Every child should have the opportunity to play a sport. Sports help us develop social skills, problem-solving, learning to work with others, and, most importantly, building athleticism and a healthy lifestyle. As an exercise professional, it is my job to assist athletes and parents in navigating the road to development.

Developing the Athlete Within for Long-term Success

Too often today, we see kids specializing in one sport leading to frequent or overuse injuries and burnout. My goal is to help them learn the skills and fundamentals of being an athlete, such as agility, balance, coordination, power, and endurance. These skills will set them up for long-term success.

The Advantages of Playing Multiple Sports

Today we see more specialization at younger ages. Kids are playing one sport on multiple teams for an entire year. Many leading fitness and medical associations recommend playing a specific sport for less than eight months out of the year, playing on one team at a time, and maintaining proper recovery time for the athlete’s bodies. Playing multiple sports will help develop physical advantages such as improved motor skills, strength, and aerobic fitness. This will also enhance socialization skills by meeting new kids and learning to cope with new personalities. My job is to help develop a performance program that is safe, scientific, and designed for the individual to ensure the best outcome and long-term success.

Maximizing Athletic Performance While Reducing Injury

Young athlete with jumping exercises in gymCertified Personal Trainers and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists should develop a program that will maximize an athlete’s performance while reducing injury potential. These professionals will oversee the athlete’s progressions and ability to withstand the program and fitness regime’s demands. Using evidence-based training methods and current research, a performance coach will not only set their athlete up for long-term successes but lifelong healthy habits. Building a well-rounded athletic base will, in return, build long-term success for the athlete. Too often, success is measured in playing time and winning. I measure my successes in long-term changes in my athlete’s health and habits.

Train With a Purpose

Our youth should be active and participate in sports (multiple sports if they have the desire). I also feel they should run, jump, crawl and climb as much as possible. Building long-term success in our athletes by providing them with supervised, progressive training programs that are functional will build their athletic abilities and confidence and help decrease their chances of injury and offer long-term healthy lifestyles. As a parent, coach, performance professional, or athlete, I urge you to play, train with a purpose, and look for long-term success in life.

FAST Youth Summer Sports Performance Program

Olympic lifting weights on sledNo matter your child’s sport, summer is the perfect time to develop their skills and learn the fundamentals of being an athlete by improving strength, speed, agility, and power. Foothills Acceleration and SportsTraining  (FAST) offers a summer sports performance program for kids ages 8+, college, and professional levels. Our Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist incorporates a properly designed and supervised program to help young athletes improve performance, compete, and reduce injury. These skills will build confidence, help prevent injuries, and set them up for long-term success. For more information or to sign up, check out the program at https://fast-training.com/summer

Improve your golf swing from the comfort of your home with these 3 exercises

The golf swing is one of the more complex movements in sports, but it can easily be improved with a combination of strength and mobility exercises. These exercises should focus on thoracic spine mobility and core strength. Below are 3 exercises that can be performed anywhere you have floor space.  

  1. High Plank With Thoracic Rotation: Start in a push-up position with your shoulders directly over your hands and your feet hip-width apart. Push your right hand into the ground as you lift your left hand to the sky and rotate your body into a “T” position. Both feet should now be pointed to the left. Hold the “T” position for 5 seconds and return to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
  2. Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with arms at your sides and knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor. Push your heels into the ground and raise your pelvis as high as you can while actively contracting your glutes. As you improve, try keeping one foot in the air while performing a 1 leg bridge. 
  3. Supine Spinal Twist: Lie on your back with your knees raised at a 90 degree angle so your calves are parallel with the floor. Place your arms out to the side so they’re extended away from your body. Slowly lower your knees to the right while keeping your shoulders flat. As soon as you feel your left shoulder begin to come off the floor slowly rotate your knees to the other side.

Suggested sets and reps for these exercises vary greatly depending on your current fitness level. I would suggest beginning with 2 sets of 8 for each exercise and gradually increasing until you can perform 3 sets of 15. 

Looking for a personal trainer to improve your golf game with golf specific workouts? Contact FAST for a free fitness assessment today.

Today, I’m sharing tips for maintaining proper form in the deadlift, squat and split squat—three of the most popular exercises. If you’re struggling or experiencing pain during any of these exercises, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your form.

