Multi-sport athletes are on the go year round, making it difficult to specialize their training for each sport. If you play football, basketball and baseball (or any other three sports), you won't have time to get into a sport-specific program. However, this doesn't have to be a problem.
The foundations of athleticism—strength, speed, power, stability and flexibility—cross over to nearly all sports. So, to maximize your training as a multi-sport athlete, you must regularly perform exercises that improve these foundational attributes. Doing so will maximize your performance and help prevent injury in all the sports you play.
Try the five exercises below to work your entire body and improve your athletic performance.
Hang Clean (Power)
The Hang Clean has tremendous carryover to every sport since it requires you to generate force as quickly as possible to get the bar from mid-thigh to the shoulders or rack position. The Hang Clean consists of four phases: the first pull, scoop, second pull and catch. Each phase requires a great degree of coordination, explosiveness, stability and hip and shoulder flexibility. Mastering the Hang Clean will help unleash your explosive ability and add inches to your vertical jump. Due to the technical nature of the movement, focus on performing low reps with perfect form.
- Assume athletic stance
- Hold bar just above knees with slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, back locked, shoulders up and abs and chest flexed
- Fully extend hips, knees and ankles to explode up; forcefully shrug
- Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest
- Drop under bar and catch it in front of shoulders in quarter-squat
- Extend hips and knees to drive up
- Lower bar with control to start position; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 4x2 with two-minute rest
The Deadlift reigns supreme in building absolute strength, because to lift a heavily loaded barbell from the floor requires the coordinated effort of nearly every muscle in the body. Deadlifts strengthen the powerful posterior chain muscles (the glutes and hamstrings), which extend the hips, thus helping you sprint faster. However, to improve performance and prevent lower back injuries, you must maintain proper form when executing the lift. Remember to sit the hips backs while keeping the bar over the middle of the foot. Be sure to extend through the hips—not the lower back—to reduce strain on the discs of the lumbar spine. Again, since the lift is technical, keep the reps low. Increase the load with each set.
- In athletic stance, assume Deadlift position with back locked, abs tight, chest flexed and grip outside shoulder-width
- Explode into standing position by extending hips and knees; keep back flat and chest up
- Lower bar to floor through same motion; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 5x3 with one- to two-minute rest
Push-Ups are a great full-body exercise as they challenge stability of the core, shoulders and back muscles. They help you block opponents, throw further and swing harder. Sadly, Push-Ups are absent from many training programs, because athletes seem to favor the Bench Press. While the Bench Press has value, Push-Ups put less stress on the shoulders—which is great for throwing athletes, such as quarterbacks and pitchers. Push-Ups can be varied to make them more challenging—try them loaded with plates, bands or chains; performed on unstable surfaces; done unilaterally; or with one foot elevated. The options are many, and the variety will continually challenge your muscles for increased strength.
- Assume push-up position on ground with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width
- Lower until chest barely touches ground; keep elbows to sides and core tight
- Extend arms to push body up to start position; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 3x10-20 with one-minute rest
Dumbbell Lunge (Stability)
Dumbbell Lunges have many strength-building and stability benefits, including improving balance and strength around the ankles, knees and hips. This means you can change direction quickly while still maintaining control. They also challenge the core, because they force you to keep your upper body upright and stable while balanced on one leg between strides. To increase their difficulty, perform Lunges while holding dumbbells or try Scissor Jumps for variation.
- Begin in athletic stance holding dumbbells at sides
- Step forward to comfortable distance and lower into lunge position until back knee is just above ground
- Drive back into start position by pushing through heel of front foot
- Repeat with opposite leg; continue alternating for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2-3x10-12 each leg with one- to two-minute rest
Bodyweight Full Squat (Flexibility)
Bodyweight Full Squats promote flexibility in the hips while challenging core stability. Load the Squat to turn this flexibility exercise into a strength exercise. Performed with a full range of motion, with or without a load, the Squat will make you more flexible and faster—you'll be able to move more easily around the field with a reduced chance of injury.
- Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than hip-width and arms crossed at shoulders
- Bend at hips and knees to lower into squat until butt nearly touches heels
- Extend hips and knees to drive up out of squat
- Repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2-3x30 with one- to two-minute rest
Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including injury prevention, nutrition and improving athletic performance.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock