ViPR global master trainer Matt Truscott reflects on the recent Super Bowl and explores why we must push players into different movement patterns with load.

As I watched the play-off games and got ready for the Super Bowl, the thing that kept coming up when describing the challenges for each team was, "They've had a lot of injuries." Or, "The team that stays the healthiest has the best chance." So, what is the limiting factor? I mean, sure, we can argue that American football is a brutal sport, but aren't these guys 'professionals’?

American Football players

When we watch these professional games, they move in 3D and it’s extremely fast. These guys are powerful. Strong. Quick. Agile. Yet the thing that is most interesting to me is that these athletes are NOT getting hit with a majority of these injuries. Sure, concussions happen, or a guy might roll up onto another player’s ankle. However, it seems like most of these players are getting hurt when they change direction, decelerate or try something that is slightly outside of their framework. This won't make sense to most of us in the industry, as you will see that some of these men can squat well over 450-500lb (204-226kg) and can bench press well over 315lb (142kg). So why are they tearing ACLs and having shoulder injuries? Surely that must mean they need more Olympic lifts, right? Well, many of these guys actually lift through traditional means for the bulk of their training and this is the real problem. 

As a former football player myself, I understand that injuries are ‘part of the game’. However, do they need to be this involved with the success of the game? I understand that concussions will happen with the force that these men bring upon each other as they try to physically beat down their opponents. But to tear an ACL while changing direction seems a bit extreme. I believe that the single most important thing these players need is multi-directional movement patterns under load. I agree that using a speed ladder is great and the hours of perfecting your routes or movement patterns are necessary. However, we must not be blind to the fact that, when these athletes plant their foot into the ground to change direction, they are causing multi-directional stress to the joints (hip and ankle especially) that need to be prepared to do so. 

Strength and conditioning coaches can and will argue the point that multi-directional movement patterns aren't as necessary as you can't make them as heavy as your fundamental lifts, such as deadlifts, squats or cleans. My responses are:

1. Why do I need to squat 500lb straight up and straight down as my focus if I am never going up and down?

2. Who says that my multi-directional lifts won't increase to higher loads? Once I have established the movement mechanics under load, that load will then increase as my force production continues to increase along different lines of stress to the body.

3. Why is the number on the barbell, dumbbell or otherwise so important? Doesn't speed of motion affect the force output? Or range of motion? Or direction of where the force is coming from? What about leverage? The single reason strength coaches and football recruiters are so hell bent on traditional lifts is because they can easily be measured. The bench press is by far the most overrated and irrelevant lift in the history of the NFL Combine. If a player is on his back trying to push someone off of him, he should be fired. Period. 

So, if we can see that we need more multi-directional lifting, what do we turn to? Loaded Movement Training. We need to start putting these players into different movement patterns with load. This will create more coordinated neural sequencing throughout the system, stronger and more stable connective tissue and joints (which will reduce injury), and establish a 3D force production that these players need.

I must make myself clear: I’m not saying traditional lifting is bad. I have made it clear that it can't be the highest focus. Not when the task you need the body to do is perform in an arena that demands 3D power, strength, quickness, and speed. 


ViPR and Loaded Movement Training will be the way forward for our athletic arenas.