By JOHN VASILE, Fit Bits
---- — Off-season training is important for any athlete to be successful in a certain sport.
An effective training regimen can also help prevent injuries when the upcoming season starts. General fitness should be kept throughout the entire year. However, specific training can begin as early as eight weeks before the start of pre-season. There are numerous benefits to participating in some type of off-season conditioning program, such as an athletic camp.
One benefit includes acclimation of the body to environmental conditions of the specific sport (such as heat and humidity).
Other advantages are adaptations to the body, such as strength and power, as well as increased resistance to injury.
In addition, an individual’s aerobic capacity can improve, which can ultimately influence an athlete’s potential during the regular season. Increasing a person’s maximal oxygen consumption could help recovery time and increase stamina. This is crucial in sports like soccer, football and basketball. Improper, or lack of off-season, training could put the health and safety of the athlete at risk.
If proper conditioning is neglected, a person could also regress in fitness.
WORKING ON WEAKNESS
Off-season training gives athletes a chance to work on areas of their bodies that tend to be weak or susceptible to injury. Muscular imbalance can increase risk of injury.
Weakness falls into one category of movement deficits. One such example is core weakness, which is exhibited when an individual walks or runs and has an exaggerated shoulder sway. Other movement deficits could include joint instability, postural issues, and lack of mobility and flexibility. Instability issues likely result from muscular weakness around a joint, whether it be an ankle or knee. Postural issues, such as kyphosis (hunched back) and lordosis (excessive arching of lower back) could be caused by weakness and tightness on opposite sides of the thorax and pelvis, respectively.
Mobility issues are caused when there is inhibited range of motion around a joint. Lack of flexibility is the inability of a muscle to lengthen properly.
Under proper expertise and instruction, individuals can increase their athletic ability through off-season training. The areas of focus usually include speed, strength, power and stamina.
Speed is achieved through sprinting and agility training. This encompasses increasing reaction time as well.
Strength is accomplished through resistance training, which focuses on the muscle groups specifically used in the individual’s sport. This is when core and hip muscles should be conditioned.
Power can be increased by powerlifting, which includes bench presses, deadlifts and squats. Power can also be achieved through plyometric, or jump, training. Plyometric training also uses medicine balls for effective sport-specific workouts.
A strong athletic foundation is necessary for progression into sport-specific exercises. Conditioning major muscle groups, such as glutes, abdominals, back muscles and others, is needed before training for a particular sport. If any of these muscles are neglected, there could be risk of injury, as well as the inability to attain maximum potential. For instance, a sprinter should not train by running only in a linear fashion that is similar to racing conditions. It is important to condition muscles in lateral movements as well. This will encourage proper muscle stability, strength and movement. Train for basic strength first, and then train for your sport.
Adolescent athletes should concentrate on non-specific movements. This would fit individuals younger than 15 years of age or so. As individuals reach teenage years, fitness programs should start to focus on more advanced strengthening movements. This obviously has to do with physical adaptations in the body after puberty. Programs may differ between males and females.
A GOOD FIT
Research local area fitness centers for possible off-season training programs being offered. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that there be a 1:12 ratio of instructors to athletes in these programs. This is important, so that there is appropriate supervision and instruction during the program. Also, be sure that the facility has the proper equipment that suits a particular off-season workout program.
This summer may be the perfect chance for a young athlete to participate in some sort of athletic camp. By doing so, the athlete will reach the season in shape and ready to perform at optimal potential.
John Vasile, NSCA, holds a bachelor’s degree and is a certified personal trainer at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.