The Importance of Having a High Workload Year Round
*Disclaimer this is written with the end goal in mind of becoming your best and how to practically do it.
Many individuals at the junior high, high school, and even at the college level don’t quite understand the importance of training both during the actual season itself and in the offseason. I blame this in part to the coaching systems that have been in place for years. In this day and age, we are more connected than ever and are able to make progress at a much more accelerated rate than in the past. What used to take years to learn now simply takes a phone call. Think about it with cell phones. It seemed like just the other day the when everybody had a razor or blackberry phone. Now, we have a supercomputer in our hands 24/7. Training and the shared knowledge of it has also grown at that same accelerated pace making this time in the world the BEST time to truly find what is possible for an individual via training.
Why does it even matter? When an individual stops training, they can see a maximal strength loss in as little as 2 weeks (this is found from HIGH level athletes), yes you might be able to skate by and still have strength go up after taking 2 weeks off in high school, but it isn’t optimal. Yes you gained strength, but how much more could you have gained? *for the other coaches, we aren’t talking about deloading, that’s a different conversation. Every single piece of performance at its base is dictated by maximal strength. Again, you can bypass this at a younger age, but as you become more advanced maximal strength setting the base shows up more and more. If it matters for people playing their sport on TV, wouldn’t you think it would also matter for those who are striving to reach their peak?
What is maximal strength?
Maximal strength is essentially the most weight that somebody can move. *Many people (with good intentions) bastardize this and max out athletes on day 1 for the first day of weight room exposure in junior high without proper understanding of the mechanisms behind it. At a younger age (somebody with less than 1 year lifting weights), even lifting 10lbs will make an athlete’s strength go up. If that younger athlete can do a 10lb weight for 10 reps then in a month can do a 10lb weight for 20 reps, it is safe to say their maximal strength also went up. As for a highly trained individual, a better assessment to see if maximal strength went up is to perform a 1 rep max test/force test/etc. The same thing that gets us from point a to b doesn’t get us from point b to c. Training must progress with the individual as they age to continue developing optimally to reach their peak.
Why is it so important for an athlete?
Maximal strength controls the athlete’s ability to hit harder, run faster, jump higher, and the amount of work an athlete can do. Anything in athletics at some point comes down to the ability to put out tons of force (at a fast rate). Maximal strength (1 rep max test/force test) is simply a measurement and assessment of how much force the athlete can put out and what is holding them back from putting out more force. Continue to build this in the right way, continue to see progress happen. Sport happens in a flash; a fingertip that hits the ball on a fast break layup due to not being half a step faster, a softball player hitting the ball with an 80mph exit velocity flying out when if they wouldve hit it at 82mph exit velocity, it would have been a homerun wining the game, a football player catching a hail mary pass from simply being able to jump ¼” higher than the opposing players. All sport comes down to these moments which are trainable to overcome if the work is present.
In regards to controlling how much the individual can do, maximal strength also sets the foundation. Let’s take an athlete who can 1 rep max bench press 225lbs and build their max bench press up to 315lbs. What would happen to the weight they could use on 4 sets of 10 bench? When they were doing a 225lb 1 rep max bench press, they mightve been using 135lbs for sets of 10. That ends up being 5400lbs lifted (the amount of work that the athlete can do). What will happen to the weight for 4 sets of 10 bench press when that same individual can do 315lbs for 1 rep on bench press? That weight will climb up to 225lbs for 4 sets of 10. That ends up being 9000lbs lifted (the amount of work the athlete can do).
We’ve established the amount of work is important in training, but what does that mean for my sport? Those are two different things, right?
Not exactly. We know for an individual to find out what is possible, they must be able to handle a high workload. Workload for us = # of practices + # of games + # of training sessions per week. We typically look for 10-14 total sessions between those each week at the high school level to ensure an athlete can progress as far as possible. The lower maximal strength is, the harder recovery eventually also becomes *again coaches yes at a certain point this does change. We are referring to athletes with a young training age. If you can only squat 10lbs, it would be a lot more challenging to sprint 100yds 10 times than the other person who weighs the exact same that can squat 200lbs. The higher maximal strength is, the easier all of the little things are simply due to our body being able to handle more force outputs. Running ends up being less taxing, jumping less taxing, swinging less taxing, all of it becomes more effortless simply because the individual is stronger. Swinging 10 times used to make you tired, now it takes swinging 100 times before you get tired. That is 90 extra chances to get better simply because you are stronger. The weight room directly helps with these things in sport. It enables the athlete to continue to do more. If you can do more, you can make more progress. We could also talk about how this applies to preventing injuries as well, but we will save that for another day.
How can somebody practically do this? It seems impossible.
I believe there are 3 major things that hold people back from being able to do this. They have to have enough energy, a strong attachment to the goal they are chasing, and they have to truly enjoy what they are doing.
Having enough energy
Energy is directly tied into food consumption and sleep. To have enough energy, people usually fall into 1 of 3 categories; 1- just need more food. 2- need better quality food. 3- need more sleep. For those who need more food, we usually start by adding protein (aka meat/eggs/protein shake) at 4-5x/day. If an athlete will eat 25-35g of protein 4 times/day that will be be roughly 120g of protein. For a male/female athlete who weighs 110-135lbs, this will suffice. Now for an athlete who weighs 140-180lbs, the amount of protein needed also increases. By having 5 meals/day with ~30g of protein at each meal, this will give 150g of protein per day which will suffice initially. The bigger the athlete, the more protein they will need which often means bigger portions and/or more meals. For 90% of our population at MAP Clinton, 4-5 meals a day that each have ~30g of protein will work. The meals below would cover both need for more food + higher quality food. Ex of 4 meals with ~30g of protein each. Meal 1: 1 protein shake + 2 packs of steel cut oatmeal + small scoop of peanut butter. Meal 2: Normal sized chicken breast (~4 ounces) + guacamole + rice cup + banana. Meal 3: sandwich with tons of turkey meat, dave’s killer bread, raw carrots, trail mix. Meal 4: Spaghetti made with beef or venison and gluten free noodles. Load the sauce up with meat. If the individual isn’t feeling super motivated still, adding more carbs will do the trick if sleep is already above 8 hours/night on average. One simple solution we do for this is to use gatorade before/during/after practice and games. Carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient for energy. Protein will help with maintaining and building muscle mass but like anything else, too much of something isnt always a good thing, including too much protein. Instead of adding more protein after you are having ~1g/lb each day, start adding more carbs. If that individual had 32oz of gatorade at practice and another 32oz of gatorade with their workout, that will add another ~500 calories of pure energy for the day. Timing them with the workout and practice is also beneficial so the individual isn’t storing the energy source (carbs) as fat. They will be using it during that time. There are other ways to do it that are better, but that is the most feasible and accessible source to do it with. For the individual who has food in check both with adequate protein and carbs but is only sleeping 6-7 hours a night, getting sleep up to 8 hours/night will be a game changer. Not only will it help tremendously with energy, recovery, and mental wellbeing, but it will also help with body composition changes aka getting leaner. Struggling to fall asleep? Start with 3mg of melatonin + implementing a night time routine to quiet your brain with options like stretching/foam rolling/journaling/meditation. Simply putting your phone in the other room ~30 mins before getting into bed is another simple strategy to try here as well.
Strong attachment to the goal at hand
This can be very difficult to comprehend at a young age, but can be made much simpler if athletes are given an opportunity to compete. Competition creates new goals to achieve. This is one of the reasons we have our athletes train in groups and track their PRs on every exercise. When you start to see improvement from doing the small things show up as more PRs in training, it all gets easier. It creates a desire to continue finding ways to get better. This usually becomes the big light bulb moment for an individual that carries them into the actual beauty of training and understanding its application to not just sport, but life as well. By choosing to do the work, you learn that you truly are capable of creating certain outcomes by just continuing to try to get better. Having an idea of what you would like to achieve in 3 months, a year, and 3 years are all great things to think about to help create a stronger attachment to the end goal. To take it a step further, hang those ideas up on a mirror or somewhere you can see them to get your brain familiarized with them which can help add to the chances of truly achieving them.
Happiness is the base
An individual must actually enjoy what they are doing to continue getting better. If the individual isn’t happy, we need to check under the hood to get a better idea of what is going on. Many times, we see this as a problem that arises in active people who constantly undereat. They aren’t happy because their body is exhausted without enough resources (calories) to recover mentally from being so active. If food is already accounted for, it is time to look more at the athlete’s patterns. What do they think about? Are they generally optimistic or pessimistic? Do they see failure ahead of them or do they see success ahead of them? Our mindset plays a huge role in our ability to achieve our best version of self not just in sport but in life as well. A few books we typically recommend are, in no order; Relentless, Everything is Here to Help You, Magic of Thinking Big. Another big tool to utilize here is establishing routine. This can be morning or evening. Simply do things that allow you to turn your brain off and be with yourself. The world is so fast paced these days that we easily lose touch with self. Having daily time to reset is huge for the long run. What are some things that can help people with connecting to self? During your routine, utilize things such as prayer, meditation, walking outside, listening and reading the lyrics of songs that impact you, and/or journaling. An individual can only be as good as their weakest link. If the base of happiness isn’t being continually worked on, the potential of that individual will never be seen.