With the long, grueling competitive seasons full of travel in sports today, it’s becoming more difficult for athletes to train consistently. Coaches often spend tedious hours devising the best periodization and programming only to see that plan fail in week 2 due to many unanticipated factors. Sometimes we forget that athletes are human too. Whether they struggle with sleep, diet, or stress from their everyday life, it’s easy to get off track. That’s why it’s so important to build in contingency plans (often referred to as audibles).
Learning from sport coaches
American football is probably the best example of how audibles are used today. Teams incessantly strategize over creating an ideal game plan, yet more importantly, they devise contingencies for certain situations should the plan go away. Sport coaches should use the same approach as performance coaches as athletes are often met with unexpected challenges. Far too often, the entire "game-plan" is rewritten or the athlete is completely enamored by training that doesn’t fit their needs.
Training consistently both in-season and during off-season is imperative in order to minimize soreness and provide the proper adaptation we seek to get. Consistency is arguably more important than the actual plan, but we often veer off track due to many circumstances. Sometimes you only have access to a hotel gym. Sometimes you don’t have access to any weights at all. How do you still provide a stimulus that fits in the plan?
Lack of equipment is no excuse for providing the type of stimulus we are after. While the intensity may not be there, it’s the sequencing that we are focused on - we want to MOVE BETTER. With that being said, if we are assigned barbell front squats in a plan (oftentimes given to low Load athletes to improve anterior chain sequencing) and only have access to dumbells, then we can do 1 leg squats goblet style as a “check-down" or "audible.” With exercises, in particular, it’s more about how it’s performed than what you call the movement. For example: to improve Load we see vertical torso as the most imperative piece in order to recruit the anterior chain and get ankle/knee flexion that’s typically avoided.
Examples for Load:
Load 1: Barbell Front Squat (Performance)
Load 2: Goblet Squat
Load 3: Heels Elevated Bodyweight Squat (Foundations)
Audibles are also important during times when we don’t feel up to par. Sometimes you just don’t have the juice to perform rear-foot-elevated split-squats, and that’s understandable. To get a similar stimulus, and stay on the correct path to moving better, it’s ok to audible to a 1 leg hip-thrust. We have found both to have a direct impact on Drive, specifically, so while one may give you more bang for your buck, we do know that both target improved concentric impulse (Drive), or prolonging the application of force.
It’s important to remember why we train - and it’s not just to sweat or get a pump. There is a desired adaptation for everything we do and we can’t afford random programming. Historically, the audible for undesired scenarios would be to jump on an exercise bike, do some crunches or wall sits, or perhaps just stretch/ice/ultrasound. These are not audibles, but just random actions, because they do not progress you through your plan.
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