For the past 2 decades one of my best kept secrets has been in-season strength training for my USP athletes.

Whilst many athletes now partake in off-season strength training very few continue in-season.

Many athletes fear injury, over-training, fatigue, soreness and reduced performance which are highly possible when athletes or coaches have no idea how to design an in-season training program safely and effectively.

Sydney Swans Star Kurt Tippett putting the grunt work in during pre-season 2012 at USP!

Coaches and athletes must always must weigh up the risk vs reward/benefits.

What is the point of being the fittest, fastest and strongest at the start of the season if you lose those gains by the end of the season when it counts most at finals time? (8)

The sports science terminology for this process of losing strength, speed or power is called reversibility-in other words, “use it or lose it” (5), (8), (12)!

So what are the Benefits of In-Season Strength Training?

Maintenance of or increased strength/power-meaning you don’t lose all the strength/power gains that were made in the off-season (1.), (11), (14), (16).

Maintenance and preservation of muscle mass (2).

Reduced risk of injury potential due to increased neural firing patterns and both strength of agonist and antagonists (Hamstrings) (17).

Some of my most successful examples of In-season strength training are Courtney Hancock who won Coolangatta Gold at the start of the season on the 14th November 2021 and finished runner up in the Eckstein Classic in February 2022 at the Australian Titles on April 10th 2022. Courtney hit PB’s in all her key parameters 10 days out from the Aussie Titles!

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/706406438[/vimeo]

Perth Wildcats Basketballer Matt Hodgson averaged 25% more rebounds and blocks and scored more points in the last 4 games of the season than compared to any other 4 game block during the season. In other words he got better as the season went on. Matt Hodgson corresponding Velocity/Power Data improved as the season progressed.

Matty Hodgson Australian Boomers and Perth Wildcats Basketball Players Drive is unquestionable!

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/700162101[/vimeo]

Triathlete Travis Coleman took out events at the start of the triathlon Season on 28th November 2021 and followed up with wins again in May 2022 at the Byron Bay Triathlon. Trav continues to get stronger the longer the season progresses.

Trav Coleman Taking out QLD Tri Series Robina Event

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/709758736[/vimeo]

How do we ensure you continue to get fitter, faster, stronger more powerful and resilient as the season goes on-so you can dominate when it counts?

Reduced Range Of Motion in certain lifts. e.g. Romanian Deadlift from the racks instead of Clean Grip Deadlift from the floor.

Reduced Training Volume rather than Intensity. e.g. reduced sets and or reps (9).

Reduced Training Frequency e.g. 1-2 strength sessions per week instead of 3-4 (2),(4.), (10), (14), (15), (16).

QRL Leading Try Scorer and Former Brisbane Bronco/South Sydney Rabbitohs Player Nat Barnes reaping the benefits of In-Season Strength Training.

Ability to work around injuries, bumps and bruises through exercise lateralisation-substituting a Hip Belt Squat for Back Squat if lower back is sore. Eg. Step Up vs Bulgarian Split Squat if knee soreness etc.

Longer Training Cycles with Minimal Exercise Variation to minimise soreness that can be experienced with increased exercise variation and training programs shorter in duration.

Acute to Chronic Workload Management Data allows us to ensure our athletes are within optimal workload zones

Wearable tracking technology (Oura Ring Sleep Data, GPS data) help us manage athlete workload.

The Oura Ring provides a readinesss score, sleep data, HRV Data, Body temperature, Resting Heart rate and a dashboard to access our USP Athletes data to ensure optimal recovery!

Power/Velocity/VLAD performance data to ascertain athletes recovery status, injury status and to determine pre-rep/set power goals.

(Nordbord Data for Hamstring Strength Testing and Symmetry)

Blood Chemistry Results (CK levels, Hormone Levels etc) provide markers of inflammation and overtraining-which can allow coaches to adjust training.

Monitor and Control Cortisol and Maximise Testosterone Levels Leads to Wins! (1)

Awareness of travel load, opposition quality and turn around time for games.

System Overview to determine weekly training load

The art of coaching and experience allows us to design programs that keep our athletes bullet proof.

Why would you focus on strength training during the off-season if you don’t continue to perform the training in-season. You want  be bigger, faster, stronger, more resilient as the season goes on so you dominate in finals time (10), (13)?

One of my earliest coaching mentors said, you need to train what the sport does not provide or develop.

In other words playing the game of Basketball, AFL, Surf Life Saving and Triathlon does NOT Develop Strength, Power, Speed or Flexibility, therefore those are the precise physical qualities that you need to train to become better at your sport.

References:
1. Francis C., Planning/Periodization; The Charlie Francis Training System. pp102. “My athletes never go that far away from any given training element and, therefore, they never have to re-establish it. As an example, they never go that far away from heavy weights; they keep lifting right through to the end of one season and the beginning of the next, so they never let their strength deteriorate. Strength is the easiest quality to build, but it is also the easiest one to lose. Consequently, we keep applying a variety of power and power-strength stimuli right through the season.”
**Charlie Francis is one of the foremost experts in the world when it comes to training track and field athletes, in particular world class and Olympic champion sprinters!!

2. Mosher M., Peterson D., Effect of In-Season Training on Body Composition and Bench press Strength of Collegiate Women Track Sprinters. IAHPERD Journal, 30 (2), 1997. “ It is possible that the loss in body fat and the maintenance of Lean Body Mass could offset the slight loss of strength leaving running performance unaffected.”

3. Di Pasquale M Dr., In Season Training for Power “Far too often when the competitive season get under way many coaches and athletes fail to continue to train for power at a time when they want their performance to peak. Not only does this have a negative affect on performance during season, it will also have a negative effect on the results of your next off-season training.”
“In-season power training should be done at least two times per week and if the competition schedule will allow, it should be done at least three times per week.” This from a highly respected strength and conditioning coach for professional athletes.

4. Norton, W., Schedule Time for In-Season Training; Keeping up on workouts can lead to more wins. New England Hockey Journal “As little as 30 minutes twice a week can result in improvement throughout the season and sustain your drive to be a better player.”

5. Faigenbaum A., Westcott M., Outerbridge A., Micheli L., Long C., Larosa R, Zaichkowsky L., The effect of strength training and detraining on children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (10) pp 109-114 “Eight weeks of detraining resulted in a statistically significant loss of upper body (19.3%) and lower body (28.1%) strength.”

6. Shepard G., Bigger, Faster, Stronger Champaign IL 2003 “If the sports coach neglects or puts training on maintenance levels, the athlete may not reach full potential. As a result, short changing themselves in higher-level athletics (college, etc.). However if the athlete works to improve their strength/power/hypertrophy during the season, the end result is an explosion of strength and size gains in the off-season program due to the increased neural efficiency and (sometimes) slight increase in size.” “Typical in-season programs are generally 2-3 sessions, and a goal of no longer than 45 minutes to an hour in the gym.”

7. Rooney M., Q and A Parisi Speed School, NJ “Practicing 5 days a week and having games as well is tough to fit in some training. The great news is that you do not have to train 4-5 days a week to maintain or even gain in some cases. I recommend that if you could at least get 1 full body workout in per week and 1 session where you are focused on speed, that would be 24 workouts over a 12 week season that could really keep you close to your best.” Excerpt from a Q and A with world-renowned speed and strength coach, Martin Rooney.

8. Houston Texans S and C Coach, In Season Training “Some coaches place a major emphasis on off-season strength training. They administer tests, give out awards, designate specific workout times, and personally supervise lifting session. Once the season begins some coaches’ place strength training on the back burner. In-season training must be the number one priority for all athletes. Many years ago we inherited our training methodology from weight lifters whose objective for lifting weights was to peak for a given competition.” “Strength is lost rapidly. It is also very hard to gain. Athletes must lift with some degree of frequency (2workouts/week) to improve strength, or maintain near maximum strength levels.” “If an athlete performs an exercise during the off-season, but stops performing it once the season begins, we must ask why waste the time and energy. Our in-season strength program is our program. “

9. Chek P, Goss K., CHEK Institute Program Design Video; Court Vista, CA 1995 “Athletes need to stimulate the muscle fibers with the same tensile loading or greater to maintain your strength levels. Don’t do less weight, do less sets. Keep the weight the same.” “75% of the players make personal bests or maintain their strength throughout the season.”

10. Genetic Potential, Vertimax Users Manual. Tampa, Fl. Pp 31 “During the season. Preferably Vertimax training 3 times a week, but with reduced number of sets. Or, still do six resisted sets, but just do them twice a week. Choose those times which allow at least 24 hours before scheduled competition.”

11. Dupont G., Akakpo K., Berthoin S., The Effect of In-season, High Intensity Interval Training in Soccer Players; Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(3): pp584-589
“Maximal aerobic speed was improved (+8.1) and the time of the 40-m sprint was decreased (-3.5) over the 10 week period whereas no change in either parameter were observed during the control period. This study shows that improvements in physical qualities can be made during the in-season period.”

12. Marques M., Gonzalez-Badillo J., In-Season Resistance Training and Detrainng in Professional Handball Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(3): pp 563-571
“The results suggest that elite Team Handball Players can optimize important physical parameters over 12 weeks in-season and that 7 weeks of detraining, are sufficient to induce significant decreases in throwing velocity.”

13. Kraemer W., Newton R., Rogers R., Volek J., Hakkinen K., Four Weeks of Optimal Load Ballistic Resistance Training At the End of Season Attenuates Declining Jump Performance of Women Volleyball Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(4): pp 955-961 “ Introduction of a novel training stimulus in the form of ballistic jump squats and reduction of heavy resistance training of the leg extensors stimulated a rebound in performance, in some cases to exceed the athlete’s ability at the start of the season. Periodization of in-season training programs similar to that used in this study may provide volleyball players with good vertical jump performance for the crucial end of-season games.”

14. Cissek J., In-Season Strength Training and Sprinters. “When the sprinter is in-season, to allow for adequate recovery, the frequency of strength training sessions may drop down to one to two sessions per week. Two sessions is better than one, but sometimes one is the best we can do.” “In order to be able to exert force quickly one must train that quality while maintaining maximal strength during the in season. This is because exerting force quickly won’t help if you cannot exert much force!” “How do we maintain maximal strength in-season? First we can use exercises that
develop maximal strength. These include variations of squats, presses, deadlifts, bend over exercises, etc. Second, we perform these exercises with a higher intensity during the in-season, 80-95%, carefully emphasizing the importance of good technique to our athletes. Finally, to save time and to train multiple qualities we combine these exercises with explosive ones.”

15. Foran B., Johnston, K., In-Season Football Training, High Performance Sports Conditioning; Modern Training For Ultimate Athletic Development: Pp 304, Champaign IL, 2001 “It is vital that an in-season strength and conditioning program focus on maintaining the maximum strength levels gained during the off-season and on high power or force velocity outputs.” **Kent Johnston is/was the strength and conditioning for the Seattle Seahawks **Bill Foran was/is the strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Heat

14. Foran B., In-Season Basketball Training, High Performance Sports Conditioning; Modern Training For Ultimate Athletic Development: Pp 293, Champaign IL, 2001 “A solid in-season program will maintain the improvements developed in the off-season.” “ To maintain their strength and power throughout the season, basketball players need to be involved in quality, in-season weight training program. Players should perform in-season weight training twice a week.” **Bill Foran was/is the strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Heat

15. Foran B., Montes F., In-Season Baseball Training, High Performance Sports Conditioning; Modern Training For Ultimate Athletic Development.: Pp 288, Champaign IL, 2001
“The in-season program from April to October (for professional) is designed to maintain the physical strength the athlete needs to be ready to play every day and recover quickly afterward.”
“Athletes should lift twice per week during the in-season, perform a conditioning routine two to three times per week, and do mobility and agility drills once a week.” **Fernando Montes is/was the strength and conditioning for the Cleveland Indians. **Bill Foran was/is the strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Heat

16. Foran B., Carter C., In-Season Volleyball Training, High Performance Sports Conditioning; Modern Training For Ultimate Athletic Development: pp 324, Champaign IL, 2001 “The primary objective of the in-season strength and conditioning program for volleyball is to maintain the strength and conditioning levels that players attained during the off-season. Players do the  maintenance program two days per week.” **Courtney Carter was/is the strength and conditioning coach for the Univ. of Nebraska **Bill Foran was/is the strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Heat.

17. Poliquin, C. In-Season Training Guidelines. Dojo of Strength. 2018