Effective pre-season training
Few would argue that to be successful at anything, you must be prepared. Whether it’s a meeting at work, a test at school, an upcoming game, an NFL Championship, or a job interview, preparation is always key. And nothing reduces the chance of success like a lack of preparation.
Athletes preparing for a competitive sport typically need eight to twelve weeks of focused training prior to tryouts or the start of the season in order to greatly enhance their opportunity for success. They or their parents should do a quick assessment of their readiness by asking themselves the following questions.
Where is their head at right now? Is the athlete well rested, excited and ready to go? Or burned out and in need of some down time or possibly a different approach to training?
What is the commitment level (both time and financial) of the athlete and parents?
How is their body composition? Athletes with significant body fat percentage (20-30 percent) will require a more incremental approach to training than an athlete with lower body fat.
What does their sport coach tell them they need to work on before the season?
Most sports require the same physical skills (i.e. running, jumping, shuffling, change of direction, endurance) and training programs should focus on improvement in all of those areas. But it’s more than just working out. It takes a targeted, global approach, assuring that all aspects of an athlete’s preparation are addressed. This approach gives athletes the best opportunity for success on the field, the ice, or the court.
As a strength coach, my job is to persuade athletes away from taking a single-minded approach to training (i.e. just lifting weights) and instead focus on the Eight Pillars of Pre-season Training.
- Mindset. Create a mindset of getting better every training session. Don’t just work out, have the mindset to get better every session, every drill, every lift. Stay positive despite setbacks and listen to your coaches.
- Self Care. Good habits prepare the body for the rigors of the season. Utilize myofascial release techniques (foam rolling, tiger tails, etc.) to speed recovery between training sessions. Don’t over train and get at least eight hours of sleep nightly.
- Nutrition. Avoid junk food, get proper hydration, eat plenty of protein along with good carbs and good fats. Also important are pre-training snacks, post-training recovery shakes, as well as knowing when and how to safely use supplements.
- Mobility. Increasing joint mobility (especially in the hip, shoulder, ankle, and thoracic spine) can greatly improve athletic performance and reduce injuries.
- Pillar prep or core stability. All movement starts from the core. Without a stable core, athletes can incur an increased risk of injury and energy leaks which can diminish performance.
- Movement. Educating or re-educating the body to move more powerfully and more efficiently (speed, agility, and change of direction) is paramount. Proper posture and ground striking mechanics are critical. Athletes need to be taught and coached efficient movement patterns. Speed can be taught and improved with good coaching.
- Strength. Stronger athletes are more powerful, more confident, and more injury resistant. Improving horsepower (muscle size and strength) increases the athlete’s ability to apply force into the ground when running, shuffling, jumping, crossing over, or changing direction.
- Energy Systems Development. What used to be called plain conditioning has evolved. We’re now able to develop energy system programs that more closely mimic the sport that the athlete plays. We’ve moved on from mindless laps, sprints, or suicide drills.
By following the Eight Pillars of Pre-season Training, athletes should reach their full athletic potential. It seems like a lot of work…and it is. But, by establishing good daily habits and following these processes consistently, the athlete will be prepared for his or her opportunities and will enjoy success.
Photos by Dev Berry