As an NFL running back, LaDainian Tomlinson was the ultimate competitor and an elite playmaker who possessed a work ethic second to none. According to his longtime performance coach, Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, “LT is a guy that will outwork anyone. You will not find a harder worker and more dedicated, more committed athlete out there than LaDainian. Everything he gets, he deserves.”
Tomlinson announced his retirement after an 11-year Hall of Fame career in which he finished second all-time in rushing touchdowns (145) and third in career TDs (162). In 2006, he set the single-season record for touchdowns (31) and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
LT signed a one-day contract with the San Diego Chargers so he could retire as a member of the team with which he spent nine seasons and where he established himself as one of the greatest running backs of all time.
What separated Tomlinson from other top players of his generation was his durability. Beyond those record-setting stats, arguably the most impressive indicator of his performance is that he played in 170 of 176 regular season games, a feat that is almost unfathomable for a running back.
The fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, Tomlinson recorded more than 300 rushing attempts in each of his first seven seasons in the league and, amazingly, he missed only one game during that span.
Tomlinson didn’t miss many carries during the course of the season, nor did he miss many off-season training sessions. Durkin believes LT’s devotion to off-season conditioning was responsible for his sterling streak of games played at football’s most physically burdensome position.
Durkin’s off-season training program for LT primarily emphasized developing strength, balance and coordination of the joints. “Our joint integrity program is designed to focus on the feet and ankles, knees, hips and groin, core, shoulders, elbows and wrists,” says Durkin. “The program doesn’t guarantee that an athlete will be 100 percent injury-proof, but it sure cuts down on the likelihood of being injured—especially when you are a running back in the NFL and your body is being abused every week.”
Here are three exercises that helped support LT’s long and prolific career. To incorporate them into your workout, begin with the basic variation of each by performing it on flat surface, then progress to more advanced variations using an appropriate training device.
Balance Reach Forward Over Goal Line
- Balance on one leg with bare foot on Airex pad; hold football in front
- Stabilizing on right leg, extend arms forward as far as possible
- Hold for one count and return to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
- Repeat with opposite leg
Sets/Reps: 2×10-15 each leg
Three-Way Balance Touch with Football
- Balance on right leg in quarter squat with bare foot on Airex pad; hold football in front
- Without changing body position, bring left leg as far forward as possible and touch foot to ground
- Bring left foot back to start, then touch it to ground as far to left as possible
- Bring left foot back to start, then touch it to ground as far back as possible
- Repeat each position for specified reps
- Perform set on opposite leg
Sets/Reps: 2×10 round trips each leg (30 touches)
Watch video (above) of Drew Brees, LT’s training partner at Fitness Quest 10, performing the Three-Way Balance Touch exercise.
- Position arms in goalpost position with light dumbbell in each hand
- Bring right hand down toward left hip while keeping left arm extended up
- Return to start position and repeat with left arm
- Repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2×10 each arm