Jan 29, 2015Summer Sessions
By Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS
After the grind of grueling workouts, practices, and school comes to an end, student-athletes need a break to recover mentally and physically. For the Xavier University strength and conditioning program, summertime is more laid back than the school year, but the standards of progression and intensity remain the same. For athletes working out in the summer, we design goals that empower them and provide more variety in their routines while also increasing strength and speed and preparing for the upcoming season.
This time of year does not require sport-specific training, so the baseball, tennis, swimming, track, and men’s soccer teams do very similar workouts–except for those athletes with specific training goals. A typical summer training program will broadly attack the major compartments of the body: hips, posterior chain, chest, back, shoulders, and core. These compartments are trained year-round, but specific to each sport during the school year. The workouts are split into upper, lower, and full body between three days.
During these workouts, I give the athletes the freedom to pick their own lifting times based on three different blocks. This allows them to control their routines and translates to more productive lifts.
Personal goals are a driving influence on an athlete’s summer program. For example, at the conclusion of the spring semester, our track team’s top jumper approached me about using the weight room over the summer to substantially increase his jumping ability. We developed specific program to help him achieve his goals this summer. An individualized program is easier for both of us to implement because he approached me with the goals and we have the time during the summer to train more often. Conditioning is offered in groups or on their own time and is optional based on their schedules.
A great aspect of training in the summer is that we can implement exercises and techniques that may not fit in our pre- and in-season routines. I use the summer as a building block to learn and experiment with some new ideas. This benefits the athletes and myself because the training palate is different than the school year, which allows us both to try something new and stay engaged.
Sometimes it’s something as simple as applying small changes in technique, like performing an alternating row or press for higher repetitions. Minor modifications to the basic exercises add variety and stimulate the muscles differently. Other times, more complex changes are called for–such as implementing a six-stage shoulder complex or a slide board lateral lunge. Taking a stability ball prone pike and moving it to a slide board pike with rotation is another example of how to increase the challenges using a familiar exercise. The body doesn’t need much to feel changes in a workout, and the mind can benefit greatly by adding variety.
Athletes are encouraged to work out in the Xavier weight room if they are in town. However, many athletes go home for the summer. As a strength coach, I view my responsibilities to keep the athletes strong and well conditioned as year-round. Therefore, I need to be able to communicate my performance expectations during the summertime, so the athletes come back ready to go in the fall.
Before, I used to give every athlete an elaborate summer workout packet to take home that contained my expectations, a specific periodized workout plan, specific conditioning workouts, and pictures of exercises. But when they came back to school, I found that most did not do the program because it was too specific, they didn’t have access to the equipment in the program, or it was overwhelming.
I realized my methods needed to change if I wanted more compliance and better prepared athletes come fall. Now, athletes get a very basic packet to take home. I still list my expectations, but make sure to add a line that says, “Have a great break and have fun!”
Our current workout is in menu form. They have a choice between a 5-day, 4-day, 3-day, or 2-day program. I include a breakdown of recommended sets for chest, back, legs, shoulders, posterior chain, and core to guide the athlete in making the right menu choices depending on the plan they choose. A non-specific range of repetition targets is included so they have freedom to choose. Instead of specific exercises for the different workouts, I divide a list of exercises into categories (chest, back, etc.), giving them more options when they go to their gym.
Summertime is a break for both athlete and coach. However, the expectation to excel and succeed in their sport remains, so it is important athletes continue to train and remain accountable to themselves and to their teammates. At our last training session before summer break I like to remind my athletes that they are apart of a team, and what they do or don’t do affects every person on their team, positively or negatively.
Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University. He can be reached at: [email protected].