Returning To Sports After COVID-19 Restrictions: High Performance or High Injury Rate

HIGH PERFORMANCE OR HIGH INJURY RATE RETURNING TO SORTS

The return to sports after COVID-19 will be different than just flipping a switch and starting a season.

This stoppage of sports due to the pandemic is unprecedented.  Restrictions vary across the country from a strict stay at home orders to the shutdown of schools and organized sports.

Right now, most athletes aren’t going to practice or being coached in person.  Team practices aren’t occurring.  Almost all gyms and school weight rooms are closed as well.

All of this limits what types of training an athlete can be doing.

While many athletes are trying to stay fit with at-home workouts, it’s not the same stimulus to the body or mind.  For water sport athletes like swimmers and water polo players, it’s even harder to train appropriately.

Athletes Are Detraining After COVID-19

Athletes improve their fitness, speed, strength, and tissue resilience through their practice, training, and competition. All of those induce stress, too which the athletes adapt.

When there is reduced stress, the body also adapts, back to lower levels.

Because of all this, we can reasonably assume that an athlete’s training adaptations are deteriorating during this time. This process is what we call detraining.

How bad the detraining will be is based on the individual athlete’s genetics, training history, and what they are doing now.

Learn More: Athlete’s Tendons Are At Risk After COVID-19

Nonetheless, we know that even with the best intentions, athletes arent getting the same stimulus to adapt.

Using bodyweight, resistance bands, lightweights, and modified programs help reduce the detraining, but they just won’t cut it.  They don’t have the same effect as practicing their sport and comprehensive performance training.

Detraining is a bit like withdrawing money from a bank account.  Think of training and practice time as money that’s been invested.  The longer the restrictions last, the more athletes are withdrawing from their savings. 

Training is a stimulus that helps athletes adapt. Going without training, practices and competitions is leading to reduced capacities for most athletes.

Their accounts are starting to dwindle.

Some of the effects of detraining are on whole systems like the cardiac, aerobic, and neuromuscular systems.  They each have different rates of detraining.

In other cases, we have to consider specific structures and abilities in athletes.  So, what will be different in the athletes after COVID-19 lockdowns?

Reopening sports after COVID-19 lockdowns needs to consider the implications of detraining.

Athletes returning to sports after COVID-19 restrictions are different

Planning The Return To Sports

Plans for returning to sports after COVID-19 restrictions must consider the size of the detraining withdrawal that’s been made by athletes.   The magnitude of the deconditioning will affect how quickly athletes are back to 100 percent.

It’s up to all of us in sports to make sure we work to return athletes to sport safely, successfully, and sustainably. understanding that they are in a different condition is the first step.

Returning to Sports After COVID-19 Layoffs

Returning to sports after covid

As we look to the future and reopening, returning to sports after COVID-19 is a challenge athletes and coaches need to be preparing for now.

Everyone who loves sports wants to see it return to normal.

Sport provides many benefits to our society. There is the encouragement of physical fitness and health. The joy of exercise and competition. The lessons it teaches us about life and ourselves. And the comradery and community it can provide.

However, if coaches and leaders don’t intelligently manage the return to sport process, the risks for injury will be increased.

Because of all those positives and financial incentives at some levels, there are a lot of people looking to get things back to normal ASAP. That’s understandable, but this isn’t normal.

The athletes that will be returning aren’t the same ones who left.

We Hit Pause on Sports

With the imposed stoppage of leagues and schools, athletes have not had the opportunity to practice, nor compete in most places.

The more dedicated athletes have found ways to carry on as best they can. From running outside to training at home, they are working to maintain their fitness.

Unfortunately, even if they are doing everything they can, they just can’t duplicate all the elements of their sport. Large spaces, high speed running and jumping, long throwing or hitting, high-intensity practice, hours upon hours of weekly practice. All of this is missing or severely limited.

With it being gone, the accompanying physical stresses on the body or lowered as well. There isn’t the same load on muscle, tendons, and the cardiovascular system. There isn’t the same cognitive demand on the brain and motor control system.

Some Rest Is Good

On the bright side of that rest is the opportunity to recover. Many athletes don’t have an offseason anymore, and this may be the first time off from their sport they’ve had in years.

That can allow some time to heal injuries. Overused muscles and tendons are getting rest from the constant stress. The time off gives them a mental and emotional break that just may have needed and can reinvigorate their motivation to play.

Some athletes have taken advantage of this window to not just rest but repair their bodies and eliminate problems. Rest is helpful to reduce pain, but proactively working to rehab those nagging injuries takes the athlete to a new level and helps protect them when sport returns.

Athletes Have Been Detraining

Without that stress, there is also a negative. Keep in mind “stress” in the general sense isn’t good or bad. When it is too much, things can break, but when it is too little, they become weaker and fragile.

For many young athletes, they don’t realize how much that constant practice has conditioned their bodies.

Every repetition puts small strains on the tissues. They help stimulate the body to keep them strong and functioning. When it is too much, things like tendons start to break down over time. But now, there is too little. Those tendons are not ready to withstand the same practice volume they did a two months ago.

The muscles don’t have the same strength or endurance. Those qualities normally protect them in practice day after day. Adequate levels of strength, power, and endurance keep them firing properly to move efficiently and react to the athlete’s environment.

The problem is they aren’t going to be at the same level for a lot of athletes. Even though many are trying to train at home, they aren’t exposing themselves to the same high-intensity loads they do at practice and in games.

Without the muscles’ same capacities, they will fatigue faster. Lower intensities than usual will challenge them. If practice plans and volumes are not managed with this in mind, the athletes will be at higher risk.

Sudden Retraining Increases Risks

We have evidence in the world of elite sport that a sudden increase in the training load on athletes is a factor in their risk of injury.

You see it’s not just the overall volume that matters, but how quickly it changes. Ramping up from no training to normal over several weeks is much different than returning to full practices in a week or two.

In elite sport the concept of acute to chronic workload has been accepted by professional teams and organizations worldwide. Basically, the concept is that if your acute workload is too high compared to your chronic workload, an athlete’s injury rish increases.

Chronic workload is how much you’ve been doing over the last few weeks. Acute workload is how much you are doing this week and today. When your acute workload jumps a lot above your chronic workload your chance of injury os higher.

Risk of injury returning to sport after covid 19

Unprecedented Return to Sport Process

For coaches, this is a big challenge. Most sport coaches have not had athletes this detrained in decades. The era of sport off-seasons ended a long time ago. Coaches are used to athletes who are doing too much, not too little.

