Tavio Henson knows a thing or two about dealing with sports injuries. As an IU Health Sports Performance strength and conditioning coach who started playing sports as a kid, Henson had a long career in a sport where injuries are common. The former defensive back for University of Tennessee played in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League before becoming a coach.
Henson says a good off-season training program can help all athletes lower their risk for non-contact injuries. With several spring and summer sports just around the corner, he says many athletes should be in the throes of their post-season or pre-season training right now.
Every off-season training program should have four important elements:
Flexibility––to avoid muscle pulls and other injuries
Strength––which translates into performance-enhancing speed
Speed––because all sports require it
Agility––the ability to move in multiple directions––laterally, backward, forward and at angles
When you start pre-season training––usually about eight weeks before the regular season––you should concentrate on a moderate number of repetitions in the weight room and emphasize sports specific drills. “Track is straight-on running,” Henson says. “That means a track athlete needs drills that focus on explosion and acceleration in a straight line.” In soccer, baseball and basketball, athletes move in all directions, so they need agility drills to prepare.
The approach should change in the latter half of pre-season, with fewer repetitions and heavier weights for strength training. “That switch will help you build explosive power just as you go into your season,” he says.
Post-season training should begin after a one-month rest period from the regular season––typically about eight or nine months prior to the next season. “For the first three months of post-season training, you’re building strength and flexibility, and sometimes playing other sports, which can be very healthy,” Henson says.
Regular season training
Once you get to the regular season, you should keep doing explosive drills, but decrease the frequency and length of your workouts. “Sometimes athletes lose strength during their season because they don’t stay focused on all four aspects of training,” Henson says. That can lead to a decline in performance and set them up for injuries.
If you want to get ready for spring or summer sports, contact IU Health Sports Performance at (317) 848-5867 for customized, sports-specific training. Your program includes a Functional Movement Screen to identify body imbalances that could lead to injury, plus corrective exercises to strengthen those imbalances.