With the post-season fast approaching, it can be easy to focus so much on the end goal of a state title that athletes loose sight of the daily details needed to get there. The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applies somewhat, but when it comes to strength and conditioning, there are certain adaptations that need to be made to make sure athletes remain injury free and strong down the stretch. The biggest mistakes that I see this time of year? Abandoning heavy strength training in favor of circuits (don’t worry circuits can have their place in your conditioning regimen, but not in place of STRENGTH work), over (or the wrong type of) conditioning, and not prioritizing recovery.
Here are some tips to help your athletes maintain their hard earned strength and feel good going in to the post season.
Lift Heavy once per week
I can’t emphasize this one enough. You built that strength and muscle by lifting heavy weights all off season, and if you abandon heavy lifting now you are going to lose it. I know it can be challenging considering competition schedule, but I recommend a minimum of 1 heavy lifting day per week. This needs to be when you are fresh (not after practice) so I recommend an early morning early in the week or on an off day such as Sunday.
Keep strength workouts SHORT
The off season and preseason are the time to grind in the weight room, but now it’s all about being efficient. Energy and strength for practice is crucial, so the goal is to get your lift in without totally exhausting your self. The key is to stimulate the body and send the signal to maintain strength and preserve muscle. Counting warm ups, 1-2 main strength exercises, and 2-3 accessories or prehab,45 minutes is more than enough time in season. Keep your reps low and don’t push until failure. Focus on good clean, crisp form.
In order to keep strong, you need to “check all the boxes” weekly. A good way to think of it is to hit something for the main movements each week – hinge (Deadlift), Pull (row), Squat (lunge), and Press (Bench) – but remember that you can check the box without doing the standard exercise. In-season I remove Back Squat from my programming to avoid spinal loading and use the zercher squat or unilateral movements like Split Squats, Lunges and Step Ups. Another smart substitution is a single arm DB Press in place of traditional bench press. The single arm press requires some anti-rotational core/hip strength, and at this time of year the more bang you can get for your buck, the better.
Bottom line, if you are not recovering from your practices and strength sessions, you are not going to “feel” strong when it matters. Some tips:
Hydrate – drink 1 gallon water daily
Fuel – pick high quality nutrient dense foods over junk. Some daily staples should be eggs, sweet potatoes, brown rice or quinoa, lean meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. A whole grapefruit immediately after practice is a great way to boost your immunity and replenish muscle glycogen.
Supplement – Max Effort Muscle’s Amino Recovery is formulated specifically to help combat athletes recover from intense training and maintain muscle mass even while cutting weight. 10g BCAAs, 5g Glutamine, and electrolytes in each scoop and should be taken after every workout.
Rest – Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Your body cannot repair and rebuild if you are not sleeping! Put down the phone and the video games – if you are serous about your goals then your social life can take a back seat for a month or so. When you do have a day off, don’t try to cram too much activity in, take it easy and recharge!
Conditioning: Quality over Quantity
By this time of the season you should be in shape. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to fine tune and improve, but there’s no reason to run yourself ragged. The bulk of your conditioning should come from hard wrestling in practice. If you have a week off from competing, then throw in some hard sprints. A short functional circuit (we do this once a week as well) in the morning or after practice is good too, but don’t turn it into a marathon. And remember – those post practice “sprints” in the room really is just aerobic work if you are too exhausted to run hard and there is no recover between them. Always think of the goal of the training session and program accordingly. If the goal is to get your weight down, then don’t focus on intensity, try to get the “most sweat with the minimal effort”. I always recommend going hard for a few minutes on the air dyne or treadmill to get your sweat rolling, then keep it going with light effort and changing between a bike, the treadmill, and stance motion when ever it starts to feel monotonous.
REMEMBER – there is no one size fits all way to train, especially at this time of year. Listen to your body, train hard, and train smart!
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“Coach Myers was instrumental in helping me learn to enjoy and understand the importance of lifting and strength training when I transferred to Ohio State”
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