Atlanta United is partnering with Piedmont in an offseason series hosted by Ryan Alexander, the club’s Director of Sports Science. In each episode of the four-part series, Alexander walks us through a different area of offseason recovery.
The focus of episode three is recovery.
In parts one and two, Alexander showed concepts and methods of strength training and conditioning that help keep players fit through the offseason. The next phase of the process involves recovery, which allows Atlanta United players to get back to their best form after a long, grueling season ahead of the next preseason.
The first area of focus during the recovery period is range of motion. During the season, players spend months pushing their bodies to the limit. They stress and strain their muscles and participate in higher end workloads to compete at peak level. So for the offseason, Alexander prescribes lower levels of activity. This destresses the body and allows those main muscle groups to relax from all the tightening and stress of the season.
Specifically, Alexander provides stretching and mobility protocols to players to address any issues that might have risen during the season, or to prevent any tightening or other issues from occurring in the future.
“We want to use this time in the offseason to promote movement patterns that are ‘normal’ that can help relieve some of the strain from striking a ball and changing directions at high speeds for 11 months,” Alexander said.
Exercises that involve mini-bands, foam rolling and stretch bands work to address movement patterns commonly used by soccer players. But instead of the explosive, high-intensity nature they perform during the season, Alexander slows down the movements. A slower rate helps players control the movements and can help the brain learn a smoother way of performing the action that involves less strain. These exercises can be performed with minimal equipment or a small piece of equipment that players can pack with them.
“All the movements are promoted to take to a ‘full range of motion’ which we inform that player to mean without any significant discomfort and no pain,” Alexander said.
Another area of focus during the recovery phase is the continuation of recovery methods players used during the season. A lot of players form strict routines based around training and eat to compete at the highest level. While participating in the strength and conditioning portion of the offseason that Alexander and his team encourage players to maintain, players can also use the same recovery methods they used during the season. This might include ice baths, contrast baths, sauna or warm bath immersion methods.
“The choice to use these methods is largely restricted by resources in the offseason but we will work as a staff to communicate alternative solutions for them when the facilities don’t match what we have here at the Training Ground,” Alexander said.
One of the most important forms of recovery in the offseason is sleep. It’s the optimal time when the brain and body can slow down to focus on areas of need and bring the entire body back to its baseline. After a long season of travel that often involves late nights and early mornings and the stress of competing in different time zones, Alexander and his team like to promote getting a high level of “no activity” or sleep time.
According to Alexander, between 8-10 hours per night is ideal.
“There are few modalities available to our players that can better promote the overall recovery of the mind and body better then sleep,” Alexander said. “As best we can, we communicate with our players to focus on this aspect of the ‘program’ so that we can be confident they are returning to us in January rested and recovered.”
Watch the video to see Alexander demonstrate recovery methods: