March is a great month, isn’t it? The weather is getting nice, the days are getting longer, and if you’re a field sport athlete, you’re starting to look forward to the upcoming season. If you’re involved in coaching or managing the team, you’re probably starting to plan out things like try-outs and pre-season fitness.
For those of you involved in designing your team’s fitness programming and testing, Please read and consider the following three concepts:
1. Fitness must be build progressively
Often coaches go heavy on fitness testing and conditioning early in the season as a means to motivate their athletes to have done their fitness in the off-season. It’s a good thought on one hand – we want to push our athletes, and we need them to be fit. The problem is that if the players didn’t do enough off-season training, this approach can contribute to season-long overuse injuries that will either limit their performance or keep them off the field. You have a long season ahead of you. Consider cutting out the high volume fitness testing and instead program progressive fitness training into your season practice plan. In addition to reducing the overuse injuries, this can also serve as a great team building opportunity.
2. Build balanced bodies
This includes aiming for left to right, front to back, and remembering that the core is more than just the abs and hip flexors. Almost all athletes have a preferred side for cutting, accelerating, and direction change. Making them go both ways in practice will help them develop more options on the field, and will reduce overuse injury potential. For strengthening, think about balancing movements that are quad-focussed with movements that are glute-focussed, and balancing pushing movements with pulling movements. The front to back balance can be a challenge for on-field strengthening as there are many more bodyweight strengthening options that work the quad-dominant and pushing movements than their are ones that work glute-dominant and pulling. But it is possible! Lastly, remember that v-sits, crunches and planks all work the anterior (front) core muscles. Try to have a balance of front, side, and rear core exercises in your core fitness regimen.
3. More is not better; better is better
This is true for virtually all aspects of fitness, but I want to specifically address plyometrics and intervals. To get the most out of your athletes without breaking them, focus on quality in plyometrics, and intensity with intervals, instead of increasing volume. Think less but harder. In addition to risking injury, when we add volume as a means to increase the challenge, we run the risk of our athletes adapting an I’m saving some for the next sprint mentality. If we can get rid of that mentality in practice, it can carry over onto the field.
If you are involved in your team’s fitness training program, then you may be interested in my free ebook, Creating Sport-Specific Dynamic Warm-ups. All you need to do to get this free ebook is sign-up for my Sports Performance Newsletter: