It is no secret that no matter what sport you play you need to train accordingly in the off- season for the demands of that sport. A foundation is required, an engine is needed. As we build up our base in the off-season we have every intent of going into our season at peak strength and peak conditioning; We have placed ourselves in the best position to play at our best and stay healthy throughout the season. However we cannot lose sight of the fact that strength gains are much more easily lost than achieved. We’ve put in the sweat equity throughout the off-season, we’ve grinded through countless reps week after week, pushing our bodies to new levels of strength, evolving our nervous systems into a finely tuned machine. The unfortunate fact of the matter is ” If you don’t use it, you lose it”. 6 to 8 weeks of strength gains can be lost in as quickly as 2 weeks if one does not continue their maintenance work. I would liken this to a new Ferrari that you neglect to take in for service… No matter how well it runs and how much Horse-Power it has when you purchased it; if you don’t take it in for oil changes and put air in the tires its going to get run down.
Long Story short we need to make sure that our athletes maintain their off-season strength gains in-season for a few reasons.
1) Keeps them performing at their highest potential
2) Helps them avoid injuries; the stronger and healthier you can keep the body the less stress on the joints and ligaments
3) You are putting yourself in a better position to take your strength to new heights next off-season.
Let me attack numbers 1 and 2 together… Our goal is to obviously have our athletes heading into the season at a physical peak… The rigors of a season and practices take a toll on the athletes body; This toll however is not the same type of stress and stimulus we can create in the weight room. The way the body is taxed In-Season will break us down over time, this is why we need to stay on a maintenance program to continue to keep the body strong. The second we start to atrophy and lose strength In-Season is the second we start to put our joints, ligaments, and muscles at risk for injuries. Don’t forget that the muscles support the joints and ligaments…. Weakness, tightness, lack of mobility/stability are ALL indicators of potential injury risk and need to continue to be addressed In-Season.
However, don’t get it twisted how an In-Season athlete needs to be trained… The priority is keeping them on the field and at their best… NOT how much they can deadlift 6 weeks into their season . The In-Season program takes a Mobility, Stability, Functionality, and Strength Maintenance approach. This means lower volume, lower frequency, and a high emphasis on movement quality. The intensity CAN stay relatively high, YES HEAVY WEIGHTS WILL STILL BE LIFTED… But all lifts will be done optimally, Not Maximally. Meaning the athlete will be sparing a few lbs or reps on their lifts in order to preserve the nervous system.
The common misconception for In-Season training is that we should be doing low weights and high reps… This is incorrect.. We cannot forget about the reason for In- Season training.. Strength MAINTENANCE. High rep/ Low weight training is the same style of training body builders use to achieve “The Pump”. This pump is due to the fact that there is a high frequency of crossing over between the myofibrils involved (Actin and Myosin) … Not to get too scientific, but this frequent crossing over causes more blood flow to the muscles, more build up of hydrogen ions due to an oxygen debt, and more muscle growth… However this phenomena leads to a lot more delayed onset muscle soreness the next day due to muscle damage and metabolic stress… Long story short this is not ideal for an In-Season athlete.
**NOT TOO MANY ATHLETES LOOK LIKE THIS, NOR DO THEY NEED TO**
Lower rep/ Higher weight training (with less volume) will allow them to maintain their strength while having complete technical mastery and will not cause extreme muscle soreness the next day. This type of training paired with an elaborate active warm up/warm down will allow the athlete to maintain mobility, stability, flexibility, and strength all throughout their season.
Lastly if we can have an athlete maintain their strength throughout a season it puts them in a better position to increase their strength next off-season, instead of regressing back to their original starting point.