The following article pertains to age appropriate athletes who have gone through puberty and are developing as adolescents. Younger athletes are encouraged to try different sports while developing motor skills, stability and balance. This blog does not provide medical advice nor does it direct you to undertake any specific exercise program or regimen. Please consult a physician before participating in any of the activities described on this website.
Strange to think that the "less is more" mentality applies to off season activity, but it is indeed true. The key to having a productive off season is to focus on becoming a better overall athlete as opposed to being on the ice or field as much as possible. We briefly discuss the effects of early youth sport specialization in our previous article, "Hockey Hip," and the same concept applies to avoid being counter productive in the off season by working smart instead of working hard. In this article, we will reveal the progressive training phases recommended for an athlete in the off season as it pertains to Strength & Conditioning.
Recovery Phase (3-4 weeks, Post Season)
Upon completion of a long season, the athlete needs adequate time to recover from ailments or injuries sustained during the season. Hockey, for example, is so hard on the body and mentally exhausting that there is a necessity for time to decompress. 2-4 weeks is typically enough time for recovery, unless of course a more serious injury requires more time for treatment. Without full recovery, the athlete just does not get the most out of their training; like a car running on fumes and bad oil, there is just a higher probability for further damage.
Athletic Foundation (1-4 weeks, Off Season)
Now that the athlete is fully recovered, it's time to go back to basics by correcting muscle imbalances and realignment of the body. The length of this phase varies as every athlete is different. An athlete that has been diligent with their in season maintenance may only need 1-2 weeks where as someone who was a little more negligent may need 3-4 weeks or longer. Corrective Exercises and Contralateral Movements are key elements in this phase and are very effective in preparation for Hypertrophy and Strength.
Hypertrophy + Strength + Power (10-12 weeks, Off Season)
If I had a nickel for every time I saw an athlete skip right to high volume and heavy loading weight lifting before the aforementioned phases I would probably own a gym by now. It is no surprise though, the next three phases (Hypertrophy, Strength and Power) are where all the fun stuff happens; lifting heavy and performing power movements. But what good does it do if you are just building strength on dysfunction? Nothing. Especially in a sport such as hockey, the athlete requires functional strength, power, endurance and exceptional hand eye coordination. Full recovery and a solid athletic foundation are vital before adding strength and power. Furthermore, the results experienced after properly preparing for these phases are unparalleled. Think of it as methodically constructing a well rounded athlete with all the necessary components. Now that the athlete is fully recovered, well balanced and powerful, he/she is ready for the apex of your performance pyramid; Sport Specific Skill and Conditioning.
Sport Specific Skill and Conditioning (Off Season >> Preseason)
The apex of the performance pyramid consists of preparation for the preseason of their sport. Drills that enhance hand eye coordination, unplanned stimuli agility and explosive speed are the essentials of this phase. Conditioning protocol is also prescribed so the athlete is "game ready."
Strength Edge Tips
- Do not build strength on dysfunction. It is important for the athlete to be functional if he or she has intentions of training for peak performance.
- Invest wisely. Money is better spent on a professional trainer or strength coach as opposed to spending thousands on sports camps and tournaments. If you can afford everything...terrific, go nuts. If you are operating on a budget, invest wisely.
- Do not train without a plan or program. If you do not have a periodized training program, going to the gym all Summer could deem to be utterly useless. Your body responds very well to properly planned training, conversely, training improperly can be ineffective and sometimes lead to injury. It is highly recommended to receive clearance from your physician and seek professional advice or guidance before beginning your training.
- Train for your sport. Your training program should be safe and purposeful. Many athletes make the mistake of following a bodybuilding program or power lifting program, which could very well make them bigger and stronger but not necessarily better at their sport.
- Nutrition is key. What good is all the training without the proper fuel...Optimize your training with a solid nutrition plan and the results will speak for themselves.
- No technique, no gains. Never train with poor technique. Have the patience to learn proper technique before performing any activity. Better technique leads to enhanced functional strength and injury prevention.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
How often should I play my sport in the off season?
Using hockey as an example, players do not need to skate for weeks in a row. I know lots of pro and collegiate players that do not skate for at least a month once their season ends, it's just not necessary. We recommend to wait until the recovery and corrective phases are complete before incorporating on ice sessions again. Once the body is fully restored and remedied of all its imbalances, skate when needed. Have fun, play Summer Shinny with your friends and throw in a 1-2 week skills camp in July or August if you want. Touch the ice once or twice a week just to feel your edges and work on puck handling + shooting.
I can't afford personal training, what should I do?
This goes back to Tip 2, invest wisely. Many people assume they can't afford personal training or just have the perception that it is too expensive when the reality is they just may not fully understand its value. Compare the expenses of personal training with out of state tournaments and sports camps, the results will surprise you. As an alternative, Strength Edge offers the programming and guidance without the cost of personal training as a cost effective option through Online Coaching.
What does a typical training program consist of?
It varies depending on the sport you are training for but the general format typically consists of: Dynamic Warm Up, Pre Hab, Activation, Plyometric + Speed, Core, Strength, Conditioning, and Static Stretching.
Do you have other questions? Feel free to Contact Us.