 

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a very good exercise for developing lower body and total body strength. Whether you’re performing traditional deadlifts, sumo deadlifts or deadlifts with a trap bar, there’s a few key components to maintaining proper form throughout the lift.

 

First, when gripping the bar try to engage the latissimus dorsi (lats) before lifting the bar. By engaging the Lats we are helping to keep the integrity of a neutral spine throughout the lift.  Rounding the back is NOT something we want to occur during any variation of the deadlift. Furthermore, when performing a Sumo Deadlift make sure to have the feet wider than shoulder width apart with feet point slightly out. The smooth notches on an Olympic Bar can be used as a marker to help with setting the feet. Allow your arms to hang down naturally towards the bar and that is your grip width in a Sumo Deadlift.

 

To help with the deadlift, you’ll need to strengthen your posterior core. Don’t hammer out 200 crunches a night and expect it to help with the deadlift. Deadlifts are a very posterior lift in relation to the muscles being used. Therefore, the back is at risk for injury. Try to focus on strengthening the posterior muscles of the core, that way when under the bar on a deadlift, the body has the strength to better prevent injury. The erector spinae, glutes, latissimus dorsi and trapezius are a few core muscles that can be worked on to help maintain a neutral spine in the deadlift.

 

Lastly, if you’re someone who struggles with a traditional deadlift, try the sumo deadlift or trap bar deadlift. If you think about picking up something heavy from the floor, spread your feet out wide to lift the object. This same movement occurs with a Sumo Deadlift. This exercise is a great way to lift heavy in a safer and more relatable way.

 

Squats

Squats are another exercise where maintaining proper form is incredibly important. One of the biggest aspects of the squat that we need to watch are the knees. While performing the squat, we want to make sure our knees are apart, in line with our toes and not caving inward. If the knees are caving inward it’s a sign of weak glutes and weak hip strength.

 

Outside of working on the hip and glute strength, next time you go to squat place a band above your knees. The band is going to try and pull the knees inward throughout the squat pattern; don’t allow it to do so. By placing the band above the knees, it is giving us a cue to activate our glutes while we squat. This will allow you to move through the squat pattern and actually use and engage the glutes.

 

The band above the knees can also be used if you ever feel pain in the knees while squatting.  The band, like mentioned above, will force us into external rotation of the hip by engaging the glutes, which should help alleviate the pain in the knees.

 

Lastly, during a squat, try to keep your core tight and push through the heel of the foot. Keeping the core tight will help to maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift. Our strength comes through our heel, not our toes, when pushing through the ground to stand up.

 

Split Squat/Static Lunge

Similar to the squat, many individuals may feel some pain in the lead knee while performing a split squat or static lunge. Just like placing the band above the knees on the squat, we can perform this same cue to turn on the glutes and relieve the pain in the lunge. If you feel pain in the lead knee, place a band above that knee only and either attach the opposite end to a bar or rack, or have partner slightly pull the knee inward. The slight pull will make the glute activate and externally rotate at the hip to help relieve the pain in the knee. Remember the band should only be tight enough to feel tension. Also, don’t forget to push through the heel of the lead foot.

 

Everyone has heard the phrase, “no pain no gain”.  Well that pain may be your body’s way of saying, “there’s something wrong” or “there is a weakness and we need to work on it”.  Listen to your body and make sure you are maintaining proper form through every exercise to maximize the benefits you are working hard to achieve. At FAST, we offer one-on-one personal training sessions to help our clients safely achieve their goals. Contact us today to set up a free fitness assessment.

You’ve put in the work, spent countless hours rehabbing your injury and now it’s time to transition back into the gym. Sometimes that transition can feel a bit daunting, especially after recovering from a surgery or major injury. At FAST, we work closely with the physical therapists at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy to deliver functional, transitional rehabilitation programs that are specific to your needs to help you get back to working out after completing physical therapy.

From one-on-one personal training services to semi-private training to intimate group fitness classes, we’ll work with you to help you build up momentum, follow proper form, as well as complete any stretches or exercises your physical therapist recommended.

Most of our FAST locations are conveniently located within the same building of Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, which makes working out with us pretty convenient. Since there’s close proximity to your previous physical therapist, if any sort of pain or ache does arise while getting back into your workout routine, we can work to get you back into see your PT to check it out.

