“Use it or lose it” principle for Athletes during the lockdown. Author : Ankit T

The principle of reversibility states that if training is decreased or stopped physiological adaptations linked with it will be reversed. A phrase linked with this is “Use it or lose it”.

But what happens when a situation like the current lockdown restricts you from training on the field or in the gym. How much impact can it have on your fitness level and how to ensure you come out stronger post lockdown?
Detraining and its impact on athletic traits with a solution for each trait a perspective from Ankit Tivrekar: Strength and power expert ASCA.

Cardiovascular Endurance:

During a period of complete cessation from training cardiovascular fitness typically declines much quicker than gains made in strength/power. It may take 6-10 days of complete deprivation from cardiovascular training to start
seeing a significant decline. As most field-based sports require you to have a good endurance level to prevent you from gassing out during competition it is safe to say good aerobic capacity is a foundation for other traits like
speed and power. So the question is how do we work on this not so fancy fitness quality?

Solution

For sports which are primarily characterized by stop-start nature like Squash, Cricket, Football, Tennis whether it is jump, side shuffle, back paddle, or sprinting at various velocity. With my athletes I like to use staircase runs, 10-15 seconds effort interspersed with an equal amount of active rest which can be light jog or just walk depending on current fitness level, this can be done for 20 minutes one or two times a week. The rest period not only helps you to recover but also ensures good form on the staircase run, this type of training is called “High-intensity aerobic
system conditioning”.

Strength

Unlike cardiovascular endurance strength can be maintained for as much as 4 weeks after withdrawal. However your eccentric strength (Ability to absorb force) may decline much faster which crucial is for skills like jumping and sprinting at high velocity. Unless you are one of those who can afford a home gym with barbells and dumbbells challenging yourself with just bodyweight movements may look impossible. Here is a “weird” strength solution for you.

Solution

In the absence of free weights I prefer using a method called “Overcoming Isometrics“. Overcoming Isometrics are when you push or pull against a static object, ideally, in a gym setting we may use a barbell in the squat rack but in our case a towel can do the trick. This may sound easy however if done with max intensity can activate maximum muscle fiber. You may use Squat, Lunge, or Deadlift pattern where you place the towel under your feet and hold both the ends in each hand and try to pull with max intent for 4-5 seconds for as much as 4-5 sets with 2-3 minutes rest between each set. Since strength can be retained for a longer time training it 1-2 times with overcoming isometrics should provide enough stimulus.

Power

Athletes who have gained power through training are more susceptible to lose power rapidly during breaks. According to studies athletes who were able to maintain strength failed to produce the same amount of force post
4 weeks of detraining this because power has an element of speed not just strength. If periods of detraining are expected, it's important to have a period of intense training before detraining or tapering

Solution

As a strength and conditioning coach to A-division cricketers and national level boxers I believe power can be a key differentiator in a match imagine being in the last round of a losing boxing match and being able to connect with a jaw-breaking uppercut or in a super over the situation in cricket.

Medicine ball training and plyometric exercises can be helpful to build and maintain power. Using medicine balls of varying weight for slams, throws, toss in variable movement patterns as per your sport can help maintain power. Plyometrics are mainly jump based exercises to generate maximum force in a short timeframe, these can be progressed to hops leaps and bounds.

The Key is low volume maximum intensity as the goal is force not fatigue.

Max Speed

A trait like speed can witness drop in as short as two weeks and these are the most valuable quality for most sports. It is said that speed is the most expensive fitness quality for an athlete.

Solution

With sprint-based athletes like fast bowlers I use power bands for stationery sprints as you can get an incline angle specific to sprinting and helps you to produce max force. Here the focus is on max effort in minimum timeframe, 4- 5 seconds of all-out sprint followed with 60-90 second rest can ensure you are ready to repeat with no loss in
speed.

Conclusion

As you can see there are no hard and fast guidelines mentioned but it can give you a fair idea on how to ensure a player’s adaptation and fitness levels are not lost in this tough period. The last thing would be to ensure a gradual return to play when things start easing too much too soon can be a shortcut to injury. Wish you the best for your athletic endeavor.

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