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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

***

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

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-dv484081.jpgWhen putting together a program for anyone, client or athlete, you always want to have an idea when you would like to peak, or be at your best throughout that calendar year. For Mini-Marathon runners, May is the time to be at your best. For football players, you want to be firing on all cylinders when August rolls around. The structure of your training should be based around when your season is going to begin, to make sure your body is prepared to last the duration of the competitive months. Regardless of when you are competing, your training should never remain totally the same throughout the whole year.

This concept of training periodization has been around forever. It was developed by a physiologist named Leo Matveyev around the 1960s. By definition, periodization is a preplanned, systematic variation in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in periods or cycles within an overall program (see Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). Periodization can build the general framework of how you might want to structure your workout programs through your training year.

For our sake, I am going to refer to these periods or cycles as macrocycles. Macrocycles are the biggest of the divisions of training timeframes throughout your competitive year. They can be filtered down to smaller variations (mesocycles—smaller, microcycles—smallest), but we will stick to the biggest ones for now. This will allow you to get a general idea about the main goals for each macrocycle.

There are four macrocycles that will be divided up throughout the year. These are the following:

  • Off-Season
  • Pre-Season
  • In-Season
  • Post-Season

In this blog, I talk about the first two macrocycles. In my next blog I will talk about the final two.

Off-Season

The off-season is always one of the best times of the year to train. This is a time when you can focus on building strength but also implement some training modes that you might not use during the other phases of development (for example, flipping tires, boxing, swimming, and so on). I also like to use this time to assess the success of the programs I have used over the past year to see what helped improve aspects of my teams and what did not (FMS testing, strength/power testing, energy system testing).

A lot of teams and individuals spend a fair amount of time in this macrocycle (12-16 weeks). Although your competitive season is a long time away, slacking during this phase could set you behind in the goals you want to achieve. Practices are usually very short or nonexistent, which leaves plenty of time for you to hit the weights to get your body ready.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 4 to 6 days per week
Mode: Moderate Sport Specificity
Volume: High

Pre-Season

The pre-season begins what is considered crunch time when it comes to preparedness in the weight room and on the playing field. The season is right around the corner, and the next 8 to 12 weeks will fly by. You will be competing before you know it.

During this macrocycle, training becomes a lot more sport specific than in the preceding cycle. The goal is to get the body ready for the exact situations and stressors that you will encounter during competition. As a strength and conditioning coach, I want to prepare the athletes’ bodies with exercises that will mimic and enhance their actions on the field. Examples include working on lower-body power with football players, increasing aerobic endurance with soccer athletes, or enhancing rotational power with golfers.

All in all, you just need to be on the field or court playing in order to get ready for the season. However, the smaller the learning curve the athlete has from off-season to pre-season conditioning, the better. Too much stress too soon (as for athletes who do no training over summer break) can lead to overuse injuries from ramping up the activity levels too fast. Remember to take into account the fact that you are training more for your sport at this time, so do not overdo it in the weight room. Make sure you have adequate recovery time in order to get the most out of your previous months of training.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 3 to 5 days per week (depending on practice time/schedule)
Mode: High Sport Specificity
Volume: Medium-High

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll go through the other two macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

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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: mini marathon training weightlifting programs athletes