Introduction: As the spring season is right around the corner, we’re sending off a large amount of our athletes to the arena of competition. While our population of athletes training in season has grown tremendously over the years, we tirelessly educate our athletes on how important it is in the year-round training process. While we can delve into the science behind injury prevention and performance maintenance and progress during in-season training, we must answer the question that concerns every athlete and sometimes even prevents them from beginning in season training… “what is my program going to look like?” For starters, the primary focus of our in season training is to prescribe exercises, sets, and reps in a manner that is going to mitigate the overall volume on the athlete. Overall volume is taking into account minutes played, time and intensity at practice, amount of conditioning done at practice, as well as the intensity of the training that we are going to complete at Athletes Warehouse. Think about it like this…
The Formula Overall Volume = Amount of playing time in game + Practice duration and intensity + Conditioning executed at practice + Training Volume executed at AW.
As the strength and conditioning coach we are only one factor in this athletes overall volume. We allow our workout to be flexible, moldable, and as adaptive as possible in regard to all the other factors that are going into the overall volume of the athlete. So this is where our programming becomes very specific and individualized to that athlete. Here are some of the major implications to how an athlete’s in season training program is formed.
What does the athlete enjoy? Arguably the most important factor in terms of mitigating emotional and mental fatigue. Even though this factor is not as definitive or scientific, if an athlete feels as though they are coming into the gym and needing to grind through exercises they don’t enjoy it is going to be way more taxing from a psychological standpoint.
What is their sport? Preseason field sports such as lacrosse or soccer are essentially track practice with the amount of running volume. Preseason baseball or softball can be thought of more of a power event. For our lacrosse, basketball, soccer, football, field hockey, and other field athletes, we will most likely avoid any form of sprinting, jumping, or high impact eccentric exercises. These programs will be designed around preventative and rehabilitative exercises, and strength work that promotes maintenance of performance. For example, they will find themselves utilizing resistance bands, sleds, and Keiser equipment alongside main strength lifts (Squatting, Pressing, Lunging, Pulling) in a manner which limit the amount of soreness the athlete experiences while maintaining strength.
When we talk about in-season training for our large baseball and softball population, we are able to prescribe more intense sprinting, jumping, and lifting. While we are still trying to mitigate soreness, the goal of these in-season programs is to continually allow them to peak throughout the season. Because of the fact that these athletes are participating in a power sport (requiring quick expression of force) with the absence of large amounts of running and jump volume, we can prescribe a good amount of sprinting, jumping, and high weight/low volume (e.i. Heavy set of 3) to these athletes. With consistent in season training, we almost always see baseball and softball athletes setting new personal records in events such as the 10 yard dash, 40 yard dash, and broad jump. These increases in power measures are indicators that these athletes are continuing to peak performance.
Sets and reps. This can often be the most structured way to describe in season training and we cannot discuss the topic without this. As stated before we prescribe volume based on sport and fatigue of the athlete, which can often be very individualized and varied. However, some consistent rep schemes and mini workouts that we will utilize are the following: that an athlete will find themselves completing are somewhat based on the Westside/Conjugate dynamic effort schemes. Sets such as 10×2, 8×3, 6×4, allow the athlete to perform squat, press, deadlift, and lunge at weights that are relatively high in load and maintain a moderate total volume (i.e. 10 sets of 2 totals 20 total reps). We will also utilize bands and chains to emphasize the concentric phase of the lift at moments where the athlete are stronger (i.e. heavier at the top of the lift). These sets are less taxing as they reduce the time under load, as these sets are not going to require the athlete to be under a load for more than 15 seconds.
Final Thoughts: The greatest benefit to in-season training is injury prevention. At the end of this discussion of sets, reps, peaking performance, and exercise selection, regardless of what you get out of in-season training, we always find athletes stay healthy through the season. It doesn’t matter how strong, powerful, or talented you are in your sport, if you are not healthy you cannot perform.