Athletic demands seem to increase each year as teams start their training as soon as possible. The seasons are longer to include more games, and when the school season ends, the club and travel seasons follow right behind.
The off-season training window for an athlete closes quickly. Soon the shift is made toward focusing on your sport, drawing attention away from strength to in-season workouts. Your work in the weight room should not come to a complete stop, but neither should it continue as it did during your off-season training. You need to continue to train to maintain as much strength, speed and power as you can. However, once the season starts and your sport ramps up, you cannot train the same way you did in the off-season.
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Here are some suggestions on how to avoid the three most common in-season workout mistakes.
1. Doing too Much Volume
Whether you work with a trainer or on your own, it’s important to scale back your strength and conditioning. You can do this in several different ways, even in conjunction with each other. One way is to reduce the number of days you train. If your off-season training program had you working two to three times a week, take it down to one or two days max.
During your weight room days, reduce the volume of your program by cutting the number of sets and repetitions. This will keep you fresh for practices and games. For example, I generally have my athletes perform four sets of a particular exercise in the off-season, and during the season, I back them down to three.
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2. Chasing Big Numbers in the Big Lifts
Trying to hit your max weight during your lifts like you do in the off-season is not a formula for success during the season. Reducing the weight of your big lifts is a good way to maintain strength without overstressing your body. During this maintenance phase, you can maintain much of your hard-earned strength using 70 to 75 percent of your maximum weight. This will keep you strong enough during your season and allow you to achieve more the next off-season. For example, if you deadlift 315 pounds for 2 reps max, back off to 235 pounds and do 3 sets of 5 reps instead.
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Another way to minimize adding stress to your body from big lifts is to swap them out altogether. Does the Bench Press get you fatigued? Try more Push-Up variations. Are you sprinting and jumping a lot at practice and in games? Ditch Olympic lifts and Box Jumps and substitute Kettlebell Swings. Your weight room sessions during the season should not make you more fatigued and hinder your sport performance.
3. Doing Too Much Conditioning
If your off-season program was constructed and executed properly, you shouldn’t have to get into shape at the start of your season. Continuing to do heavy conditioning work during the season will add stress to your nervous system and joints and soreness to your muscles—all of which will make it harder for you to recover properly and decrease your performance in games.
Instead of more conditioning work, do more stretching and joint mobility drills to aid in your recovery. Come up with a 5- to 10-minute routine that you perform at the beginning and end of your training sessions and practice. The better your recovery, the better you will perform the next day.
Remember, the goal for in-season strength and conditioning is to maintain strength, not to add stress to your body so you are able to perform your best during practice and on game days. With the right programming this is very achievable.