Simply put; If you're not getting stronger; you're getting weaker. There is no "maintain".
Athletes' schedules and physical demands are far different in-season than they are during the off-season, but a well-designed training program that addresses individual needs and considers the demands of the sport doesn't have to be. The most important exercises remain largely the same...So does the attitude with which the athlete approaches each training session. Here’s a look at the adjustments I make for my athletes to ensure that they don’t “maintain.”
Throughout the year, my programs include at least one of the following movements on any given day:
I like the bench press, pull-up, squat, deadlift, and split squat during the off-season, but I often implement variations of these traditional lifts during an athlete's competitive season. The shorter ranges of motion keep joints that are already taxed during practices and games safe from additional wear.
Since practices, games, and travel can easily overwhelm an athlete’s schedule during the season, it's not wise to assume that they’ll have more than 90 minutes of training each week.
There will also be weeks that only allow 30 minutes or less. Therefore, the most important components of the training plan must occur during the first few minutes. Otherwise, there will be too much time between meaningful sessions to achieve the desired training effect.
In addition, many players won't have a 90-minute block of time to train, so the plan must be flexible enough to break into two 45-minute or three 30-minute sessions.
Training volume in-season should be determined just like any other time of year; the athlete should follow Mel Siff’s minimax principle of putting forth minimum effort to achieve maximum results in the shortest amount of time (2003, p. 429). In other words, the athlete should do just enough to make the desired gains, but no more.
An athlete's ideal training volume changes weekly or even daily in some cases. Games, practice, travel, nutrition, sleep, hydration all play a role in determining acceptable volume.
Since the time to train is so limited during the season, it's vital to keep the intensity high in at least a few sets every week. Siff writes that hitting one set per week with a 1-rep max effectively builds strength for up to six weeks (2003, p. 257-58). Coaches like Ian King (2005) and Charles Poliquin (2012) have both written that intensity is more vital to strength gains than volume. Therefore, athletes should perform at least one set of their main exercises at or above 90 percent of their max as frequently as the schedule and physical condition allows to continue to drive adaptation throughout the season.
So-Training in season isn't just necessary; but absolutely essential to your continued progress on the field. Reach out to us to help optimize your in season training today!