The Missing Link to Long Term Athlete Development
We are quickly coming up on the end of the summer and in the winter sport performance world, we are typically coming to the end of a full off-season of intense training to prepare for our upcoming sports seasons. Of course not all sports follow this schedule so this article could easily be applied to any athlete who is finishing their off-season and going into their sports season regardless of the time of year.
Off-Season Training =Maximum Improvement in Physical Qualities for Sport
Off-season is the training time year where the greatest amount of improvement in strength, speed, power, and stamina and body composition can be made. The bulk of the time is spent is in the training room and more time is spent away from the field, court or ice. This is an ideal time to take a much needed break from the sport, evaluate your past season and set goals to make the next season better than the one you just finished.
Any athlete who wants to improve year after year knows that training during the off-season is their chance to make the most progress and change their body and how it performs. The right training program based on an athlete’s testing results and goals will maximize training results to carry over to the next season.
At this point many athletes go full throttle into their sport believing that all the strength, speed and power will stay with them because they are practicing their sport. Athletes and coaches typically think that they just don’t have the time to devote to strength, speed and power development because the tactics and skills of the sport are more important.
Let me pose the following questions:
Is it possible to be as strong, fast or explosive for playoff time (or whatever major competition) if you don’t train those qualities? Isn’t that the most important time to be in the best condition possible?
Is it possible to train those qualities without causing any overuse or undue fatigue to an athlete so they can perform at their best throughout the season and into playoff time?
The In-Season Training Solution
Let’s take a look at the first question. If you are not doing the things during the sport season that helped you get the strength, speed and power you gained during the off-season, there is virtually no chance of keeping those qualities up at the same level for playoff time. Regardless of how long or short the season is. The most important thing during the sport season is to make sure you don’t lose the attributes you built up during the off-season.
That brings us to the second question. The body is an amazing thing, when you train it, it becomes stronger over time. When you don’t have a lot of time to train it, you can easily maintain that strength with a lower volume of work but an equal amount of intensity. Here is what I mean by that.
Let’s say that during the off-season, at your peak, you were doing a Front Squat of 185lbs for five sets of three reps. What would it take to maintain that strength through the sport season? Based on past experience, I can comfortably say that you could easily maintain that level of strength with three sets of three repetitions of that exercise. If you were able to do that two times a week during the season, you could maintain your leg strength all season long. Does that sound unreasonable?
This is just one exercise and of course you would need to do more than that to maintain that strength throughout the entire body but, for the purpose of this article, this is a pretty simplistic view of the process we would go through to help our athletes maintain or even gain the physical attributes they need to perform at their highest level, when it mattered the most.
Every team or athlete is different and every sport is different but the concept here is the same, the volume or amount of work does not need to be the same (it could be as little as ½ the volume) but the intensity of the work does. It would be very hard to maintain the amount of work while practicing and training the skills and tactics needed for the sport without some form of overtraining taking place.
For a detailed view of the topic of in-season training, there is an excellent article by Bob Alejo, the Director of Sport Science at Power Lift on this topic. Click on this link: https://simplifaster.com/articles/high-intensity-strength-work/. This article is geared towards Major League Baseball athletes, but can easily be used as a guide for any sport for in-season training success. Alejo goes into great detail on how he sets up his in-season training programs for baseball.
If you are interested in having our Performance Centre team develop an in-season training plan for you or your team, please contact Jeff Wood by email or phone 204-925-5926.
Jeff Wood, BPE, CSCS, CEP
Sport Performance Specialist