I thought today I’d cover a topic that I’ve been dealing with, since I’m currently in the full swing of hockey season: in-season training. I have been doing my fair share of reading on this recently, as the hockey team is currently heading into the teeth of our schedule. I was talking to a fellow teammate the other day, who, like myself, has not been in the gym in a while and described the feeling as though he was “shriveling up”. This is a common phenomenon.
During the season, sports are tremendously demanding. Glycogen, a molecule used by the body for energy, is most concentrated in muscle, so the body starts breaking down muscle to obtain it. As such it becomes increasing difficult to keep muscle on and maintain strength, let alone increase it. Working out can help you maintain and even increase muscle mass and strength, as well as minimize injuries. IF you do it the right way. Here are some tips to help you with this courtesy of Charles Poliquin, strength coach extraordinaire:
-Hypertrophy Training After Game Days: It’s obvious that game days are the most physically demanding. Most opt to take a day off the following day. Is this the best approach? Depends. If you are injured or exceedingly sore, probably.*** However, hypertrophy training is a great alternative to help maintain muscle mass and strength while also not taxing the body too much. In this sense, it can almost be thought of as a healing workout. This type of workout would consist of sets of 8 to 10 reps at a lower weight load.
-Lower Volume, Not Intensity: Other than post-game day workouts, athletes who do try to get in workouts during the season often stick to lower weight loads. Not the way to go. You can still lift heavy and avoid overtraining by lowering volume, or the number of sets performed. This helps to maintain strength while not overtaxing the muscles. For example, during the off-season I alternate between workouts with 4 and 5 sets per exercise when lifting heavy. In-season, I stick to 2 or 3 sets.
-Stick to General, Compound Exercises: Squats, cleans, and other exercises that include multiple muscle groups are the ones that should be incorporated into your in-season workouts. The reason being is that the movements and muscles used in sport-specific exercises like plyometrics and muscular endurance exercises will be taken care of by your sport itself.
***Side note: If you have trouble with DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness, or in normal person’s words soreness after practice or games), you may want to consider taking BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). BCAA’s have been shown to enhance the body’s ability to burn fat for energy, increasing resistance to fatigue. They also help preserve protein synthesis, further helping the body stave off muscle atrophy.