This is part two in a series titled Training the Modern Athlete. For Part I, click here!
Last summer, I was running a training camp for the local youth football organization. This camp is always fun as we work on a variety of football drills, speed and agility drills, and typically finish the night off with a competitive game with the losing team doing some pushups or bear crawls. I have been fortunate enough to get some high school football players to help me out during these camps. The young kids see these guys play every Friday and love having them around. In between drills last year I asked a few of the guys how their summer training was going. They said it was intense. They were doing power cleans for sets of 10, running stadium stairs, hammering biceps curls until there arms wanted to fall off, and training for 2 hours each morning. I shook my head and said something like "Wow, sounds like they are working you guys hard". They nodded in agreement.
The issue with all of this is that it seemed that the training session lacked a true goal (other than to make kids vomit) and there was little to no variance in the training intensity. What I mean is that there was no "off" button. They worked them to exhaustion each and every day. Training for sport doesn't work like that. There needs to be days of high intensity mixed in with days of low intensity. And intensity is not defined by feeling like you have to vomit or ending a session with 50 burpees. Intensity is defined by the load you are lifting and how close that load is to your maximum. High intensity lifting will probably only allow for 1-3 reps, maybe 5 on a good day. If you can do 8 reps of an exercise, the load is too light. High intensity also means running at speeds near maximum. If you can run a forty yard dash in 4.8 seconds, running under 5.0 would be considered high intensity. Running 5.2 would not. This would be considered moderate intensity (more on that to come in a later post). So why is this important? Working at near maximal loads elicit a specific response in the body that plays an important role in the development of sport skills that apply to just about every sport. Who couldn't afford to be a little stronger, a little more powerful, and a little faster?
In order for these athletes to recover and develop, there needs to be an "off" switch in the training program. This isn't about giving kids a bunch of days off and letting them slack off. This is about going hard when the time calls for it and backing off a little bit when necessary. You might be wondering, how do I know when the time is right to back off? You know it when you see it. Kids weights start to stagnate, speed begins to slow down, they lack the energy for each session, or attendance starts to dip. These are things that we never want to see happen. The best way to prevent it from happening is stopping it before it starts!
Stay tuned, the next post will go into greater detail on how to do just that!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!