We have finally reached the time when coaches, trainers, parents, medical professionals, and athletes are all in agreement on the positive benefits that a proper strength and conditioning program will have on the performance and safety of all high school athletes. It is a fact that all athletic qualities directly or indirectly rely upon an athlete’s strength. Simply put, strength is the base of the athletic potential pyramid. I would actually go as far to say that I can GUARANTEE improved athletic performance in athletes that visit my gym in just a few short months of strength training.
With all this being said, it still baffles my mind that so many athletes come into my training gym right after their “season” and work extremely hard for 6-8 months only to disappear during the season! In a few short weeks with all the demands of high school athletics their bodies lose nearly ALL the athletic qualities that they worked so hard to develop!
I’m going to go through a few key points to keep in mind when lifting weights in season. Every sport is different requiring different schedules and different demands on the athlete. With that being said, I’ve found that most athletes in high school can get two “in season” workouts in per week and can adjust as needed based on scheduling, injury, sickness, school work, etc.
Goal #1- To stay healthy. Don’t lift till failure and force reps. This will fry your nervous system, tax your connective tissue and decrease performance. Also, don’t try to maintain the same lifting schedule you had in the off season!
Goal #2- To maintain about 90% of your maximal strength, so if you tested at the beginning of the season in squat at 200 pounds then you still should be able to do 180 by the end. Maintaining your weight will go a long way to maintaining strength.
Goal #3- To maintain speed/power. Speed and power is the athletic quality that separates the winners from the losers. In championship season you don’t want to be 3 months away from peak power output!
Goal #4 – To keep confidence levels up. Lets face it sports are at least 50% mental maybe up to 95%. Young men that are strong and able to move heavy loads are always more confident. Theres nothing worse than walking on the mat, court, field, or track in a championship setting feeling like a shell of yourself! I know I’ve been there. You want to compete when it matters most in a peak state of physical preparedness.
Below I’m going to give you a few rules that I adhere to when writing “in-season” training programs for our high school athletes…
1- Workouts should be shorter than off season programs. To maintain strength and power you can cut sets and reps down dramatically. Try to find exercise progressions that kill two birds with one stone like the pull up variation above to save on time and energy!!
2- Do not vary the exercises and movements too much. Alternating between 2 workouts in season is fine. Maybe change it up mid-season or maybe you just leave it for the whole season. By varying the workouts too much the athletes will get sore because of the new stimulus.
3- Be flexible. There are many variables that come into play during the season. Depending upon the sport and the scheduling an athlete might only get 1 workout in so we like to be ready to adjust as needed. Also, an athlete might have a nagging injury to work out around or they might just be extremely fatigued. Don’t keep sets, reps, and loads “written in stone” be able to adjust.
4- Stay away from a lot of “eccentric loading” especially heavy eccentric loading. Eccentric loading is the scientific way of saying stretching the muscle or lowering the weight with a load. For example in the bench press it would be the lowering of the bar. This portion of the exercise is what breaks down the muscle tissue and it also causes soreness. So during the season we place a greater emphasis on “concentric” muscle contractions or the contraction that occurs of the the lowering/stretching.
5- I like to always include some form of power and or speed training. Whether it be olympic lifts, jumps, med ball throws, or sprints maintaining power is paramount to athletic success. Again, we keep the loading light and the volume low.