Sports can often be tough on the body. Whether you are transitioning into the season or just having your season wrap up, viewing your training from a different perspective can help ensure you feel great and are ready to perform when it is time to compete again. All training is not created equal. Different training methods can be used to fulfill different training goals. One way to categorize your training is by the number of impact forces placed on the body and by categorizing the training as high impact or low impact.
High Impact Training
High-impact workouts are those that place higher levels of strain on your tissues and joints, such as running or slamming a tire with a sledgehammer. These can be a great method to train for sports but may do more harm than good during the competitive season when loads are already high from games and practices. This training can also be harmful to those who may have pre-existing bone and joint issues.
A balance must be found when introducing athletes to higher loads to prepare them for competition to avoid injury. This includes making small increases in training load over time and providing adequate rest periods during training, along with picking the correct exercise sequence to introduce loads over time. Below is a 4-week sample plyometric progression to ramp up impact forces for a volleyball athlete moving into the season. The plan progresses from an individual jumping with two legs and absorbing the landing with two legs to jumping with one leg and absorbing those forces on just one leg, which requires more balance and stability both on takeoff and landing.
Low Impact Training
Compared to high-impact workouts, low-impact training places less stress on the body and can be a viable training method to maintain fitness during the season for reserve players who may need to be ready to go in case a starter gets injured. This method is also great for those coming off of a season who want to keep up their baseline physical fitness or fitness gained during the season but may need more time for their body to heal and repair from a long season or in the case of high school, back to back seasons like many who play football and go right into basketball. Low-impact exercises are also a better option for those who are injured or recovering from an injury. Several low-impact training options have been included below to provide greater context. Keep in mind that although during certain times of the year low, impact low-intensity work may be needed, some methods and protocols allow you to train low-impact at high intensities, including the Tabata method and the 3 Minute All Out Test (3MAOT) also described below.
The 3-minute all-out test is a great test to examine an athlete’s power endurance. The title gives away the protocol, but you take on whichever activity you’d like and go as hard as you can for 3 minutes. This works as a phenomenal baseline test for athletes to look at heart rate data or from a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) standpoint at the beginning and end of a training block. Because of its simplicity, it can also serve as a great benchmark test that’s easily repeatable to track progress over time. This helps train both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems as the source of energy transitions throughout the assessment.
Begin your exercise and go all out for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. Perform eight intervals here, totaling 4 minutes. This protocol, along with the 3MAOT, can be completed using high or low-intensity exercises depending on the training goal. In the case of the Tabata, high and low-impact methods can be intermixed like the sample workout below to balance the number of forces placed on the joints.