Become a Beast at the “X”

For Starters, I want to apologize because I should of written this article a very long time ago. I’ve received a ton of emails over the past few years asking for advice on training specifically for Face-off men.

I’ve written a lot of articles for the masses and for athletes in general. But this article is going to be special, it’s dedicated to my hard working colleagues who are proud to do the dirty work. There are thousands of people giving their “advice” all over the internet on what skills are important to FaceOff men and when it comes to that stuff I simply say, “To each his own.” But since I don’t personally know any other professional strength coaches who are also considered elite level FaceOff Athletes I’m taking responsibility for helping all of you who desire to become healthier, stronger and more effective at our beloved position.

First, let’s kill a few myths that I’ve gotten pretty sick of.

1: There is no such thing as Sports specific training. Every athlete in every sport can and will benefit from the style of training that I talk about in this article. There is however SKILL specific training. This is when you add in specific things to help an athlete excel in his or her specific function. The beauty of being a FaceOff Athlete is you need only to worry about being a well rounded, strong athlete.

2: You need to build your upper body. False, although it looks cute when you have big arms it means nothing when it comes to being an accomplished FaceOff Athlete . Having strength throughout the entire body should be the focus.

3: You need to perform isolated forearm work to make your forearms stronger. False, To truly build forearm strength you need to pick up heavy crap i.e. during deadlift variations.

4: The bigger and stronger you are, the more effective you will be. FALSE, yes being strong can help you but size means nothing. In the land of the FaceOff SPEED kills not size.

Ok lets roll through a few principles that I believe in when it comes to my own strength and conditioning.


Don’t forget about them HAMMMSTRANGSS

During my education at Penn State we spoke constantly about “prehabbing” injuries. This means that we would take an athlete’s personal inefficiencies and combine them with what risks their function(position) naturally entails and create a Prehab program for that athlete.

For example, early in my college career I had severe Low back issues (stress fracture of 2 vertebrae). Also, the FaceOff position is very taxing on the low back, the knees, shoulders and wrists. So each and every day I would come into the weight room and along with my standard warm-up I would also perform specific exercises and stretches for all of those key areas in order to strengthen those joints and make them less susceptible to injury.

It’s extremely important to develop flexibility and strength in every joint in the body. The smaller and more intricate muscles of the joints may not be as exciting as the chest or arms but it’s much more important because no matter how big you are, you can’t play if you’re injured.


In my experience most popular “lifting magazines” Were not written for athletes. They were certainly not written for lacrosse players and I know from what I’ve seen, nothing in those magazines was written to help a FaceOff man. Training like an athlete is simple, train total body EVERY time you train. Until you can figure out how to face-off with just your Chest and Triceps on a Monday then stop doing the dumb ass bodybuilding splits. Now as much as I’d love to spend the next 40 pages explaining different types of workout regiments, I need to eat in a few minutes so let me just throw out some of my absolute favorite exercises and how I personally set up my own training split.

1) Deadlift

Yep, that’s about right.

Take a weight and pick it up off of the ground. The muscle hierarchy for a FoGo is simple TRAIN FROM THE GROUND UP AND FROM BACK TO FRONT. Which means your lower body is way more important than your upper body and your hips/glutes are king. So bend down and pick the weight up off of the ground and enjoy the feeling of your body getting stronger each and every time you do it. A neat side effect happens to be a strong and broader upper back as well.



Goblet, Front, Back….

Goblet squats rock.

Doesn’t matter what style but pick one and do them correctly and every fiber from your spinal erectors to the dense muscles of the quads will become stronger and thicker and much more powerful.

Sled Work

In my opinion absolutely nothing translates to the athletic field more than pushing/pulling sleds over a distance. That’s what lacrosse is in a nutshell. Driving your opponent all over the field and conquering them.

Pushing an external resistance as fast as you can develops not only strength but it’s also a supreme way of developing power. Power correlates to speed and quickness. What the hell else could you possibly want as a FaceOff Athlete?

The other great thing about sled pushing is there is no eccentric motion (negative) as in traditional weight lifting. Therefore soreness is greatly declined which makes adapting to sled workouts pretty easy. You can use heavy loads to develop your power, medium weights to develop strength, power and cardio, or just drag that sucker for extended periods to build a great muscular endurance base.

Olympic lifts

I want to make two things crystal clear. 1) Olympic lifting is something that takes a great deal of time to learn from an experienced and highly educated coach. So the odds of you learning this art from a “trainer” that works at Equinox or L.A. fitness is like finding out exactly what kind of mutated animal Snooki is derived from. However if and when you do find such a coach it is very worth your time to learn.

2) I freaking LOVE olympic lifts. I do clean variations all year-round because not only is it fun but it’s powerful and develops the entire body with every rep. Plus, nothing scratches the meathead itch like picking up 300lbs and throwing it up onto my shoulders.

That being said, I weight train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I perform my energy systems training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I run on the field and get some shooting in on Sundays. It’s not totally necessary to train this often but since I was only cleared to play in January I’ve had to make up for lost time.

Preseason Phase IB

2012 Preseason EST

When you take a look at these files you’ll see that it’s evident I live by a principle that I learned from the great strength coach Dan John.

“If it’s important do it every day, if it’s not important then don’t do it at all.”

I train using exercises that work. I don’t have time for gimmicky “balance” training. I don’t have time to be injured screwing around with Crossfit B.S. I train like an athlete and that’s how I’ve been successful, it’s how I’ve been an explosive player at every level and it has everything to do with me stepping back on the field this summer when 9 months ago it looked like I may never be able to again.

I love training, I love getting better, I love FEELING better. Feeling strong, feeling fast and feeling healthy is fantastic. I want all of you to feel the same way so if you ever have questions after reading this then let me know.

Train so hard that the games are easy baby.


About Coach Greg

Greg Gurenlian USAW Club Level 1 Olympic Strength Coach NASE Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach B.S. Kinesiology Penn State University Owner of Brawlic Strength LLC Former Assistant Strength Coach of Penn State Basketball
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One Response to Become a Beast at the “X”

  1. michael p says:

    I really like the philosophy of training like an athlete. It seems the most natural and healthy for humans. What I mean is if we lived in a Hunter / Gatherer type society or tribe, we would have very athletic builds from all of the Feeding (Hunting), Fighting, Fleeing and of course Procreating. We would have to be in peak condition to be a contributing member of the tribe.
    As a race, our current “professional life styles” really do not promote healthy training practices. But that’s no excuse. We need to make time to train to always perform at a peak level both professionally and physically. Training like an athlete seems to be the most ideal.
    Nice post and good insight. thx

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