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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Flight School: Training to Improve Your Vertical Jump for Sports

GettyImages-1291852744When watching elite athletes during competition, there are many athletic traits and features that we novices or amateurs marvel at. We think to ourselves, “If I did something like that, I wouldn’t walk for a week!” Seeing an NFL running back or wide receiver make a cut at full speed, a baseball player hitting a 400-foot home run, or a powerlifter deadlifting the weight of a Volkswagen Beetle are feats that just leave you in awe.

One of my favorites is to watch the jumping ability that is on display in countless basketball, football, and many other sporting events. Nothing seems to get fans and folks like myself more fired up than to watch an NBA player effortlessly float in the air and dunk on an opponent, or an NFL receiver jump up over two or three defensive players and come down with the football. No doubt, the combination of high-level athletic ability and hard work has paid off for many of these professional athletes with what seems like superhuman abilities. There is a reason that we see these men and women on TV and pay to see them during competition. The capabilities of the human body are crazy!

Improve Your Jump to Improve Your Sport

So, many of you reading this are probably not professional athletes. You might be former high school or college student athletes who have since “retired” from your respective sport. Like many of us, the “athlete” in us never really goes away. We find other sports or competition to feed that drive that we had as we grew up by playing recreational-league sports like basketball, flag football, or soccer, or have picked up new sports such as golf (like this guy) or tennis. And if you’re anything like me, you want to try and continue to improve in your new sport as much as possible.

Regardless of where you are in the timeline of your athletic journey, the vertical jump and vertical power will always play an integral role in your performance. Basketball and volleyball are the most obvious sports that are reliant on these abilities, but golfers, tennis players, and athletes in any other sport that utilizes rotational aspects would benefit highly by increasing their vertical jump. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hit the golf ball farther or add a few more miles per hour on their tennis serve?

When it all comes down to it, the amount of force we can put into the ground will dictate a lot of the athletic actions that happen with our bodies.

Three Jump Training Styles

Below I break down three different types of jump training styles that will put you on your way to soaring above the competition.

Body Weight

This is the most common type of jump training that you will see. Utilizing only the weight of your body, you perform these plyometric jump movements with little or no equipment. In the video below, you will see three movements starting from easiest to most advanced. These include the following:

  • Wall Touches
  • Box Jumps
  • Depth Jumps

 

Vertical Jump Training Body Weight

 

Resisted Jumps

Now we get into some of the less common vertical jump training options. Resisted jumps add some type of downward-pulling resistance that will make your jump seem more difficult and hopefully help you generate more effort into the movement. The movements in the video below include the following:

  • Medball Powerball
  • DB Resisted Jumps
  • Band Resisted Jumps

 

Vertical Jump Training Resisted

 

Assisted Jumps

The third variation is assisted jumps. In my opinion, these are the most enjoyable. The goal here is to feel like there is a trampoline-effect going on where you just seem to spring up into the air. Most (if not all) variations will utilize a band. The three movements I have chosen for you are the following:

  • Banded “Belt” Jumps
  • Band Rack Pogos
  • Band Rack Squat Jump

 

Vertical Jump Training Assisted

 

All in all, the vertical jump is a very important skill to improve and master with regard to overall athletic ability. When it all boils down, the amount of effort you put into the training will dictate the results you get. Doing the majority of your jumps at 50 percent effort will yield an improvement in just that: jumping at 50 percent. Try to maximize your effort with each set and repetition where you are working at or above 90 percent effort, whether that be because of doing lower repetition ranges (1–5 reps) and/or making sure that you are fully recovered between sets (about 1–3 minutes’ rest).

Give great effort, get great results!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: resistance videos sports body weight athletes athletic performance lifetime sports exercise bands vertical jump vertical power jumping jump training

Gambling with Sports Injury: Warning Signs and Recovery

GettyImages-512753571Sports careers, whether you are junior varsity or a hall of fame professional, all come to an end at some point. Often, these endeavors are marred with setbacks due to injuries ranging far and wide and sometimes spanning years. During competition and in the spirit of the moment, athletes sometimes push their bodies and minds beyond what was thought possible, resulting in amazing feats—but also potential injuries.

