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Mailbag: ‘Cause Baby It’s Cold Outside

Help me please! I am a high school varsity men’s soccer coach. I work at a high school outside Indianapolis, we play our first game in 4 weeks, and winter is screwing with my plans. We have been pretty successful this off season implementing a strength training program. My guys have been pretty consistent, 2x/week through most of the winter. But unfortunately, I fear fitness is our weakness right now. Usually I would have my guys at least going for long runs outside, but this winter has been brutal and the temperatures are dangerous. I am struggling to find ways to get our conditioning work done. I have access to our schools weight room, some hallways, and one day a week I can get on the basketball courts.

In search of ideas, how can I ramp this up and get my guys ready?

Peter C. Indy.

Peter, happy to try to help you out. This is a common obstacle for just about every spring sport. Every year winter screws with our plans. When are we going to realize that we need to adapt our plans to what winter is actually like, instead of planning for ideal situations where its sunny and 65 degrees by Feb. 1st.

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Now, for my money, nothing gets results like running high intensity shuttles on grass/turf. I am talking 100/200/300 yard shuttles and everything in between. But, the reality is, this just isn’t always practical. As coaches, we need to be resourceful, we need to plan, and sometimes we need to be downright creative.

Let’s talk about some different ways to really train our work capacity while indoors.  I don’t know exactly what you have access to, but I will float a few different ideas out there.

A couple quick notes: As always, I am assuming you are training in a group setting, so you are likely to have at least 10 athletes training at once, my plans will reflect this. I am also assuming that your groups are adequately supervised and that you have about 1 hour to work.

Option #1. TM Intervals.

Most HS weight rooms have access to at least 2-3 treadmills. If this is the case for you, it is relatively easy to work in smaller groups and have each groups working in 20 minute blocks. For example: 5 athletes are doing their strength training work and 5 athletes are doing intervals on the treadmill.  I know you want to keep your whole group together, but sometimes you need to adapt to your circumstances.

There is a lot of variety in the duration/intensity of your intervals, but it doesn’t have to be super complicated. Make your athletes work hard, get their heart rate up, and build some volume up until you can get outside. You can do anything here. 30 sec on/15 sec off. 20/20/. 60/30. 120/30. Pick one and stick to it for the day. Try to get 10-15 sets in at a high intensity. When one groups finishes, the groups switch.

You can also accomplish this with other modalities, like a jump rope, which are cheap and easy to get a whole group through. You can even mix and match the jump rope and treadmill sets to keep your guys engaged and moving quickly.

Option #2. BW GPP Work

Too often, basic body weight calisthenic exercises are overlooked or scoffed upon by trainers and coaches. Assuming an athlete has adequate mobility and effort levels, I can get just about anyone fit doing BW circuits. Now to get your competitive level team to where you need them, the intensity and effort levels need to be high.
I have posted dozens of similar circuits on the site before, and the options are endless. You can pick any exercises you want. Do them for reps or for time. But monitor the rest intervals and make them work hard. Here are two basic circuits that, if performed with intensity, will get your heart rate up and start building that work capacity.

• Squat Jump x 20 sec
• Step Back Lunge x 20 sec Left/20 Sec Right
• Mt Climbers x 20 sec
• Push Ups x 20 sec
• Rest 30 sec and repeat 3-5 times
• Split Jump x 20 sec
• Goblet Squat x 20 sec
• Fwd Lunge x 20 Sec L/R
• Bicycle Crunch x 20 sec
• Glute Bridge x 20 sec
• Repeat as necessary

You can take just about any movement, reduce the load, and complex them together. I try to avoid exercises that require focus on technique, because when your guys start getting tired, it’s easy to get sloppy, and when we get sloppy we don’t get results and we start to get hurt.

Option #3. Modified GPP

While I know that BW circuits can get the HR up. They can be boring and monotonous. One way I combat this is by grabbing a deck of cards and making it a game. We will still use the same exercises, but each exercise is a suit. Spades = squat jumps Clubs = Push Ups ect. As each card is turned over, that’s how many reps you do. 9 of diamonds = 9 lunges with each leg. I usually break this into 2 minute sets. We will work as hard as possible for 2 minutes, rest 1, and do 3-4 sets.

Option #4. Hallway work

This is the least desirable option to me, but one I have had to rely on in certain circumstances. You did mention you have access to the courts one day and that is awesome. That’s at least 1/3 of your plan right there, but for the days you can get on the court, it can be acceptable to do some intervals in the hallways. This can be hit or miss, especially in the winter time and the floors can get really dirty and slippery. YOU DO NOT WANT TO HURT YOUR GUYS DOING SOMETHING STUPID. The last thing you need is some kid sliding around a corner and cracking his skull on the floor. But if the hallways aren’t crowded, are reasonably clean, and you have adequate distance, you can do some walk/jog/run stuff in the hallways.

There you go Peter. Just some quick ideas for you. Remember, the most important part of conditioning work is to get the intensity level up while minimizing the rest intervals. Work hard, rest brief, work hard, repeat.

Good luck this season. Work Hard.

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