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As mid-October approaches and the cool, crisp autumn weather begins to bite, there is no doubt that football season is in full swing. Teams are building their case for the playoffs one week at a time, and players are pushing through the pain of bumps and bruises to consistently lay it all on the field.
Football season is long and grueling. It’s equally mentally as it is physically taxing for players. In order to thrive through the gauntlet of the mid-season push, it’s important to have a robust mid-season recovery and training program to keep you or your athletes performing at peak levels.
Read on to learn more about how to properly approach these aspects of the game.
Football player shown in Xenith Training Apparel
When football season gets busy, the first thing to go out the window is any semblance of a proper training program for athletes. Due to other factors taking precedence i.e. practice, film sessions, and recovery, athletes often place strength and conditioning work on the backburner. This can heighten the potential for mid-season injuries and ultimately cause a decline of performance on the field.
Think of mid-season training as maintenance. Don’t expect athletes to make significant new gains, but they should be able to maintain their strength levels so when the offseason begins, they aren’t starting from square one. Additionally, this maintenance will keep athletes healthy through the entire football season
In season, athletes are exposed to a number of different stressors. Whether those stressors are class, practice, training, or anything happening at home, they each affect an athlete’s central nervous system. The central nervous system is a direct contributor to the physical response to stress, and it halts regular bodily functions to prepare the body for the stressor. This is a draining process for the body to endure. An excess of these stressors can therefore eventually cause wear and tear on the body; Lifting is no exception to this rule.
This is why it’s important when putting together an in season lifting program to consider cutting down on volume (the amount of sets and reps).
Keep in mind, each player will have a different capacity for workload based on genetics, amount of play and practice time, and outside stressors. Monitoring and receiving player feedback on performance can help to properly guide these decisions.
Choosing the right strength movements
Heavy squats and deadlifts are great for building strength, size, and speed, but may not be the best functionally while an athlete is in season. Choosing movements that complement the athlete’s practice routine can help prevent burnout and keep them performing optimally. This could mean switching up squats for some single leg work or a leg press, or just lightening the load on squats and focusing on performing clean, explosive reps.
Doing partial reps on certain exercises can also alleviate wear and tear while still providing a proper stimulus to maintain strength and size.
Additionally, injuries or nagging bumps or bruises from practice and games can limit a player’s ability in the weight room; but barring anything serious, most limitations can be worked around to achieve in-season goals.
Consider plyometric movements such as medicine ball slams and throws which can build explosiveness and improve mobility without putting a large stress on the body.
Football players shown in Xenith Training Apparel
A proper 5-10 minute mobility workout can keep an athlete’s body in alignment and durable through a long season. Things like dynamic warm ups and dynamic mobility are also optimal to warm up before a practice, lift, or game.
Foam Rolling and Soft Tissue Work
With all the running and lifting taking place during a season, athletes will have tight hips, backs, and necks, among other things. Using a foam roller or something of the like to work through tight spots can temporarily provide relief for athletes to perform.
Ice Baths and Contrast Showers
No one likes jumping into ice cold water after a long practice, but doing so can provide major benefits such as flushing out waste products, reducing swelling and tissue breakdown, and jump starting the recovery process.
Contrast showers, on the other hand, are when you alternate between hot and cold water in the shower (hot for 2-3 minutes, then cold for 1-2 minutes). Repeated for 5-10 cycles.
The hot water will open the blood vessels and increase blood circulation, while the cold water will constrict blood vessels and decrease blood flow. The back and forth creates a “pump” effect which can flush waste products that build up during exercise, promoting recovery.
If an athlete has a manageable injury, chances are your athletic trainer will assign them to a treatment protocol. This can be anything from electrostimulation to the affected area, ultrasounds, or physical therapy movements. It’s crucial the athlete is held accountable to make time for these treatments to ensure the athlete is kept on track for recovery and performance.
Football season is fierce, but with a proper training and recovery protocol, football players and teams will have a chance to push through any mid-season lull, and enter the playoffs with a full head of steam.
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