Don’t Play Through Your Injuries

Injuries that occur when we push our bodies to the limit can become more pronounced when an athlete decides to continue activities instead of receiving timely treatment. Once commonplace, playing through injuries was more accepted in the past. However, with modern sports medicine and advanced technology, sports enthusiasts can enjoy longer, more productive careers than ever before due to increased injury awareness and preventative maintenance.

The adage “listen to your body” still rings true. Although you might not know what you are listening for, you can assess your situation and make smart decisions to help prevent more serious injury.

How Do You Know When You’ve Overdone It?

Symptoms of sports injuries and illness can vary, and anytime you have a serious concern about your health, refer to your primary care physician. Because every person experiences pain differently, resulting in a wide threshold, you may need to seek advice and consult a professional to help assess your situation. Here are some of the most common symptoms of injuries, according to Harvard Health.

  • Chest pain: Although this goes without saying, your heart is the most vital muscle in the body. Although coronary artery disease is not curable, treatments make it possible to decrease the chances for heart attacks (which may occur when a deconditioned individual is subjected to extreme strenuous exertion).
  • Difficulty breathing: Similar to chest pain, difficulty breathing can be a sign of more serious underlying issues with not only the lungs but also the heart and blood pressure. With high blood pressure, exercises such as sprinting and powerlifting typically put a lot of strain on the heart.
  • Joint swelling and pain: The swelling of a joint can range from tendon, ligament, or muscle injury to arthritis in the joint. It is good to know whether you are experiencing injury or arthritis because this will determine your level of treatment.

How to Recover and Get Back in the Game

These symptoms are common and can happen to almost anyone who exercises. Many other factors such as genetics, age, and medical history all play a role—not only in your injury, but also your healing process. “Getting back on the horse” is something we eventually want to do (once we are healed).

Here are a few tips that can get you back on the road to recovery without jeopardizing your health.

  • Before beginning a new workout program, meet with a fitness professional who can assess your physical fitness levels. Many tests are available, the Functional Movement Screen (or FMS) is designed to not only pinpoint potential red flags, but also to prescribe routines intended to better your movement patterns and decrease your chances for injury.
  • Beginning a proactive fitness program that targets your weaknesses and strengths can also help decrease your chances for injury. A program that identifies your strengths and uses them is good, but you also need to make sure your weaknesses are addressed. As these weaknesses become stronger, as a whole, you will become stronger.
  • Moving your workout to a more low-impact setting might also help. The pool adds a great opportunity to create exercise but not put stress on the joints. We know that swimming takes some skill, but just treading water can be a great way to burn calories. Depending on availability, zero-gravity treadmills and water treadmills are often used in the professional athlete world to get athletes moving (technology never ceases to amaze me).

Not sure about swimming? Check out these blogs by NIFS staff regarding the impact of swimming and some great ideas to help you get started.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner swimming injury prevention injuries sports recovery illness athletes student athletes joints low-impact

Stiff Hips? Try Hurdle Stretches

GettyImages-1243955198I wish I had a dollar for every time a coach has said to me, “That athlete has stiff hips,” or “That athlete folds over at the waist,” etc. So how do I help an inefficient athlete with stiff hips? I use simple hurdle stretches that train my athletes to bend.

Many times it’s an athlete with long legs and a short torso. I wish I was more consistent in hurdle stretches with my athletes, but in the perfect coaching world, I would use them at every strength workout and have an extra set of hurdles near the practice fields/courts for use before practices.

Hurdle stretches are great because you can complete four to six stretches in less than five minutes. A hurdle stretch routine is helpful before and after activity. It’s also great for efficiently training a large group of athletes if you have 10–12 hurdles separated into two different lines of 5–6 hurdles.

