Mobility, stability, and strength. Those three components have shaped Lyle Thompson into one of the greatest lacrosse players, ever.
Thompson is a professional lacrosse player for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the Georgia Swarm of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The two-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner (the most prestigious award in college lacrosse) has not only dominated the sport for years; holding the record for most career points in Division 1 lacrosse with 400 and most career assists with 225, but has used lacrosse as a way to give back.
For those of you who don’t know a thing about Thompson, he grew up in the Onondaga Nation in New York. He began playing lacrosse from a very early age because for the Onondaga people lacrosse carries spiritual and cultural significance.
“My favorite lift is honestly just a weighted or non-weighted pull-up. I think it’s the great equalizer.”
“I was born into this game. My father put a wooden lacrosse stick in my hands the day I was born, and my stick quickly became my best friend, I would sleep with it and touched it every day regardless of the elements,” Thompson wrote on his website.
One thing Thompson didn’t grow up with though, was weights and any pressure to strength train. We caught up with Thompson to discuss how eventually adding strength training elevated his game and helped him shift from the scrawny, yet quick collegiate athlete, to the powerful and quicker professional athlete that he is today.
“I started strength training my senior year of college, before then strength training was not a focus in my exercises,” Thompson told BarBend. “But, I started to strength train because I wanted to take my game to the next level. I’d always gotten by with my skills/IQ on the field and honestly I just never liked to train with weights. I also think I was a bit self conscious because I was so far behind my teammates when it came to weight lifting.”
Despite feeling quite out of place in the weight room, Thompson said with a little encouragement from his coach and knowing his college career was coming to an end, he got himself into the gym.
“I knew my college career was coming to an end and at the next level (pro) the players were much bigger, stronger, and skilled. I also understood that at this level the style of play was very much one-v-one and not so much of a team game (like college) so I wanted to make sure I was ready.”
And while Thompson wasn’t looking to necessary squat the heaviest, or break any lifting records on his team, he did find this additional training to be a huge positive in becoming a more balanced and an elite athlete.
“Being able to have mobility, stability, and strength are all very important to staying healthy, but also continuing to build muscle. If you focus too much on mobility it is likely that muscle growth will be a slow process, if you focus too much on strength, you risk injury, and stability is just important to have good form with control.
After experimenting with numerous styles of training I found that the most important part of training for a professional athlete is having balance.”
As for what exercises Thompson thinks are the most beneficial for a lacrosse player? He said for him, it’s all about the legs, but for most lacrosse players he said the focus in training should really be the hips.
“When it comes to lacrosse and most contact sports you want to have a strong core, good balance and strong legs. But a big problem area for [most] lacrosse players is their hips, so that’s why I like exercises that allow you to get deep.”
Thompson also said you can’t go wrong with a pull-up. “My favorite lift is honestly just a weighted or non-weighted pull-up. I think it’s the great equalizer. You should always be able to pull your own weight — no matter how much you can bench squat or deadlift.”
Thompson now spends about two hours in the gym where he splits his time into 30-minutes of strength work, 10-minutes of cardio, 10-minutes of core work, and then another hour of strength work. He said he changes up his training blocks every two months to keep things fresh.
For Thompson, he may have not of even stepped foot into a weight room until his senior year, but when he did he quickly realized how important strength training is. “It showed me results. And it has allowed me to gain confidence in lifting heavy weight and building up my body.”
Feature image from @lyle4thompson Instagram page.