And if you’re not sure if FAST personal training, semi-private training or small group fitness classes are for you, we offer physical therapy patients a credit towards our services so you can confidently start your fitness journey.

We beat ourselves up all the time working out. The progressive overload is how we get stronger, faster, and more powerful. That being said, do you move properly through these exercises and are you doing what it takes to maintain your body? One aspect of training that people don’t always focus on is mobility. If you’re working out and can’t control your body through movements, then you are already at a disadvantage. Mobility training is key to any good strength and conditioning program.

Mobility in short, is the body’s ability to actively move through full range of motion at a joint while maintaining full control. Mobility is key to staying healthy whether you’re the average Joe or an elite athlete. If we can’t move through a joints full range of motion freely, we are at a risk when loading it with weights, or even at a disadvantage in sport performance. If moving is difficult, we have to fix the issue first before we can truly get stronger through such movement patterns. By performing mobility drills we are maintaining the range of motion in our joints and the strength to actively move through our full range of motion freely. This will then in turn allow us to build proper strength in our lifts. Additionally mobility drills can help to reduce every day pains, improve posture, and even help individuals to become more aware of their body and how it should move from head to toe.

Listed below are a few of my favorite mobility drills.  The drills listed here are mainly for hip and shoulder mobility.

SIDE-LYING WINDMILL

  • Lie on one side of the body with the top leg resting at 90° on any ball, foam roll, etc.
  • Slowly move the top arm in a circular motion like a windmill along the floor.  Make sure to follow the hand with the eyes.  If you’re unable to keep the hand on the floor, allow the hand to come off the floor naturally.
  • If your left arm is on top, move the arm through a clockwise motion.
  • If your right arm is on top, move the arm through a counter clockwise motion.
  • Perform a set of 10 reps each side.

Side Lying Windmill Stretch

BACK TO WALL SHOULDER FLEXION

  • Stand with the back flat against the wall, chin tucked, and the hands down by the side.
  • Slowly raise the arms up bringing the thumbs to the wall and return back to sides.
  • Foot position is determined by the individual being able to keep the entire back flat against the wall.
  • Perform a set of 10 reps.

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion

WALL SLIDES

  • Start in a staggered stance with the front foot a couple inches from the wall and forearms at 90° against the wall.
  • Slowly slide the arms up the wall at an angle.  Once at the top position, bring the shoulder blades back.
  • Return arms back to the wall and slide back to the starting position.
  • Perform a set of 10 reps.

Wall Slides

SUPINE LEG WHIP

  • Lie on your back slowly raising one leg in the air stopping perpendicular to the floor.
  • Slowly lower the raised leg straight to the side until you feel a comfortable stretch in the hip.
  • Return leg back to the starting position.
  • Perform a set of 10 each side.

Supine Leg Whip

KNEELING HIP FLEXION

  • Start in a kneeling position with one foot a couple inches from the wall.
  • Grab the foot of the knelt leg and slowly rock forward bringing the front knee towards the wall.
  • Then return to the starting position.

Kneeling Hip Flexion

Mobility training does not have to take more than 5-10 minutes to perform. This is a brief explanation for some of the benefits of these drills, as well as a few of my favorite drills to perform. Scheduling a monthly massage, mixing in a yoga class, and foam rolling are a few things that can definitely help the body stay moving properly as well.  Give these drills a try before or after your next training session.

As a personal trainer, I often create training programs for my clients and suggest they get moving and work hard towards their goals. But, sometimes, clients are on the other end of the spectrum and I need to tell them to slow down.

If you’re experiencing a lack of motivation to workout, constantly tired throughout the day, have muscle soreness that lasts for long periods of time, accompanied by pain in the body, your body may be telling you it needs a break or a different training program. If you don’t listen, your symptoms could increase and develop into something more serious, like Rhabdomyolysis.

WebMD states that, “Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury.” As the muscle injury breaks down the muscle fiber, it releases the broken-down muscle contents into the blood stream, leading to problems and complications within the body.

Symptoms of Rhabdomyolsis may include aches and pains in the muscles, muscle weakness, fever, or even brown colored urine. It should be noted, however, that despite the syndrome being caused by a muscle injury, the sensation of muscle pain is not always present. Rhabdomyolysis can also cause kidney failure and, in rare occasions, death.