Set-up some hurdles at NIFS and take yourself through these drills to loosen up those “stiff hips.”

Hurdle Stretches

 

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center strength stretching exercises coaching athletes

Keeping Engaged and on Top of Healthy Habits During the Pandemic

GettyImages-1053860992These past few weeks have been trying times for not only our families and friends, but also for the athletes we engage with on a daily basis throughout the year. In our position we must stay in a lead-by-example mentality. If we let ourselves go during this time, our athletes will notice and do the exact same thing. This is definitely a time of uncertainty and there are a lot of unknowns. Controlling what we can control on a daily basis is what will help not just us personally, but also those around us, to get through and come out of this on top.

Start by Continuing to Practice Good Morning Habits

It’s easy during this time to sleep in and relax the majority of the day. That’s why it’s essential to keep as close to a normal schedule as you can. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in sometimes, but don’t make a habit of sleeping into the afternoon hours. Keeping a schedule will make it easier to get back into the swing of things once the world starts moving in its true functioning fashion again. Try to continue to start your morning with a well-balanced breakfast. Incorporate meditation or read a book or article. If you are used to working out in the morning, continue to keep that same routine. Read more about these and other healthy habits here.

Lean on Your Coach for Ideas for Working Out

Always remember that NIFS is a phone call, text, or email away to give you ideas for different daily workouts or activities. It’s still our jobs to help you get a quality workout. Not everyone is equipped with a full gym; and if you are, take full advantage. But at this time you might need to be creative, and if you need ideas (such as using objects from around your home as weights), reach out and get the help you need.

Technology is a great tool. Zoom and FaceTiming or videoing your workouts will give you something fun and exciting to do throughout the day.

Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition

You can’t out-train a bad diet! If you get off track nutritionally, you’re going to have an extremely hard road trying to get it back once we are able to meet as a group. Don’t let something as simple as nutrition mess up what you work for throughout the year. Keep it a top priority. This is a great time to do research and read more about nutrition and better ways to go about it. Reach out to the Teams Nutritionist to find new recipes and food ideas. 

Learn a New Skill and Have Fun with Your Teammates

Don’t let this time go by without learning something new. Read more books and learn new hobbies. Most important of all, continue learning. There are great podcasts to listen to and daily roundtable discussions to tune into. Keep exercising fun! Invite your teammates to do a Workout of the Day over Zoom or Skype to keep it fresh and fun. It will also hold you and your teams accountable during this pandemic. Daily or weekly challenges are great for continuing team-building.

Embrace the time. Control what you can control. Don’t let this pandemic move you to the back of the bus once we are clear to get back to work.

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This blog was written by Jason Quarles, IUPUI Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy habits exercise at home sleep athletes pandemic

Train Like an Athlete with Help from NIFS

GettyImages-969284736I am often asked what kind of workout program I follow, and my response is always, “I follow a program that gets me faster, stronger, and more athletic.” When people hear this, they assume that I am some kind of athlete and that they won’t be able to work out the way I do since they are not “athletes.” This is a huge misconception that I have noticed throughout the years that I have been working out. What people do not understand is that we are all athletes in our own way, and can actually train like one in order to get faster, stronger, and more athletic.

Find Out Where You’re Starting From

For me the key is to understand where you are at in terms of movement. Many programs out there assume that you move perfectly, so starting them might not necessarily be the best if you have not had the training experience needed to actually perform those movements. A good assessment to determine whether you have any compensatory patterns or movement deficiency is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). With the FMS, we can narrow down exactly which corrective exercises are needed to get a person ready for the complex movements that might be programmed.

Start with Exercises That You’re Ready For

Once you have determined where you are at movement wise, it’s important to start with exercises that your body is ready to handle at that time. Possibly regressing a complex exercise like the Barbell Back Squat to a simpler exercise like the KB Goblet Squat or 2KB Squat will allow you to own that movement better and in turn will prepare you to progress back to the complex movement faster while performing it better.

