In-Season Training

Working in the private sector there is an alarming trend. Train as hard as you can in the Off-season then once the season kicks off just stop. From a High Performance Training Model we look at this alarming trend and wonder how to fix it. We know training in-season is just as important as training in the off-season. However we have to face the facts of private sector performance training, time is a limited quantity. Parents have to take their children or athletes have to drive themselves to practice and games, which could be located all around the city, or in different cities as travel club sports continue to grow.  What we know to be true is you will loose everything you have worked so hard for it’s only a matter of time!

  • Aerobic System 30 ± 5 Days
  • Anaerobic System 18 ± 5 Days
  • Maximal Strength 30 ± 5 Days
  • Strength Endurance 15 ± 5 Days
  • Maximal Speed 5 ± 5 Days

What these numbers tells us is that we will start to loose these physiological changes we gained within the given days. With a properly programed in-season training program of at least one day a week we can make a huge difference in delaying detraining, and even help the recovery process of the athlete.

Now most in-season programs you see focus on volumes between 30 to 40 reps and tend to be more geared toward hypertrophy. The explanation I hear for the higher reps help the athletes recover by pumping and filling the muscle with more blood which allows more oxygen into the muscle, and white blood cells which helps with the healing and recover process. While I appreciate your “why”, most athletes need what they won’t get in-season and what they will loose which is strength. Also if we look at what directly has an effect on performance qualities such as force production it is strength not hypertrophy.

I know what you are thinking by this point “I don’t want my athletes sore on game day”. Well that’s where the off-season and exercise selection comes in. If we introduce a new exercise in-season then yes they will be sore. As long as we keep exercise selection to what the athlete’s body is familiar with and keep your intensities and volume in check you can make great strength gains during the season.  Remember the body can handle and recover from high intensity training in 24 hours as we are stimulating the fight and flight system. It is volume, which requires 48 hour recover and that kills our athlete’s.

The recommendations that I like to use are keep intensity between 75 and 95 percent in-season with volumes in the 20 to 25 total reps per exercise with a total workout volume of under 150 total reps. This would allow you to perform six total exercises per workout in-season. It’s also important to remember that there is no perfect equation and some of your athletes might have a higher training age, which would require variance in your volume loads.

Have a plan in place and execute it so you can keep your athletes training with you in-season this is key for their athletic development. If they stay on a cycle of 3 months on 3 months off then you will always be spending weeks in the offseason trying to catch them up to where you had them before they left. In college and professional settings it would be unheard of if you didn’t train in-season.

Kevin Hollabaugh, MHA, CSCS