Maintaining the muscle and strength you put on this past off-season starts with these five rules.
You’ve worked your tail off all off-season to get into the best shape of your life. You’ve finally put on the strength and size you've wanted and are ready for the season to start. But as the season progresses you inevitably feel like you’re losing strength and getting slower… the very things you worked so hard at in the offseason to improve.
That, however, need not be the case. Pay attention to the five rules below, take control of your in-season training, and prevent losing the gains you made during the off-season.
Let me reiterate this point one more time, HYDRATE. Your increased energy expenditure during practices, lifting sessions, and conditioning are much higher than they were during the off-season, which is why you must replenish the fluid you’ve lost. Your brain and muscles are composed of large amounts of water, so if you want to perform at your best, stay hydrated. As a rule of thumb shoot for drinking no less than a gallon of water a day. That guy at the gym who always has gallon of water with him who you may have made fun of doesn’t look so foolish, now does he?
2. Lift Weights
Yes I said lift weights. Now I don’t mean go and max out the day before a game, but lift intelligently and cater your workouts around your game schedule. If you play football on Friday nights then get your butt into the gym on a Saturday or Sunday to get your lower body lift in while following that up with an upper body dominant lift on Monday or Tuesday. This will give you plenty of time to recover before the next big game Friday night. During in-season training lower the volume while keeping the intensity moderate:
2-3 reps on Olympic lifts, 60-80% of 1RM
3-5 reps on squats, 50-70/75% of 1RM
3-8 reps on upper body exercises, 60-80% of 1RM on presses
Your upper body can recover faster than your legs which is why you do legs over the weekend to help flush out soreness (by bringing blood flow throughout the body). Remember that everyone recovers differently and some can squat 90% of their max and be good to go the next day, these are only basic guidelines on how to stay strong in-season.
One of my favorite quotes of all-time came from an athlete who was asked why he trains in the middle of the night. He responded, “while my enemies are sleeping, I am preparing”. While I don’t recommend training in the middle of the night, he makes a good point. What do you do when you get home from school, work, or practice? Are you lying on the couch watching Survivor or working to get better? Getting better can be as simple as stretching to get rid of soreness while increasing blood flow and flexibility. The best part about it is you can stretch and watch that same show on TV. Take stretching seriously and you’ll see both serious gains and faster recovery. I recommend these foam rolling and active band stretching techniques.
Sleep is a great recovery tool and extremely important for athletes. Turn off the Xbox 360, or whatever you do until the wee hours of the morning, and get some sleep! I always recommend eight hours of sleep a night, as well as naps of 15-20 minutes during the day. A long nap during the day will mess up your sleeping cycle, which could keep you up at night. That said, you owe your body the proper rest it deserves after grueling practices, games, and workouts.
With the increased amount of exercise you’re going to burn a lot more calories than normal, which means you’ll have to dial up your calories to maintain weight. I recommend a pre-practice snack, which can be as simple as a peanut butter and jelly (I like honey better) sandwich, as well as a post practice recovery shake. This shake, just like your post workout shake, should be taken within 60 minutes after finishing practice and should be followed up with a meal half an hour to an hour later.
And there you have it. Pay attention to these five tips when in-season to finish the season as strong as you started it. Just keep in mind that these tips come as a total package, so be sure to include them all in your daily routine.
Additionally, to keep your strength levels up throughout the season 1R would recommend the following supplements: