Each sport has multiple seasons. They are: preseason, competition season a.k.a. regular season, postseason, offseason 1, and offseason 2. This discussion is how to apply strength training and speed training to each season.
I want to briefly mention the balance of taking time for training skills versus the time for sports performance training. Skills training is important and it’s time-consuming. So is strength training and speed training. Don’t forsake one for the other. Do your best to dedicate time for both for optimal results.
I’ll start with what begins most school years - the preseason - then finish with what we are about to enter – the summer offseason.
The methodology for preseason training I have implemented has proven to be effective. It yields the best performance with the fewest injuries and most importantly does not burn out the athletes.
All of the components of preseason training involve a subtle tapering of the training stressors coming off a heavy and intense summer. A primary objective should be athletes entering the regular season fresh and healthy. If they are burned out or injured going into their season, it will have unintended consequences.
In the preseason, I know you begin to focus more on your sport. At this time, athletes should not be overly taxed with the same intensity of the offseason workouts anyways. Start the preseason with an unloading week in the weight room and back off the conditioning. This will help the athletes recover and absorb the training from June and July.
An unload week for strength looks like it sounds. Unload some weight. It really starts with the rep scheme. Rep schemes dictate weight. Get away from single digits and work within the parameters of double-digit repetitions for your sets. Between 10-12 repetitions is sufficient. The weight itself shouldn’t be maximal effort. Tell your athletes to focus on range of motion and control. This doesn’t mean you can’t bench press, back squat or deadlift, just not super heavy.
Backing off conditioning doesn’t mean stop conditioning. The practices themselves will be a big part of the conditioning for the players. You’ve heard me say before, you get in shape to get in shape. (As the regular season begins your kids will play into game-shape.)
Preseason weights don’t need to exceed three days a week, but do try to get at least two. As long as competitions haven’t started, don’t miss strength training sessions. Train aggressively and intelligently, not aimlessly and recklessly. Use your discretion on when something needs more attention, whether it’s the lower body or the upper body.
Try to get two days a week of speed training. Speed training itself will serve as a conditioning tool. You can get in shape trying to get fast but you can’t always get fast trying to get in shape. In other words, there’s a limit to how much running long distances and increasing aerobic capacity will help your speed. This connects to our high-speed training principles.
What I like to do is convert the speed component as an extended warmup consisting primarily of technique drills to retain offseason learning.
The in-season strength and conditioning program is an abbreviated version of the offseason training. The goal of an in-season program is to limit the loss of gains. The grind of practices and competition reduces the frequency you can train all the components. A coach must pick specific elements of the bigger program to train on selected days. For bench players, it is recommended that they have a more aggressive in-season training protocol.
This goes for younger athletes in general. Middle school athletes benefit from year-round sports performance training. They are at a different developmental stage than a more mature older athlete. You need to take advantage of that stage of growth and register more high-intensity workouts.
Regardless of level, two days of each component are preferred but once a week will be adequate. If you are wondering how once a week is enough, a recurring theme in training is the principle of accumulation. Anything is bigger than zero, and anything more than zero will help. Competition should be considered a max effort by the front-line players. As a result, they need less physical stimulus to maintain a reasonable level of speed, strength, conditioning or power.
Nonetheless, scheduling is always tight and you must look at which components are close to each other and trade off. As an example, speed and conditioning can overlap and work together via our high-speed training principles. One session per week devoted to doing high-speed sprints at appropriate distances for your sport with nominal reps can be sufficient.
Closely linked to in-season training and still part of the season is postseason or better yet, championship season. Playoffs can easily add a month to an already long season. Serious tapering is necessary. Since players are not likely to gain or lose significantly enough to affect performance, focus on flexibility and mobility. Short workouts working on range of motion and stability are better than just canceling training sessions altogether.
Kids will be kids, but continue to encourage good sleep and nutrition. You don’t want to get this far and let a lack of discipline keep you from your optimal athletic performance and reaching your team goal.
This is the off-season during the school year. The most important thing to remember here is that the athletes are still students with the stresses of schoolwork and school obligations to go along with a schedule dictated by classes. This actually gives an advantage to offseason 1. Typically you have greater participation because kids aren’t vacationing or training with different programs.
On top of that, you may have athletes that play multiple sports. I highly advocate for athletes to pursue this not only because it helps balance them out, but because at the collegiate level it’s rare to have this privilege. I have trained multiple athletes who were fully capable of playing two sports in college, but eventually they have to choose one over the other.
If they play one sport, they may play for a club and have another competition season. Even with the advent of club teams, a youth athlete needs to have a portion of the year when athletic development is the dominant activity. More can be said, but I’ll leave it at.
In well-organized programs, this part of the offseason is when everything is taught; all the proper techniques for lifting, sprinting, stretching, plyometrics and so on. This provides the foundation for the other training seasons. Take time to teach, especially compound lifts like squat, deadlift and bench press.
What!? How many are there? This is the big one. On a grand scale and in a perfect training world it would be as long as 10 weeks and is typically a summer activity. Most athletes only get eight weeks in June and July and get cut off going into August.
Offseason is the time for young athletes to grow and gain. Aim at maximum strength and speed improvement and total sports performance. That is an ongoing challenge as I have seen over the years coaches wanting to emphasize one phase of strength and conditioning over another in an attempt to make up for a perceived weakness. As a result, unbalanced training creates other, new weaknesses. Your goal should always be that any gains made will be proportionate to each other.
Especially in the context of offseason, there’s this mentality of going in and grinding it out and busting your butt each and every day. We have to assign intensities to what we’re doing. This is not just “train smarter, not harder.” Hard work is a given. Yes, you have to work hard. However, harder is sometimes viewed as “more,” and more does not always equal better.
@coachbobking Don't be careful and don't be careless. #athleticdevelopment #speedcoach #strengthandconditioning ♬ original sound - Coach Bob King
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when designing your offseason training program for the summer:
•Strength, speed, power development and other components need to compensate for any physical changes. For teenage athletes, natural physical growth needs a training regimen to handle their ongoing changes that come with maturity. Body weight gains are not advantageous without equal gains in speed and strength.
•During the training cycle, if a day is missed, don’t try to make it up. It’s gone. Resume on the current day.
•Kids don’t have school. They have the freedom to play games and whatever else outside of your time. Don’t waste time on games when you’re already limited to how much time you have. Go for gains.
Summer is the most critical part of the training year since school is out. The way I break it down for summer can be used for program design during the school year as well. The following is an explanation of the summer schedule, which is built around an eight-week program. It is easy to adjust for shorter time frames according to specific state association or governing body mandates.
Usually the first weeks of June, the program should begin with a balanced speed and strength emphasis while conditioning comes through our high speed training protocol and change of direction workouts.
This sees an increase in intensity and the introduction of plyometric training and Olympic lifts. Conditioning gets more targeted. Specifically, if an athlete has a conditioning test like three 300-yard shuttles in a certain amount of time, start introducing them to that specific test even if it’s only running two at first.
Because of Independence Day, the 5th week can be an unloading period. (If your summer only allows for a max of six weeks of training, don’t unload.) Conditioning volume increases while speed is slightly reduced. Since change of direction is the most stressful training on the legs, it remains a great conditioning tool during speed training. In Week 6 all of the weight work has been installed and conditioning becomes more intense.
The second half of July starts the final push. Week 7 is the time to do a mile sprint. That is my universal conditioning test. I’ll cover this in mid-July so that it will be fresh for you. Week 8 is an unloading week. The players need to get their legs back and allow for a residual training effect to begin to kick in. They should not begin training camp with dead legs and overall fatigue.