Summer Workouts: This is the fourth installment in a summer-long weekly series that highlights the offseason conditioning — from cardio workouts to weightlifting and diet — for some of the area’s top returning high school athletes.
There are times when Churchill attacker Louis Dubick has to get creative. He’s 5 feet 8, 155 pounds — “not the biggest guy on the field,” as he puts it –often covered by pairs of defenders much taller, much wider, or both. Routes to the goal are rarely unimpeded and are never traveled without a hard check or two (or four). But Dubick’s still the most prolific scorer in Montgomery County public school lacrosse with 364 career points and a year to go, in large part because he doesn’t train to overcome his slight build, but to maximize it.
Dubick knows he won’t run over defenders, so he trains to move through or around them.
“I need to be able to dodge and change direction, that’s the biggest thing,” he said after a conditioning workout last week. “Explosion and acceleration.”
Those are the things former Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks defensive back Willie Williams is drilling Dubick on twice a week at the Churchill track. Williams, whose son played basketball and football at Churchill, began personal training after he retired from the NFL in 2006. He began working with Dubick last fall, and he guides the rising senior through twice-weekly lifts at the XPro Training gym in Gaithersburg. In keeping with Dubick’s need to dodge, duck, dip and dive, much of the speed training and conditioning work builds functional leg strength.
Williams, who had 26 career interceptions and played for Steelers teams that made Super Bowls in the 1995 and 2005 seasons, says most high school athletes focus on building the wrong muscles, thinking heavy lifting equates to in-game strength. But most of Dubick’s conditioning workouts build muscle with body weight exercises, rather than dumbbells.
“I try to build strength in their legs because that’s what’s going to take them far, not upper body strength,” Williams said. “Especially for lacrosse players: they’ve always got a stick in their hands, so they need to use their legs to get around and make maneuvers.”
Football players, he explained, need squat-strength. Heavy leg muscles yield weight-bearing explosion — the kind a lineman may need to clear a path for a running back. Lacrosse players need more agile, mobile strength, and so Williams focuses on training Dubick to carry his own body, rather than those of opponents.
A typical workout at the track consists of a few laps to loosen up and some dynamic stretching — high knees, butt kicks, lateral lunges — to wake up the necessary muscles. Then comes static stretching, and then speed training. Dubick will run short sprints made challenging by the way they begin; sometimes Williams has him shuffle sideways for a few yards, pivot and explode into a sprint. Sometimes, he’ll have Dubick fall forward until he feels he’s about to topple over, catch himself with a short, quick step and burst out in an explosive recovery.
Then comes body weight leg work, the stuff you wouldn’t think could stack up in the agony department with barbells and heavy squats, but can burn even more. Then come three sets of body weight squats, walking lunges with upward pushes from the front leg and squat jumps — all with hands behind the head to ensure arm muscles can’t aid of the legs. Then there are the squat jumps up the stairs of the Churchill bleachers, where it’s not just exploding upward and forward that strains tired legs. There’s also a need for strong balance, even when fatigued, lest Dubick fall back down the stairs.
By the end, his legs feel like Jell-O — “a nice burn,” Williams smiles, one he makes sure never goes away by adding weighted vests to the workout when Dubick starts to master it.
“I noticed it in the fourth quarter of games and in my dodging,” Dubick said. “Being a little guy, people think I can’t run fast, can’t blow by you, but it’s the two or three steps it takes to get by someone, not the dead sprint. And that’s where I felt it, right off the dodge, and in fourth quarters when everyone else’s legs are getting weak.”
Dubick doesn’t abandon the weight room entirely, however. In fact, he lifts about five times a week to add upper-body muscle to help absorb the ferocious slashing checks of much larger defenders. His future coaches at Maryland, where he committed as a freshman, have no numerical requirements for how much bulk Dubick should add, just that it be enough to pad him against those bruising hits.
Perhaps surprisingly, Dubick doesn’t focus much on cardiovascular training in the offseason, relying on the sprints in his conditioning workouts and the heart-pumping aspects of weight-room training to stay fit. As the season gets closer, he runs a few miles a couple of times a week. But his offseason training is focused more on adding strength to the lower body and muscle up top.
“Midfielders are the ones running up and down the field, but as an attacker, you need to build muscle,” Dubick said. “You can’t build muscle when you’re running miles and miles every day, so I try to limit the cardio.”
One thing Dubick doesn’t limit is work on stick skills. Whether with shooting a few times a week, wall ball at Churchill before or after workouts, coaching or playing club lacrosse, Dubick says he “always has a stick in his hands.” Known for his dodging and exceptional stick skills, Dubick hopes burning his legs in the offseason will help him use those stick skills to get to goal next season and at the next level.
“You need your legs because every day you’re going up against a 200-pounder and you need your leverage,” Dubick said. “A lot of times you’re leaning into your guy, or need leverage to get by them, so you need that strength to keep up, or you’ll just get pushed down and out.”
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