The biggest mistake I see athletes make is performing the wrong type of training at the wrong time. You may make gains, but you’re more likely to peak at the wrong time.
Use the following off-season and in-season training guides to ensure that you’re spending time on workouts that will help you perform your best in clutch situations on the field or court.
Guide to Off-Season Training
Lift heavy. This is the best time to build functional muscle, gain weight and acclimate your body and joints to carrying a heavier load.
Since you don’t have to be overly concerned about soreness and overtraining, you can push your body harder. It’s OK to work out longer (60 to 90 minutes) with higher volumes (i.e., sets & reps). You can also incorporate slow negatives (i.e., eccentric training) and isometric holds, which are extreme strength builders but are too stressful to perform during the season.
You have nothing else at stake, so work toward getting bigger and better for the season to come.
However, you can’t neglect your sport—this is the worst thing you can do. Even if you’re playing less frequently, it’s better than not playing at all, because your body will remember the motor skills and movements of the game.
Avoid too much specialty training, such as instability or isolation work. These have their place, but they should make up only a small portion of your workouts. You’ll already be challenging your body with increased volume and intensity, so you don’t need to go crazy varying your exercises.
Guide to In-Season Training
Spend more time on the field than in the weight room. Use strength training to supplement your sport-specific drills and training.
Lift weights after practice if it’s on the same day. If you have a late practice, work out on an off day or early in the morning. This will preserve your energy and your neurological responsiveness so you can still play your best.
At the start of the season, you can use heavier weights and higher training volume. But as the season progresses, you should taper your training to preserve your performance for the playoffs or important competitions. Focus more on unloaded speed work, dynamic exercises and lower training volume.
Also, the quality of your joints and connective tissue will degrade during the season. To prevent an injury, perform mobility work and foam rolling exercise regularly, and address your weak links. For example, a hockey player might strengthen his groin to prevent a muscle pull.