You’ve spent the last few months inside gym walls gaining strength, size and power during a long, grueling off-season. Now the real fun begins. With practices and games filling up your schedule throughout the entire competitive season, it’s time to optimize your weightlifting schedule to hit the sweet spot between high level performance and adequate recovery that will catapult you ahead of your competition.
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A significant number of high school, collegiate and pro games take place during weekends. Also, knowing that coaches want to run at least two or three practices per week, the solution is to lift full-body twice a week. That’s enough frequency to stimulate further strength gains without hampering recovery.
Schedule Around Games and Practices
Let’s start with a basic assumption: You play on Saturday and rest on Sunday. The other five days are dedicated to honing your skills on the field and improving your muscular strength in the gym. A typical week in sports looks something like this:
- Monday – Practice
- Tuesday – Gym Workout A
- Wednesday – Practice
- Thursday – Gym Workout B
- Friday – Practice
- Saturday – Game
- Sunday – Off
If Sunday is game day, you’ll likely have Monday off and return to practice Tuesday. In this scenario, go about your day normally and do your workout after practice. If practice runs so late into the night that a quick trip to the weight room is impractical, hit the gym earlier in the day.
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With that in mind, your weightlifting schedule calls for workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Start every training session with an explosive/power movement followed by one exercise from each of the other categories:
- Explosive/Power: Power Clean from Hang, Snatch High Pull from Hang, One-Arm DB Snatch, Med Ball Floor Slam, Box Jump
- Lower-Body, Knee Dominant: Squat (front, back or box), Split Squat, Reverse Lunge, Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
- Lower-Body, Hip Dominant: Deadlift (conventional, sumo or trap bar), Glute Ham Raise, Hip Thrust, Romanian Deadlift, Back Extension
- Upper-Body Push: Push-Up, Bench Press, Dip, Push Press, Floor Press
- Upper-Body Pull: Chin-Up, T-Bar Row, Inverted Row, One-Arm DB Row, Barbell Row
- Core: Ab Wheel, Cable Lifts and Chops, Pallof Press, Hanging Leg Raise, Dragonflag
Sample In-Season Strength Program
With the weightlifting schedule set, build your in-season strength training plan by plugging in appropriate exercises, sets and reps into the template discussed above.
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Training Session A
- 1) Power Clean from Hang – 4×3
- 2a) Front Squat – 3×5
- 2b) Chin-Up – 3×6
- 3a) Glute Ham Raise – 3×6-8
- 3b) Half-Kneeling Landmine Press – 3×6-8
- 3c) Ab Wheel – 3×8-10
Training Session B
- 1) Snatch High Pull off Blocks – 3×5
- 2a) Trap Bar Deadlift – 4×3
- 2b) 15- to 30-Degree Incline DB Bench Press – 3×6
- 3a) DB Split Squat – 3×6-8
- 3b) One-Arm DB Row – 3×6-8
- 3c) Half-Kneeling Cable Chop – 3×6-8
From an overall volume standpoint, around 20 work sets per training session is a good guideline to adhere to with the competitive season underway. But what about weeks when you’ve got two or three games coming up, and coaches are scheduling extra practice to end a losing streak?
Many athletes would simply revamp their weightlifting schedule by dropping the strength training sessions altogether, but that is a futile strategy at best. A couple weeks away from the weight room will diminish your strength and explosiveness. Soon your performance on the field will suffer as well. Big mistake.
When things get hectic during the season, keep lifting twice a week, but cut the volume by leaving out the last three exercises (3a-3c) in the template. You’ll be performing only the power/explosive movement, plus one lower- and one upper-body exercise each day.
You may have to lift on practice days to make everything fit your schedule, but there’s no reason to skip a workout since you’ll be done in less than 30 minutes. Get it done and stay strong all season long.