Now that the season has finished, the off-season brings a fantastic opportunity to lay the foundations for improved performance in the upcoming season. This is the best time to apply yourself in the strength and conditioning department with the break from skills training and more time on your hands. Below are several strategies you can utilise for this off-season.
By now you’ve probably had several weeks off which is important for a number of reasons. There needs to be some sort of rest and time away from the sport. Reasons include avoiding physical and psychological burnout, augmenting focus for next season, allowing reflection on the season just passed, and reducing physical carryover stress.
2. Get Strong
Work out the number of weeks you have until pre-season commences and even better, the first trial game. If you have the time, it’s time to get strong. There is solid evidence that has established strength improvements with a reduced in-season injury risk. The minimum time needed for permanent season-lasting strength adaptations is an 8 week heavy lifting block. This block should not exceed 12 weeks and should allow for adequate rest between lifting days to achieve neurological recovery. Issues arise when trying to implement a heavy lifting block in pre-season as the aerobic work performed on field clashes with work done in the gym. However, during a heavy lifting block, 1-2 long slow distance aerobic sessions are advised as they can assist with recovery.
3. Work to Specific Goals
One problem players run into is trying to do everything at once. From improving max strength to top running speed and agility all at once, your abilities in each area will quickly plateau. In order to maximise your efforts, aim to improve your major physiological goals in a logical order. For example, you can’t significantly build your aerobic running-based fitness at the same time as enhancing max strength gains but you can make lasting changes over the 8-12 weeks of strength training and then look to build your aerobic base over 6 weeks just in time for pre-season.
4. Get Strong while Addressing Limitation
The off-season is also a great opportunity to fix some of your on-going injuries from last season, as well the time to get your body moving right for the next season. Although your sport specific prime lifts may not address these individual limitations, the exercises following known as “auxiliaries” can serve for a more rehabilitation based focus.
5. Keep Up Skills
It may be worth considering keeping up ball handling skills in the off-season, especially in the time leading up to pre-season. This can allow for a gradual transition back into field training. An easy one is Touch Football which is a simple substitute for one of your running sessions.
6. Work Smart
As you get closer to pre-season, align gym and on-field work and speak to those in charge of the S&C department if lifting weights outside of the sessions. Ensuring all things are heading in the same direction will allow for optimal physical development. In the lead up to pre-season, running starts to become a priority. As rugby is a running based game, ground contact through running is important for tissue resilience and movement mechanics. Furthermore, you want to avoid a large spike in running which is generally seen in pre-season.
Take Home Message
Probably the biggest take home message is that you can’t work on everything all at once in the off-season. Different elements of the game take time and having a plan is important in making one thing a focus. Be really clear that while in off-season, you want to be pushing forward for next season but also smart, ensuring you are fresh and ready to go once pre-season rolls round.
If you’d like more information or guidance about what to do in your off-season, START Training have experienced Exercise Physiologists who specialise in sport specific periodisation and programming. START Training have the expertise to maximise your on-field performance in both individual and team sports through tailored exercise programs. Contact the clinic on (07) 3356 9119 or via our website https://starttraining.net.au to find out more!
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