By Evan Midford, Website & Social Media Coordinator
With Summer in the rear view mirror and Fall now here, we in the sport performance world are typically coming to the end of a full off-season of intense training to prepare for our Winter sports season. Of course, not all sports follow this schedule, so this article could easily be applied to any athlete who is finishing their off-season and going into their sports season regardless of the time of year.
Off-Season Training = Maximum Improvement in Physical Qualities for Sport
The off-season is the time of the training year where the greatest amount of improvement in strength, speed, power, stamina, and body composition can be made as the bulk of the time is spent in the training room and less time is spent on the field, court, or ice. This is an ideal time to take a much needed break from the sport, evaluate your past season, and set goals to make the next season better than the one you just finished.
Any athlete who wants to improve year after year knows that training during the off-season is their chance to make the most progress and change their body and how it performs because they are consistent with their training for months. Once the off-season ends and the competitive season begins, athletes go full throttle into their sport and think that all that strength, speed, and power will stay with them just because they are practicing their sport without any consideration to getting into the gym and training. They and their coaches typically think that they just don’t have the time to devote to strength, speed, and power development because the tactics and skills of the sport are more important. Let me pose the following questions:
- Is it possible to be as strong, fast, or explosive for playoff time (or whatever major competition) if you don’t train those qualities? Isn’t that the most important time to be the strongest, fastest, and in the best condition possible?
- Is it possible to train those qualities without causing any overuse injuries or undue fatigue to an athlete so they can perform at their best throughout the season and into playoff time?
Microdosing – The In-Season Training Solution
OK, so let’s take a look at the first question. Obviously, if you are not doing the things during the sport season that helped you get the strength, speed, and power you gained during the off-season, there is virtually no chance of keeping those qualities up at the same level for playoff time, regardless of how long or short the season is. The most important thing during the sport season is to make sure you don’t lose the attributes you built up during the off-season.
That brings us to the second question: is it possible to train those qualities without causing any overuse or undue fatigue to an athlete so they can be at their best, when it matters the most?
The human body is an amazing thing, when you train it consistently, it becomes stronger, faster, better conditioned, and more athletic over time. When you don’t have a lot of time to train it, you can maintain those qualities with a lower volume (sets and reps) of work but at a higher intensity (load, speed, intent, etc.).
Let’s face it; the practice and game schedule during a competitive season is hectic, so how do we fit physical prep work into this busy schedule? Here are some simple guidelines to help young athletes stay fit, strong, and athletic through the competitive season and especially the playoffs without overtraining:
|Session Length||20-30 Minutes|
|Weekly Frequency||2-4 Times/Week|
|Loading||Low Volume/High Intensity|
|Timing of Training||Pre-game or pre-practice, post-game or post practice, as a part of the warm-up, on off-days|
|Physical Qualities to Train||Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Mobility, Stamina|
By following these simple guidelines, at the bare minimum, you will have added 16 hours of training (2X20 minX24 weeks) and at a maximum of 48 additional training hours (4X30 minX24 weeks) to your current plan for the season. If I was coaching a team and all I had to do to ensure my athletes were at their strongest, fastest, and best conditioned when it mattered the most (playoffs or major competitions) was 16 additional hours over the course of a season, I would put that into my yearly training plan right away.
So, how can an athlete or their coach get this additional work in without adding more training sessions or removing valuable recovery days from the schedule?
If you look at the chart above and the Timing of Training variable, you will see that the warm-up or the cool-down for a game or practice is an excellent time to do this as you should already be doing those things as part of your routine so adding an additional 10-20 minutes is not really that hard to do. The key is to have a theme for your warm-up (speed/agility/power, etc.) and then including a high intensity drill or two to follow the warm up and then possibly a few strengthening exercises and you’ve added some quality work without adding extra days or hours to your overall plan.
For information on how to structure your warm-up check out this post and the vlog that goes along with it:
The same rules would apply to the post-game or practice routine. Before bringing the heart rate down, add in some speed/power/strength exercises and then finish with a stretch and some breathing exercises to start the recovery process.
There you have it, microdosing in a nutshell. This concept alone can add valuable training hours to each athlete on your team without the risk of injury or overtraining.
Let’s face it, every team or athlete is different and every sport is different but the concept here is the same. The volume or amount of work does not need to be the same as the off-season (it could be as little as ½ the volume), but the intensity of the work needs to remain high. It would be very hard to maintain the off-season volume of work while practicing and training the skills and tactics needed for the sport without some form of overtraining taking place.
The key to long term athletic development and overall improvement in sport performance is consistency. Not developing those key physical qualities day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year keeps an athlete that much further away from reaching their full physical potential. At the end of the day, it is our job as coaches to help our athletes reach their potential and get to the next level.
For more information on this topic or any other topic related to athlete development, feel free to contact us directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.