A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Check out these off-season training tips for athletes

Athlete getting ready to train in the off-season

Off-season training combines lower intensity workouts with plenty of recovery time to improve athletic performance.

School sports are done for the season but for serious student athletes summer isn’t time to sit around.

It’s a time to get faster, stronger and better as an athlete. That means training differently than during the “on” season.

“The off-season has three objectives – aerobic conditioning, improving functional strength and fine-tuning athletic movement patterns,” said Darin Kelley, a Marshfield Clinic sports fitness instructor.

Athletes should return to the game healthier and able to sprint faster, jump higher and throw farther. These tips will help them get there.

Work with a trainer

For best results, work one-on-one with a trainer or find a group sports performance program like those offered by Kelley.

A trainer will help the athlete correct muscular imbalances, improve athletic movement patterns, build strength, increase aerobic endurance and prevent injury by designing a specific program for the athlete’s needs and long-term goals.

Look for a sports performance trainer who’s experienced working with student athletes and certified by a nationally recognized organization. A good trainer will focus on long-term improvement, not just hitting a home run in the next game.

Create a schedule

Stick to a consistent schedule and spread training out over the week, Kelley said.

An example schedule may look like this:

  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday: Aerobic training, like biking, swimming or running. Try to increase the amount of time spent doing aerobic training throughout the off-season.
  • Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday: Integrated strength training in the morning. Rest 2-3 hours and eat a meal. Practice agility work or sport-specific movements in the afternoon.
  • Sunday: Rest.

Start each workout with a 15- to 20-minute dynamic warm-up.

Don’t compete in the off-season

The off-season is meant to be 4-12 weeks when athletes establish a base for the future.

Don’t give into the temptation to join a competitive summer league. Pickup games are okay but high-volume, high-intensity competition isn’t, Kelley said.

Athletes can’t improve functional strength and correct muscle imbalances when they’re competing because quick movements and maximal muscle contractions of high-intensity competition break down muscle tissue. They may develop muscular imbalances and increase their risk for injury by competing all year long.

The off-season is a chance to recover and improve athleticism by training at lower intensity and improving neuromuscular efficiency.

Avoid off-season training mistakes

Instead of building overall athleticism, some athletes will spend hours practicing jump shots and lifting weights to isolate muscles in single planes of motion. These workouts alone won’t make a well-rounded athlete, Kelley said.

An off-season training routine should include acceleration, deceleration and stabilization in all three planes of motion. Fundamental movement patterns like jumping, landing, squatting, hip hinging, pushing, pulling, lateral movements and agility training will improve overall performance.

Another common mistake is doing too much high-intensity training and not resting enough during the off-season. The body needs to recover during the off-season so athletes are at their peak performance level when pre-season starts. Get enough rest between exercises and focus on quality of training instead of quantity.

“I believe in building athleticism over time,” Kelley said. “If you stick with it, it works.”

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