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Should Athletes train before practice?

This is a topic that gets brought up quite a bit as athletes enter thier sport season. This is inevitability because there’s conflicts of interest, you want to get all your training sessions in to maintain your strength and performance while at the same time you have the demands of your practices and games. Timing is not always ideal and sometimes athletes are forced to get their workout in before a practice. I often get “is this bad?” “Is it better not to train at all as opposed to training before a practice?”

The answer isn’t really a yes or no but more of a it depends.

My general answer or long answer short is it’s not ideal but it’s better than not training at all. BUT if you want more context keep reading, there is way more that goes into it than just that.

First, you need to know who you’re talking to as an athlete. My younger athletes who are novice to training, absolutely train before practices. Train whenever you can. It may affect performance the first couple times but as they adapt and improve their work capacity it should have no effect on their performance. This is because they’re at a “lower level” of athletic performance, they are nowhere near the peak performance they will achieve in the future. Meaning their bodies can actually recover much faster from workouts and practices because the forces acting on their body just aren’t as high, it’s less taxing. Don’t shy away from training before a practice it does two great things at a young age. First it actually greatly improves the athlete’s ability to handle work load allowing them to do more and handle more stress in the future, babying them at a young age can and will make a fragile athlete later on (Note: still respect their limitations and training needs to be fun for them). The second thing it does is teaches them how to perform well even when they don’t feel 100%, when they’re older feeling 100% will almost never happen and if that doesn’t bother them mentally the consistency of their game will be much higher.

For our older more advanced athletes, I still want them able to perform a workout then be able to go out and perform well in practice. While this is not ideal and I wouldn’t advise that every workout in the season comes before a practice, I would want them to be able to do this when they need to and be unaffected by it. If they can do this, it tells me that their work capacity is high enough to handle the demands of the inseason without increase risk of injury. If an athlete avoids this or is fearful of working out before a practice on occasion they may not be confident in their general work capacity and this can result is detraining later in the season and inconsistency of performance.

All that being noted, that mainly speaks to is the mentality of the athlete and no one should run themselves into a brick wall for the sack of being tough. I do encourage every athlete who will be working out before practice to communicate that to us before they start, this lets us auto-regulate their training program. Most athletes who train before a practice will have decreased work volume in their workout that day. Usually we will have an athlete perform a thorough warm up followed by a CNS activation exercise such as a sprint, jump or throw variation, then finish with a main lift and possibly one more accessory exercise. When this is done the athlete will actually head into their practice feeling more prepared ready for their practice then if they were just heading in cold. This is because all the exercises that may cause soreness and fatigue were taken out which are the accessory and supplemental exercises that come after the main lift. If the athlete does have time after practice we do encourage them to come back into the gym to finish their accessory and supplemental work if possible.

An example of this might look like this


CNS Activation

A1. Shot put toss- 3x3/side

A2. Push up to sprint- 4x10yd

Main lift

B1. Trap bar deadlift- 5x3 (65%-80% of a max)

Accessory exercise

C1. Sled push- 2x10yd

Come in later in the day after practice

D1. Glute ham raises-3x6

D2. Plank marches- 3x8/side

Cool down- box breathing- 5 minute

In fact many of our athletes will do exactly that during the preseason as a preferred way to train. They will come in perform their warm up, Explosive power work and sometimes their main lift then go to practice or go do their skill work on the field and come back to finish the rest of their program. I prefer and encourage that in the preseason to help transfer the results in the gym to the field. This is one of the many perks of having a gym in a sports center where training and practice is being held in the same building.

Will you be at a higher risk of injury if you workout before practice?

This is another question that goes hand in hand with training before practice. It is true that most injury will happen due to fatigue or fatigue is a pre-requisite to injury and if the training session is too hard or if the athlete is out of shape then they will be at a higher risk of injury by training before practice. This is were communication between the coach and the athlete is important so auto-regulation of the training program can take place. This takes a mature and self-aware athlete and a good coach to perform this the right way.

If done correctly and as mentioned above there can be great benefits to training before practice or being able to split your workout up before and after a practice to create the best of both worlds. This is actually a great way to develop increased strength and performance as the season goes on vs slowly fatiguing and seeing a decrease in performance and detraining toward the end of the season.

It’s also importance to note that if nutrition is poor, hydration is lacking and if sleep is under 8 hours a night this is will have a greater impact on potential injury. Here are some general guide lines in regards to that while inseason.

- 3 meals by 3pm and 5 by 9pm

- Take body weightX0.7= amount of ounces of water each day

- 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day

- 8 hours or more of sleep at least 5 out of 7 days a week (ideally every day)

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