Introduction To Off Season Training
It can easily be argued that Off Season Training is the most important stage of any sports training program. Off Season training programs, when properly designed, will help you to recover both physically and mentally from your regular season as well as address some of the physical imbalances that every athlete faces.
Those who take their Off Season Training seriously will come back the next season faster and stronger. Even for those who are unable to commit to a full Off Season Training program it is important to remember that maintaining even a 50-60% fitness level will take significantly less effort than starting all over again come pre-season or training camp.
The key to starting a good Off Season Training plan is finding a balance between recovery, maintaining of current fitness and growth. In order to give your body the rest it needs, without letting your fitness levels drop too, much your Off Season Training should start approximately 2 weeks after your season ends, regardless of whether your team made the playoffs. During these two weeks maintain some level of exercise, but don’t rush into your Off Season Training program.
There are 3 typical means for maintaining ones fitness level during off season training, they are as follows:
The main goal of cardio training is to at the very least maintain, if not improve, aerobic fitness. At the beginning of your Off Season Training program these workouts should be light and enjoyable as you recover from the wear and tear the regular season has put on your joints and muscles. When possible try and avoid training with the same form of exercise that you regularly compete in. If you are a hockey, football or soccer player, for example, avoid running and instead choose rowing or cycling. If simply aiming to maintain your current level of aerobic fitness your goal should be to work out 3-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes at 60-70% maximum heart rate.
Stretching is incredibly important for any athlete regardless of the time of year whether it is before, during or after a game or training session. Stretching should be a fundamental part of any conditional program and performed consistently. Stretching helps to ease stiffness, get blood flowing and expedite the repair of damaged muscle tissues. By stretching regularly you will help to increase your range of motion which directly reduces the risk of muscle and tendon tears. Static stretches should be considered every day, whether a training day or not.
Resistance training is often focused on targeting specific stabilizer muscle groups, helping to improve imbalances and weak areas. Any strength training should be accompanied by resistance training in order to provide balanced compensation work for those areas and muscles. During the season many stabilizer muscles get neglected as competition is focused on very repetitive motions and in season training often focuses on the large muscle groups and compound movements. Resistance training sessions should be of light intensity and only 2-3 a week are usually necessary.
Full Off Season Training Goals
If you are willing and able to commit to a full Off Season Training program you should have three main goals in mind; improved Mobility, Conditioning and Strength. Coming back from your off season better and more prepared should be every athlete’s goal and in order to do this you need to focus on these three main aspects:
Simply put, regardless of your sport, athletes need to be able to move well to get into position. The patterns of muscles used may change based on your specific sport, but the general idea remains the same; increased mobility means increased ability. Mobility training should focus on a good range of motion in order to facilitate the building of strength. As mentioned, the target muscles may change slightly based on your specific sport, but the principle does not. As well as practicing mobility exercise that focus on a good range of motion consider getting a foam roller and rolling out muscles like the quads, hamstrings, hips and upper back twice a day or before and after workouts. Rolling helps to reduce tension in muscles and helps to improve mobility.
Athletes should focus on aerobic conditioning and increasing their conditioning base. Aerobic training should consist of moderate intensity workouts with short and incomplete rest periods. By increasing ones conditioning base and aerobic system other levels of conditioning will be drastically increased and increases in explosiveness, speed and strength will be easier to achieve. There are many excellent choices for aerobic exercise and intervals, but a here are a few of Scoutlete’s favourites:
- Bike Sprints, Sled pushes, Sled Drags, Jump Rope, Walking Lunges, Row Sprints etc.
- Interval Options: (A) 20-30 Seconds On, 10-15 Seconds Off x 8-10 times. (B) Choose several of the exercises and move from one exercise to the next at set intervals; eg. 1-2 Minutes per exercise with 30 seconds rest as you move between exercises x 3 times.
Strength is the foundation for all athletic activities and strength training should be one of every athlete’s priorities each off season. Simply put, power is determined by how fast an athlete can display strength. More strength means more power, and more power is an asset regardless of what sport you play. Focusing on compound movements will be the most beneficial when it comes to strength training during the off season. Compound exercises are total body exercises with the most popular being things like Squats, Deadlifts, Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups, Bench Press and various other Push or Pull exercises. Focusing on slightly higher intensity and fewer reps will help to guarantee strength gains. Aim to be in the 3-7 rep range and performing 3-6 sets, but don’t be scared to play with these numbers as you increase your power and strength. Keep in mind that Mobility is very important for Strength training and the focus should be on proper form and mobility before weight or intensity. Ensure that you are giving your body the recovery time it needs. A good rule of thumb is that every 4th week should be an active recovery week where you lower your sets and only lift at about 50% of your 1 rep max.
Faster, Stronger and More Explosive
Your off season is not the time to be focusing on skill work it is the time for building your overall base. Focus on increasing your Mobility, Conditioning and Strength. Raise the bar for yourself and come back Faster, Stronger and more Explosive than you have ever been.
Tags: Conditioning, Mobility, Off Season Training, Raise The Bar, scoutlete, Strength