Approaching In-Season vs. Off-Season Training
Posted: Nov 17 2015
One of the biggest mistakes we see burgeoning competitive athletes make when training is not incorporating periodization into their training regimen. In other words, they work out too much/too little or do the wrong types of workouts at the wrong time. Certainly you will make gains, but not only will you peak at the wrong time, there’s also a good chance you will emphasize mass building, cardio or some other aspect of training, too much at the wrong time.
So what we’ve done is come with a useful guide to approaching training at different points of the year, depending on whether you are in full throes of in-season or in off-season training mode trying to build up for the upcoming season. Use the following off-season and in-season training guides at your discretion to ensure that you are spending time on workouts that will leave you as optimally prepared as possible.
If there is ever a time to build muscle to be make you stronger and allow you to withstand the wear and tear of a competitive season, this is it. This is when you should be striving to build functional muscle, gain solid weight and acclimate your joints and your body to carrying a heavier load.
Since you don't have to be overly concerned about soreness and overtraining (in advance of upcoming competition), you can certainly push your body harder at this time. Actually, given your goals at this time of year, it would be in your interest to do so. It is okay 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 that can/are often too stressful to perform during the season.
That being said, do not neglect your actual 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. It’s also the time to work on your game, by emphasizing and going over various key situations or challenges of your sport, or working on adding specific skills that will help make you a better player/sport athlete, or better prepare you for tough elements or points within a games/competition.
At this time of the year, you should be spending more time on the field or on the court (competing that is) than in the weight room. Strength training at this time of the year should be directed towards maintaining the gains you have made in the off-season, or to supplement your sport-specific drills and training. Generally, we recommend limiting weight training sessions to no more than 3x per week in-season.
Obviously, for those of you that have to balance a job or school while training for an event, it can be a challenge to fit in training sessions or even making time for weight training. You should be commended for making it a priority to re-orient your life in order to make training for competitions or competitive sports, let alone participating in them at a high level, if possible. That being said, in order to save yourself from wear and tear from competition or competitive matches, it’s important to plan your workouts for time and efficacy. As a rule, it’s best to 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 on game day
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 muscles (and ultimately your performance) for the playoffs or more important/key competitions. Focus more on speed work, dynamic exercises such as plyometrics, and lighter weight training, both in terms of weight and volume.
So there you have it. A quick guide to the ins and outs of off-season and in-season training for the competitive athlete that is just starting out and wants to know how to approach training for the first competition or dealing with their first competitive offseason.