Sports Specialist: SSOR's Dr. Daniel Lorenz 3/15

By Dr. Dan Lorenz Director of Physical Therapy at Specialists in Sports & Orthopedic Rehabilitation
Posted: March 15, 2013 - 8:30 AM

One of the challenges that coaches and athletes alike deal with is how to stay in “football shape” or not neglect football training for kids that play other sports.
Most coaches would prefer that kids play only one sport so they can have dedicated training all year. However, some kids want to play several sports or are gifted enough to excel in many. Truthfully, it’s a good thing to play different sports that require different muscles, joints, muscle actions, and metabolic demands.
Another challenge is that many other sports don’t replicate the demands of football or replicate the training methodologies. For example, many baseball coaches cringe at kids doing Olympic lifting for football, while basketball coaches may fear that heavy lifting will make kids slower or reduce their vertical jump. So, how do you work with kids like this? How can you train them for football while still affording them the opportunity to play other sports? Fortunately, there are some easy solutions to this.
First of all, research has shown that only two workouts are needed per week to maintain strength. Obviously when an athlete transitions to another sport after football, their time is vested in practice and games. Provided they lift two days per week, it will be enough to at least maintain what was gained in the off-season.
One workout should be a power workout and the other should be a heavier or strength workout. Exercises should focus on total body lifts as they are the most metabolically taxing but also because they promote the greatest muscle growth response. Therefore, isolation exercises shouldn’t be used at this time.
All sports require strength and power, so provided workouts include those two training objectives, athletes will reap the benefits of training regardless of sport. Do big muscle group exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, cleans, jerks, snatches, and jump shrugs and keep the isolation and “beach muscle” stuff for summer workouts.
Secondly, workouts can be kept shorter for the kids by doing combination lifts. For example, an athlete can do a hang clean to front squat to a press, or a squat to press. These are extremely fatiguing movements, but because it’s multi-joint and gets both upper and lower body, an athlete can do 4-5 sets of this and be done. Numerous combinations exist and are only limited by creativity of the coaches.  
Alternatively, workouts can follow an “upper body push/lower body pull” or “upper body pull/lower body push format.” Here, two exercises are coupled together but again, upper and lower body is covered in a shorter time frame. For example, a deadlift (lower body pull) can be paired with a bench press (upper body push). Or, the athlete can do a back squat (lower body push) followed by a bent-over row (upper body pull).
Next, exercises for other sports could be used as an “active recovery” between sets. For example, baseball players can do their rotator cuff program exercises in between sets of squats, cleans, or deadlifts. That way, the athlete is completing more exercises in less time, but also addressing needs for each sport they play. Conversely, coaches don’t have to worry about doing plyometric activities/jump training for football in an athlete who’s playing basketball – he’s getting plenty of explosive movements in basketball. Sometimes, rope jumping or doing various hop patterns in place provide a useful means of an active recovery.
While the multi-sport athlete is a challenge for football coaches, there are many things that can be done to manipulate workouts to make sure the athlete is still getting the “football stimulus” required to have success in 2013.

Dan Lorenz is a former physical therapist and assistant athletic trainer for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is currently the owner and Director of Physical Therapy for Specialists in Sports and Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Overland Park. For more information on SSORKC go to