Do players need to train during the summer break?

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Do players need to train during the summer break?

In the last weeks, most football- and hockey players have enjoyed their well-deserved summer break. After a long season, the players needed some mental and physical recovery time to be ready for the start of the new season. For some players, holiday time is already over since several (professional) teams have already started their pre-season training period again. But what is the impact of the 4-week holiday break on the physical status of the players? And what is needed to minimalize the negative effects of the summer break? In this blog, we will try to find answers to these questions.

When the summer break starts, players need some time to mentally and physically recover from the season. However, what would happen to the physical status of the players if they do not perform any type of structured training during a 4-week summer break? Research has shown that body fat percentage would substantially increase, whereas endurance capacity would substantially decrease (see figure 1). It should be noted that a training program would minimalize these effects. This is of great importance for trainers and coaches, since players who begin pre-season with high levels of physical fitness are able to improve their physical fitness during the season. In contrast, players who return unprepared are more likely to experience reductions in physical performance during the season.

Besides the physical performance reductions, the players who return to training with decreased fitness levels also need more time to rebuild their fitness. This means that during the pre-season period more time and energy needs to be spent on increasing fitness levels of the players, leaving less time for technical/tactical training sessions. From this, it becomes apparent that players need to be involved in organized physical activity during the off-season, to make sure they start pre-season with reasonable levels of physical fitness.

Does this mean that players have no time to relax during their holiday? No! As already mentioned, recovery is an important aspect of the off-season. It is therefore important that players have time to relax and do not have to participate in physical activity. However, this period without training should be no more than 10-12 days. Thereafter the players should start with a multi-component training program which consists of gymnastic exercises, stretching exercises, and running exercises or strength exercises (see Table 1). It should be noted that this program is not developed to improve physical fitness, it rather focuses on maintaining it.

HRmax = Maximal heart rate; HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training *jogging can also be replaced by playing tennis, volleyball, etc. ** Running can also be replaced by a 4-7 min Tabata workout

Conclusion

Off-season is a welcome recovery time for team sports athletes. However, if they do not participate in physical activity during the entire summer break, this will decrease their fitness levels. To prevent these negative consequence of the summer break, it is advised to provide your athletes with a physical training program. This way, players start the preparation period with reasonable levels of fitness, so that you can make a flying start with your season!

JOHAN’s tip of the week

At the beginning of the season, it is often hard to determine the amount of load that the players can handle. By using exertion and recovery questionnaires you get more insight into the ability of players to cope with certain amount of loads. Do players report high levels of muscle soreness, whereas you thought the training was not that hard? You might have increased training load too much, too fast. Do players report lower levels of fatigue or muscle soreness even though you thought the training was challenging? Your players might be able to handle more load than expected!