Summer is nearly upon us, spring sports are over (or nearly so), school is winding down, and the sun is waking us all up quite a bit earlier. **DEEEEEP BREATH*** I love summer.
Not only is it fantastically warm and I finally sweat profusely during my workouts (contrast that to the winter to where I'm lucky to break a sweat, in my sweat pants...I get cold pretty easily) but it's the off-season for high school sports. I know some of you play your sport year-round in clubs and stuff (see my thoughts on that HERE), but seriously, the summer is a perfect time to start training and getting stronger for next year's season.
So, it's time to hit the weight room, right? Start smashing PRs and moving heavy iron bars around, right? Not so fast, cowboy.
A huge flub athletes commit in the beginning of the off-season is training too hard, too fast. Think about it, you just spent 3, 4, even 5 months in-season with practice after practice, games, and no-so-much lifting. Your body is probably weaker (even if you trained during the in-season, it still isn't PR shattering material) and you've been performing the same, repetitive motions to the point where you've probably developed at least one sort of wacky asymmetry. For overhead athletes, they've been throwing or hitting on the same side, soccer players kick with the same leg, track athletes have been running in the same curve (to the left), and lacrosse players have been whipping their upper bodies around the same direction. Show me an athlete coming out of the season that isn't crooked somewhere (that's the technical term) and I'll show you a One Direction fan that isn't a female teenager. Oh wait, they don't exist. (if you don't know who they are, keep it that way, it isn't worth your time.)
To keep it pretty general, as the two subsequent posts will deal more with specific sport recommendations, here are some thoughts on the first 3-4 weeks of off-season training:
1. Keep the volume down- You've pounded your body all season, high volume work will only stress it out more. Stick to 15-20 reps total of your main lifts (squat, deadlift, bench, etc.) and 24-30 reps of accessory work, total. There should only be 2-4 accessory lifts and 1 main lift per workout.
2. Keep the intensity reasonable-- I'm not advocating lifting 5 lb dumbbells for everything, but again, you've pounded your body for several months, starting at 60-75% of your maxes is not a dumb thing to do. Get some quality, speedy reps in of the main lifts. For you accessory work, move weight that will get your blood flowing, but leaves some gas in the tank (a lot of gas in the tank). If you really want to burn, adding negative reps or isometric holds can increase the intensity without overloading your joints. For example, we like Bulgarian split squats with a :06 negative, or pushups with a :05 isometric hold at the bottom.
3. Take a week away for the barbell-- It's just a week, calm down, but replacing barbell squats with some goblet squats or deadlifts with some swings are excellent ways to give your body a break and still train those movements.
4. Work on tissue quality- Foam roll, use a lacrosse ball, or better yet, go see a manual therapist to dig out the nasty, knotted tissue that resides in your body. Mobility drills for the tight bits and stability drills for the loose bits should be prevalent in your workout. For example: soccer player's hips will be pretty tight and gunky, so that requires some attention to tissue quality of the glutes, quads, and TFL and mobility work. Contrast that to a baseball player's anterior shoulder (front side) of his throwing arm, that this is probably much looser than it should be, so he'll need some stability work to pull his humerus into a more neutral position.
5. Sleep a lot and eat quality food-- I bet both of these have been in short supply over the course of the season, huh? Yes, these two are SUPER important for recovery purposes as well as muscle growth. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and load up on the vegetables!
The sole goal of the first couple weeks after the season is to restore the poor, asymmetrical, beaten-up body and allow for some recovery time. Keep the volume and intensity low to moderate, work on tissue quality and mobility as needed, and sleep! Then, and only then, mind you, can you attack the rest of your off-season like the Hulk.