By Noel Piepgrass, MA, CSCS, CiSSN
Exeter High School (CA)
Twitter: @noelpiepgrass, @OmniStrong
As sad as it can be to have your hopes of a championship season end in disappointment, the start of the off-season brings with it a new-found optimism for the season to come. If you’re anything like me you spend December and January evaluating where you are weak and what you need to do to improve for next year. You set up your spring clinic schedule, your off-season team calendar, and you start to think about what to do with your off-season strength and conditioning regimen.
It is that last component, the strength and conditioning regimen, that I have been commissioned to write about in this article. The particular area that I want to focus on is how to create a comprehensive plan for your off-season training. After a decade of work as a high school strength coach, teacher, and on-field coach, I have learned a thing or two and I’m excited to see if I can offer any help.
Mapping Out the Calendar
The first task of creating a comprehensive strength and conditioning regimen is mapping out the different phases of the year. It’s a little different for everybody but here’s how I do it.
Essentially, this is the time from the end of our last game up to Christmas break. Depending on how deep you’ve gone in the playoffs, this can be anywhere from 2-6 weeks. During this time, I have always focused on testing, recovery, and informal training.
Testing 1 Rep Maxes (1RM’s) in the Hang Power Clean, Squat, Bench, and Deadlift is important to see how strength has developed or diminished during the in-season period. However, we have also always assessed performance skills like Vertical Jump, 5-10-5 Shuttle, and either the 10 or 40 yard dash depending on weather and our ability to get outside. Not only are these great for getting a beginning of the off-season baseline, but they are competitive, and tend to build camaraderie as your student-athletes compete against and cheer for one another.
Once you’ve got testing completed, if there is still time before Christmas break, you can begin some sort of informal training. I’ve used timed body weight circuits, boot camp style training in the stadium, and games like ultimate frisbee, soccer, and touch football during this block of time. My goal is to keep their bodies from completely detraining but also have some fun and do some things that we won’t ever do again.
Finally, in the winter, you’ve got to give their bodies a chance to recover from the stresses and strains of a long season. Also, I think kids need a mental break from the stress of practicing and performing at a high level. We ask a lot of our kids from May to November and I feel like a little down time during December can go a long way. One of the ways this has always been expressed in my program is by not opening the weight room over Christmas break. I just think it’s important that coaches and players take breaks when they’re allotted and since we’re out of school and it’s supposed to be a time for family and celebration, it’s a perfect time to give the kids some time off.