Your strength training and nutrition are of utmost importance for both your physical and mental health not to mention your sports performance. It is the combination of these two things that lead to increased muscle, resilience, energy, and performance.
Taking a Look
I spend many hours around female athletes from elite club athletes to high school and middle school athletes. There are two key things missing in many – muscle tone and body control. It is easy to chalk that up to growth and hormone changes – but, I believe it stems from a lack of focus on strength training, proper mechanics, and poor nutrition understanding.
Some athletes do have these qualities. They have a few things in common 1. They participate in strength training programs outside of their sports practices. AND 2. They have proper nutrition before during and after competition/practice.
Most high school athletes participate in some form of strength training program through their school program. Sadly, it’s probably not geared to the female athlete or their sport. And even if it is, without proper nutrition, our bodies don’t have the proper nutrients to build the broken-down muscles they are trying to grow. In addition, as the body tries to recover without the fuel needed to do so, the athlete is tired, unable to focus, and can’t really participate in much after their games/practice.
So, let’s set up our hard-working bodies for success, right?
All female athletes should have a strength training program that incorporates proper landing, moving, and stopping mechanics. It should also be periodized. What is periodization – it is a form of training that is set up as pre-season, in-season, and off-season training plans. This allows for plenty of development for core strength, balance, power, and muscle building. Having good lifestyle habits all year long will help keep hormones balanced and our bodies functioning optimally.
Added perk – Strength training can reduce ACL injury by 60%
What pre-season training looks like: (4 Weeks) Ramp up ‘getting back in shape’ slowly. You wouldn’t want to go from 12 weeks of rest right back into the same intensity you had during in-season. A gradual build-up will better prepare your body and you will reap greater benefits later in training. During this season of training you’ll do Aerobic conditioning 2-3 times a week. You’ll gradually move in to more intensive interval training. During this training season, your focus will be on maximal strength in exercises like squats & bench presses. Heavyweight 2-6 reps and maintain a flexibility program all the way through the season.
As you approach in-season time, the focus will change to more sport-specific conditioning like sprinting at max speed with quick stops, cuts, and bursts of power that reflect the activities of your sport. For strength training, you’ll continue to build strength but you’ll add power sets to the max strength efforts. I recommend a superset of heavy and explosive bouts. Like squats followed by power jumps without weight.
What in-season training Looks like: (8 Weeks) Now you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of all your hard work and discipline. Your new level of fitness and skills in your sport will have increased! The goal of in-season training is to maintain what you’ve developed during the pre-season. Two strength training days and one plyometric session is a great model to follow.
What off-season training looks like: (8-12 Weeks) – This is a prime opportunity to restore imbalances that basketball places on muscles. This training session is when we take time to rest and incorporate light activity. Rest doesn’t mean doing nothing ;). You’ll spend 2-3 days a week doing low-intensity cardio – avoid running and even doing your sport for at least a few weeks. You will lose a bit of fitness, but that is ok – the recovery and mental refreshment will be very good for your soul and your pre-season work. As far as strength training goes – you’ll avoid it but spend 30-45 minutes 2-3 times a week stretching, working on balance and increasing flexibility.
All the work in the world will be of little value if you don’t couple your hard training with proper nutrition strategies. Athletes will perform best when their training AND nutrition follow periodization. This means that as, you ramp down you decrease macronutrient intake (specific for you). The same is also true, as you ramp up you will also ramp up your nutrient intake to support your goals and increased activity.
This is different for everyone, but one thing is true – food before, food during an event that lasts longer than 60 minutes, and food intake as soon as possible after the activity. With high demands on the body, our muscles end up in a catabolic state (they are breaking down). If we don’t make proper nutrition important during training we increase our risk of injury because of that constant catabolic state. So, increase protein, especially during high-intensity workouts and event days. Female athletes should aim for about 20-30g of protein per meal. This is a good rule of thumb for protein no matter what season you’re in.
Protein from meat sources contains all amino acids which upbuilds collagen and helps support joint and tendon health
Since nutrition is very specific to each athlete, which is why it’s important to work with a sports nutritionist to meet the right requirements for your body, your sport, and your goals.
All female athletes need a strength training and nutrition plan to help them be the best they can be! Especially, the athletes that have multiple in-season times. Find a strength and conditioning coach or at least a sports nutritionist to help support the work you are doing so that you can reap the benefits.