- Sharanya Kannan
Performance training during confinement: what does an athlete need?
Updated: May 1, 2021
As self-mastered as an athlete’s training might be, it cannot hold a candle to the orderliness and motivation a coach in a club can offer. The challenge thus lies squarely on the athlete to defeat any complacency and bring in the get-up-and-go gusto required on a daily basis.
An athlete is a well-oiled and maintained system. One cannot simply let a high-maintenance machine falter from lack of use. Thus, it is of great importance for an athlete to perform the technical movements of their sport as to how they always would, to the best of their ability. Naturally, it is a demanding ask given how there would be a substantial loss in the absence of opponents, team sports, equipment (or location in sports like swimming). Thus, most training during this home confinement would be limited to strength, power and muscle endurance exercises. Additionally, there may also be general physical aerobic training among other isolation-limited activities.
One must keep in mind that such exercises of higher intensities and volumes lead to a greater risk of illness and impaired immune function. But on the flip side, detraining has turned out to be one of the biggest ramifications of “staying at home”. It is something for everyone to avoid, particularly athletes. Athletes may tie in a few endurance exercises into their daily routine and avoid the effects of detraining. But if they wish to avoid the increased chances of an upper respiratory tract infection, they would be required to train at relatively high intensities even as they keep aware to not fully exhaust themselves towards the end of the session. This sets out to keep the spectrum of muscle fibers (types I and II: slow and fast-twitch fibers, respectively) activated. Push-ups, chin-ups (pull-ups), lunges, unilateral squats are some exercises that work on body mass ensuring full activation.
Let us elucidate: The authors Alizadeh, Rayner and Behm studied Push-Ups vs. Bench Press Differences in Repetitions and Muscle Activation between Sexes to show us that for 10 standard push-ups (from the toes), approximately 3–4 and 9–10 bench press repetitions is predicted for women and men, respectively.
When the body pushes itself to exercise under unstable conditions with lower resistance loads or body mass, there is higher muscle activation. Thus, even without heavy loads, an athlete can recruit the full spectrum of muscle fibers and improve balance by simple body mass squats (bilateral or unilateral), lunges, push-ups, and other exercises using unstable environments like wobble boards, Both Sides Up (BOSU) balls and sandy surfaces. Improving balance can prove vital for the enhancement of strength, power, speed performance and training adaptations, especially in younger athletes. Balance training prior to power (plyometric) training can improve the degree of plyometric training adaptations. It does not require additional equipment and athletes stuck in confinement should weigh in on that factor while exercising at home.
Another popular category and more in-demand during this confinement period is neurodynamic exercises. Based on neutral mobilization, during these exercises, force is applied to nerve structures through alterations in posture and multi-joint movement. They are known to maintain and improve flexibility and dynamic balance control. They are also known to transcend from eyes-open to eyes-closed. This is owing to the reason that balance, when achieved with eyes closed, emphasizes additional training adaptions to the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Often-heard and quite the vogue these days are tai chi and yoga. Nonetheless, in accordance with the concept of training specificity, athletes must perform dynamic rather than just static balance exercises. A reverse lunge, unilateral squat or a deadlift will prove to be more evincing than just standing on one leg. Exercises involving greater balance yield higher force and power outputs.
Ideally, it would do an athlete good to fix two training sessions per day, keeping a 3-hour interval between sessions. Although one cannot blame an athlete who increases the number of daily sessions to beat the stress of confinement. But in doing so, never forget to relax your muscles and stretch them sufficiently well after a session to compensate for the exhaustion. Meditation and relaxation techniques also help reduce anxiety thereby bettering future performances.
Over the period of next week, we at ATIUM will help you with the dos and don’ts during the COVID-19 second lockdown. So that you do not lose shape, focus and your athletic ability to perform when things are back to normal.
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