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3 Training Observations From The Coronavirus Shutdown

1. There are many tools that can be used to increase strength and power; the barbell is just one of them

With the facility shut down, our athletes built their training around increased sprint volume, as well as bodyweight and band work at home. But as the shutdown prolonged, we distributed bars and plates to many of the athletes, allowing them to do upper body work in their backyards. After already weeks away from the iron, many assumed they’d be quite weak at the start. Instead, the texts started pouring in after the first bar workout was assigned: athletes were expressing how they couldn’t believe how well things went, and how their strength had actually improved. It reflects on the misguided mindset many have: they think the only way to get stronger must involve a barbell or dumbbells. As it is, sprints, plyometrics, medicine ball throws, pullups/pushups and their variations, and well as numerous other “non barbell” tools, are tremendous drivers of strength, power, and lean muscle. And used wisely, with the right progressions, volume, and intensity, athletes find more often than not they are now much stronger for it on their favorite traditional barbell movements.

2. Those who “don’t have time”, will never have time

The number one excuse statistically for not exercising, across all ages and populations, is “ I don’t have the time”. And even with only training athletes, who are known for their strong motivation to training and improving in their sport, I’ve dealt with my fair share over the years that needed an entire laundry list of specific events to perfectly coincide in their schedules before they could commit to training. Of course, our training programming is only 4 TOTAL hours in a week, and these same individuals often spend 4 hours a DAY scrolling on their phone, so the issue certainly isn’t ACTUALLY time, but there are those that are truly convinced they don’t have the time. But then the shutdown happened: no more practice; no more games; and school hours greatly reduced. In short, all the time in the world. And guess what happened? I had several industry coaches tell me that they were still encountering their athletes skipping workouts because they “couldn’t find the time”. We even sadly had a couple instances ourselves. The lesson is simple: everyone has the time to get done what they WANT to get done. “No time” isn’t about time, it’s about an excuse. And if something is important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

3. No amount of extra rest can solve over-volumization

Programming correctly is like walking a tightrope: prescribe too little work, and there’s not enough stress induced for an athlete to adapt and progress (undertrained); prescribe too much, and the athlete cannot recover from the stress, and also subsequently makes no progress (overtrained). For me, the guinea pig I’ve always used to test out the right balance programming, is of course me. My mentality has always been if it works on me, an older trainee with far too much Marine Corps wear and tear on the tires, then it’ll REALLY work on a 20 year old. So in this shutdown time I figured why not try out some very high volume training? With no on floor coaching, and getting more 8 hours of sleep than the typical 5-6, I would have a lot more extra rest to be able to recover. And as we do have a segment of our population that simply trains in the summer, no jobs, no summer ball, it’d be a good exploration of how much volume I, and then if effective, they, could handle. However, my experiment only served as a stark reminder of the hard lesson I’ve learned over decades of training myself, and athletes: no amount of extra rest, sleep, or diet adjustments can allow an athlete to recover from over volumization. Despite a less stressful day, and extra sleep, by May I was exhausted, and weaker, telltale signs of overtraining. In training more is not better: for the natural trainee, short, intense, get in get out styled training yields the best results.

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