Ever heard of the saying ‘sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards? Well, it’s valid for a lot of things, your training included. During the Rugby League season that saying will apply to you massively.
We recognise we have to try to sustain muscle mass and strength during the season to the best of our ability. However, we must also hold recovery and injury prevention in high regard. Below I’m going to give you a scenario and hopefully provide you with an understanding on how regression in your training will help you longterm.
Steve played footy Friday night; he played a full 80 minutes. It was a tough gruelling physical game, and he is sore as hell and banged up pretty good.
On Monday, Steve heads into the gym to hit a full-body session, he is still pretty sore and lacking a fair bit of energy, but it’s really one of the only days he has to hit the gym. After a half-decent warm-up, Steve starts to feel a bit better, and he begins his barbell squat schedule.
After a few light warm-up sets, Steve attempts his first working set at 75% of his max, and it feels like total shit! His shoulders are cramping up under the bar, he is finding it hard to hit his usual depth, and his lower back is tight, it just feels real off today.
The 75% feels like 120%, clearly, the game has taken its toll on Stevo. His muscles, joints and central nervous system are still recovering, but what can he do? He knows he has to do the work to maintain his current size and strength, so I guess he just needs to push through it and stop being a little bitch, right? Wrong!
This is where your gym training will take away from your game.
The game is the most important session of the week, and it takes priority over everything else! What will happen if big Stevo pushes through? Sure he could injure himself as his mobility is dog shit, and his joints are just not coping with the stress demands, so injury is definitely a risk. But depleting his central nervous system even further is an absolute guarantee. Pushing through this session will drive his recovery back even further, he has a full 40-hour workweek and two club training sessions to get through before another Friday night game rolls around.
Steves energy levels are going to be rubbish and his performance on the field will be rubbish too. His overall health will eventually take a hit with this cycle. If you regularly smoke out your central nervous system, your immune system isn’t too far behind giving you the middle finger. As I have stated previously maintaining size and strength is a must for us in-season, but if you get sick, and you can’t train, you lose size and strength anyway.
We need to be smart, and we also need to understand that every week won’t feel this bad so we can drive a little harder then to make up for the shitty weeks.
Now here are some other options:
1. He can drop the weight back to make it a little lighter and ignore his brain, telling him he has become weak; instead, he just needs to acknowledge he is tired.
2. He can use a box to set a more comfortable depth. Sometimes no matter how much you roll out, trigger release and stretch in a session, it just doesn’t happen. Using partial rep ranges can really accommodate you on these days.
3. He can try a safety squat bar. This is a great option if you lack the mobility in your shoulders or your traps are just too sore for a barbell to be digging into.
4. He can try a goblet squat with a kettlebell or dumbbell. Again this is lightening the load but also shifting the weight from the posterior chain to the anterior.
5. He can try bodyweight squats. Any weight at all may feel crap, so bodyweight is a cool choice, maybe perform higher reps of 20 with these.
6. He can hit the leg press or hack squat machine. These options are both great as they take the stress off the lower back and groove the pattern for you, so its no brainer plus its an easy set up so thats always an attractive offer when you are tired and can’t be assed setting things up.
7. He can hit some sled work. The sled has no eccentric component which is the component thats tears down muscle fibres, so the sled is extremely good for recovery amongst a multitude of others. I’m sure you all know I love me some sled.
8. He can say “Stuff it. I’m not lifting today.” Sometimes you just have to listen to your body. If you feel jumping on a treadmill or bike for some light cardio is going to be better, than do that. As I said earlier, you won’t feel this bad every week so you can hit the gym then.
Now there are eight different options there, and I’m sure there are many more. The point is, just because something is programmed or planned, it doesn’t mean it has to be fulfilled. It’s your body, and you know it better than any expert out there. If you are just not feeling right, don’t do it. In-season it’s is all about maintaining and recovering, so you hit your next game at 100% charge. Forget about maxing out and pushing yourself to failure, that’s offseason training son.
I’ll leave you with this analogy. Think of your central nervous system as a cup. At the start of the week, that cup is empty. Every time you train, you pour a little bit of water into that cup. Your goal is to get to game day with plenty of space left in that cup. If you have a hectic training session during the week, that fills a lot of water into your cup. Have a few hectic training sessions that week and that cup starts to overflow before you even get to game day. You will have no room left for a hard game of footy.