Perform Athletic Movements

Training like an athlete does not necessarily mean you have to match their intensity or lift the same amount of weight as they do. But it can mean performing the same movements, such as these:

  • Warm-up routine
  • Power exercises
  • Squat variation
  • Horizontal upper-body push variation
  • Split squat or half-kneeling variation
  • Vertical/horizontal upper-body pull variation
  • Supine/prone abdominal exercise variation
  • Accessory exercise

These are exact movements that I program for my athletes. The cool thing is that anyone can do these movements as long as the right exercise is prescribed. No two athletes that I have trained move the same, and there are many that actually need to start with the most basic forms of movement (body squat, hands elevated push-ups, etc.). I am sure many of you have performed these “basic” exercises in the past. These exercises are often considered “too easy” at times, but if they are performed correctly, it can be a challenge even to athletes.

You Can Get Help from NIFS Trainers

I get it, it can be very intimidating for a beginner or even an experienced lifter to train like an athlete if they don’t know exactly how to go about starting a program like that. Luckily, here at NIFS, our trainers are well equipped with the materials and knowledge to get anyone who is looking for a new challenge started toward being faster, stronger, and—most importantly—more athletic.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS training athletes personal trainer functional movement screen fitness assessment

Managing Athletic Injuries and Setbacks with Goal-Setting

GettyImages-672323222Having something come up that changes your routine or throws off your groove can be frustrating or disheartening because, let’s be honest, we all have things that we want to do. Looking at this from an athlete’s point of view is a little different than that of the general public.

Athletes have essentially three seasons all compressed into one, that being the pre-season, in-season, and off-season. In each of these seasons, an athlete has personal goals that they want to meet alongside the team goals. Some of the personal goals might be to hit a certain weight on a lift in the off-season, or to reach a certain statistic during the in-season. Reaching this personal goal is extremely self-rewarding and makes an athlete strive for more; but what happens when an athlete gets injured?

The Emotional Impact of Injury

Many things happen when an athlete gets injured, but the initial feeling will be some kind of negative emotion, such as disappointment, sadness, or for a more extreme case, depression. These are just a few examples that an athlete can experience on the initial realization of sustaining an injury. An athlete can feel these emotions because it is messing with the goals that they set prior to this injury, just like anyone who had something that didn’t go as planned.

Now that the injury has occurred, and most likely a negative emotion is setting in, there are steps that an athlete can take to help with the rehabilitation process. This process is something that I have some first-hand experience with because I suffered an injury that required me to have surgery and 2–3 months of rehab afterward. These steps are something that I found helpful to keep me on track and stay motivated toward my goals when I was healthy.

Set SMART Goals and Keep Talking to Your Team

I did have that initial negative emotion of disappointment and sadness, but that soon faded once I accepted it, and I had new priorities. I made goals for myself and put on hold my goals from when I was healthy. Having these new rehab goals gave me a new focus, and not on my current situation. The goals that I made were “SMART” goals. What SMART stands for is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. The “specific” part should answer Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. “Measurable” is to be able to track your progress and set benchmarks along the way. “Attainable” is having that belief in yourself and that this goal is possible. “Realistic” are the goals that you are willing and able to work at. “Timely” is setting a date for when you want to complete your goal. If you don’t set a date, there won’t be any urgency.

Along with using the SMART goal strategy, I also talked to people and teammates about how things were going. I feel it is essential to talk to someone; you can feel like you are doing this alone because you are on your own schedule and not participating with all of the team activities. An isolated feeling comes, and it can make you feel distant from everyone else. But talking to a teammate, the trainer, or a friend can make you feel like you are still a part of the team and contributing in some aspect.

Goal setting is extremely important for anything you do. It’s more important when it comes to fitness goals. If you don’t write out your goals where you can see them, you’ll forget what you are trying to accomplish. Along with that, the urgency will fade and you’ll start to rationalize with yourself that you can put off one day, and one day becomes one week, and so forth. Having goals will help with any setbacks that come along because if there is one day that doesn’t go as planned, knowing your goal finish line will still keep you on track.

