The off-season is a time to recover from any injuries that were sustained during the regular season, take care of any asymmetries that were developed from the specific sport played and increase strength, power and speed so that you are ready to dominate during the regular season! The off-season is usually broken down into three sub categories, which include the early, general and late off-season training program. The off-season ranges from sport to sport so when putting together a performance training program the actual length must be considered to program accordingly.
The early off-season is in most cases the first two weeks where there can be complete rest or light physical activity. This is the time to recover both physically and mentally from the regular season. There should be nothing strenuous done during this period. The general off season is the time to focus on cleaning up any asymmetries that might have been acquired during the regular season along with any loss of proper biomechanical efficiency. Once those situations are addressed it is time to begin increasing strength, power and speed components. This should comprise the majority of your off-season. The late off-season is when we should be peaking and focusing on any additional conditioning that is required of the specific sport. This varies from sport to sport and athlete to athlete. For sports that are more aerobically based such as field hockey, aerobic conditioning will be increased earlier in the late off-season then other more anaerobically focused sports. Some athletes also take different amount of time to gain the aerobic level of conditioning that is needed for their sport.
The off-season (which encompasses the first day after the regular season ends until the first day it begins) is the time to get stronger, faster and more powerful. You should not start your off-season training a few weeks or even months before the beginning of the regular season. If being your best on the field is important to you, then taking your off-season performance training seriously is required. This is the time to put in the work so you can reap the benefits during the season.
With the beginning of a new year upon us I figured now would be as good as any to reflect over the ten biggest things I have learned about being in this field.
1. Quality Nutrition & Sleep Are Key
If you are going to skimp on these two main components when trying to be the best athlete possible, you mine as well go for the trifecta and not even bother training. Seriously though, training improvements only take place if you are getting quality nutrition in your system and logging at least 7-8 hours of shut eye a night. Make it a priority to take care of business before you even enter the training room.
2. Be Consistent
There are so many different training programs out there, some better than others, but at the end of the day if you are putting in the work and being consistent that trumps just about anything. Do not get me wrong, there are some awful programs being written out there, I have seen them! Unfortunately these programs are not going to get you too far, but if the program is a good one, get the work in and the rewards will come.
3. Learn The Basics
There is a reason athletes are doing cleans, deadlifts, squats, bench presses, lunges and chin ups. They work! There is a progression to learning and mastering these exercises though. Chances are that you will have to develop proper movement patterns, build a base of strength and progress up to these main lifts. Do not rush the process. Be a master at these lifts rather than a jack of all trades at a bunch of lifts that probably won’t get you too far anyways.
4. O’ Lifts Get You Strong & Powerful
This one goes along with the previous mentioned basic lifts, but I think it’s that important that I wanted to make a point of it again. Olympic lifts teach power and strength development that nothing else can compare to. Just like the other basic exercises, go through the process of learning things correctly and developing an immense amount of power will follow.
5. Dynamic Warm Ups=Reduced Injuries
Preparing the body for the work it is about to do takes more than running on the treadmill for 5 minutes. There should be a planned out dynamic warm up that prepares you for the training program that day. This will not only reduce your chance of an injury it will also make your body primed for greater strength gains.
6. Psychology Trumps Physiology
Here are two scenarios; I want you to pick the one you would like to be a part of. Scenario one, you enter a poorly lit training room; there is no music on and it is just you. In scenario two, the training room is properly lit, the music in bumping and your teammates are alongside giving you encouragement and motivation. I think we would all most likely choose scenario two and chances are if we did, the training session might be more productive.
7. Relax With The Variety
Variety is the key to life, but not when it comes to your training program. I mentioned the basics before didn’t I; well I promise this will be the last time….maybe, but doubtful. When you want to add variety make it with the volume and intensity or a variation of the main lifts. There are a 100 different ways to do a squat, there is your variety.
8. Do Not Forget About The Conditioning
Some programs leave this component out or do somewhat of a skimpy job on it. Conditioning is an important component that should not be overlooked; the volume and specific conditioning will depend on the sport played though. A baseball players conditioning program will be vastly different then a soccer players. Just like the strength part of the program, make sure that the conditioning program is one, included and two, specific to the athletes sport.
9. Be An Individual
Every athlete has different strengths and limitations, they play different sports at different positions, some are tall some are short, some are going through growth spurts and some are as tall as they will ever be, the list goes on and on. The point is a training program should be individualized to the athlete if they are going to get the most out of it. One size does not fit all!
10. Turn Up The Tunes
I’m going back to the psychology part of training to finish. Walk into a training room with your favorite song on pumps you up right? Are you feeling slightly more motivated to get some serious work done? I sure am! From what I have seen from training athletes for quite some time it sure does seem to be a trend. Bump up the tunes and get to work!
There are ten things to think about the next time you start a training program. Work hard, be dedicated and success will come. Here’s to getting after it in 2013!
It is said that as you advance in your career as an athlete, the gap in physical ability from athlete to athlete gets smaller. So if two athletes are both gifted with similar traits athletically, what is going to be the difference from the athlete that becomes a star and the other that fades away? The answer is mental toughness. How mentally tough are you? How hard are you willing to work and study your craft? How many sacrifices are you willing to make? It’s a lot to think about, especially if you are a younger athlete just starting out. There is no measuring stick to see how much heart someone has or how mentally tough they are. It is shown through dedication, discipline and devotion. These attributes can be developed and improved just like any other habit. Just like becoming a great athlete physically, it takes time to develop these mental traits in your life.
Being dedicated to your sport begins with showing up and working hard. Are you willing to make the sacrifices to be a part of the select few that are dedicated to being their absolute best? How much dedication one is willing to put forth is different from athlete to athlete. I remember when I was a young athlete practicing my ball handling and shooting skills for basketball in the dead of winter in New England with snow on the ground. I could barely feel my finger tips when I headed in the house to get a quick drink of water. I was dedicated to being my best and not making excuses that there was nowhere to practice because it was cold outside or the gym was not open. I set a goal and I was dedicated to accomplishing it.
Being discipline means you will follow your coach and trainers instructions even when no one is around to check on you. None of my coaches or teammates knew that I was practicing that day and none of them needed to know. It says on the schedule that you are going to go through the drill 50 times, then you go through the drill until it’s done. There are many different examples that anyone could apply to their own life, that is just one that comes to mind about mine. Another example could be its 5 AM and you do not want to get out of bed to train because no one will know, guess what, you better get out of bed because you are the one that has to look yourself in the mirror. When you did not prepare food for the day the night before, are you going to eat healthy, clean meals or just cheat because you do not have the discipline to eat nutritious meals. All these examples show the difference between what it takes to be discipline.
Being devoted is about giving of yourself for the team. It isn’t only about you. Are you committed to your team and their success? If you are asked to fill a smaller roll for a play are you still going to give it your all? Does winning come before your numbers? Devotion is there or it isn’t, it is not something that you can give half an effort. If you are devoted to something, you believe in it wholeheartedly. Failure is not an option.
Mentally tough athletes are able to deal with the ups and downs, the controversy and the doubters, yet still persevere. Being mentally tough is the ability to take criticism and make yourself better, to have challenges and overcome and to fight through whatever comes your way and come out the other end better for it. Are you mentally tough?
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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