Staying On During Your Off-Season | Breaking Muscle
The off-season is the time period between post-competition and the next event. For bodybuilding and physique enthusiasts it is often termed as the bulking period, a time when you eat and lift heavy with little regard for toning or definition. For people who are not competing or are just looking to meet goals, the off-season is that time when you're outside of any, typically, 8-week training cycle.
Whatever it means to you, the off-season should truly be considered an improvement-season. It's time to look at the areas where you may fall short. For bodybuilders, the six to eight weeks post-competition bulk period becomes pivotal for growth. During this time macronutrients need to rise to help rebuild stressed tissues and balance hormones.
For other athletes, the off-season allows for improvement in technique by attending camps, recreational scrimmages, and individual training sessions. Overall, the off-season should be a continuation of your hard work— not a vacation from your prep.
Off-Season Time Management
Don't treat the off-season as a fixed time to meander or to move away from your commitments or routines. Try setting time to grocery shop, train, meal prep, work, and sleep but treat the off-season as an opportunity to train your scheduling or behavioral patterns.
Stay on track with training time (no more than 60-90 minutes). If it takes you far longer than 120 minutes you’re idling. You’re also playing a losing battle with cortisol if you do.
Plan a week in advance for food but take each day individually.
Focus more on your weaker body parts, lifts, or skill-sets and spend one or two days for your stronger areas.
Your schedule is not based on a specific development cycle and is looser in focus, but still, these 3 key points, keep you on track for your goals and prepare you for more challenging cycles.
Diversify Your Training Portfolio
Coaches will often inform athletes not to try new things during their preparation for competitions or as part of specific training cycles. This is a sound precautionary measure to ensure proper rest of muscle tissue and avoid unnecessary injury.
However, the same doesn’t hold true during the off-season. As you improve your physique by removing things that prove no reasonable benefit, the addition of new rep, tempo, and ROM schemes will prove useful here.
Muscle tissue is highly adaptive and may need a new stimulus to provide differing results. For example, a men's physique athlete planning to transition to bodybuilding may incorporate more leg exercises. A fencer may spend more time on footwork training or a rugby player may incorporate more explosive deadlifts with band work.
Supplementation At the Optimal Time
Given my history with supplementation, I am careful to recommend things and even more careful to implement them in my planning. In the off-season, this isn’t an experimental free-for-all. Instead, it’s a calculated approach to guided supplementation.
As a vegan athlete supplementation with a protein powder supplement and a multivitamin is enough. However, as athletes, we may be prone to the buy-in to taking three stacks of mass gainer plus a high stim pre-workout and other things that might not be necessary under individual circumstance s.
In my off-season I take less things in order to give my body a rest from additives and instead I focus on my meals. Currently, creatine and a multivitamin are staples for me and I cycle off creatine once my prep starts because my coach doesn’t find it as necessary.
With the supplement industry being overcrowded it's best to take the off-season to do more guided research into what products are useful, and what needs to be discarded.
Off-Season Prep Is In-Season Gain
For some athletes, they have a year-round sport. As previously expressed, others do not. In the off-season as a fencer, my coach Kornel Udvarheyli of NYU Fencing encouraged us to go to fencing clubs and practice. If possible, compete in local meets.
Our coach required us upon return to the season to relinquish a card that we filled out demonstrating the times we did open bout versus competitive fencing. For rugby, we often did intra-team scrimmages between our 15s and 7s teams as per the direction of our coach Russell Lamb of NYU Rugby.
As a bodybuilder, my off-season focuses on challenging my previous weight limits in order to add size and improve the mind-muscle connection between lagging body parts.
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