They take for granted that the athletes have been having the number of foot contacts, the swings, the throws that they need to be ready for practice. Even the best intention coach hasn’t experienced bringing back all their athletes from near zero.

LEARN MORE: Why Returning To Sports Now Isn’t As Simple As Flipping The Switch

In fact, our closet parallel to this unprecedented situation is athletes return from major injury or surgery. While athletes in lockdown haven’t had the trauma of surgery, they do have the detraining. Safely returning athletes to sport is an area of great focus in elite sports. Now it’s going to be important for everyone.

Have a Plan To Prepare

Athletes that want to be successful aren’t sitting back and doing nothing right now. They are training as best they can. Those that had nagging injuries are hopefully getting help to repair them and remove the root causes.

Knowing that there are a lot of unknowns in how sport will return, it’s in an athlete’s best interest to prepare now and to prepare for the worst.

The worst being a return to sport period that’s too short, increases volume too fast, and has too much intensity too soon.

That scenario could happen, and that’s outside of an athlete’s control. So, what can they do to be proactive?

Stamina

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” is a quote from Vince Lombardi that still rings true. Not only that, but our coordination goes down, and injury risk goes up when we are fatigued.

Although an athlete might not be able to train their stamina exactly as they would need it in their sport, they can stay close. That’s good because stamina starts dropping off between 3 and 30 days, depending on the energy system.

By working on maintaining or improving different energy systems, it’s going to be a lot easier to regain their sports-specific stamina when sport returns after COVID-19.

When we say different energy systems, we are talking about stamina for different durations and intensities of work. A good aerobic capacity is what people think about often as stamina. It is an essential part of many sports, and helps in an athlete’s day-to-day, or even drill to drill recovery.

Don’t stop there, however. Athletes need to be able to produce repeat short 1-6 second, high-intensity efforts. An athlete also needs to be capable of sustaining efforts right above that anaerobic threshold for anywhere from 30 sec to 4 minutes in a lot of sports.

The key is to make sure you have a good base of stamina as you get ready to return to sport. Get a plan, get a heart rate monitor, and get to work now.

Muscle

Muscle strength will last for several weeks, even if it may not be at its very peak. If you’ve been training for some time, it lasts a little longer and will come back quicker.

Still, after months of not doing any heavy lifting, you may be losing strength. Athletes often stimulate or maintain strength by the high-intensity things they do in sport. Full speed sprinting and repeated full effort jumping is typical in many sports practices and help maintain strength through a type of ballistic and plyometric training.

Without that sport practice, you are probably losing maximum strength more than you know. Even worse, since you lose the neurological ability for speed in just a few days, that explosive strength is dropping off rapidly when you don’t use it.

So, an athlete that wants to be ready is going to hit both ends of that strength & speed spectrum. Using dumbbells, kettlebells, or even bands can help maintain that muscle’s ability to produce high forces.

Doing explosive jumping exercises will help maintain that explosive strength.

Tendon

Tendons connect muscles to bones to transmit the muscle’s force and create movement. They can also act like springs in many athletic movements, from running to jumping.

They lose their trained capabilities and structure between 2 – 4 weeks according to the research. They are also one of the first areas to flare up with increases in training volume. Add to that a slower readapting rate than muscle. That means you better use it, and not lose it if you can.

The achilles and patellar tendons are areas of concern for a lot of athletes. There are some things they can do to protect them. Lower body isometrics (holding a position for 30sec – 1:00min) with bodyweight or added resistance are an excellent first line of defense.

One of the best tools to keep them springy is a jump rope. Basic jump roping is a good start, and double-unders take this up a level in maintaining those tendons.

LEARN MORE: Athlete’s Tendon Risk Infographic

Speed

Maximal speed abilities include actions like; jumping, sprinting, throwing a ball, swinging a bat or racket, or hitting a volleyball. They all require coordination of high-speed muscle contraction, and they drop off in just a few days.

This will be one of the hardest things to maintain at home and/or on your own. If you can get out and sprint, it’s a fantastic way to stimulate these abilities for every athlete. Yes, even the upper body athlete will benefit from the neuromuscular stimulus. Think of sprinting as a high-intensity plyometric exercise.

Sprinting and plyometrics are great if you have a place. Don’t do this on the concrete or your patio. The grass is a much better surface if you can get out in a park.

Returning to Sport After COVID-19

If you want the best chance to return to sport after COVID 19 without injury and playing near your best, take action now. If you’re not sure how to achieve some of these things, find a performance coach who can help guide your training plan, so you’ll be ready.

Hopefully, coaches will get advice as well so they can create an intelligent return to sports plans that manage the volume and load on athletes.

This sports stoppage is unprecedented. We all need to step back and evaluate how we will train as sport returns. This isn’t just business as usual.

Winning Battles In Hockey With Better Training

Winning Battles in Hockey

Winning Battles Is Essential To Winning Hockey Games

For every goal scoring play in a hockey game, there were two or three plays that came just before that made it possible. Often these plays take the form of battles along the wall or in the corners.  These are the puck battles that every player has to be ready for.

Training to battle harder in hockey

Players that help their team score goals – or stop them – are the type of players coaches want on their teams. Winning 1-on-1 puck battles is one way to stand out in the eyes of these coaches, and helps the team.

As the level of play rises, it takes extraordinary skating skills, speed, puck control, and hockey sense to battle and compete 1-v-1 effectively. 

Along with skill work on the ice, developing players can improve their ability to win puck battles by improving strength.  Unfortunately, while any strength training will help some for a complete novice, it has to become more specific as the level of play increases.

So, how do players do the right type of strength training to battle harder?

Winning Battles In Hockey

Build The Core

Puck battles often look like a wrestling match on skates.  Opposing players are battling to gain leverage and position so they can control the puck.

Any player that wants to be successful, as well as avoid injuries, needs a strong core. 

We aren’t talking six-pack abs and sit-ups.  The core strength a hockey player needs helps them to resist movement.  Resist movement is what allows a player to transmit forces from the powerful lower body into an opponent.  It’s what helps them resist being moved out of position by the other player.

Here are two exercises hockey players can use to build strength and resist movement.

Develop A Strong Foundation

While many players watch a puck battle and see the work in the upper body pushing and pulling, they need to realize the biggest forces are being generated by the lower body.  To keep body position and gain leverage, the legs need to be really strong and powerful.

These three strength exercises build lower body strength and power that helps winning battles in hockey.

Increase Rotational Power To Win Battles

While trying to gain leverage, or resist an opposing player, large rotational forces are created during puck battles.  That means a hockey player needs both the ability to generate and resist rotational forces.

But where do rotational forces occur?

The hips and thoracic (upper back/chest) spine are where rotation should occur.  The large muscles of the hip generate torque to rotate, and a solid core transmits them to the upper body to battle with the opponent.

These exercises build rotational power hockey players can use.

Bulletproof Your Shoulders To Survive The Boards

Crashing into the boards while battling for the puck can add wear and tear to the shoulders of any hockey player.  To build the durability for contact in the shoulders, hockey players need to develop their strength and stability.

While traditional strengthening like bench press, shoulder press, and side raises are useful, hockey players need functional strength.  This means strength that ties together the glenohumeral joint, scapular stability, and thoracic mobility.

The Turkish getup ties together shoulder and core stability and is a staple for athletes.  Additionally, a routine of basic stability exercises can be added to any program to promote more stability.

Coaches Want Players Who Battle Hard To Win The Puck

Developing players and their parents may be most impressed by scoring goals, but hockey teams must win battles to score.  Coaches are impressed by players that battle hard in all three zones.

Building the right strength will help improve the confidence and resilience hockey players need.  Battle harder and win the puck with improved strength.

Learn More: Five Exercises to Help You Battle In The Corners

Training Swimmers with Connected Exercises

swimming specific exercises

Of course a swimmer wants swimming-specific exercises. Every athlete wants exercises and training methods that give them the most bang for their buck. In a sport as unique as swimming, this is even more important. 

While it seems like common sense that sport-specific exercises are needed, there is more to consider. The key is to find the proper blend of general and specific exercises. This is true in every level of swimming.
 

Athletic Foundations

An elite competitive swimmer is first and foremost an athlete. Therefore, they need a good foundation of general strength and coordination throughout the entire body. This base of athleticism is relevant in coordinating general motion and basic physical health.
 
Working with elite swimmers in the US and internationally, we see this fact reinforced time and again. It impacts the training for a young developing swimmer. General strength and athleticism are the foundation. They build overall capacity and resiliency to injury.
 
 

Swimming Is Unique

Unlike most other athletes, the swimmer operates in a non-ground based environment. The main force they battle is not gravity. This is unique.
 
The swimmer’s movement challenge is maximizing propulsion in the water and minimizing drag. Because of this, there are some unique challenges for training the swimmer.
 
A human who is foreign to the water environment. Subsequently, they need maximum exposure to the water to optimize their “feel”.
 
Feel for the water is a hard-to-define quality. It’s the ability to generate the largest propulsion with the body extremities against the resistance of water. The laws of hydrodyamincs mean the faster you move through water, the harder it is to push.
 

Summation of Forces

Most athletes produce a ground reaction force. This force is directed from the feet and legs through the center of mass. The swimmer is the opposite. The force is applied through the hands and then transfers through the upper body to the center of mass.
 
That force is not applied against a solid mass like the ground. A swimmer must generate forces against the water that must will propel them. In most strokes, the majority (85-90%) of propulsion is generated by the upper limbs.
 
Ground-based athletes focus on developing summation of forces and triple extension from the ground up. Swimmers must develop this same coordinated, multi-segment flexion from the upper body down through the hips.
 

Connected

Dryland training of swimmers needs to emphasize the coordinated application of strength. It should be coordinated from the fingertips, through the core, and to the toes. This is the “tip to toes” connected concept.
 
A key feature of “connected” exercises for swimmers is that the core and hips are controlled for stability. This happens at the same time the upper extremity generates power in pulling and pushing moments.
 
Connected is as much an intention in the exercises as an outcome. To train this quality of coordination, athletes need to actively bring it into each exercise. For an exercise to develop “connectedness” the following qualities need to be developed;
  • Exhibit pelvis and spinal control
  • Demonstrate scapular control
  • Develops pulling tension across multi-segmental, muscle/fascial lines

Sample Connected swimming specific exercises:

  • Gymnastic Ring and Bar exercises – front levers, L-hangs, pullup variations
  • Cable based pulling/chops/lifts with whole body engagement
  • Gymnastic Parallettes exercises
  • Kettlebell Swings, GetUps and Windmills
  • Various medball throws, slams
  • Isometric whole body holds – prone, supine, sidelying.

Core

The “core” of the body can be defined in many ways. For the purposes of the swimmer, we are defining it 360 degrees from the pelvis through the scapula.
 
Athletes need to be able to control their spine and pelvic position. Whether it’s disturbed by internal muscle forces or external. This is core stability.
 
A swimmer’s actions in the upper and lower body connect back to the core. Without adequate core stability, the spine and pelvis can be pulled out of place.
 
Many athletes need to develop core stability in isolation first. They needs this before they can produce it during multi-segmental movement. This is one reason why core stability is both a foundation and ongoing focus for swimmers.
 
Swimming-specific exercises should strive to maintain an elongated spine and streamline position. This is paramount in the pool when they apply force. As a result, it should be a goal in many of the dryland and strength exercises.
 
Even in upper body exercises, this can be included. While performing upper body work, athletes should maintain lumbopelvic control as well.
 

Swimming specific exercise for core strength & stability

  • Fundamental breathing patterns & resets
  • Ground based animal patterns
  • Active mobility & joint resiliency – scapula, spine, pelvis, hips
  • Anti-Rotation core exercises
  • Pilates
  • Scapula stability

Training the Swimmer

Swimmers of all levels need dryland training. They need a balance of both general and swimming specific exercises. Swimming-specific exercises are much more than exercises that just look like swimming.
 
To summarize, for exercises to produce swimming specific improvements, they need to address the core functions and be connected. Strength and power developed in this manner helps transfer to improvements in the pool.

The Complete Guide To In-Season Hockey Training

Complete Guide to in-season hockey training

Whether players should lift during their hockey in-season training is often confusing. The proven benefits of developing strength for athletes are significant. It’s beneficial for injury prevention, speed, power and more.

There is no question that young hockey players need to be developing strength.  Many make this the focus on their offseason.

After offseason gains are in the books and the season is underway, what should a young hockey player’s in-season training look like?

After all, you only have so many hours and so much energy.  Isn’t the in-season just a time for maintaining the strength you built in the summer?

NO.  If you treat it this way you will fall behind and never reach your potential.

But can you really improve strength when playing a full hockey season? 

YES.  You can increase a lot.

Here’s the key.  Young players need to strength train if they really want to continue improving, but if they train like it’s the off-season they’re doing it wrong.

LEARN MORE: Should Young Hockey Players Lift Weights?

MYTH: Hockey Players Can’t Lift Heavy Weights In-Season

Decades ago the thought for coaches & players was that during offseason you built strength & power.  In-season you just tried not to lose too much. 

Back in the day, a lot of the training methods came from bodybuilding where it was all about gaining size.  Strength and power were a side-effect.

Bodybuilding methods to gain muscle size are traditionally based on a high volume of exercises and inducing muscle fatigue.

In the off-season, they were grinding to build muscle and strength.  Bodybuilding techniques are great for building muscle mass, and they are built on lots of sets and repetitions.  Lots of time with the muscles under tension. 

In strength training terms; Volume.

Because of this, a common approach to in-season training was built on the idea that lifting heavy would make players too tired. 

The thinking went that if they spent too much energy training, they would be sore and tired.  That would interfere with playing well and skill development.

Instead many people jumped to the conclusion that lifting lighter weights was the way to go.  And if you have a lighter weight, you naturally can do more reps.

The problem is that lowering weight and increasing reps can lead to more fatigue, energy expenditure, and even soreness. 

In elite hockey, that idea was losing steam when mandatory helmets were introduced. 

Now to be fair, it’s true that if you spend in-season doing 2-hour, grinding workouts with high volume, you’ll be fatigued.   As a coach or player that’s not ideal.

On top of that, it also won’t stimulate the neuromuscular system enough to maintain or gain strength.

The reason this approach was abandoned; it didn’t work

Players were fatigued and sore but, they still lost strength.

Even Pros Can Get Stronger In-season

Many people think the demands of a youth hockey season are too much to gain strength. Here’s some perspective; even young pros can still improve strength & power during their season. 

That’s right.  Although they may be in the NHL or the minors playing a full season, many players haven’t fully developed their strength yet.  In their late teens through early twenties, they still have a window of opportunity to improve.

We know because Velocity coaches have done it time and again with individual players and teams.

The key is that they stimulate their nervous system enough to improve.  That’s hard because it takes high intensity and power output to stimulate adaptation.  So how do they do it?

Micro-dosing Training

Hockey in-season training is all about stimulating the central nervous system and muscle, not grinding down the body and tissues to grow muscle.

Fast, explosive and heavy movements are what stimulate that type of adaptation.  They do take focus and a serious effort. In strength training terms; Intensity.

The good news though is that you don’t actually need a lot of it.

You see, it’s the intensity, not the volume that stimulates the change. 

Getting 2-3 small doses of intensity every week will do the trick.

This is what we see with pro and Olympic athletes at the pinnacle of sports.   When they have a demanding schedule they can’t spend the time or energy on long grinding workouts like the off-season.

On the flip side, they also can’t afford to lose strength & power.  That just leads to poor play and injury.  It’s the player who can be at their best-come playoff time who shine.

If You’re Not Gaining You’re Falling Behind

Here’s the scary part; if you get stronger and bigger every off-season, but don’t train in-season you are falling behind.

That’s right, other players who train in-season are getting an edge and developing further. As a really young player, your strength levels will continue to improve just out of natural development. You keep pace.

However, as you hit middle school and older things start to change. Even with great gains in the summer, if you don’t train in-season at best you’ll gain slower. Worse, you can actually be losing strength.

That’s right, getting weaker through a season. For a high school player who has a few years of training under their belt, they can really make gains during the off-season. Yet, once they stop and the stimulus goes away the body will readapt to a lower strength level.

A good hockey in-season training program will stimulate that improvement and stop them from falling behind.

in-season strength training
A player who trains in-season will continue to improve strength. Not as fast as they do in the offseason, but they continue to improve. A player that eliminates strength training, or just does lightweight will slow their gains or actually get weaker during the season. After a few years, the small differences add up to a big advantage to players who train smart!

Get Stronger With the Right Hockey in-season training

So the key is to stimulate the neuromuscular system with small doses of intensity.  What does that mean?

Well, it depends a bit on the developmental level of the athlete.  This means their biological development as well as training experience. 

Get this straight, it’s not about their level of hockey skills. Some very skilled players have barely learned to train off-ice.  Others may hit puberty earlier and some later.  The right training is based on evaluating these factors along with their current strength & power levels.

Middle School Years 

For a middle-school-age athlete, they are approaching or in early puberty. They probably don’t have a lot of strength training experience yet.

An athlete at this age also can recover and adapt quickly.  Plus, they don’t actually have the skill to recruit all their muscle fibers so they never hit the true high intensities.  So overtraining them is really unlikely.

This means they need to be doing some explosive plyometrics, speed drills, and basic strength training.  Because they have such a big window to improve, and a low-level experience, it doesn’t take a lot.

In practice hockey in-season training this age could look like;

  • 2 -3 sessions per week
  • 60-90 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for injury prevention and movement fundamentals
  • Athletic movement, speed, and plyometric drills
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift fundamentals
    • Squat, deadlift
    • Bench, chin, and rows
  • Compound free weight movements that involve multiple joints.
  • Low reps 3-8 at most.  Sets of 3-5 on basic lifts

In fact, the bigger benefit of in-season training for this age of athlete is that they are learning to train.  Learning how to do the exercises right.  They are building the neuromuscular foundation for when hormones kick-in later.

High School or Higher Training Age

For a hockey player of high school age, their physical development is further along.  They may have some experience with strength training now.

For this type of athlete, the requirements go up.  Now they can recruit more of their fast-twitch type muscle fibers.  They can coordinate the movements a bit better.

Therefore, to generate enough intensity they need combinations of two things;  Speed and force. 

Speed

Fast, explosive movements are one way to stimulate the neuromuscular system.  This means things like Olympic lifts with high velocity and power output.  Explosive medicine ball drills.

The muscle needs a high rate of force development to create this stimulus.  Lifting light weights, moving slow, won’t do it.

Traditional strength lifts like the bench, squat or deadlift only move between 0.5 and 0.8 m/s.  That’s just too slow.  Explosive lifts with medium weights should generate movement velocities between 1.0 and 2.0 meters per second.  That’s the stimulus needed.

Force

To really stimulate the fast-twitch fibers and the central nervous system, basic strength lifts need to be heavier.  That requires a higher level of force production.  This stimulates the central nervous system as well.

It also requires multiple muscles and joints under tension.  Isolation exercises just don’t give enough bang for the buck.  Whole-body exercises stimulating lots of muscle groups and joints are the way to go.

Weights need to typically be 85% or more of 1 rep max.  That gets the nervous system fired up.  It also means to avoid fatigue only 2 – 3 reps are needed.

