The Mohawk Valley Cup has ended and, with it, our competitive season comes to an end. Practices continue as normal, but there is no longer a reason to remain unfatigued and bout-ready. Instead, it’s time to test the limits of your body’s strength and ability to recover. This should take up at least half of your off-season. My off-season is about 6 months, so I will be running Phase 1 for at least 12 weeks.
If you have never touched a barbell in your life, then now would be a good time to do a full body linear progression (incrementing workload every one to two workouts) strength program like Starting Strength, Greyskull LP, etc. A linear progression will be the fastest way to get real strong. When starting any program, read the whole program. Often the creators have an e-book you can purchase with an enormous amount of helpful information including how to perform the exercises correctly and safely, but there’s also a lot of free information on the internet if you have some decent Google-fu.
However, if you have been lifting consistently for at least 6 months and find a linear progression too difficult to recover from, then you will need a program that progresses less frequently, such as one that increments the workload once/week or once/month. For my purposes, I will be following the Texas Method. There are plenty of ways to tweak programs and the Texas Method is flexible if you know what you want and how to re-organize to fit your personal needs. I’ll show you how and why I tweaked the program for myself.
The Vanilla Program:
Without any tweaks, the Texas Method might look like…
Monday (Volume Day): Squat 5×5, Bench Press (alternate Overhead Press [OHP]) 5×5, Cleans 5×3
Wednesday (Light Day): Squat @70% 2×5, OHP (alternate with Bench Press) 3×5, Back extensions 5×10, Chin-ups 3xfailure
Friday (Intensity Day): Squat 1×5, Bench Press (alternate with OHP) 1×5, Deadlift 1×5
First of all, my purpose for building strength isn’t to be able to lift heavy weights. That’s merely a means to an end. The purpose is to build muscle and move my own body better. My secondary goal to strength is power and speed. Because of this, I will work in an additional day for speed deadlifts. I also find the addition of assistance work to be helpful and fun, so I’ll be looking to include barbell curls and body-weight dips somewhere in the week.
Practice won’t stop for me to run my off-season routine. We practice every Tuesday evening which makes a solid workout impossible to fit in after work. Perhaps I’ll be able to do some 5am gym sessions, but I’ll begin programming with the assumption that I can only workout in the evenings.
My Phase 1 Program:
With all this in mind, we can take a crack at arranging the workouts in a convenient and advantageous order. I won’t know how well this will work out until I try it, but the goal is to space the main lifts (squat, bench/press, deadlift) appropriately, while adding cleans, chins, speed deadlifts, and assistance work in a way that will not affect my major lifts or ability to recover from them.
Monday: Volume Squat 5×5, Volume Bench Press (alt. OHP) 5×5, Intensity Deadlift 1×5, Barbell Curls 3×10
Wednesday: Light Squat 2×5, Medium OHP (alt. Bench Press) 3×5, Hyperextensions 5×10, Bodyweight dips 3×10
Thursday: Speed Deadlift @55-65% 3×5, Body-weight Chin-ups 3xfailure
Friday: Intensity Squat 1×5, Intensity Bench Press (alt. OHP) 1×5, Cleans 5×3
Practice Plans, Cardio, and Post-workouts:
Not everyone has control over what their roller derby practice plan is during the off-season, but I’ll make some comments about it anyway. While doing a heavy strength program, it’s best not to be using your derby practice for intense cardio and conditioning work. Instead, I would recommend working on skating skills, blocking techniques, and strategy/teamwork. As the competitive season approaches, there will be plenty of time to ramp up your cardio workload, but during Phase 1, you don’t need anything affecting your body’s ability to recover and repair itself.
This is the same for cardio at the gym. Personally, I like to hit the treadmill for about 5 minutes prior to my workouts to get the blood pumping and to look over my routine, get into the right mindset and set up my music. For this routine, any high intensity cardio could be harmful to recovery.
Post-workout is really important too. You’re going to be exhausted, but it’s no time to be lazy. You need to stretch! I’m a big fan of Starting Stretching right after any workout and especially on rest days. Once I’m done stretching, its back to the treadmill (or some other cardio equipment) and I finish my workout with about 10-15 minutes of light cardio just to cool down. If you want to do something on rest days, then some low intensity cardio can be good to get your blood flowing to the muscles and help recovery, but your cardio should never affect your ability to recover.