The summer is a good time for athletes to prepare for fall and some late fall/winter sports. This offseason program is an opportunity to build strength, speed, power, correct imbalances, and get the body ready for demands of the season. Once the competitive season comes around, however, it would be a mistake to end all training. You should reduce your frequency and volume of training to accommodate the added practice time instead of avoiding the weight room like the plague.
You can still train even though you are in season!
It does not really make sense to train for an entire summer just to stop before the first game. Maybe you do really well during the first quarter of the season, but how do you intend to continue your production and stay healthy through the whole season?
The purpose of in-season training is to prepare the body to reach peak performance for competition.
This is simple for sports that use a tournament or single event schedule. Someone that has a specific date where they need to be at top performance can work their way back through different phases of periodization. Ideally, the competition period would last about a month and the rest of the year would be dedicated to training for that time. This is not usually the case in any sport. People training for a 5k, adventure race, powerlifting meet would benefit from this type of planning but it gets more complicated when multiple events exist.
Sports that have multiple games per week for a few months can also manipulate this system though. The athlete must determine when they want to hit peak performance; whether it is the Thanksgiving Day game, the beginning of the post season tournament, or sometime during the regular season. Once this time is chosen, the athlete’s program can be designed accordingly.
The competition phase training would consist of using the multi-joint, core exercises. Squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, bench, RDLs, etc. would be examples of exercise selection. There is no time to waste with isolated movements. Any prehab or corrective work should make up the warm up for the athlete. To prevent excess fatigue 2 (1 hour) sessions would be sufficient to train for competition. Sets and reps should stay low at about 1-3 sets of 1-3 reps.
The other option for in-season training is the maintenance approach. This is for longer seasons with major competitions that are more spread out. A sport that has tournaments every few weeks can use this phase when there is not enough time in between to start another peaking phase. More traditional sport schedules will follow this approach unless they meet the criteria above. The purpose of the maintenance phase is to keep the training adaptations already achieved without necessarily improving further. 2-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions is recommended for a maintenance phase. The frequency, duration, and exercise selection does not change.
The underlying factor of in season training is that it should not take away from game performance. Keep the volume low to avoid overtraining, excessive soreness, and neural fatigue. Intensity can remain high since high volume is really what becomes problematic.
Gains may or may not come during a maintenance phase. New adaptations will occur after the season in the next off season cycle. During the peaking phase, common sense should be used when designing a program. >93% intensity may be recommended for the cycle but that could be a little much and detrimental too close to competition.
Know your athletes, know what they can handle, and adjust accordingly. Also pay attention to their game performance to determine if alterations in the program are necessary.