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In-Season Weight Training for Competitive Athletes, by Matthew Romans

Regular weight training is critical for any athlete, regardless of what sport you play. Some athletes enjoy weight training, while others simply see it as a means to an end. Regardless of which of these categories an athlete falls under, the primary reasons an athlete should exercise are injury protection and prevention, maximization of metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning, and performance optimization. Many athletes focus on weight training during their off-season conditioning program, but lose sight of its importance once the season has begun. This often happens at the high school level, as many teams are using the same weight room and its availability can be limited, but I have seen it first hand at the collegiate level as well. It is my opinion that building strength during the competitive season is just as important as doing so in the off-season.

There is no question that the competitive season places a greater drain on the athlete's time and resources; with the demands of practices and games, rest and recovery are paramount. There are fewer days off during the season, and every idle day should be maximized while additional activity outside of sport should be minimal. That being said, strength gains are still possible during the season, and this should be a point of emphasis. There is no way to completely avoid injuries; they are an accepted risk that comes with the nature of playing any sport. However, the stronger and better conditioned an athlete is, the more protected they are against injury, and even injuries that do arise can be significantly lessened or minimized.

In addition to stressing the importance of regular safe and effective weight training during the season, coaches should also structure practices so that they do not wear down the athlete, and that there is a concentration on skill work. I played football in high school and college, and I saw first hand what happens when practices are too demanding and intense weight training is not done throughout the season. During my junior year in high school several of our key players sustained injuries during practice later in the season, and as a result we lost in the state semifinals instead of winning a championship.

How should in-season strength training workouts be structured? Muscle and joint functions in the human body remain the same whether you are in season or out of season, so it still makes sense to perform a full body workout that involves all of the major muscular structures in each session. I recommend one session per week during the season, although it does depend somewhat on the nature of the sport and how physically demanding it is. Some may think one session per week merely serves as maintenance, but in my opinion there is no such thing. The body either works to make improvements or it declines, but rarely does it maintain the status quo. Excellent strength gains can still be made during the season, provided proper nutrition and sleep are obtained. Certain exercises may need to be prioritized over others if you are training less frequently than in the off-season, particularly addressing the neck musculature if you participate in a combat sport such as wrestling, football, or martial arts.

Scheduling weekly workouts for a sport like football is pretty straightforward, since games are generally played on the same day each week. With other sports such as basketball, where you play multiple games in a week, you may have to strength train on different days each week. Ultimately, you want to be fresh and feel recovered on game day in order to optimize performance, so I do advise allowing a couple of days between workout and game. It's better to err on the side of too much recovery rather than not enough. The Total Results exercise protocol is perfect for athletes because it is predicated on a low volume of work with a slow speed of movement and careful change of direction, and the primary goal of each exercise is to inroad (fatigue) the musculature safely and efficiently enough to stimulate maximum physical improvements. No athlete should ever be injured in a weight room! We have worked with many athletes over the years, both in-season and out of season, and we can find the right combination of exercises no matter what sport you play. Tim coached high school lacrosse for many years, and several of his players did regular workouts with us.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 hysteria and fear mongering many fall athletes are not currently participating in their respective sports, but hopefully that changes before the winter season. Our structure and philosophy of in-season workouts can be applied no matter what sport you play. The idea is to stimulate physical improvements and protect against injury in order to maximize performance, without overtaxing recovery or negatively impacting the immune system. If you want to do what few other athletes are doing and reap the benefits of the Total Results exercise methodology, schedule an initial consultation and start maximizing your performance today.

Posted October 15, 2020 by Tim Rankin