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Are you doing your Off Season right?

A lot of people get confused between the Off Season and the Pre Season, you hear a lot of athletes and even some coaches say they are doing Pre Season, when in fact they should be doing an Off Season Program. There is a reason we do an Off Season program before we head into the Pre Season.

But first, let’s look at the different Mesocycles within the Macrocycle of a whole season program, so you have an understanding of how a 12 month program should look.

As you can see there are 5 different phases which we call a mesocycle with a multitude of weekly microcycles within each phase/mesocycle.

The Off Season:

This is a phase where athletes/teams come out of their Transition/Recovery Phase and get back into starting to restore and refocus for the season ahead. Whilst some athletes want to launch straight into extreme exercises & fitness, it’s important to program for a balanced program of strength, speed, and fitness conditioning. This is a mesocycle that we want to increase our athlete's/teams gains whilst reducing athlete/team burnout and injuries. Within this time your body will go into the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), which is the process your body goes through when you are exposed to any kind of stress, positive or negative. It has three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. If you do not resolve the stress that has triggered GAS, it can lead to physical and mental health problems. We can manage this by implementing a periodised program that is implemented as a Base Week/Microcycle, Load Week/Microcycles, Performance Week/Microcycles, and then a Recovery Week/Microcycle. Within these Microcycles implementing recovery modalities such as Foam Rolling, Cryotherapy, Massage, Infrared, Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration, Yoga, etc will help destress the body and mind and keep your athletes/teams feeling fresh and reset.

Coaches can benefit greatly by having some form of monitoring process for athlete/team health & wellness. Something as simple as the Athlete Wellness App (available on Android & Google Play) is a game changer for coaches to monitor their athletes/team’s wellbeing.

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What’s the purpose of Off Season Training?

Despite what some athletes think, the Off Season mesocycle isn’t about smashing yourself, or about pushing yourself and your teammates to the limit. It’s about following a periodised program that allows the body to build a foundation of strength, fitness, and movement patterns to set you up for success for the Pre Season and Maintenance Mesocycles to come.

I like to break my Off Season up into 3 different categories where some interlink with others, including skill sets that coaches may want to implement.

These 3 categories are as follows:

Strength Training (Hypertrophy): This is a mesocycle generally 6 to 8 weeks where athletes/teams focus on reducing muscular imbalances, improving joint stability, increase size/muscle mass, and retaining overall muscle and tendon strength levels. This is ultimately the time to lay the foundations for the Maximal Strength and Power Mesocycles to come before athletes start the In Season/Maintenance Mesocycle. Some athletes may also be trying to reduce body mass and adjusted programs would be implemented to support these athletes.

Speed (Technique): This is a great period to advance athletes/teams' speed development, mechanisms, and technique. If experienced and confident you can really get some good gains that will be seen further into the program. Don’t be afraid to get a specialised sprint coach in if you’re not confident yourself. Once you get the technical aspects right you can make these sessions really fun and challenging, using sleds, parachutes, resistance bands, etc. Speed prescriptions in the gym like plyometrics and weighted movements mirroring sprinting movements, are also advised to help advance your athlete's holistic development.

Conditioning (Aerobic Endurance): In the Off Season Mesocycle we really want to focus and build on our athletes/team’s aerobic capacity, their metabolic efficiency, and their recovery. If we can build a good aerobic base in this period, we are setting our athletes/teams up for enhanced performances and quicker recovery turnaround times within our next 2 mesocycles of the season. Within this mesocycle not all conditioning has to be on feet, you can use off feet prescriptions such as cardio machines, swimming, cycling, etc to achieve your conditioning goals and offload the athletes’ joints.

Key Points

  1. The Off Season isn't about Smashing yourself.

  2. The Off Season is about progressing back into the functional movement patterns and range of motion relevant to your sport

  3. The Off Season is a great time to get your technique down pat so you can get more gains later into the Pre Season.

  4. The Off Season is a great time to start good habits of recording your daily wellness, session RPE, and recovery modalities.

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