High School hockey in-season strength example

For a developing athlete a hockey in-season training program may look like:

  • 2 -4 sessions per week
  • 30-60 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for prep and injury prevention
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift  
      • velocity of 0.75-1.6 m/s
      • 3-5 sets or 1-3 repetitions
    • Lower body lift – squat, deadlift, step-up, lunge
      • 85% or more of 1RM
      • 2-4 sets of 1-4 reps
    • Upper body lift – press, row, pull-up
    • 2-3 Injury prevention exercises

Sports Recovery

The off-ice training is the stimulus for the body and neuromuscular system to change.  Improvements come for the body and brain’s process of adaptation.

Here’s the thing to take note of; adaptation happens when the athlete recovers.  The work is the stimulus, the recovery is where adaptation happens.

What Is Recovery

Recovery is a term used for the processes every athlete goes through after some type of stress or fatigue.  The return to their previous normal state or slight improvement. 

This recovery process is specific to the type of stress the body experience.  In sports, we classify four types of stress.

Faster Recovery for Hockey Players

When looking at how a young hockey player can recover faster, there are some key strategies we know work. 

The body recovers in all four areas of stress during sleep.  That’s why sleep is the foundation of all recovery.   If you’re not sleeping enough, anything else you do is just a band-aid.

We’ve witnessed the benefits of sleep in athletes for decades with measurable changes in their readiness when they sleep better.  Following a routine and some basic tips can really help athletes sleep better.

Training, practice, and gains create fatigue. During recovery, your body returns to baseline or improves. Over time if you don’t recover you may over train.

The second foundation in sports recovery is basic nutrition.  We aren’t talking in-depth diets or loads of supplements.  Just getting enough of quality foods at the right times.

After these, it becomes about the specific needs you have.  It could be more mobility to help your muscles and joints.  Types of flushing like compression, e-stim or cycling can be great when your legs are heavy after a grinding on-ice session or game.  Or maybe it’s learning to reset mentally with breathing, visualization, floatation or other methods.

Start with the foundation of sleep and nutrition.  Then you can add specific recovery methods to meet the rest of your needs.

Take Your Hockey In-season Strength Training Seriously

Strength training has many benefits for hockey players including; skating faster, winning battles, and lowering injury risk. By training with a foundation of the basic strength movement patterns and then the right types of strength, a player will see the benefits.

Unless you want to fall behind other players, you should take your in-season strength training seriously.  If you are not getting stronger and more powerful in-season you are falling behind.

You can’t train with the same grind of high volume as in the off-season.  However, focusing on consistent training every week and small doses of high intensity will make you better.

The science backs it, decades of experience have shown, and it’s practical to do.  The only question, is why aren’t you training smarter during the season?

Is Weight Training Good for Kids?

strength training weights

People ask us almost daily, “is weight training good for kids.”   

Let’s cut to the chase; It Is.

Velocity coaches from Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System instruct young athletes on proper technique

We believe in using strength training of various methods to increase neuromuscular recruitment, increase bone density, increase range of motion and strengthen the tendons and joints of the body.

Don’t just take our word on whether weight training is good for kids, ask the medical experts. According to a 2018 MAYO Clinic statement

“Done properly, strength training can:

  • Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance
  • Help protect your child’s muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
  • Help improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer
  • Develop proper techniques that your child can continue to use as he or she grows older

And hen it comes to answering why strength training is good for kids they add;

“Keep in mind that strength training isn’t only for athletes. Even if your child isn’t interested in sports, strength training can:

  • Strengthen your child’s bones
  • Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Help your child maintain a healthy weight
  • Improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem

In a New York Times article on the issue they said:

“Kids, in other words, many of us believe, won’t get stronger by lifting weights and will probably hurt themselves. But a major new review just published in Pediatrics, together with a growing body of other scientific reports, suggest that, in fact, weight training can be not only safe for young people, it can also be beneficial, even essential.”

What is “strength training”?

This is one of the key questions we need to understand.  Lot’s of confusion starts with the concepts of strength training versus weight training.

When people say strength training, they often imagine someone in a squat rack lifting barbells. 

olympic weightlifting clean and jerk
People often imagine Olympic weightlifting when strength training is brought up

Or maybe that weightlifter at the Olympics performing at the edge of human capacity.

Yes. Those can be strength training, but there’s a whole lot more.

Strength training is basically any exercise that relies on some form of resistance to stimulate your body to get stronger. 

This includes:

  • Body weight
  • Elastic resistance bands
  • Sandbags
  • Medicine Balls
  • Free Weights
  • Resistance Machines
  • Barbells
  • Dumbells
  • Kettlebells

Why so many different things?  For one, to do it properly we need a range of resistance levels. 

We need things that are light so we can learn to do it properly and start at the right level.

We need things that are heavy so we can progress and stimulate the body to adapt.

Are bodyweight exercises safer?

So, when they are wondering if weight training is good for kids, many people look at bodyweight exercises as inherently safer.  After all, you don’t have that extra weight to lift.

Except they forgot about the bodyweight. A coach using proper exercise selection and regressions can actually allow an athlete to lift less than bodyweight.

kids strength training push-ups
A push-up is 64% of your bodyweight. Sometimes that’s too much for a young athlete.

Have you ever watched young athletes struggle to do a push-up well? Their bodyweight is just too much for their strength level. It’s no different than lifting a barbell that’s too heavy.

When doing a push-up, an athlete is actually lifting about 64% of their body weight. For a 120 lb. young female, that would mean they are lifting 77 lbs.

Imagine if the athlete was laying on a bench press, struggling with 77 lbs. Its the same with a push-up. In this case, if the coach gave the athlete two twenty pound dumbbells or an empty bar, the weight would be significantly less.

Who knew? bench pressing weights is a regression. Push-ups are actually more advanced and heavier!

Don’t even get started on pull-ups.

Is weight training necessary?

This question doesn’t come up often, but it’s in the back of a lot of people’s minds.  The reality is that the data, the medical experts and decades of experience tell us it’s safe. 

However, to be honest, we often follow our preconceived ideas.

If you’ve believed strength training with weights is dangerous for decades, it’s hard to instantly change that.  And that’s fair.

So then the question is; can you get better without lifting weights?

Yes, you can. 

However, you can’t stimulate the body to adapt as efficiently or as much. 

  • You don’t stimulate the neuromuscular system to recruit muscle and protect the joints and ligaments as well.
  • Athletes won’t improve the tendon tissue as well to reduce the risk of tendonitis and overuse injuries.
  • They won’t stimulate bone density during this crucial youth growth period and have the same life long positive effects.
  • You won’t build the same level of explosive strength
  • Young athletes won’t learn how to do the movements and be prepared if you start training with your team
  • You will miss out on the proven reduction in overall injury risk for athletes

How can kids train the right way?