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This blog was written by Addison Smith. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: depression goal setting attitude injuries post-season off-season athletes smart goals

Sports Nutrition: Feeding a(n) (Olympic) Village

GettyImages-172964901.jpgEvery couple of years, the world’s best athletes get to compete in either the winter or summer Olympics, and I have been wondering about what they eat! I know as a dietitian I am obsessed with food, but surely other people wonder about sports nutrition on this kind of scale, too. These elite athletes have a routine when it comes to their nutrition, especially before competition. Then they are put into a situation where they have a giant smorgasbord of choices in the Olympic Village. How hard it must be to try to stick to their plan…at least until their event is over.

Here are some food stats from previous Olympics that I found interesting.

London 1948 and 2012

In the 1948 games in London, which was the first Olympics after the war, food shortages meant that each country had to bring food for its athletes. Things have definitely changed, and in the 2012 summer Olympics in London, they ordered 25,000 loaves of bread and 232 tons of potatoes for the 2 weeks during the games. For protein, they had 100 tons of beef, 31 tons of poultry, and 82 tons of seafood. Luckily, there was plenty of produce to balance the carbs and protein; they ordered 330 tons of fruits and vegetables. Water was the most popular beverage, but after that it was milk, with 75,000 liters consumed!

Rio 2016

In the 2016 summer games in Rio at its peak demand, they fed 18,000 people per day and were open for 24 hours, so athletes could eat whenever their schedules allowed. They served over 40 varieties of exotic fruit such as acai, carambola, and maracuja (passion fruit). The buffets included cuisines such as Brazilian, Asian, International, pasta and pizza, and halal and kosher offerings. The kitchen was the size of a football field and the dining area was larger than two football fields.

Something that could potentially be an obstacle for athletes was the giant and free McDonalds that was the centerpiece of the dining hall. This has been an Olympic Village staple since the company first became a sponsor in 1976.One great thing they did in Rio was to donate the leftover food each night. They provided more than 100 meals on average nightly to the homeless.

PyeongChang 2018

At the winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea, they are expected to serve 5 million meals at 13 different venues. This is for 6,000 athletes and officials during the Olympics and 1,700 athletes and officials during the Paralympics. As with other locations, they will serve plenty of food that is local to South Korea to promote their culture to athletes from other regions. There are drinking fountains at all of the venues, but the ones on the mountains will need an anti-freezing machine to keep the water from freezing. There is a different menu every day, and information about the recipes, nutritional facts, and allergens will be made available to those who ask.

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Even world-class athletes are susceptible to the pitfalls of buffets, especially ones as large and varied as the ones at the Olympic Village. So most coaches have now discussed these issues and encouraged a plan when it comes to food. Or they tend to pack suitcases full of familiar foods to guarantee they have what they need. Having the proper nutrition can be the difference between a gold medal and a silver medal. They can enjoy the free McDonalds and all-you-can-eat buffets after their events.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition nifs staff athletes sports nutrition olympics

NIFS August Group Fitness Class of the Month: Yoga

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Yoga is good for all types of people who have all types of fitness goals. No matter what your age, size, shape, or training regimen, you can reap the benefits of doing it on a regular basis. In fact, there are different types of yoga, and some of them are quite challenging regarding strength and balance.

Yoga is NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month. Let’s take a look at some specific groups of people and why yoga can be beneficial to them.

Athletes

For many athletes, the idea of getting a good, solid workout means needing a wheelchair to get out of the gym. However, a good 60-minute yoga session could really help far more than the mind tells you it can. In fact, one of these sessions may be, at times, even more beneficial than that 60-minute lift you were just about to do. Yoga helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, mental control, and mobility; increases power; and works as a perfect active-recovery exercise.

Seniors

For senior fitness, yoga is great to help gain better stability and balance. As people age, their balance, stability, and proprioception diminish. But with the help of yoga, you can slow down the process. On top of improved stability and balance, yoga helps to improve flexibility and overall joint health, reduces high blood pressure, improves breathing, and helps to reduce anxiety or depression.

