Off Season Training

Every month we bring you a blog on training and general preparation for your summer of cycling activity. This blog is brought to you by Willie Healy, training guru and nutritional adviser with Mind & Body Fitness, Ennis.

All Athletes need an off-season. Regardless of the sport, it’s not a good idea to be training the same muscle groups in the same movement patterns for 12 months a year. With higher levels of competition come higher intensities of physical and mental performance, and therefore greater recovery is required during the off-season.

However, even for those athletes and players who are playing at lower levels, or in non-competitive sporting events, some variety in training is highly recommended. Changing to different types of training can have physical and psychological benefits and can help with injury re-hab and prevention.

During the winter months it’s common to see cyclists, runners, and Gaelic players head indoors and do some off-season strength and conditioning work. The type of training will depend on the individual goal, but usually the main goals are maintaining/increasing strength and speed, or maintaining/improving body fat levels

If body composition or improved athletic performance are your goals, the good news is that although it’s the off-season, you still get the opportunity to work hard! And as you’ll probably expect by now, you’ll also have to work smart by using a well-designed training programme that allows you to reach those goals.

The usual caution always applies: when you begin a new programme, you need to start at a level that you can manage, and only increase the intensity as you become stronger. You also need to get professional instruction to insure you’re training safely. Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

Work up a sweat: It’s not a very accurate indicator of intensity because in a warm gym you can sweat by just standing still. However if you’re not sweating while training, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re not working hard enough.

Don’t do the same workout twice: You can do the same type of workout using the same exercises, but you should aim for an improvement on your previous session. If you managed to squat 3 sets of 10 at a certain weight, then aim for at least 1 set of 11 and 2 sets of 10 on your next visit. On the session after that you’ll do at least 2 sets of 11 etc.
Keep your workout under 60 minutes: Unless you’re training for an endurance event like a triathlon or a marathon you should be gone in 60 minutes.

Choose big compound exercises: A compound exercise causes movement at more than 1 joint and in almost all cases has a direct benefit to sporting performance. For the upper body “pushing” movements, you can use chest or shoulder presses. For “pulling” movements, try chin-ups, rows or lat pull-downs. Variations of squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, rows, and pressing movements will form the basis of all effective weight-training programmes.

Adjust sets and reps depending on programme goals. When fat loss is the main goal you’ll be looking at approximately 4-8 exercises with 3-6 sets of each, and anything from 8-15 reps per set. This recommendation is highly individual and depends on training experience and work capacity.

Aim for Muscle Fatigue/Failure: Beginners can aim for fatigue, where they’re tired after doing the last rep of each set, but they could do another 2 or 3 if they had to. Advanced trainees need to be looking at muscular/technical failure on a more regular basis: when you’re lifting 10 reps, the 11th rep – with proper technique -is not an option.

Monitor your tempo and rest periods: In order to keep your workouts consistent, aim to maintain the same speed for lifting the weights, and take the same rest between sets. If body composition is the main goal, shorter rest periods (10-60 seconds) work best, while longer rest is used when maximal strength is the target. A good starting tempo to develop control and co-ordination would be a 3 second lowering of the weights followed by a 1 second lifting phase. This can be changed depending on programme goals.

Change your programme regularly: In order to continue making progress, it’s recommended to change your workout regularly. Some athletes need a programme change every couple of workouts, while beginners would need a change approximately every 3-6 weeks, depending on how often they train and how quickly they adapt to it.

By sticking to the tips above, you will ensure that you get more “bang for your buck” from every off-season work-out!
© Willie Healy 2017

You can contact Willie Healy on 087 9963518 and