Ask Mike Reinold Show

Strength and Conditioning for Multi-Sport Athletes

Working with athletes trying to improve their performance is always a blast, especially when we have a big chunk of time to work on things in the offseason.

But what do you do if your athlete plays multiple sports, so really has no offseason?

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#AskMikeReinold Episode 240: Strength and Conditioning for Multi-Sport Athletes

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Show Notes



Transcript

Student:
Today we have Josh from Massachusetts, who goes, in regards to youth in high school athletes that play multi-sports and therefore never have an off season, when is the best time and how do you structure an off season strength building program?

Mike Reinold:
I love this. This is a really good question. I put this tweet out a year or two ago too. I think it’s still one of my favorite tweets, but I was like, “All right, my bad.” We’re super guilty of this, but as a medical community for the last 10 years, we’ve been harping on kids should play multiple sports. That was a big thing. We shouldn’t specialize too early. And then I was like, “Oh my bad. We screwed this up. We didn’t mean play every sport at the same time. We meant play one each season, alternate throughout the year. Don’t play them all at once.” So we kind of screwed this up a little bit, but I like this. In our area, in the Boston area, we have several towns that kind of come … that are our client base of champion.

Mike Reinold:
And some of them, their high schools are enormous, like college campuses. Right. So for them, it’s super challenging for that athlete to actually make the team for all these different sports, because there’s so much competition. But then, we have others where they’re really small and you only have a hundred kids in your class. The chances of you playing football, hockey, baseball are a lot higher for that athlete. So that poses a huge thing for us, because if they’re playing sports all year round, then they’re always in season for something. How do we ever make gains? So I want to answer this from a two-part thing. And obviously I want to throw this to Diwesh to kind of get his thoughts on how we do this with our athletes. But then I do also want to throw at you, maybe we end briefly with just saying when do we think maybe we should take a season off and focus on developing for one sport? When does that become realistic? But do we want to … if somebody comes to you right now and they’re like, “I play all three sports, but I’ve got to get stronger, I’ve got to get better because I want to maximize my potential,” what do we do?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah. So I mean, I think in part, this is a big puritization question. But I think the first thing we got to do is set realistic expectations. So a lot of people, younger kids know that they got to get bigger, faster, stronger, and they want it to happen fairly quickly, especially if they’re planning on playing a collegiate sport or multi-sport in college. I think step number one is we’ve got to kind of taper expectations. So making sure that they understand that because training is not the primary focus right now, because they’re playing three sports at three different times a year, or maybe more. You have kids that play indoor lacrosse and hockey at the same time. We have situations like that all the time. We got to make sure that they understand that gains are going to come a little bit slower to them compared to maybe some of their friends and classmates that might have a true off season where they can train.

Diwesh Poudyal:
So starting with expectations, and then two is getting them to understand that they’re probably going to have a fairly low frequency and training, simply because of their schedule. So they might have practice every single day, one to two games a week. So where do we find the time to train? So trying to convince kids to either come in early before school or come in post practice, that’s going to be the first place to start. And then our job as a coach and programmer becomes all right, how do I give them the right amount of stress and loading where they’re not over fatigued to show up to practice and perform or to show up and perform in games, but also make sure that we give them enough of a stimulus where they do have to adapt a little bit and may gain some strength, power, whatever it may be.

Diwesh Poudyal:
So I think there’s a couple of different layers to it. Now, digging a little deeper into the programming end of things and the puritization end of things, my general rule of thumb is I’m going to make sure that I give exercises and volume of exercises that don’t make them sore. So that’s my number one priority as far as my selection of exercises and my prescription of volume and training. So I’m not going to put a lot of heavy emphasis on ecentrics, or movements that have a higher ecentric component. So an example for me would be maybe I’ll choose more step up variations instead of let’s say an RFE split squat, where step up has a very, very short ecentric component, so they’re going to get less sore from it. Deadlifts have become a pretty big thing in my program, where they’re not really having to control that weight on the way down. They’re using concentric force to explode that weight up and then maybe just come right back down.

Diwesh Poudyal:
The other end of it ends up becoming the volume of stuff. So I think there’s one, a big misconception when it comes to in season training anyways. A lot of people tend to think that as soon as someone’s in season, we got to go light, super high reps so that we don’t tire them out. For me, it’s almost the exact opposite. The higher rep, low load stuff actually makes them more sore. So as far as performance goes on the field or on the court or the ice, I want to make sure my athletes are fresh. So my rep and sets game actually changes pretty drastically. So you might see a lot of my athletes doing three sets of three that are moderately heavy, let’s say 85-90% of their max. And then if I have a period of time where I do want to push the volume a little bit so I can induce a little bit of hypertrophy or just build tolerance to a certain level of stress, I might jack up that volume to six sets of three, because I know that three reps is not necessarily going to make them super sore, but I do get to build a little bit of capacity there.

Mike Reinold:
I like that. Dave, building on that a little bit, you personally work in a sport that has a crazy high season and a short off season. And a lot of sports are like that, but I feel like gymnastics seems to be one of the bigger ones, and I think a lot of the types of sports like gymnastics are like that. So a little bit different. We’re not talking about multi-sport athletes, but your athletes don’t get a huge off season either. How do you maximize that short amount of time? And do you have any tips to add to Diwey’s concepts about in-season training based on your experience?

Dave Tilley:
Yeah, it’s interesting, because there’s actually … we’re the shining example of what not to do in terms of year-round training, but then also [inaudible 00:08:23]. And I just did a big lit review and started writing some papers about how gymnastics desperately needs to change, because the injury rates, the burnout rates, it’s just baffling how bad it is. So we have kids that year-round train from a very young age. They specialize … our study we just finished was eight was the average age. And they didn’t usually start until about 14, 15 is when you should late specialize. So yeah, that being said, we have a lot of athletes that Diwey and I are working with that are very high level gymnast elite and college level gymnasts and we’re trying to teach them about this component. And it’s amazing what a very small dose of an off season done well can do to their health.

Dave Tilley:
We have some athletes that have trained super high level for 16, 17 years, junior national team, elite division one athletes. They take a small little rest after their biggest competitive event just for two to four weeks and do a little bit of cross-training. They’re like, “I feel amazing. My ankles feel great. My back feels great. I feel super strong.” They’ve never had a recovery window long enough to actually utilize all their adaptations. That’s a huge myth and misunderstanding. I think that happens across all of these young sports and with parents too, is they think that work plus work plus work equals adaptation. And we all know it’s the optimal dose of work, plus the optimal dose of recovery is where adaptation occurs. So I think a lot of this is education and change, but kind of on that being said, is we’re trying really hard to, as Diwey just said, fill in the gaps of what we know they’re not getting in their training.

Dave Tilley:
We know that a lot of these athletes are not doing upper back and cuff work, they’re not doing targeted mobility work, they’re not doing some of the boring grunt work basics they should be doing, because they just want to go play their sport. They want to practice, they want to hit balls, they want to throw, they want to do gymnastics. So that’s what we’re trying to do, is fill in some of those missing puzzle pieces. We know direct glute training is really important for a lot of these athletes, but they’re not doing loaded hip thrusts in their strength conditioning program. So we give them a little bit of strength, balance, a little bit of soft tissue care, a little bit of that boring grunt work and they feel a significant increase in their performance, just because they’ve never done some of that more boring grunt work. Maybe their sport coaches don’t either know, or they don’t feel as though it’s important.

Mike Reinold:
That’s pretty neat. I think you said that well too, Dave, to combine with Diwesh a little bit there, was that sometimes we have to remember that we’re here to help the athlete get better. So sometimes you’re like, “Man, this is the program I think all ice hockey players should do because it’s going to enhance … it’s going to make them awesome.” And you want to give them that program, but if they’re in the middle of their season or they’re playing all year doing all these different things, we never want to get to the point where we are competing with the stresses of what they’re doing in the sport and taking away from their performance. So if we’re wearing them down or if we’re doing things that aren’t complimentary to what they need to do on the field, remember, that’s why they’re coming to you, is because they want to get better on the field, the court, the ice, the tumble track, whatever … the floor I was close. You know what I mean? They want to get better at those things. So I think we have to be kind of careful with that. So Lisa, did you have a little bit on … I know in your world too, there’s quite a bit of this, right?

Lisa Russell:
I was going to say, mostly everything Dave said is kind of a ditto in the rowing world.

Mike Reinold:
Ditto.

Lisa Russell:
Yeah. I mean rowers suck at taking an off chunk of the year. If they take one week off, they’re like, “Yay, took some time off.” It’s like, “Well, you trained for the other 51 weeks.” I don’t know.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, really.

Lisa Russell:
But I think within a sport that doesn’t really have an off season, there’s typically more important times of the year and lesser important times of the year in order to help periodize, like Diwey was talking about, and then … I mean, rowers don’t tend to do the accessory work that really supports them to stay healthy. So no matter what, regardless of how your periodizing, there’s strength training. Those pieces are always super helpful and super important, no matter the time of year.

Mike Reinold:
Right. You can always find places for that. And I was even thinking while Diwesh was talking about some of his things, maybe you’re playing football in the fall, but you want to play baseball in the spring. So maybe the fall is a great time to work on rotary power because it’s not a huge football thing, so it’s not a competing stress, as a way of kind of putting that together. So all right. One last thing … oh Dan, you want to jump in? Because yeah, that’s a good point, Dan, in your world too. I mean it’s every day, every year. So what do you think?

Dan Pope:
Yeah, same exact thing as Dave and Lisa say. One of the things I wanted to say, for the medical providers listening to this, physical therapists, I think, and physicians oftentimes are guilty of this, but if you have an athlete that comes in with an injury, and let’s say they’re in a period where they need to continue training in some regard, I think oftentimes we tell people to back off way too much and we sometimes create a problem by doing that. So we’re taking their chronic workload, we just bottomed it out, and then at some point you’re like, “Okay, you’re cleared to go back,” and it goes up to a huge level. And during that period of time, you missed all those positive adaptations that may have occurred in an off season or something along those lines. So I think that we have to keep that in mind when someone comes with an injury, we have to keep them training in a safe way that respects that injury, but also allows them to continue making progress.

Mike Reinold:
I like that. That’s great. That’s great. This is a tricky thing to do, and this is where … this is that next level thing. We talked about the development of our strength coaches and stuff, where you’re very good at the technical aspects of your job. Then you’re really good at coaching in the moment. This is that next level stuff, where you have to take a big, broad spectrum kind of view of the situation and the competing stress and everything and kind of put it together. This is next level stuff. So if you’re not quite there, you don’t have the experience of programming and stuff like this. Just do your best and err on the side of caution, and then slowly add. Don’t go too much until they crash and then you have to strip it down. I think you’re going to have much worse results that way.

Mike Reinold:
So just because I alluded to it, Diwey, just one last question briefly going in here. At some point in time, I like when our late high school, maybe, kids actually say, “You know what? I’m not really a good basketball player. I want to play baseball in college, so I’m going to play soccer. Then I’m going to take the winter off and train for baseball to get better at baseball.” For me, that’s good, well-rounded development of athleticism, especially if you have a complimentary sport in the fall. I love telling the baseball players to play soccer. I think it’s hilarious. None of them want to, but they … you know what I mean? They get good at running and stuff like that. But Diwey, when do we actually say … would we ever recommend that or do we stay away from that? But what have we done so far?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to what the athletes already thought about a little bit beforehand. A lot of the times they’ll kind of know, “Hey, I want to do this and I want to put a little bit more of a concerted effort into being better at this particular sport.” So if they start bringing up thoughts like that, then we’ll kind of have the conversation saying, “Hey, so of the other two sports that you play, which one do you like the least? Or which one do you feel like you benefit the least from, from a general athleticism standpoint? Or what’s not a big social aspect for you?” I’m sure some kids will enjoy the teammates on all three teams that they play for, but maybe one is just kind of they’re doing it because they, for whatever reason, started and they don’t want to quit.

Diwesh Poudyal:
But if they kind of started showing hints that they want to take one season off to get bigger, faster, stronger, then I’ll say, “Hey, maybe sophomore, junior year as we’re starting to look towards college scholarships and talking to schools and stuff, let’s take a little bit more dedicated time to your training and maybe take that one winter off to start developing a little bit of a better strength conditioning program so you can better prep for your spring baseball season, and/or summer baseball season.” That’s super important for baseball and stuff.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. I mean, there’s a time and a place for that. So I think that’s another interesting perspective to kind of think about. Awesome stuff. Great episode. Great question. Thanks so much, Josh. Josh said that he’s from Massachusetts. So I think we get a good amount of these multi-sport athletes in Massachusetts. I think in the South, it’s warmer all year so they can do stuff, but it’s hard to play baseball in the winter here. So things like that kind of help dictate that a little bit. So we deal with that a little bit in some of the states, like we are up in Massachusetts, but again, great question, Josh. Thanks so much. Thanks for listening. As always, head to mikereinold.com. Click on the podcast link if you have another question you want us to answer, and please subscribe, rate, review on iTunes, Spotify, and we will keep this podcast going. Thank you so much. See you on the next episode.