The General Population

For the everyday exerciser who is simply trying to fit exercise into their regular, busy life schedule, yoga is great, too! Yoga is actually a form of physical fitness and has several benefits for those looking for a relaxing yet challenging workout. Yoga helps boost emotional health, reduce back pain, reduce heart disease, put asthma at ease, boost memory, improve flexibility… and the list goes on.

Youth

Yes, yoga is good for kids as well. Yoga is good for the youth population because it gives them time to step away from technology, inwardly connect with themselves, and listen to their own feelings and ideas. For this age range of people, it has been found that yoga can help improve self-esteem, attention span, empowerment, and self-regulation.

Nifs YogaPowerlifters

Believe it or not, powerlifting and yoga are a match made in heaven! Yoga for those who like to lift heavy helps improve grip strength and endurance, improve breathing, relieve knee and lower-back pain, aid in flexibility (specifically in the back for power lifters), and increase strength. While you might not be the first one in class to touch your toes, make that your next goal, then lift the car above your head!

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Check out NIFS’ group fitness schedule and join us for a class in Indianapolis. Namaste, friends and fellow soon-to-be yogis!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness balance senior fitness kids powerlifting athletes Group Fitness Class of the Month

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I explained training periodization, and talked about the first two macrocycles: off-season and pre-season. Now I’ll talk about the remaining macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

In-Season

ThinkstockPhotos-100324402.jpgOnce the competitive season begins, scheduling time to get in to lift is a lot more difficult due to the practices, games, and travel that are happening. To me, in-season lifting is sometimes undervalued in the competitive/athletic world because of the fact that the primary focus is to win games or matches, not lift weights. However, I believe that this is one of the most important (if not the most important) times during the year because of what lifting can do for the athlete throughout the competitive season and into the off-season.

The goal of in-season lifting is simple: maintain what you have built in the off/pre-season and make sure that no muscular imbalances develop. This is not a time to try and increase your squat or bench by 50 pounds. It is a time to make sure that your body stays healthy and you are able to preserve the muscle, strength, and power that you have built throughout your season. Doing this will not only keep you healthier for your sport, but will also set you up for better long-term development during the subsequent off-season. Think about it: If you lose the vast majority of strength, power, and muscle mass you’ve built over the in-season, you are basically starting at square one when the season is over. If you are able to preserve 85% of that strength and power, you are starting further along than you were the year before, which allows you to make bigger gains.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 days per week
Mode: Medium Sport Specificity
Volume: Low

Post-Season

When your competitive season comes to a close, there should be some time to relax and recover from it. Take time and reflect on how you performed and what you could have done to be better in different aspects of your activity. Start creating a plan on how to improve those things once your training ramps up again.

As for training during this period, it should still happen. Your body is still recovering, but you want to make sure you do not totally fall off the map by not doing any type of exercise or physical activity. This is a perfect time to play or participate in some other sports or change up your weightlifting routine. You basically have free reign on your choices under one circumstance: get away from your actual sport/complete lifting routine.

This macrocycle does not last long, but it is an important one. You have been competing for months and want to avoid being burnt out on the sport you love, so getting away will be good. Do something different; just be active. After 3 to 4 weeks of light activity, you can begin your off-season program and start the quest to better yourself for the next competitive season.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 to 4 days per week (light activity)
Mode: Low Sport Specificity
Volume: Low-Medium

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Overall, there is no exact science that is going to work perfectly every time when you are building your own training programs. You will always need to make tweaks, even to the best programs around. This blog provides the framework for developing a solid program, but the devil is in the details. You want to make sure that you have everything planned out as you progress through the competitive season. Some things may not go as planned, but that is okay. The ultimate goal is to make you the best athlete you can be in the sport or activity you are doing!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS mini marathon training weightlifting competition post-season programs off-season athletes athletic performance