In-season training is important for maintaining the strength and power you worked so hard to develop. The problem is that during the season, you don't have much time to train. In-season athletes have to practice, travel, study film and compete, on top of school and life commitments. The lack of training time is a problem, because if you don't train, you will lose strength and power, which will negatively impact your performance.
Complex Training and Contrast Training
Two tools used by strength and conditioning coaches can maximize your time in the weight room during the season—complex training and contrast training—both of which combine heavy movements with explosive ones. The original idea was that the heavy movement maximally recruits muscle fibers and the explosive movement takes advantage of it. In the video playlist above, strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle explains the basics of complex training and provides an exercise routine for building upper-body strength with complex training and enhancing explosive power with contrast training.
With complex training, exercises are performed in an almost superset motion. One is a heavy, slow movement. The other is an explosive one. For example, perform a set of four Back Squats with 90 percent of your maximum. After that, perform a set of five Vertical Jumps. The Squats maximally recruit the muscles of your lower body. The Vertical Jumps take advantage of that recruitment.
With contrast training, a heavy set of an exercise alternates with a lighter one. Again, the idea is that the heavy set maximally recruits the muscles and the lighter set takes advantage. For example, perform one or two Power Cleans with 90 percent of your maximum. Then perform a set of three to four reps at 60 percent.
It's unclear whether complex training and contrast training have the desired impact on an athlete's nervous system. However, they represent extremely effective uses of your training time during the season. For example, using the Back Squat/Vertical Jump example, in the space of a few minutes the athlete has trained for lower-body strength, promoted lower-body muscle mass and performed plyometrics.
Four Common Approaches For In-Season Workouts
1. Strength + Plyometric
This approach to complex training involves combining a heavy strength movement like a Squat, Press, Row or Hip Extension with a plyometric movement like a Jump or ballistic upper-body movement like a Clapping Push-Up. The strength movement should be at 80-90% of your 1-rep maximum (1RM) for one to eight repetitions. The plyometric movement should be executed explosively and is usually done for 5 to 10 repetitions. Examples include:
- Squats + Vertical Jumps
- Split Squats + Split Jumps
- Romanian Deadlifts + Standing Long Jumps
- Bench Press + Clapping Push-Ups
2. Strength + Throw
This complex training approach combines heavy strength movements with medicine ball throws. The same intensity and volume guidelines apply as those listed for the strength + plyometric approach. Examples include:
- Squat + Behind the Back Medicine Ball Throw
- Romanian Deadlift + Forward Medicine Ball Throw
- Bench Press + Medicine Ball Chest Pass
- Bent-Over Rows + Behind the Back Medicine Ball Throw
3. Strength + Olympic Lift
This complex training approach combines a heavy strength movement with a variation of an Olympic lift. You can do either the strength movement or the Olympic lift movement first. The strength movement should be fairly heavy: 85-90% of your 1RM for 1 or 2 repetitions. The Olympic lift should be lighter: 60-70% of your 1RM for 3 to 6 repetitions. Examples include:
- Power Clean + Front Squat
- Front Squat + Push Jerk
- Clean-Grip Deadlift + Power Clean
- Snatch-Grip Deadlift + Power Snatch
4. Contrast Training
With contrast training, I like to alternate between a heavy weight and a light one. I generally pick 90% of 1RM for the heavy weight and 60% for the light. This provides a great balance between having to recruit everything maximally and then using it explosively.
This is best done with Olympic lifts, Squats and Presses such as:
- Power Cleans
- Power Snatches
- Clean/Snatch Pulls
- Back/Front Squats
- Bench/Incline Press
Sample Week of In-Season Workouts
Now that you have an idea of the kinds of exercises to use, below is a sample week of in-season workouts to show you how they could fit into a program. Since this is in-season training, you ideally train three times a week. The first day is the heaviest, most intense; the other two are focused on maintaining strength and power. Although they incorporate some complex/contrast training, that is not their primary focus.
- Power Clean - 5x(1@90% + 3@60%)
- Back Squats + Vertical Jumps - 3x2-4@90% + 5 Jumps
- Romanian Deadlifts - 3x8-12
- Bench Press + Medicine Ball Chest Pass - 3x2-4@90% + 10 throws
- Bent-Over Rows + Behind the Back Medicine Ball Throws -3x6 + 5 Throws
- Power Clean + Front Squat - 3x3 + 6@70% of Power Clean
- Romanian Deadlifts + Medicine Ball Forward Throw - 3x6 + 5 Throws
- Incline Press - 3x4-8@80-85%
- Pull-Upsn- 3xMax
- Snatch-Grip Deadlift + Power Snatch - 3x6 + 3@60% of Power Snatch
- Back Squats - 3x4-8@80-85%
- Back Raises - 3x12-15
- Dumbbell Bench Press - 3x12-15
- Pull-Ups - 3xMax
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