Maintaining Strength In-Season

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Most high schools have just entered their winter sports season.

Last week was the first week of tryouts and scrimmages are approaching for most of these athletes.

A lot of athletes tend to make a huge mistake of preparing extremely hard for their season and then ceasing all training right once practices start.

This is a huge issue because these athletes are probably going to play their best one month into the season.

At this point, the team has not played many meaningful games and playoffs are still 2 months away. The goal should be to continue producing at a high level throughout the season instead of 2 weeks after preseason.

There is still a notion in most sports that you cannot possibly lift weights on the same day that you practice.

This is a garbage statement. Most of these athletes are used to lifting and could definitely fit in a 45 minute lift in their day.

In-season athletes still have to go to the weight room 2-3 days per week at the collegiate, professional, and sometimes high school levels.

The focus shifts away from making big gains in strength and more towards not losing them. Building strength is hard, but maintaining it is easy.

An athlete that goes to the weight room and does 4×10 squats with heavy weight is going to smash themselves into the ground. They are going to take forever to recover from something like that and it will affect their play.

This is probably where in-season lifting gets a bad rap.

Instead here are some aspects of good in-season lifting.

  1. Low Volume

Sets and reps should be low. The entire workout should be under 10 total reps (3 sets of 3 reps would be 9 total for the day) for a given exercise.

Volume is where lifters get most sore and take the longest to recover from. Doing a 6×6 workout would absolutely destroy someone that needs to perform on the ice or court.

  1. High intensity

The weight used for these exercises needs to be pretty high. Above 80% for 3 reps or less is probably enough to get the job done.

This notion does need to be monitored during the week to coincide with the game schedule. A more moderate day may be in order with only 1 day of rest before a game.

  1. Hit the big rocks

There is not a lot of time in the day for winter athletes. When it comes to the weight room, pick the major exercises and get out.

Choose a squat, deadlift, bench press, split squat, etc. and make that the focus. A supplemental lift that takes place next will also be important.

hex bar

The bicep curls, calf raises, and forearm work will have to wait for the spring.

  1. Be flexible

When I work with the hockey team at Stonehill I usually draw up two kinds of workouts. One will be a heavy lower and upper day, and the other will be a more mobility based day with exercises designed to minimize soreness.

Currently one day is a deadlift/bench focused day and the other is chin-ups, pushups, and core work with mobility. The second day is supposed to minimize how sore they will be going forward.

I know the guys won’t be beat up from chin-ups and pushups so I save that for 1 day away from game day. I want 2 days of rest for the other workout since it will tax the legs a little bit.

Sometimes the deadlift day is on a Monday and sometimes it is on a Wednesday. You must be able to adjust depending on the game schedule.

Some other things to consider are:

  • How much is the athlete playing? Athletes that play less can be more aggressive in the weight room.
  • How old is the athlete? A freshman should continue to train a little bit harder because it is an investment for senior year and they will recover pretty fast.
  • Is the athlete trying to play at the next level? Continue training aggressively unless you are training 16 year old Bobby Orr (chances are you aren’t.)
  • Is the athlete sore after training? If the athlete is not sore and performance isn’t affected then ramp it up.