Off Day Training

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

Recently I had an athlete pose the question, “Can I do some more push-ups?” He then went on to explain that he used to be a little bigger and wanted to get that “look” back. After seeing the smirk on my face he quickly added, “And I don’t want the extra push-ups to interfere with my recovery and training here (Momentum).” He is a very bright kid and could tell that I didn’t much care if he wanted to work on his beach body for the ladies…and hell, we are about to get a Noreaster in October, so the beach is going to have to wait.

But on the other hand, I completely understand. Although he is training to improve his athletic performance, he, as most any other teenage male, would not mind turning heads when he is frolicking around on the beach in his cute little speedo…I mean, making a sweet tackle to save his team from losing the beach football championship. In all seriousness, when programmed correctly and supported by a sound nutritional program, performance training will not only result in reduced injury risk and athletic enhancement, but you will also find yourself spending a few more minutes in front of the mirror in the morning.

And to get back to the question, some extra push-ups would be something that I would actually encourage this athlete to do on his off days (days away from Momentum). Off day programming is a component of training that can drastically enhance or decrease training results. So how can we make sure that our off days are working for us?

You gotta know what you want before you do it

1) Define your goals: In order to determine which exercises and how much of that exercise you perform on your off days, you must first define your goals. For this athlete he wanted to provide enough stimulus to result in some muscle hypertrophy (growth) but didn’t want to hinder his recovery from his primary training.

2) Make sure you consider movement and balance: Along with our primary training sessions, our off day training should be mindful of our strengths and weaknesses as well as our movement needs. We need to program our off days to still be conducive to achieving muscular balance, efficient movement and proper posture. The athlete in this example has forward rounded shoulders and spends a lot of his time either sitting at the desk in!? school, or on one leg during sport. Push-ups would fit nicely with this athlete as the push-up, when coached and performed correctly, is more of a core and upper back exercise. Still, this athlete would want to incorporate some more pulling and single leg work to balance his body.

3) Consider competing demands: Competing demands simply means that you can’t do it all, all of the time. Since this athlete has three primary training sessions per week plus 2-3 days of basketball per week, he can not perform his off day training at a high intensity and expect to recover, adapt, experience positive results and stay injury free. Instead he must perform just enough work to result in positive adaptations, as well as…

4) Make sure nutrition is kept in check: This is especially true for those who are looking to reduce body fat but stay injury free and on top of their training game. When we have the goal of weight loss and enhanced aesthetics we have the tendency to train hard every day of the week. Because the body is not given time to recuperate, this type of training will quickly lead to unwanted aches and pains and eventually injury. Instead, reduce the intensity on the off days and just make sure the nutrition is clean and true.

So there you have it. A few considerations for off day programming. And to give you a more concrete example, this is an off day program that I would design for this athlete:

1) Full Foam Rolling, Activation and Dynamic Warm-up (including movements such as lunge variations, single leg reaches, acceleration technique, etc)

2) Half speed change of direction technique drill (5-10-5, T Drill, etc)  x 2/direction

3a) Push Ups 3 x submax reps (perform as many reps as possible with perfect form and leave a few in the tank…don’t go to complete failure)

3b) Single Leg RDL Band Row 3 x 10/side

3c) Split Stance Horizontal Abduction 3 x 6/leg/side

4) Your Choice (definitely a beach body muscle) 2 x submax reps

What a good off day program will do for you

This template will provide the athlete with some good movement work that will allow him to address his weaknesses, reduce his injury risk and provide him with a little extra stimulus for his mirror muscles. In any case, just like primary training sessions, off day programs should incorporate movements and intensities specific to the individual.

What do you do? We would like to hear about the training you like to perform on your off days. Leave a comment below and go to to post any questions you would like to see covered in furture blogs.

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