The new year brings with it new resolutions and new goals, as athletes look forward to their next season. A preparation plan starts to take shape as knowledge gained from the last season and a timeline for pre-season training is established. The NCAA recommends, “a progressive comprehensive conditioning program at least four weeks before pre-season work-outs begin.” Meanwhile, Endurance athletes use the pre-season training block to build strength and stability so they may handle the rigors of their training program. Coaches and experienced athletes recognize that injury risk increases if an athlete has not achieved a high-level of fitness before the first day of practice, so most coaches encourage a pre-season training plan that builds training volume and intensity in a systematic and periodized manner.
Over the past 26 years, Athletic Republic training centers have helped more than one million athletes achieve their goals. Throughout the training process, we document each athlete’s progress and have identified five elements that will help athletes make next season their best season. These elements are: increase speed, build power, improve stability, maintain an effective approach to recovery, and establish a year-round training plan.
1. Lead with speed. Speed is a defining attribute of athleticism, and developing it requires a focus on training. No longer considered a genetic gift, speed can be improved by training stride length, stride frequency, power output, symmetry, and stamina. Speed training should improve running mechanics and running economy while developing acceleration, top-end speed and endurance to help players create separation, and play with a sustained form when fatigued.
2. Power is not strength. Science says Power = Force x Velocity. In other words, being strong is only half the equation. The ability to produce more force more quickly than an opponent is what ultimately separates an athlete from the competition. If you want to jump higher, accelerate quicker, deliver a crushing blow, or win a finish line sprint, you need power. The key is to combine a wide range of movement velocities, with a variety of age-appropriate loads, to safely expose muscles to training that will improve power at the speed of sport.
3. Stability reduces the risk of injury. Agility hinges on an athlete’s ability to control his or her center of gravity in all situations, including making quicker cuts and turns, maneuvering in traffic and maintaining position during a double team. Stability means maintaining control of the body in all directions and in all situations. It’s developed by building strength through a progression of plyometric movements to improve foot-speed and balance while training the core and hip girdle for the safe transfer of power to the turf, trail, floor, ice or road.
4. Remember recovery. Preparing for the next workout begins when an athlete completes the current workout. Fluid hydration and mobility exercises begin the process as range of motion is increased while the muscles are warm and supple. Compression helps flush lactate and soreness, while protein helps rebuild muscles. Getting enough sleep and sufficient rest are also critical elements on the recovery process.
5. Establish a year-round plan. In addition to training with the a team or coach, the athlete needs to make time during the year for a training season. Dedicating time prior to the start of a season to build on athletic strengths and concentrate on areas that require improvement will improve game-day or race-day performance. Establish a big-picture plan that includes dedicated time to improve speed, power, and stability.
Incorporate these five elements into your training and make next season your best season!