Ben Johnson used to do back squats right before his sprinting competition. The Chicago Bulls used to work out on game days. When the University of Florida Basketball team incorporated game day workouts into their training routine, they won consecutive championships in 2006 and 2007.
There are many potential benefits to training before a game. However, it’s crucial to understand your training, the exercises performed, and the timing relative to the game.
Let me explain what works best to boost your performance, not compromise it or increase the risk of injury.
This study found the effect of training can enhance performance up to 48 hours before the competition. However, performance improvements can occur within 4 hours after the training stimulus session. This study indicates that using specific exercises with sets and reps, appropriately done, boosts performance before a competition.
For example, a catalyst exercise would be squats or power cleans to enhance vertical jump. Now, you must understand that this is not training in the gym. It is about stimulation, activation, and excitation of the nervous system. The neural excitation produces something called post-activation potentiation (PAP).
PAP stimulates based on moderately to heavy loads at about 80-90 1RM. Also, PAP is stimulated from low-volume exercises based on 30-50% 1RM. The individual response to the catalyst exercise or training will differ, especially based on sport and position.
So, make sure you choose speed-based specific exercises for sprinting and jumping speed enhancements, and the same goes for strength force exercises for a lineman.
You have to think of the routine as a neural warm-up with the purpose of:
These exercises or training routine needs to be non-fatiguing. They can be performed as little as 10-20 minutes up to 4 hours before the game starts.
Preparing for a game with pregame training requires careful consideration. Executing correctly will contribute to superior on-field or on-court performance, giving your team a significant advantage.
A pregame lifting session should be brief, lasting approximately 30-40 minutes. Focus on incorporating full-body sport-specific movements that stimulate firing, coordination, and stability to increase neural activation, mirroring the game’s requirements. This strategic approach aims to optimize muscle engagement and readiness for peak athletic performance.
The goal of pre-game workouts is specifically towards your sport-specific movements and performance.
Individualize the Routine
Your players need to choose what is best for themselves, training more or less time before the game. It is not a cookie-cutter approach. Treating everyone the same can diminish performance.
Furthermore, the pre-game neural training program also depends mainly on how you feel. You must change your focus if you feel sluggish, have muscle soreness, or are tired. For example, if your pre-game training program is focused on three reps at 85% 1RM, do lighter lifting at about 50% with mobility resistance using a resistance band. And after that, if you feel more confident, increase it.
Doing light to heavy loads is a great way to stimulate. If you are feeling well, focus on heavier loads and explosive movements. Just don’t overdo it.
The most important thing to know is when to push forward and back off. If you can understand this about yourself, you can turn your sluggish self into having one of the best games days in your life.
Benefits of Pre-Game Training
- The release of endorphins improves cognitive and mental focus, mood, and concentration.
- Stimulates muscles to maximize and optimize performance.
- Supercharges the nervous system to perform at a higher potential.
Complex Training Works Great
If you do not complex training in general, you are behind in enhancing your performance potential. Complex training is excellent for activating, stimulating, and exciting nerves and muscles because it uses heavy to light loads to induce PAP.
From my experience, I use complex training to bring explosiveness and power to jump high. And the same with my sprints. I use catalyst exercises that supercharge my muscles and nervous system to jump higher and sprint faster. I will share a few complexes with you and a sample routine I created for general purpose. I have many specific routines for sport-specific positions.
Here’s how complex training typically works:
Complex training is a training method that involves combining heavy resistance training exercises with explosive or plyometric exercises. In the same training session, it uses your strength to enhance your speed, explosiveness, and power.
1. Heavy Resistance Exercise: This phase involves performing a traditional strength training exercise with a heavy load of 85-90% 1RM. When you do the first exercise, it is not till failure. All you are doing is 3 of the five reps you can typically do. You don’t want to do all the reps. You want to find the happy medium of heavyweight and be able to move the load fast.
There are other ways, but for now, understand this first. Remember stimulation and excitation, not annihilation.
2. Explosive or Plyometric Exercise: Immediately following the heavy resistance exercise or up to 2 minutes, you can perform an explosive or plyometric exercise.
Complex training, the heavy resistance exercise first, increases neural potentiation. This makes the subsequent explosive exercise more effective in recruiting and activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers. This method is often used to improve power, speed, and athletic performance.
Complex Jump Program
Strength training is essential to be faster and enhance speed. You must be able to generate and produce high force to be explosive.
- Leg Press or Squat – 85% 1RM- 3 reps only
- Rest 1 minute
- Vertical Jump 5x- jump reset and jump- not consecutive 5x.
I continue this circuit until my jump is explosive. Once it is explosive, the reflex is activated. Stop and wait for game time. This happens quickly, within 20 minutes. So, understand your timing from the stimulus to the start of the game.
However, sometimes, the leg press or squat is not working, and I will switch the focus to do eccentric box jumps off stomps to trigger PAP and the reflex.
Complex Sprint Program
- Isometric Sprinter Holds with resistance band for 5 -8 seconds. Let go of the band and sprint. The isometric resistance will propel you into the sprint. Understand, assisted training also helps proprioceptors adapt to speed.
- Rest 2 minutes
Sample Neural Pre-Game General Warmup
Work from stimulating strength down to speed- 3 sets- 85% 3x, 70% 3x, 50% 3x.
- Back Squat
- Lat Pulldown
- Overhead Press
- Bent Over Row- Perform slowly to activate back muscles.
- Bench Press
- Walking Farmers Carry with Rotation– 50% walk for ten paces and slowly rotate each side x 5.
I have many ways to improve pre-game performance, for example, isometric, oscillation, eccentric, etc. But for now, master these general concepts first.
Check out my INSTANT STRENGTH book for total strength, speed, and power programs. This book develops your strength to do complex and contrast training.
To maximize stability, mobility, and flexibility, check out my book, THE BALANCED BODY.
To see great exercises, methods, and techniques videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel, BALANCED BODY.
If you are interested in a consultation or having a workshop for sports performance enhancement, tbblife.com