While there are a wide variety of causes of Rhabdomyolysis, one group of individuals who need to be aware of this condition are athletes.

Athletes who work out and put an enormous amount of strain on their muscles — more strain than their muscles can hold — put themselves at an increased risk for direct muscle injury. Also, athletes who train outside — especially in our great state of Arizona — need to be wary of the signs and symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis, as heat stroke can lead to Rhabdomyolysis.

Like many conditions, the cause and severity of Rhabdomyolysis helps to determine the kind of treatment necessary. Some patients can be treated at home with medication or simply rehydrating, while patients with more serious cases may have to be hospitalized for tests and treatment.

My goal is not to scare anyone away from working out or partaking in athletic events or sports. In fact, I recommend remaining active as the benefits — typically — far surpass the alternative. That being said, listening to your body — especially during you training program — is key. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an athlete, your body will let you know if you’re doing too much.

Working with a qualified strength and conditioning specialist who will design a training program customized for you will help you stay safe and continue playing to your full potential. Our certified physical therapists will be happy to help you at one of our many locations. Train hard, but train smart!

While many define yoga as connecting with your inner self and being one with the Earth, it is actually a long-standing tradition of practicing to further your body, soul and mind. A yogi — someone who practices yoga — uses stretching, balancing, and breathing techniques to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and challenge the body. Here at FAST we believe adding yoga — along with proper eating, sleeping, and hydrating — to your training program is a great way to take a holistic approach to your health.

Rolling out of bed to make that 4:30 a.m. sunrise yoga class can be difficult, so we rounded up some yoga-inspired moves you can easily do at home.  Add these moves to a warm-up before training, on off-days to stretch and enhance recovery, or post workout to help the body cool down.

Pigeon Pose with Reach Through

Pigeon Pose with Reach Through

The classic pigeon pose but with a twist (literally). Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees under your hips (table position). Extend your right knee towards your right hand, resting the bent leg on the ground in front of you at a two o’clock position, with the top of your thigh parallel to the right edge of your mat.

Next, slide your left leg back, ending with the leg straight and the top of the foot resting on the floor. Sit into your front hip, feeling the stretch in your glutes, and place both hands in front of you, sitting next to your hips. Stay in this position for a couple deep breaths.

To get the “twist,” take your left hand and slide it under your right arm, allowing your torso to follow and “stack” your shoulders with your left shoulder resting on the ground. Hold the position for a few breaths. Come back up, still sitting into your hips, and repeat on the other side.

Benefits: This yoga pose is great for your glutes and spine. It stretches out the muscles deep inside your hips and helps loosen up your lower back.

Downward-Facing Dog with Straight Leg Raises

Downward Facing Dog With Straight Leg Raises

Begin in a plank position and press your hips back and up, while keeping your feet and hands rooted to the ground. Stretch your butt to the ceiling and push your chest through your arms, essentially making a triangle with your body. Your heels will want to raise up, but make sure you’re actively pushing them down toward the floor. You will feel a stretch in your hamstrings. If the stretch is uncomfortable, bend at the knee and focus on pressing your heels down so you can progress to straight legs with further practice. From here, raise one of your legs to the ceiling, keeping it straight as possible and hold for a few breaths. Bring the leg back down and switch sides.

Benefits: This active yoga pose is great for elongating the hamstrings, which are notorious for shortening or tightening up during long periods of sitting. It is also good to challenge your body with a mild “inverted” position.

Standing Quad Stretch with Forward Lean

Standing Quad Stretch with Forward Lean

Start standing up tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart.. Bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand you to grab your ankle and pull your right heel towards your butt. While keeping a soft bend in your standing left knee, lean forward as far as you feel comfortable, extending your left arm in front of you, palm down, and parallel to the ground for balance. The lower you go and the longer you pause while leaning forward, the harder it will be. Return to start position and switch legs.

Benefits: This dynamic movement will stretch out your quads and hip flexors while simultaneously working on your single leg stability. Being able to stabilize parts of your body while other parts are moving is important for balance and everyday life.

Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose

This pose is nice to finish with because you start by lying down flat on your stomach. Put your hands under your shoulders and push your torso upward while keeping your hip bones glued to the ground. Your back will curve, similar to a snake before it strikes, hence the name. Make sure to press your shoulders down to   avoid squeezing your shoulders up towards your ears. You should feel your arms and shoulders actively working to hold your torso up. Breathe a few deep breaths and return to the original position. Repeat this 10 to 20 times.

Benefits: Often our habits of looking down at our phones or computers leave us really “rounded” with bad posture. This negatively affects our back health, so it’s good to restore space in our spine and undo rounding with an extension-based stretch.

Try these four yoga-inspired moves throughout your training program: before a workout, on an off day, or once you finish a workout to cool down. Let us know what you think and find a FAST  facility near you for further instructions or training. Make sure to workout hard, but also recover hard!

In honor of National Athletic Training Month, we’re highlighting FAST facility manager and athletic trainer, Kyle Decker. Athletic trainers are crucial to the healthcare industry and help ensure athletes of all levels and ages are safely preventing and recovering from injuries. Read the Q&A to learn more about Kyle’s background and advice for future athletic trainers!

 

Q: How long have you been an athletic trainer and what’s your background in athletic training?

A: I have been an athletic trainer for 17 years. I have spent time in a variety of settings including; major/minor league baseball, the NBA, junior college athletics, high school and clinical.

 

Q: Why did you become an athletic trainer?

A: As a college athlete, I found my interest in athletic training after suffering from a major injury. Through my recovery process, I ended up spending a lot of time with the athletic training staff. Being exposed to this setting, I saw all the potential avenues I could go down and I knew athletic training would be the perfect career path for myself.

 

Q: What role does an athletic trainer play for sports teams?

A: Athletic trainers pay a pivotal role for sports teams. We work with athletes to keep them on the field, rehabilitate when needed, as well as assist in performance training which helps with injury prevention. Athletic trainers work with the entire sports medicine team to keep teams, athletes and coaches going strong.

 

Q: Where do you see the profession of athletic training going in the next 5 years?

A: Athletic trainers have been integrated into healthcare more now than ever before. You can find athletic trainers in traditional roles, corporate health, dance companies (like Las Vegas shows), and on research and development teams for athletic safety equipment. As the profession continues to grow, so will the trend of integrating athletic trainers into other areas within the healthcare world.

 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue athletic training as a career?

A: Know the profession—athletic training isn’t for everyone but can be extremely rewarding. If you’re interested in this career path, speak or shadow with an athletic trainer to learn more about the role.

 

Interested in learning more about athletic training? Contact us here and we’d be happy to help any questions regarding the athletic training profession. Happy National Athletic Training Month!

Post attributed to Glenn Steele, MA, ATC, CSCS, and FAST facility manager

The Importance of an Active Dynamic Warm Up Prior to Training and Competition

Glenn Steele has a master’s in Human Performance and Sport, is a certified Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Specialist, and is the FAST facility manager at our Gilbert location. He explains why an active, dynamic warm-up is important for athletes, whether it be before a practice, a work-out, or a major competition.

Performance Enhancement

The warm up should be the first component of any sports performance training program. It’s important to have an effective active warm up in order to boost body temperature, increase blood flow to the active muscles, activate muscle groups, stimulate the nervous system, and enhance joint mobility. Performing an active warm up correctly prepares athletes for success while decreasing the potential for injury when moving to the next component of a training session, practice or game.

The physiological responses elicited by the active warm up not only prepare the body for movement, but also carry out significant functions in enhancing the athletic performance. One key response to the warm up is the elevation of core body temperature, usually shown by mild perspiration. A higher core body temperature lowers the tissue viscosity of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This means there is lower resistance in these tissues, which leads to an increased range of motion, or how far your body can be moved in different directions. From a performance aspect, an increased range of motion allows for improvements in movement mechanics as well as increased production of force.

In addition to core body temperature, the temperature of working muscles also increases in response to the warm up. Compared to muscles at homeostatic, average temperatures, a warm muscle contracts with more force and also relaxes in a shorter amount of time. The ability of muscles to contract forcefully and relax more quickly enhances both strength and speed during training or competition.

Another goal of the warm up is to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles by increasing blood flow. The two primary metabolic and chemical mechanisms that increase blood flow to muscles are an increase in heart rate and vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels). The heart then receives signals from the nervous system, stimulating a faster and more forceful pumping action. At the same time, blood vessels open up and send more blood to the muscles, which means more oxygen as well. The increase in blood flow and oxygen availability to muscles through the warm up enhances performance by increasing aerobic energy production for prolonged activity.

Performance is further enhanced by the warm up when the movements being utilized duplicate or are similar to those learned or practiced in prior training sessions. In this scenario, valuable motor skills are rehearsed while serving as the warm up. Using functional movements to warm up your body increases the rate at which you learn skills, and accelerates the rate of an athlete’s training.

Injury Prevention

While there are various internal and external factors that contribute to sport related injury, proper warm up can considerably reduce the chance of injury. As previously stated, warm up activity can lower the resistance of muscles, tendons, and ligaments resulting in increased range of motion. This mechanism plays a significant role in injury prevention as athletes also experience a decrease in muscle and joint stiffness. This creates an environment in the body that helps to reduce the likelihood of non-contact injuries that would be caused by the stresses of sudden and unexpected movements if you hadn’t warmed up properly.

Active Dynamic Warm Up

An active dynamic warm up consists of multi-joint, multi-muscle movements that are functional, similar to sport movements, and extend the dynamic range of motion of joints. Beyond the physiological responses discussed earlier, this movement preparation method also requires balance and coordination, increases concentration levels, and prepares flexibility and mobility necessary to perform athletic skills.

Dynamic Flexibility

The active dynamic warm up uses dynamic stretching to address dynamic versus static ranges of motion. Dynamic stretching requires you to move your body through its entire range of motion, and is the most athletic based method of flexibility training. Static stretches, on the other hand, require you to simply hold your body in the same position for a certain period of time. When performing sport skills, athletes usually have to reach a larger range of motion than can be reached through a static stretch. In view of that, dynamic stretching addresses this difference in movement expression.

When compared to static stretching, dynamic stretching appears to be a more appropriate method for training or competition preparation. Research has shown that static stretching may actually produce acute inhibition of strength and power performance. There seems to be a dulling effect in the muscle’s ability to produce force after stretches are held for an extended period of time. Simply put, if an athlete executes a static stretching routine and then attempts a maximal vertical jump, chances are they would score below their optimal or normal performance. Due to this effect, static stretching should be performed as a post-session cool down method. Performing static stretching at the end of a training session or competition will avoid the potential drawbacks while still improving range of motion and reducing soreness due to training.

Categories

Foam rolling This method involves massaging muscles with a foam roller, which increases nutrient rich blood flow by un-knotting trigger points within the muscle. It is performed at the start of a training session in order to increase local muscle temperature and temporarily reduce muscle soreness and tightness.

Thermogenic Movement usually is 3-5 minutes of continuous rhythmic movement. The goal is to elevate core body temperature and increase heart rate to where the athlete begins to perspire. Examples are jump rope and jumping jacks.

General Mobility are activities used to increase blood flow, take joints through ranges of motion, and prepare the body for movement. They are generally executed at a low exertion level at the start of the warm up. Examples are neck clocks, arm swings, and trunk and arm circles.

Muscle Activation are isolated movements used to stimulate specific muscles and generally performed after core body temperature is elevated. The targeted muscles are those important to posture, stability, and force production during speed and agility training. Examples are knee hug walking, leg cradles, elbow to instep walking, lunge and twist, and straight leg marching.

Transit Mobility are activities that take joints through a specific range of motion while traveling over a certain distance. These movements are designed to reinforce athletic movement and increase dynamic flexibility, while also increasing the intensity of physical exertion. Examples are skips, shuffles, cariocas, and backward jogs.

Dynamic Mobility are activities that take joints through an explosive or rapid range of motion. Similar to transit mobility, activities in this category generally are done in place and offer a final increase in intensity. Examples are squat thrusts, donkey kicks, wall leg swings forward and sideways, and lunge drops.

At FAST, our fitness experts can provide you with a personalized training plan that will allow you to achieve your full potential as an athlete. To find out more about FAST and what we can do for you, schedule a free assessment online today. To learn more about Phoenix personal training and achieving peak athletic performance, follow our blog.

Post attributed to Kyle Schneider, CSCS, FAST Facility Manager and Fitness Trainer

Kyle Schneider is an Arizona sports medicine expert, CSCS and manager of our FAST program in Ahwatukee, AZ. Today, he explains the importance of rest and recovery in the off-season for athletes and how a four-phase approach is important.

What Can FAST Do For You?

Our fitness professionals at FAST focus on utilizing the off-season to set a foundation for an athlete’s upcoming competitive season. We do this by total-body strength training, agility drills, resisted running, and explosive upper and lower body plyometrics.

By training with a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at FAST, you can expect to train both aerobically and anaerobically to ensure peak performance.

The Year-Round Phenomenon

My son plays soccer. In May, he has club sports tryouts followed by a short, but hot, summer break. In August, when he returns to school, his soccer practices resume. As May rolls around again and the school year is over, club soccer resumes. This is the case with almost every young athlete I work with today. The cycle of year-round sports activities provides physical risks and obstacles for athletes.

The Four-Season Cycle

Regardless of age, level of play, or gender, athletes should have a periodic approach to their year. Most professionals would agree that a four-season cycle is most appropriate.

First, when an athlete’s season comes to an end, they should immediately enter a post-season phase. This is a 1-3 month period following a season in which athletes should rest and recover from the mental and physical demands of their competition.

Next, once an athlete is able to recover, they should shift into their off-season. An off-season is a 4-6 month period of time where an athlete is able to partake in intense workouts three to five times per week while lightly maintaining skills pertinent to their sport. Off-season workouts should focus on improving strength, speed, conditioning, agility, and flexibility.

Then, within the 1-2 months prior to the season starting, an athlete should move into his or her pre-season. Workouts during this cycle should be programmed to ensure the athlete is in peak form for the upcoming season. An emphasis should be placed on more sport-specific movements and skills.

Finally, an athlete will reach his or her competitive in-season. This is the time of the year when athletes are engaged in organized practice and competition in his or her sport and outside training focuses on maintaining gains made in the off-season.

Each phase of this cycle is vital in allowing an athlete to succeed, but the off-season is where athletes can differentiate themselves from their competition.

So why is it that we continue to move towards a shorter off-season or getting rid of it altogether if it’s the time when an athlete can make the most gains? It’s because most people believe constantly participating in their sport will create greater gains than cross-training and rest.

Pushing The Limits

While in competitive in-season, your body is experiencing the greatest amount of stress and exertion. Staying in a competitive mode for long periods of time will eventually wear down your muscles.

The CDC reports that 28% of football, 25% of baseball, 22% of soccer, 15% of basketball, and 12% of softball players were injured while playing in just one season of their competitive sport. The CDC stated that at least half of these injuries could probably been prevented through proper off-season training.

An athlete cannot push his or her body to the limit year-round and expect to avoid injury while performing at peak levels. I have seen first-hand that this methodology breeds injury. Rest and recovery is important to staying healthy and keeping an athlete at peak performance.

Becoming A Better Athlete

Most injuries occur due to the high stresses put on the body during the repetitive motions athletes perform in their respective sport. As an athlete continues to perform this movement year-round and at full effort, muscular imbalances will develop.

The off-season is the phase of the cycle to combat these imbalances and further help avoid injury during the competitive in-season. Athletes should strive for variety in their off-season training. This, however, doesn’t mean avoiding their sport altogether. For example, if you were a swimmer, you wouldn’t stop swimming. Rather, you would substitute some of your swimming time on other activities like running or jumping. Even though a swimmer does not have to sprint or jump, these traits help to make a better, balanced athlete.

Switching It Up

In the off-season, athletes may avoid organized activities/practices and focus more on free play. I often hear, “kids nowadays don’t go outside and play like we used to!” Organized, structured events have taken over for young athletes. Few young competitors are out running around with their friends horsing around on the playground. The running, dodging, darting, and jumping which happens during free-play helps to add variety and stress for the body in ways uncommon to the athlete’s core sport. Partaking in different sports and activities (cross-training) during the off-season can help expand an athlete’s strength and abilities that go beyond their main sport, which may provide a competitive advantage for an athlete in the future.

I encourage everyone to stop ignoring the importance of the off-season and start following the four-phase approach. Set yourself apart from your competition and start making gains today!

Arizona sports medicine experts like Kyle will help you prepare for any competitive sport and can help you reach peak performance levels. If you have questions about how to exercise or cross-train this off-season, make an appointment today! To learn more about FAST and what our experts can do for you, check out the FAST blog.

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).