One of the questions I get asked frequently is this: “How do I add in extra work and how do I know how much and what to do?” The question is really a multi-part question, and the answer is a multi-part answer. Doing extra work without getting into an overtraining situation requires an understanding of a few key facts.
What Is the Goal of “Extra Work”?
First of all, you must realize the purpose of the extra work that you are going to do. If it is set up correctly, the “extra work” is designed to increase your GPP, strengthen your weaknesses, and improve your overall conditioning; when executed correctly, it will do all of the above. Yet understand that an extra workout is not (and should not be) the same as your main workouts. If you go into your box or gym to do auxiliary workouts and treat them the same as your main workout, you will quickly run into problems and actually find yourself going backward. Why? Because athletes run into trouble when adding in extra workouts by doing too much work too quickly.
Most athletes have good intentions but quickly end up doing way too much work. We find with our athletes — myself included — that if we come in, hit it and get out within 20-30 minutes, that is where the extra workouts yield the greatest results. You can increase both workout length and intensity over time.
“Increasing Your Workload Ability”
Again, the primary purposes of our extra workouts are to raise workload capacity and GPP and to strengthen weak areas. Keep in mind that when I say “weak areas” I am not only referring to muscles or muscle groups.
Weak areas in need of extra work can include technique or endurance, or it may be a skill such as jumping or running. Extra workouts can also serve as active restoration if you design them with that purpose in mind.
Most people assume with extra workouts you only do more weight work, and that is not always the case. Depending on the time of year, we often use these extra workouts for running sprints, working run bio mechanics, or perfecting footwork. Some of these workouts are just cardio and nothing else. Sometimes it may be all explosive work in plyometric fashion — sometimes upper body oriented, sometimes lower body. For CF athletes, often it may be work to help your muscular endurance.
In fact, that is what we are doing right now with most of our fall sport athletes because it is mid-summer, and many are heading back to college soon or starting summer ball. Because the majority of them need to be prepared to pass some kind of PT test, in the mornings we are working on sprinting, conditioning, explosive plyo work and bio-mechanics. At night we work our main workouts, which usually run 75 minutes.
Remember to keep the extra workouts short and focused, with the goals of raising workload capacity and for repairing weakness. By getting in and working quickly, your body will adjust to a greater workload without tremendously taxing your recovery ability. Start with two 15-minute light, low-impact workouts, and you will start increasing your workload ability.
After doing so for a few weeks and leveling off at that load, you can increase your workload to maybe two 25-minute workouts, then drop the time to do three days at 15 minutes each. We find that building up to three extra workouts at roughly 30-35 minutes is optimal for most athletes. Granted, more elite level athletes may be able to handle more, but we are talking about the masses here.