Am I Doing Too Much as an Athlete?
Doing too much yields the same result as doing too little. Neither one is optimal thus neither creates the hopeful result we are seeking. At MAP, our job is to ensure each athlete receives the optimal amount of training (sport sessions + training sessions) to put as many advantages as possible in place for the individual to reach their goals. High school and junior high athletes, college level and up, and female/smaller athletes all will require a different amount of training and practice to create an optimal stimulus.
MAP athletes at the high school and junior high level are given the recommendation of 8-16 sessions/week based off what we have seen work the best for others around the US and those here at MAP Clinton. The lower end of that scale range oftentimes is achieved easily via school sport and school weight room training. How many of the best athletes do you see ONLY doing the bare minimum? Not many except for the genetic freaks, but they too will get left behind eventually if they fail to work hard enough to believe even more in self. Confidence is earned. If lifting 5x/week at school for 40 mins and practicing/games 5x/week at school for 1-2.5 hours, 10 sessions are currently accounted for. This will help the athlete make progress, but more so on the limited end. If the athlete is already eating plenty (eating 4x or more per day), they will benefit greatly from more sessions in their week (12-16/week range). If they aren't eating enough yet, they are missing out on the ability to have major performance gains -speed, strength, explosiveness, injury resiliency. The extra sessions at this age aren't quite as complex yet as the collegiate athletes as they have not yet learned how to utilize their nervous system as well making it easier for them to recover. They are more than likely still going to benefit from more time with bigger compound movements like squats/deadlifts/bench etc in those extra sessions outside of school weights. We don't agree with the majority of the athletes training coming from just those movements although as we try to adhere to the 80/20 rule from Westside Barbell (80% of what the athlete does in the weight room comes from smaller, special exercises and 20% comes from bigger, compound movements). This helps ensure the athlete will recover and stay healthy while still making the most progress possible. Athletes that will see the most success at the next level more often than not are the same ones that are hitting 12-16 sessions/week here.
The more advanced the athlete, the more complex the situation becomes. Athletes at the college level oftentimes in our case are seen as doing too little. Many believe they are doing PLENTY, but more often than not those athletes feel run down and have little motivation due to undereating. The "extra" workouts needed if that is the case is for that individual to start working on their nutrition. As a general rule of thumb, a minimum of 17+ calories per pound of bodyweight will be enough for these athletes. That would be atleast 2500 calories/day for a 150lb female athlete. If wondering what to fill those calories with, eat real food. Stay away from packaged, convenient foods; plenty of meat, eggs, rice, potatoes, fruits, veggies, and carb powder as needed. During times of higher activity (preseason/spring ball/etc) more food will be needed. The further you drive, the more gas your car will need. We have seen athletes need to eat as much as 24 calories per pound of bodyweight per day during those times.
In regards to training frequency (sport sessions + training sessions), most of these athletes are doing too little if the main goal is to reach their full potential. The extra training sessions will have to be created based off the athletes ability to recover and goals of the sport. The more in shape they are (the more activity they usually handle) the more they can do during these sessions. We like to think of each exercise in the weight room and each sport practice as having a $ amount associated with it. The more in shape the athlete (higher their work capacity), the more money they have to spend. The exercises that cost more money usually yield a better performance result, but this can also leave us limited if we don't have much money to spend. For an athlete that has $150 to spend, they will be able to make much better progress than the athlete who only has $75 to spend. For those who have plenty to spend, compound movements like bench press/squat/deadlift can still be used in extra sessions if done correctly even if doing them at school already although most of the money shouldn't be spent on these if they are extra sessions outside of school workouts. These individuals would be better off spending most of their time using more isolated special exercises that cost less in the moment and also help them have more money to spend over time; sled walks, jumps, belt squat marches, shortened range of motion lifts, tricep work, back machine exercises, hamstring curls, low back, abs, etc. 3 sessions/day 1-3x/week, 2 sessions/day 2-3x/ week, 1 session/day 1x/week, and a full day of rest with this population should be the norm if truly seeking out their full potential.
Female and/or smaller athletes including males that are physically smaller and have less muscle mass and less of an ability to access motor units limiting their outputs (ie 99% or more of high school and junior high males even including higher level male athletes that are under ~200lbs), are in the group that is oftentimes going to be able to handle much more as a general rule of thumb. These athletes will be able to train with much more volume oftentimes than the other groups. The ability to make progress as an athlete and reach the highest level possible is dictated by your ability to do enough of the work required as well as to be able to recover from that work. Optimal frequency for this group is going to range from 8-16 sessions/week as well. *This group at MAP is able to do things like max out more often than others as well as train more often and do more per session. The rules for this group very much apply to the junior high and high school groups mentioned initially but also includes college and professional female athletes as well.
When working with athletes at MAP, they each fall within a general group to know how much is needed at that moment for the athlete to progress optimally. Each group has a given range of sessions/week needed. It is up to the individual to decide where he or she wants to end up at and perform the sessions required to get to that point. Life is simply a series of doing x, y, and z to get the result we want and the ability to find the x, y, an z needed.