I just came home from an incredible vacation to Walt Disney World with my family. The only problem, outside of walking the theme parks for the week, and leaving the house from 7 am until 7 pm, there was not a lot of time for intense training.
Coupled with the food choices available, the trip definitely took a toll on my body. I know from science that I am not that far off from a strength standpoint, but as it relates to power, I will see negative effects as speed qualities are the first to regress.
Sports scientists have researched the residuals to training and identified easily maintained performance attributes with time off. This information has helped form the basis for exploring a minimally effective training dosage to provide just enough training stimulus to see a performance benefit.
It’s important to pay attention to this type of information, as you will encounter stoppages at different points of your offseason with your athletes. Especially with the emergence of COVID, immune responses to illness have become quite intricate, and recovery times are much longer than the common flu.
Practicing good preventative habits, such as restful sleep, handwashing followed by sanitizer before and after training sessions, eating less immunosuppressive foods, remediating vitamin deficiencies, and including citrate-driven foods in the diet such as apple cider vinegar, is great at first defense.
However, with intense training, there are periods of overreaching that could compromise immune function and limit gains in strength, speed, and power. One way to know if your athlete is overreaching is not necessarily physical symptoms but training performance. Regarding throwing, that would be changes in isometric force capacity.
Neuromuscular capacity is always the first place to evaluate in combination with extended delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) beyond 36 hours. As your athletes become more trained, their soreness times should lessen, especially if eccentrics are integrated early in the program design with gradual increases in both speed, time under tension, and intensity.
Let’s take a very real scenario in that your athlete was just diagnosed with COVID-19 and is symptomatic. Here’s what you can expect below for residuals in athletes at a more experienced training age, such as competitive lifters and athletes who do not significantly lose lean body mass:
Speed goes down quickly, strength endurance next, and then anaerobic power. Yet, strangely, isometric strength and aerobic capacity are maintained to a degree for the entire duration of recovery. All this being said, remember, these estimated residuals are based on competitive lifters for which baseball players are not.
As a result, expect even earlier drop-offs across the board. If you have an athlete with less than 2 years of training age experience and lean body mass losses, performance recession is likely going to be seen even more. You can categorize your Latin American athletes and high school kids in this bucket.
Needless to say, re-entry into training takes planning. After an extended break, the first week of training is always acute and needs the most attention. I know when I am back home and want to train, I am going to need adjustments, and I do not push it as I am not competing for anything. The competitive sport environment is different. In a group setting with your athletes, the intense pressure to perform and ego in your players can take over and push them beyond physical readiness. It’s essential to have a conversation and explain why their program will look different for a week to 10 days.
This is what I have used in the past as a guideline for athletes who have had more than a week away from training, but less than one month:
First, find out the ceiling level of training (highest intensities and volumes) before they had to cease training. Next, make adjustments in both volume and intensity for the first 5 workouts.
If you run an upper-lower split in the offseason it will be about a week, if you do total body training three times per week, you will adjust training for about 10 days. If you have younger athletes with very low training ages, you might have to extend this concept to 2 workouts at each designation. The trick is simple, you lower both volume and intensity together, yet when you return to ceiling training intensities at workout 5, you will see only a volume reduction of 10% prior to getting back into mainstream training. This can apply to yardage, sprint times, lifting, repetition-max-based prescriptions, and throwing.
When it comes to throwing, ArmCare.com makes the process even more precise. Prior to return to throwing, evaluate arm strength. If strength has not returned to previous performance, manage throwing build-up in a similar manner as strength and speed training. It’s easier for your athletes to comprehend the build-up by giving them a time, distance and effort score out of 10. After this acclimation period check strength before resuming bullpens and velocity enhancement training.
We have many new key performance metrics coming out that can help guide the process along the way, including Arm Fatigue, our rating of fatigue post-throwing. This differs from strength and speed training reconditioning, as athletes usually are not strength tested after training sessions. After each build-up throwing session, you can be even more thorough by testing strength loss related to each throwing session to determine if you need more gas or take a little off the pedal.
We will cover this and more in our Certified ArmCare Specialist course that will be available soon. Stay tuned and make great training decisions!