Here’s the key to safely strength training for young athletes; Do It Right.

That means learning the movement patterns and habits that lead to safe weight training.  Have a qualified coach teaching it.

That’s not necessarily a bunch of kids in the garage with the weight bench trying to max out.  It’s not joining an adult class with a weekend certified coach who is cheering them on to do more. 

coaching youth strength training basics
Teaching the fundamentals of good body positions is part of Velocity coaching.

It’s also not about moving “perfect”.  Young athletes need to learn proper movement patterns.  However, trying to enforce a robotic standard of “perfect” actually takes away from the learning. 

This is where professional coaches standout.  They know how to put the athlete into positions where they are safe to learn how to move. 

Coaches use regressions of exercises to teach.  These are simpler movement patterns that reinforce the right movement safely.  They lead to a progression in movement patterns or weight lifted.

Is Weight Training Good for Kids; YES

Strength training for youth is endorsed by all major medic and professional organizations.  While the old myths of it stunting growth or being dangerous slowly die, it is understandable that some people are hesitant.

The benefits are large and necessary to prevent injury in athletes.  Weight training is an efficient and effective method for athletes.   Do it right and reap the benefits.

What Is Sports Specific Training?

what is sport specific training

Sport specific training is a constant topic of discussion among athletes, parents and coaches.  For the Performance Team at Velocity, the question of what is sport specific training comes up daily. It happens in local performance centers as well as with our coaches at Olympic training facilities.

When we discuss “sport specific” a lot of different ideas emerge.  Doings things that visually look similar to the sport are often called sport specific.  Maybe they are drills that use the sports equipment; balls, bats, gloves, sticks, etc… 

For others, they think of examples of like practicing sports skills with rubber bands on, wearing weight vests, or hooked up to bungee cords and devices.

Still, some coaches think of trying to duplicate the sport in the weight-room with the reps, weights, and muscles used.

So, with these competing ideas, what is sport specific?

Sport Specific Training for Elite Athletes

At the elite level there is a lot of talk about sport specific training. This isn’t just a discussion with developing athletes and their parents. 

Those examples of sport specific training do occasionally come up in our elite teams. However, the discussion tends to be more focused.  The administrators, coaches and athletes care about one thing; results.

swimming specific training
With a small margin of error in many elite sports, training has to be specific

The margin for error in elite sport can be incredibly small.  Hundredths of a second can be the difference between a Gold medal, and not being on the podium at all.

An athlete facing that can’t waste time or energy.  They can’t add wear and tear to their body if it doesn’t give them better results in return.

Sports specific training transfers to better performance, lower injury risk and increased competitive longevity.

Transfer of Training

This brings us to the concept of “transfer of training” in sports.  Is the training you are doing transferring to improved performance in your sport? 

Is it transferring to lower injury risks so you can be in the game competing?

Is it helping to extend your career for more years?

Those are the questions that we ask of every component of training at the elite level.  As an athlete has more years of training, this becomes harder and harder to achieve.  This is related to their “window of opportunity” for different qualities.

Windows of Opportunity

An athlete’s opportunity to improve a skill or ability is not infinite.  A human will never run 100mph or vertical jump 20 feet.  There are limits to human performance.  So, lets’ apply this concept to a physical ability.  Sprinting.

To make our point let’s get a little extreme. 

A 3 year should know how to run.  Of course, they won’t be that fast compared to an Olympic sprinter.  

usain bolt sprint start
An Olympian has developed to such a high level, their room for improvement is usually very small.

If we consider the Olympic sprinter near the top of human potential, then the 3 year has a huge window of opportunity to improve.  The Olympian is nearing human limits, so their window of opportunity is very small.

This concept has a profound effect on the transfer of training.  At early level doing general things will bring big dividends. 

A soccer team of 8-year-olds will improve their soccer skill just by becoming more coordinated.  Doing things like skipping, jumping hoping and running will increase their basic athleticism.

They get a lot of “transfer” (improvement in their sport) from that unspecific and relatively less intense training.

Sissoko Tottenham Hotspur
Fundamental athleticism is great to keep elite players functioning, but it won’t help them improve sports skills.

That general athletic training also doesn’t overstress the body.  It doesn’t limit the skill set being developed later.   Maybe at 8 they are playing soccer, but by 10 they decide they like volleyball.  That library of basic athletic movement skills can be drawn on for most sports.

However, a professional player is entirely different.  Just doing general skipping, jumping and hopping won’t improve their performance. Our pro athletes generally have a decade or more of training.   Their window of opportunity to improve is much smaller than that 8-year old.

Whereas a little training effort may have lead to 75% sports improvement for the 8 year old, the elite athlete has to put in a lot of work to even improve 1%.

They have to put in more effort, endure more wear and tear on their body and manage large emotional and mental stresses. There is no room for waste, so training becomes more and more specific.  Sport specific training is essential for efficiency and effectiveness at the elite level.

Long Term Athlete Development Model

Velocity employs a long-term athletic development model that helps address the need for specificity.  It builds specificity from the ground up through a foundation of athleticism.  At the early stages this provides the transfer of training without the repetitive stress and strain of high specificity.

Long term athletic development velocity programs

As an athlete progresses, they continue to benefit from transfer of training by focusing on using different types of strength and building athletic movement skills.  This gives them a larger library of skills to take to sport practice and put into their technical skills.

As they gain some additional training experience, they can start to become more specific to their sport, their position and their individual needs.

How To Use Sport Specific Training

Start at the start.  To use an analogy, we don’t start future professional drivers in Formula 1 cars at age 8.  It is specific, just not very effective.  Any young athlete training outside of their sport practice should employ an LTAD model of sport specific training. 

Begin by building physical literacy and then basic athleticism. As the years of training increase, make the specific qualities more specific. Only at high levels should highly specialized training to mimic sports movement be used.

Progress from general to specific based on the years of training experience of the athlete.

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The Importance of In-Season Training: Part 3

Inseason Training

In part two of the ‘Importance of In-Season Training Installment,’ I discuss what happens to an athlete’s young body when they stop training. However, to re-cap, we must first revisit the main reasons why in-season training is so necessary.

  1. In-season practices are often far less physically demanding than off-season practices, which leads to drastic de-conditioning
  2. For athletes who did not maintain adequate strength training in-season for as little as one to two days per week, most strength gains made in the off-season will decrease massively!
  3. Research has shown that at the professional level in-season training reduces injury risk significantly, enhances individual playing time within squads and actually leads to in-season performance gains as opposed to pure maintenance.
  4. Off-season and In-season training are akin to opening an ‘athletic bank account.’ The off-season is where athletes make the most ‘deposits’ in the form of strength training, conditioning, and physical preparation work. Competition is where athletes make the most ‘withdrawals.’ In-season training allows athletes to keep their bank accounts top-upped so that they don’t ‘run out of money’. When they become overdrawn it results in fatigue and potential injury.

