Updated: Apr 10
Living in the south for over a decade now and I see more and more young athletes with overuse injuries, sometimes requiring surgical repair. I have learned that starting at a young age, these athletes are playing sports, oftentimes the same sport, year-round. Their little bodies, still growing, forming, and fusing, are placed under repetitive stresses to the same joints and muscles over and over again.
It was after seeing multiple cases of young children with overuse injuries in the beginning of my career as a physical therapist, that I realized people aren’t being taught to cross-train, rest, recover, and use the off-season to build strength and muscle control. I hope this information will help a parent or coach out there to prevent their kids from injury. I also hope that if you’ve been an athlete all your life, you can learn how to best take care of your body and prepare it for another season of sports. It is during the off-season that we allow our bodies to repair and grow for yet another great season of sport!
Let’s dive in!
What is Cross-training and Why is it Important?
Cross-training is training in other sports other than your usual one in order to enhance performance and prevent injuries in your main sport. Here is an example of what that might look like:
If your main sport is volleyball, you might participate in basketball and track in the offseason.
You might focus your strength training on shoulder stability and balance and plyometrics.
You should incorporate rest days with active recovery sessions.
It is important for our body to get a break from the repetitive movements that our main sport requires so that those muscles, joints, and ligaments get a break. When you cross-train, it’s not that you don’t use those movements at all, but you use them differently than you would in your main sport.
When playing volleyball you are mostly making short, quick movements, jumping, and swinging overhead.
When you cross-train, in the example above, you are running longer distances, using a controlled movement overhead to shoot or swing at your sides to run, and either not jumping or doing more controlled jumps/hops.
This is an example of how you continue to gain strength, stay conditioned, and work towards your goals in your main sport without causing injury to your body.
Off-season Focus Points
When your season is over the first month to 6 weeks is your off-season. During this time you need to first rest and then focus your time on recovery, technique/form, and light strengthening and conditioning.
In the off-season, you don’t want to push too hard or over-work your body because this time should be spent letting your body recover from the intense workouts, practices, and games it has endured throughout the season.
A few sample off-season workouts might include:
General strength training, light weights with moderate repetitions
It is also important that during the off-season you address any injuries or pain you’ve been experiencing during the season. Make an appointment with a physical therapist or an orthopedist to find out where your pain is coming from and get direction on how to address it so that you are healed and ready for the next season.
The Purpose of Pre-Season
Pre-season should begin no less than 4 weeks before your season begins for your main sport and can start as early as 3 months before your season begins. This time is so important and should be extremely focused in order to prevent injuries during your season and perform at your highest level.
During the pre-season period focus your workouts on building strength and endurance, perfecting your form/technique, and enhancing your skills, like your vertical jump. This time should be the “meat and bones” of your training in preparation for the season.
If you begin to experience any pain during this period do not put it off or hope it will go away because it may affect your ability to play during the season. If you feel something is not right, make sure you address it with your coaches or seek out a physical therapist, like ME! It might be something that can be quickly fixed by tweaking your form or focusing on the control of the muscles in that area.
Not Sure Where to Start?
If you have no idea where to start training or how to break up your seasons or how to cross-train, then you need to reach out so that we can get you started in the right direction before your next season begins or figure out what you can be doing during your season to help you progress and/or maintain your performance.
An easy place to start is by joining my Facebook group where I share education, tips, research, etc on all things Strength and Conditioning for athletes. You can join Strength & Conditioning Performance for Metro Atlanta Athletes by clicking here.