Staying Strong: A Guide to In-Season Training for Athletes

A huge competitive advantage that most athletes do not take advantage of…in-season training. There is a reason that all the best athletes and organizations in the world train year round to varying intensities and frequencies. They all train during the competitive season. You train to be healthy, strong, and as capable as possible to play at the highest level you can. When you have a chance to demonstrate all the qualities you worked so hard to obtain throughout the year you must still work to ensure you can demonstrate those qualities all season long. If you have any desire to be your best, to maintain health, and gain a competitive advantage on your competition, then in-season training for athletes is non-negotiable.

Here is a glimpse into what in-season training for athletes looks like, specifically a training day for an in-season soccer athlete on a RTE day. RTE, residual training effect, for strength occurs roughly every month during the season for our athletes. We structure our training so they are as strong as they need to be going into season, during the initial phases of competition, and likely one last time to finish the season off strong. The RTE days will be programmed every 4-5 weeks during the competitive calendar so our athletes are staying strong all season long.

We identify a day when they will not be called to perform at a high level for 72 +hours to institute another RTE day. When training at intensities at or above 90% of 1 RM there are central nervous system implications. Meaning, training heavy does stress the body, which is necessary to stay strong, but it must be taken into account as sport is the primary stress in season.

Reducing Risk of Injury through In-Season Training

Our athlete started her day with some injury prevention training at the areas that are at an increased risk of injury given who she is and the sport she plays. We focused on:

  • Posterior lower body: (hamstrings,glutes, low back): Maintain health and performance
  • Ankles: Increase strength of the joint for performance increase and risk reduction
  • Lower leg: prevent shin splints and overuse injuries 
  • Lumbar Spine: Reverse hyper: Strengthen the tissues. Train the joints to function well
  • Hip function / mobility : due to high volumes of running and kicking
  • Neck and traps: Reduce concussion risk

Overall Training Prescription

  1. Rack Deadlift : Maximal Strength 
  2. Speed Log Bar Bench : Strength Speed
  3. Chin up : Upper strength endurance
  4. Rows: hypertrophy
  5. Glute ham: eccentric strength 
  6. Hamstring curl : recovery and capacity

Rack Pull Deadlift

We chose to use a rack deadlift for this athlete in order to sufficiently stress the nervous system and retain the strength quality without placing high stress on the knees. She runs a very high volume given her personality, position, and playing time so we used minimal effective dosage in terms of her volume. She progressed over the course of 5 singles to actually set a new PR on this lift. The physiological as well as psychological boost for her was tremendous. Everything that we chose to do is certainly intentional and based upon sound physiological principles as well as decades of experiential knowledge training athletes from middle school to professionals. When implementing in-season training for the ever changing athlete you must understand how to give them what they want (to some degree) while providing what they need. This is the art of coaching and something that is of the utmost importance to us at OAP.

Speed Log Bar Bench

Choose to use some variation for an in-season pressing pattern. The monotony of the season can wear on the mind and sometimes providing engaging variations within training not only allow for physical growth but is also very mentally stimulating. Training two separate nervous system qualities such as maximal strength lower and a strength speed upper is not at all a common prescription. We would typically look to stack strength speed (moderate weight and moderate speed) qualities if we are training a total body. However, in this situation, our athlete could only train one time for the week and we chose to consolidate the weekly stressor into a singular day given that she was 72 plus out from competition. Her GPP, general physical preparation, is absolutely sufficient to be able to recover from intense strength work.

Chin-ups and Rows

Chin-ups were used to drive strength endurance through the upper body as well as some general decompression on the spine after loading it through the rack pull. She also performed bodyweight rows for sets of 25, which provided her significant enough time under tension to maintain and gain muscle tissue. By programming these movements in-season it allows our athletes to keep a hold on their strength, retain muscle mass in the appropriate areas, maintain a mental edge towards their performance on the field, stay healthy, and transition directly into off -season training without starting back over every year.

Glute Ham and Band Leg Curl

It is critical to train the hamstrings eccentrically (lengthening) as this is where the vast majority of hamstring injuries occur. We chose to use glute ham to address this specific strength of the hamstring to also focus on keeping the connective tissues behind the knee strong as well. The band leg curl was programmed to a high volume not to failure as we were working to build some capacity in the hamstrings. In addition to building capacity we were also looking to pull a lot of blood to the area without intensive stress to help create a recovery effect for the posterior lower body.

Mastering the Season: Strength, Strategy, and Performance

In the realm of sports, there’s a precise balance between training intensity and preserving an athlete’s performance throughout the competitive season. This is where in-season training for athletes becomes paramount. It’s not just about maintaining strength; it’s about implementing a strategic training prescription that takes into account the unique demands of the sport and the individual. In the OAP Academy at Ohio Athletic Performance, we develop personalized training programs that not just maintain, but elevate an athlete’s abilities right through the intense periods of the season. Our specialized approach guarantees that athletes stay strong, nimble, and at the pinnacle of their performance, regardless of their position in the competitive timeline. The meticulous design of our training, influenced by both scientific principles and decades of experience, aims to offer athletes that extra edge when it counts the most. If you’re looking to maintain and even surpass your peak potential throughout the season, consider the expertise at Ohio Athletic Performance as your partner in this journey. With our knowledge and your dedication, we can redefine in-season excellence. Let’s get to work.

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