Even though this post is not about scare tactics per se, examining point four further, is important. Athletes and parents alike need to understand what actually happens to their body when they stop training in-season.

READ: The Importance of In-Season Training, Part 1

READ: The Importance of In-Season Training, Part 2

Just Like Post Number One, If You Don’t Use it, You Do Lose It

In sport science, the technical term for loss of strength, power, speed, and conditioning is known as involution. In other words, when resistance and speed training stop, the body will, revert to its former self.

To illustrate, let’s consider where a young athlete’s performance gains derive from. Structured strength and conditioning training generates a host of physiological changes their body undergoes as a function of the training process. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Increased neural connections: Strength training is ‘brain training.’ By learning how to lift weights safely, an athlete can make better neural connections within the motor cortex of the brain. This creates better synapses as well, which leads to enhanced focus, and mental clarity. This is why so many studies have actually linked strength training to better grades and performance in the classroom as well!
  • Increased neuromuscular coordination: Like the brain, resistance training allows athletes to create new neural connections, which means more muscle is activated in the body to cut, jump, sprint, block, tackle, etc. as well as this muscle being activated in a more coordinated fashion. Strength training makes young athletes move better and with much higher degrees of muscular coordination.
  • Increased oxygen delivery to muscle tissue: Through conditioning and strength training, athletes are better able to uptake and use oxygen in the body, which fuels muscle contractile activity. In other words, they can run and compete at higher speeds without succumbing to fatigue!
  • Improved body composition: Weight training and conditioning leads to reductions in body-fat, which means athletes can move and compete more effectively and efficiently. Reductions in body-fat are linked with better health markers and declines in disease risk all-together.

Given the multitude of positive performance benefits, the problem with stopping training during the in-season is that all these incredible adaptations can become reversed! Yes, all those neural connections that the athlete made as a function of resistance training can become undone with time.

Hence involution can be seen as the technical term describing the physical processes outlined in part 2 of this installment, which is effectively what happens when an athlete begins to ‘spend money from their bank account’ without ‘depositing’ any more through in-season training.

The good news, however, even in as little as one session per week an athlete can maintain all the positive performance gains listed above!

Hence in-season training takes on an even higher degree of significance as it allows athletes and parents to ‘safe-guard’ all the hard work that went into a successful off-season program.

As a result of in-season training, it is now appropriate that the four essential ‘rules’ of in-season training are identified.

  1. Train heavy but at a reduced volume: Many athletes and even coaches mistakenly believe that athletes have no business lifting heavier weights in-season. Unfortunately, this attitude leads lots of athletes to sub-optimize their in-season program by lifting weights that aren’t heavy enough to make them better or even maintain the progress they’ve made up to this point in time in the season. Hence, involution can also happen if an athlete is lifting or training hard enough to stress their bodies! However, by doing fewer sets or even taking a little bit of weight off (i.e., not exceeding 85-90% of max-effort for a majority of a program) athletes are able to train hard, but not encounter the fatigue and soreness that will detract from the competition. Hence, training hard and smart through reduced volume represents a winning strategy!
  2. Focus on Recovery: As stated in a previous installment, the game can take a lot out of a young athlete’s body. Microtrauma, soreness, and dehydration can lead to significant performance decrements. Hence, focusing even more on sleep, nutrition, and hydration will go a long way toward recovering from the stresses of in-season training, competition, and practice.
  3. Address aches and pains before they become full-out injuries: The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is as old-fashioned as the knee-high socks, and leather football helmets are worn by athletes when the saying first took hold. Truthfully, pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. If an athlete feels significant pain in the weight room or at practice, I tell them to seek out a qualified athletic training or sports medicine professional. Furthermore, a qualified coach will ensure athletes use exercises that minimize stress and strain on the joints during the in-season period, as ligaments and tendons take even longer to recover then muscles.
  4. Don’t Be Reluctant to ‘Live to Fight Another Day’: A standing rule I have for my athletes is that if they can’t go harder, pack it in. In other words, even with reduced training volumes, focused recovery efforts and exercise selections that minimize stress and strain on the joints, if they can’t put in 100% effort in the weight room then that is their body telling them they need to rest, so instead they should go home, recover, and try things again the next day. The most successful athletes are the ones who listen to their bodies and train hard and smart!

In closing, in-season training is one of the single most crucial time, and energy investments an athlete can make in ensuring continued success. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the superiority of in-season training to non-training, with research likewise showing that a lack of training leads to significant reductions in performance, as well as a simultaneous increase in injury risk. As a result, a robust in-season training program is one that allows athletes to continuously ‘top-up’ their ‘athletic bank account’ by utilizing a systematic approach that strikes the right balance between hard-work, intensity, and recovery.

If a young athlete is truly serious about gaining a performance edge that in-season training is simply non-negotiable.

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Why Do You Want Sport Specific Training?

Do You Want Sport Specific Training

The most common request we get from parents and athletes is for sport specific training. 

Now sometimes as professionals, we want to roll our eyes when we watch the latest Instagram post that is some guru doing “sport specific training.” 

Why?

Because just putting a stick in their hand or making them do their sport’s technical drill with a bungee cord is NOT sport specific training.

In fact, we aren’t against sport specific training at all. 

However, as professionals, we know there is a lot more to being sport specific than you may think. That’s why we ask: “Why Do You Want Sport Specific Training?”

We know because when we work with professionals and Olympians, the purpose tends to be specific…play better and WIN!

Why Do You Want Sport Specific Training?

Whenever an athlete wants a training program, one of our essential questions is: Why Do You Train?

It is one of the foundations of Velocity’s philosophy. We strive to understand every athlete’s WHY? What do they want to achieve in their sport? What do they want to feel? What are they willing to work for? 

What does this have to do with sport specific training? 

It’s important because it gives our coaches context.

Coaches have a responsibility to help guide you. We are trying to guide you to the solutions that will give you what you want. That’s why you come to us for help. Any coach who doesn’t seek to understand your goals isn’t a real coach.

If we don’t have any context to your question about sport specific training, we are making assumptions. 

Those assumptions could be wrong.

Do you want sport specific training because you have potential in the sport and want to play at a high level? Some athletes are just trying to make their team and get playing time.

