Training should not look, feel or be the same year-round.
Almost everyone understands the importance of off-season training. What was once controversial in baseball has become an absolute necessity for athletes who need to enhance their game.
But what happens when the off-season is over?
Many athletes are afraid to continue training into the season. A typical excuse is a lack of time. I believe the most likely reason is because there is little clarity on what an in-season program should look like. Many athletes believe training is training, plain and simple, so there is no way to train and be able to play without soreness and perceived tightness.
This is flat WRONG. Athletes should be continuously training, but said training should merely be…different.
Typically off-season training consists of trying to push limits- get bigger, get stronger. After restoring movement and without a season to account for, training often takes the shape of high intensities and high frequencies to make the most of the finite time on the calendar. I believe it is this structure that leads people to believe that is how strength is created.
Knowing that their bodies can’t keep up that rigorous routine during the course of a season, most athletes aim to “maintain” off-season gains in mass and strength through half-hearted, poorly planned workouts consisting of higher reps and lower loads.
But, there are a couple problems with this outlook:
The first problem is how we think about maintaining strength. How does someone maintain strength? Did you obtain strength through light loads? No. You did so by lifting and moving heavy things. If you didn’t obtain your strength level at lighter loads, how could you possibly maintain that strength level through lighter loads. You can’t. You won’t. You can only maintain force by using force.
The second problem is the most obvious. Why on earth would we go with higher repetitions during an in-season workout. The main reason we are adapting training is to accommodate for a higher, er MUCH HIGHER workload of volume (repetitions). Every step, every throw, every sprint (hours at a time) must be accounted for. We are adapting our training to account for this volume increase- not to account for heavier loads. It is the heavier loads, the heavier weights we should be lifting in-season. We should be backing off the VOLUME. After all, it is the volume that creates that dreaded soreness.
So, how do we do this?
This can be as simple as adjusting sets. Instead of doing 4 sets of 10 at 75% intensity, do 4 sets of 3 at 80-85%, etc. This approach will help maintain strength without soreness being a major factor. In-season training should look different than off-season training…just not in the way you thought.