November 14, 2012

Gym Rats: Inside Loyola's Unorthodox Training

"We don't train like football players who have 30 seconds off between plays. Lacrosse is a go, go, go, go sport," Loyola attackman Justin Ward says.
© John Strohsacker/ (All)

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

How do you go from little-known freshman to major contributor on a national championship team? For Loyola sophomore Justin Ward, it was an intense offseason of sacrifice and dedication.

Ward had one assist in eight games for the Greyhounds in 2011. As a sophomore, he was the team’s third-leading scorer, a dynamic attackman who dished out 31 assists.

“I really had to take my athleticism to the next level,” he said.

Before the summer, Ward met with Greg Menegus, Loyola’s strength and conditioning coach, to discuss his exercise routine and diet. He worked out six days a week, including four lifting sessions per week. Twice a week he woke up at 5 a.m. to drive to Life Enhancement, Menegus’ off-site Baltimore facility where Loyola trains. He started eating five or six smaller meals per day, with lots of protein, carbs and fiber.

Ward’s transformation mirrored many of Loyola’s players, who train “for endurance, and with the fourth quarter in mind,” he said. The Greyhounds outscored their opponents by a combined score of 123-63 in the third and fourth quarters last year.

“Once we started working with Greg in January 2011, it was absolutely huge,” Ward said. “We don’t train like football players who have 30 seconds off between plays. Lacrosse is a go, go, go, go sport. We want to be built for the fourth quarter."

With the national title in the rearview, Ward prays he and Loyola will stay motivated and hungry for 2013 — much like his hero, Tim Tebow, who gave the famous “Promise” speech after Florida lost to Ole Miss in the Gators’ national championship season.

“Tim Tebow is someone I’ll always look up to,” Ward said. “He’s not a quarterback, he’s a football player. Similarly, I’m not an attackman, I’m a lacrosse player. The way he carries himself, the way he works, how hard he trains, his beliefs and how open and honest he is about them — he’s just a good person.”

Sledgehammer Circuit

Works on: shoulders, legs, hips, core

Helps with: shot speed, balance

  • Set up using a 400-pound monster-truck tire and a 24-pound sledgehammer. There are three movements in this circuit, though other variations exist.
  • Overhand Slam, called “Down Broadway.” Be in an athletic stance, and take an elongated swing in the back behind your hip, working on extension. Come down on the tire with as much force as possible, and follow through. Activate your core throughout the swing, similar to a lacrosse shot.
  • Plunge. Out of a 90-degree squat, which activates your legs, come straight down overhead on top of the tire.
  • Fireman Breakdown. Out of a 90-degree squat, which activates your legs, laterally rotate your body and slam the sledgehammer into the side of the tire. This is like a sidearm shot in lacrosse.
  • Remain on the balls of your feet, and stay balanced. Keep good posture in your back.
  • Do as many repetitions as you can within 60 seconds. Then switch sides.


Rope Climb

Works on: obliques, triceps, biceps, core

Helps with: full-body athleticism, change of direction

  • “I just started doing this workout in the summer,” Ward said. “It’s incredibly difficult. It’s like the old-time gym class workout, but you don’t see anybody do it anymore. It’s a power lift.”
  • Position yourself at the bottom of a thick, heavy-duty rope. Climb up the rope to the ceiling, or a bar positioned overhead.
  • Ward climbs the roughly 15-foot rope in less than five seconds. Try to get to the top as fast as you can.
  • Make sure your body is working as one. Body unison is critical. Keep your arms and legs moving together, alternating sides that are isolated.
  • “This is a great exercise to be a pulse of a workout,” Ward said. Do it in between sets of other exercises.


Medicine Ball Circuit

Works on: hip flexors, lats, deltoids, triceps

Helps with: power, strength, foot speed

  • “This is my favorite exercise,” Ward said.
  • Do an up-down on the medicine ball. Kick your legs out to the floor, and bring them back into your chest.
  • Pick the ball up and raise it as high as you can take it. Slam it to the ground, and follow it down.
  • Pick up the medicine ball, and press it over your head with force. Throw it over a wall, ledge or bar that’s about 10 feet high.
  • Run to the medicine ball and repeat the process.
  • Ward performs as many repetitions as he can in 60 seconds. Take 15-30 seconds off between sets.
  • Ward uses a 50-pound medicine ball. Increase or decrease weight accordingly.


Push-Up Sled Pull

Works on: chest, triceps, traps, front deltoids, obliques

Helps with: durability, upper-body strength

  • Line up in a push-up position facing over a rope attached to a sled about 20 yards away.
  • Do a push-up, while keeping one hand on the rope, concentrating on good form.
  • Reach out as far as possible and pull the sled toward you, working on extension in the back. End the pull by activating your triceps in the locked position.
  • Remaining in the push-up position, maneuver across the rope to the other side by crawling. Repeat and alternate sides.
  • Pull the sled until the sled reaches your side. Walk the rope back in the opposite direction from which you pulled, stretching it until it’s taut.
  • Ward recommends performing eight repetitions of full-length rope pulls.


A version of this article appears in the November issue of Lacrosse Magazine,
 the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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