Jan 29, 2015
Strength Training in Paradise

richjacobs-head.jpgBy Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS

This past Thanksgiving, while most people went home to their families, the Xavier University women’s basketball team traveled to the Bahamas for the annual Junkanoo Jam Tournament. Though traveling to an exotic location for work may sound like the fulfillment of a strength coach’s fantasy, being on the road presents all sorts of challenges–specifically keeping the team healthy while maintaining the optimal strength and conditioning levels cultivated in the off-season and preseason.

Unfamiliar weightrooms at different hotels can hinder how a strength and conditioning coach prepares team workouts before arriving. However, there are considerations that can be accounted for before travel, including identifying when games are played and other time- and travel-related constraints. Taking these variables into account ahead of time will provide a basic structure to work within and allow the strength coach to enter the situation somewhat prepared.

The timing of workouts is important so that any delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) does not affect game play. According to most research and athlete feedback, DOMS is felt 24 to 48 hours post-workout. Therefore, it is paramount to be aware of competition days and the amount of recovery time alloted before the next game. For example, in the Bahamas, the schedule did not allow for workouts between games because there was less than 48 hours for recovery between each one. Our first real opportunity to work out was after the tournament.

Forced training adaptation, such as changes to workouts, the availability of different equipment, or exercises may result in soreness and should factor into the timing of workout sessions. For example, if the workout at home includes a leg curl and the hotel gym has a leg curl machine, but it is different, do not assume that no extra soreness will occur.

As a way to make our workout more adaptable–no matter where we end up–our traditional on-campus workout includes lifts such as a dumbbell row, RDL, and dumbbell bench press. Most gyms across the country have a dumbbell rack, so adapting a familiar workout becomes easier.

Traveling to tournaments or long weekends is regimented. Team meals, meetings, and practices are all scheduled prior to departing. Frequently, however, the itinerary changes and the strength coach must adapt to the head coach’s wishes.

For instance, a weekend where no workout was planned may now include a workout, which is great, but the strength coach may only be allowed 20 minutes for that workout. It is important to make the most of these opportunities because how the strength coach adapts to these constraints can be the difference in how a sport coach approaches lifting on future road trips. Finding a way to “make it happen” instills trust and may lead to greater opportunities throughout the season for the strength coach to continue training the players.

Staying in excellent condition throughout the season is important to maintain a competitive edge. According to Koutedakis (1995), athletes who engage in physically demanding sports such as basketball will either maintain or increase aerobic fitness while in season. So training on the road is important to maintain strength, conditioning levels, and consistency.

Therefore, our non-starters (less than 20 minutes of playing time) may find their fitness levels degrade during the season. Continuing to aerobically train on the road is important for them to maintain consistency and achieve a positive effect of training.

We use various energy system-specific programs that use a 1:1 and 1:2 work to rest ratio to get a conditioning response. Different modes such as a bike, treadmill, or jump rope are used while on the road. This allows us to adapt to our environment and continue to stay conditioned anywhere.

Championship teams use their resources wherever they are to have an edge over their opponents. To emphasize this point I constantly remind our teams that we never want to be outworked on any day of the year–no matter where we are.

Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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