Maybe you want to train specifically to reduce your risk of injury. Or perhaps you’ve had an injury and are trying to get back to your performance level before.

Perhaps you’ve tried some training that wasn’t “sport specific” and you didn’t see results, or worse it hurt your game.

All of these goals are different in ways. Even though a lot of the training may be the same for athletes in the same sport, some should be different. Different choices in training methods come from information such as those goals.

A coach needs to understand this.

Meeting Your Sport Specific Goals

Sport specific training is really; your goal specific training

If a coach doesn’t really understand your goals, then your training might be off target.

Athletes will generally seek sport specific training to meet their particular goals in the sport. If your coach doesn’t try to understand you and your goals, then they might be missing the mark. 

That’s not professional coaching. That’s lazy and ill-informed.

We start by redefining your underlying motivation for sport specific training; 

You want results in your sport. 

You don’t want to waste time and effort on training that doesn’t contribute to those results.

The purpose of sport specific training is to use training to effectively and efficiently reach your goals in the sport. 

Putting It Into Practice

To understand your goals and needs the first step for a coach is to ask. Coaches have to do more than just ask “what do you want?” Professionals know how to dig deeper and uncover what you want. We find where your motivation comes from.

Then we start to assess your level and current abilities to determine what level of specificity is best and how to deliver it.

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The Importance of In-Season Sports Performance Training: Part 2

Inseason Training

By: Tim Hanaway

Sports Performance Director, Velocity Norwood

In part one of this installment, I set the landscape as to why in-season training was so necessary for youth athletes. In a nutshell, the answer boils down to two main points:

  1. One, in-season practices are often far less physically demanding than off-season practices, which leads to drastic de-conditioning
  2. for athletes who did not maintain adequate strength training in-season for as little as one to two days per week, most strength gains made in the off-season will decrease massively!

Nevertheless, in looking at the other effects of in-season training, or more specifically, a lack thereof, it is essential to note that lack of physical preparation during in-season periods often results in significant increases in injury rates.

For example, in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a group of British researchers noted that when looking at in-season resistance training on youth professional soccer players, English Premier teams that employed in-season strength and conditioning programs with their athletes spent nearly $494,000 less on sports medicine costs than programs that did not use in-season strength training!

Furthermore, in using one of the teams from the research design as a case-study, the Premiership team in question rose their player availability to 95% (compared to other teams) meaning the coaches could basically pick from their best players throughout the season!

Finally, in adding even more metrics back to the original points listed in installment one of this article, performance metrics increased by as much as 5% when athletes trained as little as 1x per week, compared to nearly doubling (11.6%) when athletes trained 2x per week.

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As a result, the above findings highlight the fact that in-season training reduces the risk of injury drastically, while also providing coaches with the chance to field their best team at all times. Furthermore, athletes who participate in in-season strength training can actually improve their performances throughout the season anywhere between 5 and 12%!

Therefore, for athletes and coaches that are serious about taking team and individual performances to the next level, there is no substitution for in-season training.

Up to this point, in-season training for youth athletes has proved crucial for a multitude of reasons:

  • In-season practices are often far less physically demanding than off-season practices, which leads to drastic de-conditioning
  • For athletes who did not maintain adequate strength training in-season for as little as one to two days per week, most strength gains made in the off-season will decrease massively!
  • Research has shown that at the professional level, in-season training reduces injury risk significantly, enhances individual playing time within squads and actually leads to in-season performance gains as opposed to pure maintenance.

However, in spite of all these positive in-season gains, much confusion still exists with in-season training compared to off-season training! For instance, a question I get asked by parents often is “what is the difference?”

Understanding Your Bank Account

In providing an easy-to-understand analogy, I like to explain to parents that off-season training is very much like opening an ‘athletic savings account.’

With every resistance training, speed, agility, and conditioning session an athlete participates in during the off-season, the athlete is effectively depositing into their personal ‘athletic bank account,’ growing their own personal ‘spending’ power on the field, court or ice in the process.

In other words, off-season training is all about maximizing physical preparation. Given that here at Velocity we train our athletes for speed using our ‘Big Force, Short Time’ formula, using the off-season to build strength and power through resistance training and Olympic lifting allows our young athletes to change their bodies by improving coordination and re-training their nervous systems so that their muscles can produce more force in less time, resulting in quicker reaction times and more explosive skill execution.

As a consequence, the more training an athlete has in the off-season, the more physical ‘currency’ they can draw upon during the competitive season to maximize performance!

Hence, a robust off-season program is characterized by the following:

  • Strength and Power Training using full-body, free-weight movements
  • Speed & Agility Training o improve first-step quickness and top speed mechanics, to enhance coordination, multi-direction reaction times and straight-line speeds.
  • Conditioning Training to fuel performance and reduce recovery times so that athletes can go harder for longer.

Finally, because athletes performing off-season programs do not usually play as many competitive games means more significant time, attention, and detail can go into the off-season program.

How to Withdraw from an Athletic Bank Account But Not Go Broke In the Process!

Given that in-season training is all about putting as much physical preparation currency into an athlete’s ‘bank account,’ competition is where an athlete makes their withdrawals.

For example, every time an athlete goes hard in competition, their muscles and body break down a little bit due to a host of physical processes and microtraumas. Muscle soreness, for example, is often attributed to small microscopic tears in muscle cells that take time, hydration, and proper nutrition to heal.

When an athlete performs in-season training, they continue to ‘top-up’ their athletic bank account, meaning they can continue to go harder, for longer in the season. Athletes that fail to perform in-season training; on the other hand, effectively ‘run out of money,’ they don’t recover as well and instead become more susceptible to injury.

However, because in-season training needs to be balanced with competition means it is characterized by the following:

  • Less training volume: In other words, instead of doing 5 exercises, athletes might instead do 3 to preserve more energy.
  • Less focus on conditioning: Even though practices aren’t necessarily as intense, competitions still are so athletes in-season will condition but not to the same extent as in the off-season.
  • Less focus on speed and agility: Like conditioning, athletes can get plenty of agility and speed work during games and practices. However, certain times they won’t so supplementary speed and agility training will feature, albeit in a reduced format.

In closing, the main difference between off-season and in-season training primarily comes down to emphasis and volume. Like a savings account, off-season training allows athletes to open their own ‘athletic bank account’ of physical skill and preparation that they can withdrawal from all season long.

Failure to perform off-season training (opening the account) and maintain it with fresh deposits (in-season training) leads to significant reductions in sports ability. As a result, it is imperative that athletes train during the off-season and in-season to maximize performance, as well as make continued gains every year.

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