This month’s focus at the Next Level is Off Season Training. In this video we are featuring the Strength Phase. I cover a lot of material in the video and though I would provide you with supplementary material to reference so you don’t have to stop the video to see some of the graphics or program design.
This is a basic framework for an off season strength phase assuming that:
1. You need more strength. The only way you know is if you test yourself and compare against the norms of your sport and top competitors.
This program is based on 8 weeks of Strength Phase. If you only have 4-6 weeks you can shorten the micro cycles but take into account that to truly make lasting strength gains you will need to commit 6-8 weeks minimum. For some competitors with minimal off seasons you may need to continue your strength phase into the preseason.
2. You have some experience in the gym and understand the form and lifting techniques required to strength train safely and effectively. If not you will benefit greatly by hiring a strength coach to teach you the lifts and ensure you are using proper technique.
3. You are eating right and sleeping well. To get any strength gains or change in performance you need to ensure you have the nutritional support and recovery strategies to ensure muscle adaptation.
Needs Assessment: Before you figure out whether or not you need more strength you need to know why you desire these strength gains. Performing a Needs Assessment will help you determine what your strengths and weakness are and help create a plan of action to fill in any hole in your performance. Here are just a few questions you should ask yourself before starting your strength phase:
Q: What are the needs of your sport. Agility, hand-eye coordination, endurance, aerobic capacity, specific sport skill, vertical jump, strength, speed……?
Q: Do you meet the needs of your sport?
Q: Do you need more strength? Power? Speed?
Q: Do you know how to test effectively?
Q: Is your testing procedures valid?
Q: Do you have enough time in your off season to complete a strength/power phase?
Q: Do you have the personal gym experience or resources (trainer) to get the proper techniques to train safely and effectively?
Q: Are you willing to put in the hard work required to achieve your goals?
Yearly Training Plan: Where are you on your YTP? Plotting out your year in this manner will help you plan for the upcoming off season and give you parameters for your building and taper phases to prepare you for your return to competition. Below is the YTP for a high school or junior golfer. You can create these in as much or as little detail as you need but you should at least have the sport season and physical requirements plotted out for your sport.
Testing: Your testing procedures need to be valid. Your tests should simulate the postures and movements associated with your sport skill as much as possible. If you play a sport that requires you standing on your feet and pushing a competitor in an athletic stance like an offensive lineman in football then you should test yourself with your feet on the ground. A bench press is commonly used to test push strength but if your strong on a bench but when standing you can’t push over your grandmother then your test is invalid.
Any rotational sport should have the following test movements:
Push: From an athletic stance using a cable system
Pull: From an athletic stance using a cable system
Lower Body: Split squat to flush out any asymmetries
Vertical Press: Combination of lower body strength and vertical press with the upper-body
Rotational: Combination of push and pull with rotation or disassociation
Use an 8RM (Rep Max) to determine maximal strength. The traditional 1RM is too dangerous for athletes that haven’t been training for years and years. (If you have been training for years and years i have a good feeling you don’t have a strength deficit!) You can use the table below to estimate your 1RM safely. So using this table if you were able to push 100lbs for 8 reps. Divide 100 x .76 and your estimated 1RM would be 131lbs. This is also a good way to determine whether or not you are using the right weights during each phase of the strength program. For instance; if your workout requires 6 reps x 3 sets; using the example from above you would want to work with around 125lbs for the first set which would be your 6 rep max. (100lbs/ 0.80= 125lbs)
Joint Integrity (2 weeks: 12 Reps/3Sets): prepare the joints, ligaments, tendon and muscle tissue for the stress and demands coming down the pipe. Stability exercises that require proper joint position and activities that resist movement are featured in this stage. Add as much diversity in your exercise selection. Focus on core, scapular stability, pelvic stability and anti rotation exercises. This is also a great stage to focus on bracing techniques while performing the key lifts you will be performing in the next stage.
Strength Foundation(2 weeks: 8 Reps/3Sets): This stage is practice for the Strength stage. You are mastering the lift techniques and loading the joints, spine and getting a foundation of strength in these movements. The lifts should be basic and closer to isolated but still closed chained. Feet on the ground, push, pull, press and rotate. Your supplementary exercises should be athletic and dynamic in nature. These can be in the form of a dynamic warm up and cool down with mutli-jointed body weight exercises.
Strength (2 weeks: 6 Reps/3Sets): Strength Stage will have the same key lifts we had in the previous stage but now we are upping the weight and putting more load on the system.
Heavy (1 weeks: 2-4 Reps/4Sets): Now we are loading the movements with some real weight! Only perform this stage if you have time and also the lifting technique proficiency required to perform 2-4 reps at close to max weight.
Increase Complexity (1 weeks: 8 Reps/3Sets): It is time to lighten the loads and get back to being an athlete again. This is a fun week where we add multi-joined movements under load. (An example would be combining a rotational 1 arm cable press with a lunge)
Power Prep (1 weeks: 8 Reps/3Sets): It is time to prepare the body for the power phase. Focus on light Olympic Lifts with perfect form. Medicine Ball tosses, slams and other speed based projectile exercises can be added with light weight. This is similar to the Joint Integrity Stage we had to prepare the body for strength.
Push: 1 Arm Cable Press (No Rotation), Rotational 1 Arm Cable Press, Loaded Push Ups
Pull: 1 Arm Cable Row (No Rotation), Rotational 1 Arm Cable Row, Loaded Chin Ups
Lower Body: Split Squats, Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift
Vertical Press: Squat to Press, Lunge to Press
Rotational: Square Stance Horizontal Chop, Split Squat Horizontal Chop, Split Squat Chop/Lift, 1/2 Kneeling Chop/Lift
Note to Athlete: You will get out of the strength phase what you put into the strength phase. If you waste it you will have to wait till next year to get it back. Don’t let another year go by with you not addressing your weaknesses. Focus, work hard and get your results. You deserve it! Now stop reading, watch the video again and get in the gym!!!!