When it comes to an athlete’s annual training program there are three important time periods to consider:
1. Off-Season: Time period from the end of the athlete’s competitive season all the way up to their pre-season.
2. Pre-Season: 4-6 weeks leading up to the athlete’s competitive season.
3. In-Season: The athlete’s competitive season.
Given that there are 52 weeks in a year, you want to guarantee that your athlete will get the most out of each training session in order to peak their performance during the season. Training during all 3 phases is crucial to take advantage of an athlete’s genetic potential. Throughout my experience working in the college and private sector I have generally seen a strong emphasis on training when it comes to the off-season and the pre-season. General knowledge tells athletes that they need to gain strength and explosiveness to be successful in their sport season. These phases are very important, but they seem to take precedence over in-season training. With the main concern being that athletes don’t have enough time during the day with school and practice, they are choosing to skip in-season training all together.
A great strength coach will know how to properly peak performance in athletes. They should be fine tuned machines right before the season. Right before their season they should not only be at their strongest, but they should be more explosive than they have ever been. It is at this point that most athletes choose to discontinue their training for the reasons previously mentioned. This is where athletes are doing themselves a disservice. They will lose the adaptations that were gained from training. Power and explosiveness can decline as quickly as a few days, while losses in strength can be seen within 3 to 4 weeks. With sport seasons being as long as 3 to 4 months the changes that will take place with a lack of training will have a direct correlation to their performance on the field. They will be weaker, their mobility and movement will decrease in efficiency, and their overall rate of force development (power) will be much lower.
When it comes to in-season training the 2 days a week model always works best with one day focusing on strength and the second day focusing on speed and moving the bar fast. Sample exercises for day 1 might focus around strength compound movements such as the squat or the bench press, while the 2nd day is focused on explosive exercises like the clean or the snatch. Every sport season has a different schedule, but the strength day should be performed further away from competition while the explosive day can be performed closer to the time of competition. The strength day should always be performed as soon as possible after the game. The reason behind this is to not only aid in active recovery from the game, but to also get in the higher intensity lift further away from the next competition. The dynamic or power lift is best performed later in the week due to the fact that this lift is less taxing on the central nervous system. The focus of “moving the bar fast” is to help maintain the power and explosiveness built in the off-season.
The following sample weeks show what a typical week might look like for an in-season sport.
|Speed Day||Competition||Strength Day|
|Speed Day||Competition||Competition||Strength Day|
|Strength Day||Speed Day||Competition||Competition|
These are just a few examples of what a typical schedule might look like in-season for different sports. Every sport has a very different schedule that is constantly changing. Ideally you would get in 2 days every single week, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some weeks only one session might be all you are able to do, and as a strength and conditioning coach I am constantly adjusting and adapting to meet the needs of my athletes.
The never-ending goal is to keep building progress from the previous year so athletes are never moving backwards. With a typical college career being 4 to 5 years, ideally an athlete wants to be their strongest in that final season. The charts below show how a typical athlete might progress over a 3 year span if they are training in-season versus if they do not train in-season. You can see from the in-season chart that the bigger increases are made in the off-season while small to no increases are seen in-season. This may seem counter-productive but this is exactly what you want. At the end of each season you want your strength to be at or around what it was at the beginning of the season. It is hard to add a lot of strength in season, but if you don’t train at all your strength will decrease dramatically. You can see this in the non in-season training graph because the athlete is building off a lower base than he started with. Whereas if you train consistently throughout the in-season you will be building off of a stronger base each off-season. The goal is to never regress, but to consistently move forward.
Check this graph out to see the difference in strength levels when you train in-season: training graph