Any experienced coach knows that successful off-season training programs lead to successful seasons. If you're a serious athlete in any sport, the off-season is a terrific time to showcase your strong work ethic. Off-season training can help you jump ahead of the competition while warding off potential injuries during the season. Guarantee your off-season is up to snuff by measuring your current routine against this five-point checklist.
1. Get Proper Rest
The regular season is a whirlwind of competition and constant training. Off-season training offers time for health—and health means progress. Before anything else, make sure you have sufficient rest planned into your schedule. Get rid of those nagging reoccuring injuries. A once-stressed muscle can turn into a chronic nightmare. If you're coming immediately out of a season, give your body two weeks rest. This will return it to balance. During this time, your body's immune system will strengthen, your hormones will balance and any overuse issues will be resolved.
One key to preventing muscle imbalances is increasing flexibilty. After a long season, you should expect muscle imbalances, no matter how dedicated you were to rest and recovery. Early in your off-season, use two essential stretches to "prehab" and protect against future injury.
Static Stretching. Perform the basic stretches you've been practicing since kindergarden gym class, holding each one for thirty seconds so the muscles can release. You don't want one strong muscle and one tight one, or else "SNAP."
Self-Myofascial Release. SMR is a great way to work out any knots and help the healing process after a long season. Pressing deeply into tight muscle tissue will force a stretching reflex, providing a flood of relief to the corded muscle.
3. Extra Aerobic Work
Regardless of your sport, the off-season is a time to improve your general conditioning—which means more aerobic work. Whereas in-season is for sport-specific drills, the off-season is a time to add variety. Mix it up and increase your motivation by throwing some swimming, biking, running, or rowing into your routine. As your off-season progresses, approach workouts with greater intensity. Early sessions should favor easy movements as you tend to injuries and come back from overtraining. But increase the difficultly every week. As the season draws closer, begin to include more sport-specific conditioning.
4. Large Compound Lifts
When rebuilding general conditioning, compound lifts are the way to go. The best general-purpose programs from any era feature compound lifts. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Pull-Ups correctly strengthen the right muscles. Include them in your program, but take a gradual approach. Begin with easy weights and general lifts. Each week, move toward greater intensity and add more sport-specific movements. Proper timing leads to proper peaking.
5. Eat More
The off-season is a perfect time pack in a few extra calories. Eating more helps with hormones, healing, and growth. Post-workout diet is important in any program. Feed your body to help it build and regrow. Excess fat from off-season feasts will be fried off in pre-season workouts.
Now that you know what off-season training programs should include, here is an example of what yours should look like. Try this sample plan after taking two weeks off.
Before every workout, begin with SMR foam rolling. Use static stretching on under-active muscles. Post-workout, get plenty of protein and carbs.
- Monday: Easy compound lifting
- Tuesday: Hard cardio
- Wednesday: Moderate compound lifting
- Thursday: Aport-specific training
- Friday: Hard compound lifting
- Saturday: Easy cardio
- Sunday: Rest
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