From Pain to Power: Transitioning Gym-Based Training from Winter to Summer
BY BEN HAWKES
TRAINING YOUR BODY FOR TRACK AND FIELD IN THE GYM
As we approach the indoor season, naturally, we start to look ahead to the summer season and how we can best prepare for those all-important competitions. If you’re going to the gym regularly as an athlete, you might start thinking about how you can best tie in your gym work to your training & how those sessions might change closer to competition.
Over the winter, we all talk about putting in the ‘winter work’, and the buzz around the graft of winter training is a central element of identifying as a track & field athlete. But when it comes time to transition into more of a competition-ready state, it’s essential to know why we’ve done what we’ve done and what we need to do to get where we want to be.
WHAT SHOULD TRACK ATHLETES DO IN THE GYM?
Most training systems follow the traditional programme design of linear periodisation, where we sequence our training to target one physical quality after another, each becoming more specific to the sport: for example, general fitness & strength, strength & power, speed & power, and then speed endurance. Purely because this is the most popular method, this is the one we will focus on in this article.
In terms of gym work, moving from ‘winter training’ or ‘general preparation’ into a specific preparatory block will likely involve moving from more of a strength focus to more of a power focus by changing several variables about the training plan as a whole. We might do this by:
REDUCING OVERALL VOLUME (I.E. SETS, REPS, FREQUENCY)
To allow improved recovery & to facilitate an increase in exercise intensity, we might slightly reduce the number of sets and reps we do in each session. This shouldn’t back off too much, though, as we will come to later!
INCREASING THE INTENSITY OF EACH REPETITION
Putting more intent into each repetition might allow us to increase the velocity of our movement and create slightly different adaptations at a structural level. We can only do this for so long, though, so balancing volume (mentioned above) and intensity is key.
REDUCING THE RANGE OF MOTION
Reducing our range of motion will reduce the fatigue each repetition will cause, allowing us to apply more intent where necessary. It will also allow us to quickly switch from deceleration to acceleration and develop our stretch-shortening cycle, or stretch reflex/elasticity.
USING DIFFERENT EXERCISES
We might want to change the way we train a given movement pattern. For example, a shot putter might go from utilising a dumbbell bench press to train their upper body pushing capability to using a landmine push press or medicine ball chest pass.
However, it’s important not to lose sight of previously trained qualities in a linear periodisation model; we can’t just forget about aerobic fitness or maximal strength once we’ve finished training them. Each quality has a training residual - a length of time over which your training gains will remain if no further stimulus is applied. The table below from Issurin (2008) outlines some of these training residuals.
The table would indicate that we can go ~30 days with no direct strength stimulus without losing much at all. However, this residual figure was based on elite athletes with a robust training history, not novices. Indeed, it’s possible (probable) that these figures are very different (very much smaller) for novice athletes.
If we look at the long-term athletic development journey and broadly apply that linear periodisation model over, say, ten years rather than one, we might see a different perspective; the first few years of physical training should be highly generalised - we shouldn’t be straying too far for any training. If you want to be a power athlete (i.e. a sprinter or a thrower), maintaining and building a base of aerobic capacity will allow you to perform higher volumes of specific training later down the line. Conversely, an endurance athlete with a reasonable history of (appropriate) strength training might be less likely to sustain overuse injuries & should have a stronger sprint finish.
It’s only natural to want to taper off your strength training for competitions working with / being a young athlete. Still, you’ll probably get more benefit in the long term from making that taper only 2-3 weeks rather than going the whole of your summer season without touching any strength & conditioning / physical preparation work.
ABOUT BEN HAWKES
Ben is a hammer thrower who competes internationally for Great Britain and Northern Ireland and is also a sport massage therapist and strength and conditioning coach.
He has been writing content and producing videos for us for over a year, and his content focuses on hammer throwing tips and strength & conditioning guides for your athletic training!