Improve your cardio capacity, burn fat, and become a better athlete with these off-season training techniques.
There’s nothing worse than coming back from summer break and hearing an athlete say “Yea, I’m in the best shape ever! I ran soooo many miles this summer!” Then comes the first team conditioning session, and “in shape” athlete can’t even finish the first half of a sprint workout. Classic case. We’ve all witnessed it, and the worst part is they don’t understand why they’re so behind if they, “ran so much more.”
Three words: ENERGY SYSTEM TRAINING. The entire summer these athletes targeted the wrong energy system! Training long and at a slow to moderate pace will teach your body to handle longer events, at slow to moderate paces – NOT to sprint and recover quickly, as is important in almost all team sports. Instead, as an athlete, or as someone who just wants to get into better shape, the goal should be to train your body to generate energy and use it more efficiently.
So what’s the best way to do that? Well there’s a long list of options that include the basics like short sprints, agility sets, speed drills, and plyometric work. Then there are the more intense forms of energy systems work like 300 yard shuttles, gassers, prowler pushes, and stadium steps. I don’t care how you do it, just do it and lay off the long slow running.
With that short rant out of the way, I’d like to discuss my 3 favorite additions to off-season training routines. When done correctly all three will improve your cardio capacity, burn fat, and make you a better athlete.
1. Tire Work
Really, what can’t you do with a tire? Toss, flip, jump, slam, and hammer, are all verbs that come to mind in discussing tires.
Smaller ones are great for throwing around, and you can get in rotational work by tossing them left and right across a field or up a hill (and sprint after it). We’re talking all-out bouts here. Rest and repeat. The best part is you can get an old tire… or 2, for FREE.
Monster tires are also awesome. They can be used for GPP (general physical preparedness) prior to workouts by dead lifting and then explosively flipping the tire end over end. You can jump over both ends of the tire to increase your heart rate. Or, you can pick them up and use them in farmer’s walks for time/distance. Oh, and if you’re looking for a hard “core” exercise, hit the tire with a sledge hammer and get really aggressive with it.
Any way you slice it tires are a great addition to your offseason training program.
2. Tabata Intervals
Typically, Tabata workouts consist of sets that are 20 second bouts of all out, intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest – and the exercise is repeated for a total of 4 minutes (so 8 sets in all for the math majors out there). Yes, that’s right. Just one exercise. Try it once and you’ll get a great aerobic and anaerobic workout that will burn fat, and challenge your mental toughness. While I wouldn’t recommend the strength training program be based around it, they are a great finisher to any workout.
Just a few examples:
Body weight squats, kettlebell/db swings
Kettlebell/db cleans to squat, squat to press
Push-up/burpee/pull-up combo, manmakers (push-up position on weights – row each side, push-up, stand up, upright row)
Just make sure not to eat too much beforehand for you may leave it on the gym floor.
3. Pool Workouts
Pool workouts are also a great way to torch calories and train intensely, while minimizing impact on the body. Want to really get after it? Try mixing in swim sprint sets. They’re exactly as they sound, for the goal is to run as fast as you can with the water at waist level. 10 sets from one side of the pool to the other will take it out of you.
Additionally, lateral shuffles and plyometrics (double and single leg) in the shallow end are another low impact way to help get you ready for the season. Looking for more ideas? Tread water using just your arms or legs in an alternate fashion for 5 sets of 30 seconds. The first one might be easy, but try talking to me by set 3.
And finally, here’s a kicker… literally. Face the wall with your body perpendicular to the pool floor, keep the hips high, all out kick for 20-30 seconds, rest, and repeat 4 more times. Do the same with your back to the wall, and you’ll feel how engaged those hammys were the next day.
The three training techniques above will improve your athletic performance, and prepare you to compete, much more than any long distance running ever will. Just remember what the off-season is for - training hard, getting better, and having fun! Look, if you really have to, go ahead and run your mile or two every once in a while… But if you actually want to get better, kick the habit.
In addition to the energy systems work above, 1R would recommend the following supplement additions to your off-season training program: