Off-Season Recap: Week 6 – Fitness Separation

In week 5 of our off-season training program we finished up our pre-test sessions on speed, strength and fitness. Some have asked why we wait 4 weeks before starting our “pre-test” and the answer is simple. We have 200+ athletes walk show up week 1 of our off-season program, and many of them have not been training consistently throughout the season. We give them a few weeks (usually anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks) to get comfortable with the exercises again, begin to load up the bar, run through some non-specific fitness and agility drills, etc. This way, when they test, we know that they are ready, and fully understand the technique and expectations we have for each exercise. In doing this, we get a much clearer picture of where the player is, and find it much easier to set realistic goals for improvement.

The number one aspect of this test is a 30 minute conditioning progression that moves through 5 fitness levels in a 5 minute on 1 minute off format. The player has a set time to cover a set distance in 5 different running programs that progress from aerobic base conditioning to neuro-muscular power/speed. At some point in the test the player will not cover enough distance in the set time, or not run fast enough during the set to pass. This is their failing level. Here are the 5 Blocks:

  1. Aerobic Capacity .5 mile (any way you want to run / walk it)
  2. Aerobic Power – .5 mile (40 second run, 20 second walk)
  3. Anaerobic Capacity – .5 mile (90 second interval in 4.5 min)
  4. Anaerobic Power – .5 mile (1 sprint ever 30 seconds for 4 min 15 seconds)
  5. Neuro-Muscular Power .5 mile (1 sprint every minute for 5 minutes)

Our players will typically fail somewhere between level 2 and level 4 and this gives us a good idea of what type of fitness we need to be focused on during the middle part of the off-season. Looking deeper into the scores give us even more insight. In one of my groups that failed at the level 4 block, we looked at each sprint speed. 25% of the group did not see more than 1 mph drop off in speed during the 8-10 sprints, while the rest of the group noticed a drop off of 2-3 mph from first to last sprint. The group that did not see a drop off in speed can focus on improving max speed as they seem to have a very well established base of fitness, while the other group needs to focus on the repeatability and efficiency of these sprints.

Over the next few weeks we will be focused on bringing every player’s weaker qualities up to a higher level. We will broaden some players aerobic base, while strengthening other players ability to sustain longer runs a higher speeds. Some players will be focused on quicker recovery from max effort bursts and others will be focused on improving their top speed. Almost every player that started with us in November had an original goal of improving their speed, but if they lack a solid base of fitness this goal is put on to the back burner for awhile. I don’t care how fast you are…if you fatigue early in games, your speed will suffer. If you lack the fitness base to recover efficiently from max effort bursts, you won’t be on the field long enough to make an impact with your speed.

This fitness separation is just one way we individualize our training to meet the needs of every individual. As we draw nearer to our pre-season program, we must make sure that each player’s fitness level is brought up to a level that enables us to train hard, fast and repetitively. This allows us to get more volume of work done in less time, with better technique and faster recovery. Players need to understand that fitness is the key to success in sport. Strength, speed and skill all suffer if your fitness level is lower than your level of play demands.

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