Today's post is brought to you by the Goose-Man himself. As a collegiate decathlete, Goose knows a thing or two about off-season dos and don'ts. The principles dictated here can be extrapolated to most any field sport: soccer, lacrosse, football, etc.
Off-Season training for track athletes is a time to give the body a break from all the pounding it took during the season and prepare it for the punishment it’ll face during the upcoming season. This isn’t necessarily the time to work on explosiveness or power, but it is a perfect time to prepare your body to move fast. Here are 4 things you should focus on to reap the most benefits from your off-season training:
- Body Awareness
- Range of Motion
Regardless of event (sprints/hurdles/throws/jumps/distance) increases in muscular strength will decrease the chance of injury by preparing your body to deal with the stress of training. However, this doesn’t mean pick up the closest body building magazine and go to town on the hottest new workout for your beach muscles.
You don’t say!
When you run there are two chains, or groupings, of muscles doing work: the posterior chain - calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back - and the anterior chain - quads, abs, and hip flexors. The posterior chain muscles are the main movers when running; these muscle produce the force needed to move forward while sprinting and upward while jumping. The anterior chain muscles help stabilize the hips and ensure a smooth power transfer from your legs to the ground.
Field event athletes such as throwers and pole vaulters should also focus on increasing upper body strength. THIS DOES NOT MEAN BICEP CURLS AND TRICEP EXTENSIONS ALL SUMMER!!! Focus on strengthening the shoulders (think overhead pressing variations)and upper back muscles for they will be doing most of the work for throws or vaults.
Improving your proprioception, the brain’s ability to sense the position and movement of all body parts through space and time, is something not many athletes think about but most would benefit from. Knowing where your body is in relation to it's surrounding is helpful when: performing rotational techniques while throwing, staying inside the lanes when sprinting, controlling your body over hurdles, maneuvering in mid-air when pole vaulting, and running in a tight pack during distance races. It can also help avoid injury by aiding in regulation of body biomechanics/movements while lifting or training.
One of the most efficient ways to improve proprioception is simply by focusing on your own movements. This may sound obvious but the fact is that the ability to focus is a skill, and like every other skill it needs to be practiced! Weight lifting and training should be as much a mental activity as they are a physical activity. Focusing on your movement throughout warm up routines, lifting sessions, and event practices will increase your proprioception to the point you’ll be able to “feel” when you do something wrong.
Another aspect of training often forgotten is posture. Distance runners and sprinters must maintain an upright posture with a neutral pelvis in order to maximize the power produced by their anterior chain and maintain a high forward knee drive. Throwers, whether they spin or glide, will have to maintain some type of event specific posture to maximize their efficiency through the power position on each throw. Most track and field athletes who suffer from bad posture exhibit either an excessive anterior pelvic tilt or a protracted shoulder girdle . In layman’s terms they often have an arched lower back or rounded shoulder.
Anterior pelvic tilt can hinder running performance by reducing the levers on the anterior chain muscles by placing the body in an awkward position. Specifically for sprinting, this affects stride length and power by allowing the legs to flail back too far after each step. The further back your legs go the harder it will be to cycle them back forward with a high knee drive, thus hindering the body’s ability to produce forward motion. This may result from weakness in the abdominal muscles, hamstrings, and/or glutes. Tightness in the hip flexors and spinal erectors can also contribute to this. Strengthening your core and anterior chain as well as incorporating flexibility work will help remedy this problem.
Protracted shoulder girdles will have detrimental effects on the health and performance of overhead athletes like throwers and pole vaulters. Rounded shoulders increase the risk of injury during activities where the elbows are over the shoulders or behind the shoulders such as shot putting, pole vaulting, or throwing the javelin. (note from Kelsey: since the shoulder blade can not glide properly, all kinds of pinching and fraying of tendons and ligaments can occur in the shoulder. Set your blades free!) This can also decrease shoulder range of motion which will hinder performance by decreasing the “pull” you can get on the javelin or shortening the “orbit” on your discus throw. This condition results from weakness in the scapular retractor muscles, like the trapezius and rhomboids, as well as tightness in the pectoralis minor. Strengthening the scapular retractors and diligent use of SMR techniques will help rid you of this problem.
Guuuuurrrrrl, look at his posture!
Range of Motion
Range of motion (ROM) refers to any joint’s ability to move through its full potential of movement in all three planes of motion. In layman’s terms a joint’s ability to move in all the ways it is supposed to move. Optimal range of motion requires both flexibility and stability. Flexibility deals with a muscle/tendon’s ability to stretch and allow limbs to go through the full range of motion of a joint. Stability deals with the muscles surrounding a joint and their ability to keep that joint in place while it moves. (Note from Kelsey: both these components MUST be present for safe and efficient movements.) Improving full body, all joints, ROM can be beneficial to all track athletes. It helps throwers hit a better power position, increases the length of a runner’s stride, improves the technique of hurdlers, and allows jumpers to more easily maneuver their bodies in the air. Please reference the SAPT Blog or YouTube Channel for articles and videos on exercise to help you on your quest for suppleness!