Sometimes You Need to Pull Back to Improve

With the holidays around the corner, it can be a hectic time for anyone, including athletes. Some sports, like basketball and hockey, are heading into a mini-break. College and pro football, on the other hand, are either gearing up for the post-season/bowl games, or fighting hard just to get in. Both scenarios have something in common, proper recovery strategies need to be implemented in these athletes for the second half of the season (NHL, NBA) or a push for the Super Bowl.

This week we’ll take a detour and look at what NCAA strength & conditioning coaches are doing with their athletes to promote gains in strength, improve performance on the field and at the same time, avoid the dreaded ‘overtraining syndrome’.

3 Coaches, 3 Strategies

December’s 2013 issue of the Strength & Conditioning Journal asked three reputable S&C coaches how they keep their athletes at their best.

The coaches

Trent Greener, head S&C coach at the University of Wyoming Kim Pinske, assistant S&C coach at the United States Naval Academy Andrew Petersen, head S&C coach at Humboldt State University

What they had to say

“Recovery should not be viewed as merely taking time to place one’s feet on the couch with the television remote in hand” - Trent Greener

Trent’s Approach


Figure 1

Strategy 1 Recovery should be a planned part of the athlete’s annual training program. How to do this? Schedule training around calendar landmarks (competitions, breaks, holidays).

Strategy 2 Recovery weight training sessions are favorable over complete rest. How to do this? Reps, sets, loads and number of exercises are all reduced during recovery sessions. Also, vary the range of motions based on the needs of the athlete (i.e. if injured, decrease the range, if not, increase the range).

Strategy 3 The best approach to recovery are intelligent training progressions! How to do this? Schedule heavy training days appropriately and NOT right after a big game or break (Figure 1).

Kim’s Approach


Strategy 1 Take complete days off from weight training. What to do instead? Again, this doesn’t mean do nothing. Kim recommends swimming or biking on these days.

Strategy 2 During the season, it’s ok to take an entire week off from the weight room. Why? This can reduce joint stress and help regenerate the neuromuscular system

Strategy 3 There’s more to recovery than just the manipulation of training loads. What else can you do? Proper hydration, nutrition, contrast tubs, soft tissue work and good sleep habits.

Andrew’s Approach


Figure 2

Strategy 1 Unloading weeks are vital! What does this mean? Example - progressively increase the training load for 3 weeks and drop it for week 4 (Figure 2).

Strategy 2 Heavy training days begin the week and light training days end the week How to do this? Andrew break’s the body early in the week and then manipulates the training days to promote recovery towards the end of the week.

Strategy 3 Be aware of mood and energy levels. Why is this important? Plans don’t always turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes training sessions need to be adapted based on the physical/mental state of the athlete.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete, or trying to make it up the ranks in your sport, it’s important to take recovery seriously and these coaches know what they’re doing. The best approaches include recovery days, sessions, weeks and even months in an annual training plan. Without planned recovery strategies, the body will never adapt to the stressors that weight training, and a competitive season, impose.

Source: 1)      Hedrick AR, 2013. Recovery. Strength & Conditioning Journal.