Many athletes, coaches, and parents ask the same question; What can we do in-season to maintain our results? That is the wrong question. We are looking for sport skill levels to rise dramatically during the season and peak along side human performance attributes, while avoiding injury. Easier said than done but for starters it requires the right mindset toward in-season training. While time spent should be overwhelmingly tilted to sport/team practice, in-season training should be efficient, potent and vital part of any athletes' season.
An athletes' training year should be divided into 5 different training phases. Off-season, Pre-season, In-season, Post-season(playoffs), and Recovery. Each phase should place different but appropriate demands on the athletes and will garner different results. Within these phases training cycles should provide periodization which allows progression while eliminating common plateaus. In this blog we will take a look at In-season training which I believe is one of the biggest black eyes in sports from youth to the professional athletes. Many athletes get out of their playing seasons having lost excessive amounts of weight and strength which greatly effects performance and puts your Off-season goals far away. Most importantly, poor in-season training will limit peak performance and increase injury risk.
GOALS of any in-season training system is usually very simple: Stay/Get STRONG and keep power capabilities (Varsity/ Upper classmen) or improve strength and power developed in off-season programs (freshman/JV/Redshirts/youth). Keep in mind that nothing counts until varsity, it is ALL DEVELOPMENTAL. If your athlete is developmental(ALL sub varsity or early pro development), in-season should be looked at more aggressively to developing long term for competition that counts. Simply put, your training may be more important and time consuming than athletes that are playing varsity or non-practice squad, etc. You have to look at an athletes' progress to be measured in years not weeks. In addition, it's much easier to get stronger in the off-season when you gain strength during the season. It's a waste to spend off-season time regaining lost strength. Another key GOAL is injury reduction. There is no injury prevention but you can guarantee to give your athletes the best shot against it. Stability / Anti-rotation core maintenance is great for injury reduction. If done correctly your team will look stronger and faster at the end of the season especially since most of your opponents will be slower and weaker. If sport skills and sport demonstrated power increase due to practice and good coaching BUT you get weaker/ less stable in the weight room, your injury risk go up and over all performance will be inconsistent. Work to collaborate and peak both for optimal results. Here are a few rules for inseason training:
TRAIN CONSISTENTLY. A good In-season program lifts minimum 3 times per week for youth/freshman/JV/Varsity/Redshirts. It should be a priority to build the program and the athletes over the course of their career so my belief is that all varsity athletes should train a minimum of 3 days per week. In addition, sub varsity or redshirt athletes may train 4-5 times a week because their development is more important than on field performances on the practice field or middle school/JV game field. One of my most respected colleagues is Jim Radcliffe who served as the head of strength and conditioning at Oregon for over 20 sports, including football until 2016. I have observed the Ducks lifting three times a week regardless of game schedule or opponent. In the course a year those workouts add up and in the context of four years- they mean everything to a program.
MAKE IT COUNT. Mandatory training sessions should target no longer than 20-40 minutes. 30 minutes is target average with low impact movement prep/ Prehab, Strength, Regeneration(stretching, Mobility, etc). More is not better. Better is better. Intensity & Volume balance. Strength training(aside from power benefit) will help boost testosterone levels in guys and help the ladies with the health of their bones and joints. Don't do speed weights- It's a joke and your players will not get stronger. They will get skinny, weak, and really good at going 83% intensity. Being good at going 83% of your max intensity is a good way to get your butt beat, another reason I am against the popular "burnout" or "As Many Rounds As Possible" programs for athletes. Condition your athletes by setting the game pace you want to emulate at PRACTICE. Build strength, power, and speed in the weight room. Staying strong and keeping your training residuals is your best case scenario. Rest between sets should be observed in the weight room if you get your conditioning in practice. Often for efficiency, athletes can work mobility or stability between max strength sets as a form of rest.
NO WHINING. In-season workouts are not always exciting and certainly need to be efficient/simple. This doesn't mean it's not crucial. If you "save" legs in September they will fail you in November. Athletes don't like to lift in-season but they like to win. MAKE them. Too injured to lift is too injured to play. It is easy to work around a banged up wrist to load the legs, etc. They should be able to demonstrate competence in training sessions before being released to practice.
PROGRESSION. Even though it's In-season, progressions should happen. While the lion share of work should be max strength focused; Mix in Upper, Lower, bilateral, unilateral, Push, Pull, Stability, Rotation, Antirotation, and even minimal stability focused or low impact Plyometrics. After 2-4 weeks of a system, you should advance or change. We like to make a strength residual chart and visit attributes on a need-to basis. Minimum effective dose BUT still an effective dose. We were able to implement this with some of the most overworked athletes in any sport(gymnasitcs) and we decreased injured individuals from over 80% to less than 10% in one season.
STAY IN SHAPE? What kind of conditioning are they getting from practice? Implement mild energy systems training in other areas to help keep the anaeorbic alactic, anaerobic lactic, and aerobic systems feeding each other for optimal performance. Feed systems they do not get at practice to promote rapid recovery and flush toxins. If you have any questions please reach out!
Stay Strong this Season!
Bobby Stroupe RSCC*D CSCS*D FAFS