There is no “Off-season”
By Tyler Little
With the wrapping up of spring ball, many of us players transition to a different mindset for this summer season of the year. Finishing finals is what we are mainly focused on until the end of April, but after that we get time to focus on ourselves individually.
Aside from continuing to perfect our knowledge of the playbook, the off-season is the perfect time for us to focus on our bodies in preparation for fall camp and the long season ahead. For many players, we take this time to gain or lose the weight we need to be at our goal playing weight for the fall. Many strive to cut a little body fat and build a little more muscle, maintaining body weight the same. Players coming back from injury focus on strengthening bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles in order to perform confidently again. Some positions focus more on speed training while others focus more on strength, although every player strives for both.
In strength training there are many approaches that one may take to gear toward a certain goal, meaning strength focused, size focused, speed focused, or even endurance focused. Each individual body reacts to different types of training in its own unique way. Some bodies may need to push more weight than others in order to get the same results, some might need more reps than others to bring about the same reaction. This is because of genetics, metabolism, nutrition, rest, and other factors as well, some being more controllable than others.
Training towards a certain focus does not prohibit growth in other areas. Training for strength will also increase muscles to grow in size, while training focused on muscle growth in size will also make you stronger. Speed training will not make you weaker, but stronger. Focusing on a certain aspect and tuning your workouts specifically for that focus will increase that area of focus the most of all areas of growth, while strengthening the others as well.
When training for size, or muscle mass/weight gain, the body generally reacts the best to higher volume training. That means more total repetitions of movement. This is achieved by completing more sets of movement, and more repetitions without stopping in each specific set of movement. At this high amount of volume, a medium to lower weight must be used. Typically one should use the heaviest amount of weight they can use while still completing the high amount of reps in each set. Sets are also performed more frequently with less rest time in between. This higher volume of movement pumps more blood into the muscle during the work out, and once the body enters into recovery, builds a more voluminous/larger muscle tissue. Sets of 8-12 repetitions, depending on the movement, are best when trying to reach a high volume in a workout. I personally try to reach around 10-15 sets of 8-12 reps for a particular muscle group in a single workout. This is achieved by performing different movements with maybe 3-6 sets in each specific movement. I usually stick to one or two muscle groups per workout. This is how I feel my body best reacts to working out when my focus is on gaining size.
When looking to boost strength, heavier weight is the priority, at much less volume. A total of 25 high-weight repetitions or less per muscle group in a single workout has shown to provide the greatest increase in strength gain. In a strength focused program, 1-5 repetitions per set is what works best. The basic set-rep combinations are 5 sets of 5 reps, 6×4, 8×3 or even 7-8 sets of 2 reps if you want to get really heavy. “Pyramid” set-rep combinations are common as well, and what we do the most often at BYU. That could be a total of 8 sets with the first three sets being 3 reps each, followed by three sets of 2 reps and a final set or two of just 1 rep. Any combination of sets and reps with rep ranges of 5 or less and a total rep count of 25 or less is proven to provide the greatest increase in strength.
When training for size, muscle groups to isolate and focus on are legs and butt, back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Core movements for these areas include squats, leg curls and extensions, deadlifts, variations of rows, bench press, shoulder press, and curls and extensions with the arms.
Strength training focuses more on training movements that can include multiple muscle groups. The Core movements in strength training that we use are squats and bench press, along with Olympic style movements such as Power clean and Snatch.
When training for speed in the weight room, we mainly stick to the strength approach with extra emphasis on moving the weight as fast as possible on every rep, not just giving the force needed to move the weight sufficient. This recruits and trains the muscle fibers to all work together and to all activate when we tell our body to go.
Players returning from injury in most cases focus on connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons, as well as muscle. Both rubber bands and the light weights are used for resistance. Players recovering from injury focus on range of motion, with little to no resistance depending on progress. Many use an underwater treadmill in the BYU training room in order to strengthen connective tissues and build back muscle memory in the lower extremities without bearing the full weight of the body.
As far as daily recovery goes, we try to rest each muscle group for a day before working it out again, or in other words, the same muscle groups can be worked out every other day. For nutrition, a general rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per lean pound of muscle mass, per day. The more carbohydrates you eat, the bigger you will get. Five to six thousand calories is a good starting place for those who are serious about making weight gains. More than that is always welcome. Healthy weight gain or weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. More than this when gaining adds excess and unwanted fat. Losing more than 2 pounds per week in most cases will result in losing muscle mass. Eight to Nine hours of sleep is necessary in order for muscles to fully recover. In the sleep cycle, it takes about six hours for the body to begin healing connective tissues, including muscle. So in essence, six hours of sleep will not rebuild any muscle or strengthen any connective tissues. This is very true as I have physically felt the difference waking up after 5-6 hours of sleep to use the bathroom, feeling incredibly weak and sore, to then sleep 3-4 more hours more and waking up rejuvenated and much less sore and weak in the morning.
Training to play football for Brigham Young is a year round process, we truly never stop. For that reason, the so-called “off-season” provides us with valuable time to get our bodies right to battle under the lights on Saturday nights.