. Add strength to proper positioning.
3. Advanced: Split squat depth drop. Focus on stepping off of a box and landing in a split-stance position. 
4. Elite: Dumbbell split squat drop jump. Follow steps above.

Switch Cycle Lunge

Works on hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads
Helps with explosiveness, speed
2-4 timed sets of 5-10 seconds

1. Begin in a split-stance position.
2. Jump for maximum height.
3. As soon as your feet leave the ground, immediately switch leg position, moving your opposite foot in the front position of the split stance mid-air.
4. Switch legs again mid-air.
5. Land in a split stance, with the same leg forward as step 1, and immediately jump again.

Progression
1. Beginner: Bodyweight split squat. Add eccentrics for 5-10 seconds to teach the position and/or absorption of force.
2. Moderate: Weighted split squat. Add strength to proper positioning.
3. Advanced: Split squat jump and switch lunge jump. Focus on jumping and switching your legs mid-air, but not fully completing a cyclic action.
4. Elite: Switch cycle lunge. Follow steps above.

BONUS EXERCISE

Swiss Ball Twist

Works on serape core
Helps with appropriate firing patterns in shooting motions
2-3 sets of 10-20 reps on each side

1. Begin in a neutral position, holding onto the bands and keeping the ball between your arms at chest level.
2. Rotate your hips through.
3. Drive your upper body through by rotating through the trunk.
4. Reset to starting position and repeat.
5. Once the appropriate rotational movement is learned, you can advance to completing this movement at higher speeds. Do 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps.

Progression
1. Beginner: Remove the physio ball and band. Reduce stress placed on tissue and torque-arm on core.
2. Moderate: Half kneeling banded rotary chop rom high to low. Shorten kinetic chain to learn the appropriate pattern.
3. Advanced: Banded rotary chop from high to low. Stand to add entire kinetic chain used in shooting motions.
4. Elite: Swiss ball twist. Follow steps above.



Portions of this article originally appear in the November 2016 issue of US Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to begin receiving your copy!


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