by KYLE BROWN, CSCS
Some athletes feel that the off-season is a time to let their bodies rest, fall completely off their diets, and spend this time partying the night away with little sleep or regard for their health and fitness. Typically, they use the pre-season as a time to rebound and acclimate to the demands of their sport. Yet, even as a weekend warrior, intramural or club athlete, having a year-round game plan will keep you a cut above the competition and ready to hit the ground running in the pre-season. Moreover, focusing on your weaknesses in the off-season will bring a new and improved you to the field next season. Off-season training is not only the best time to recover from your sport physically and mentally, but it is also the perfect time to train to counteract all of the muscle imbalances inherent in playing nearly any sport.
The off-season varies depending on the particular sport, but in general terms, off-season refers to the weeks after the in-season and before the pre-season (1). There is a fine line between resting too much and too little in the off-season. Ideally, an athlete should take the time off their sport to mentally rest as well as not put their primary focus on training the main muscles utilized for their sport. Instead, after a short period of rest (referred to as an unloading week), an athlete should focus on cross training or working on their muscular weaknesses and imbalances to get refreshed without lowering their current fitness level. For example, some sports require one arm or leg to be utilized more or their opposing muscle groups are neglected (i.e., the quadriceps are working but the hamstrings are not utilized). Some of the benefits of working on muscular imbalances during the off-season include: preventing chronic injuries, creating symmetry in strength and coordination, recovery of primary movers, strengthening of stabilizer muscles, and prevention of detraining or overtraining. During the off-season phase, a combination of resistance training and flexibility work will create stronger, less inhibited muscles.
ν References 1. Bompa TO, Periodization training for sports. 1999. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics