Athletes Need IN SEASON Training
There seems to be a missing concept in an athlete's head when it comes to their training. That concept is that training stops while they are in season. This is completely FALSE. This misconception is actually hurting the athlete's performance and putting them at an even higher risk for in season injury.
While off season and in season training have completely different goals, they are equally important. I'm going to go over the specific goals of in season training and why it is important. This will include something called training residuals. These must be followed in any training program if we want to build or maintain training effects.
First let's go over training residuals. Training residuals are defined as how long the body will retain the changes or effects of training. Most of these residuals may surprise you. Here are a few.
· Speed training must be trained at least every 5 days to maintain the effect of the training. So every 5 days that your body goes without speed training, the body will regress toward where the athlete started before the training.
· Maximum Strength gains are maintained for 30 days. Strength is the foundation of a great athlete. All sports have a season longer than 25 to 30 days. Let's say the athlete goes 2-3 months without strength training. We can see how much of their foundation they have lost within the season.
· Strength Endurance will regress around 15 days.
· Aerobic endurance training will keep its effects for 30 days.
As we can see, within a typical season for any sport, there is a lot of athletic performance that is lost if the athlete completely stops training. This also puts the athlete in a position of risk for injury. Training is what reduces the risk of injury by first teaching new, correct motor patterns, building strength behind those motor patterns, and then depending on the sport, there must be a certain level of conditioning behind those motor patterns. Let's take a sprint for example. Every field sport athlete sprints up and down the field. Most games last for a few hours. That’s a lot of sprints that must have enough power, and optimal technique to be effective and safe. After 15 days, if the athlete doesn't work on their strength endurance, they are not going to perform at a high level, and they are at risk of injury. The off season training builds these capacities to be able to perform at that level for the entire game. Where the problem comes in is when the athlete starts their season and they completely stop their training that built them, and most times it suddenly stops. This is the worst possible case scenario. Here is where we get into tapering.
Tapering down, or more simply put, recovering for an event is very well known. Every high school football team has a very relaxed practice on Thursday so all the players feel recovered and ready to perform in the game on Friday. Let's take this a little further. Most football programs have two a day practices in the summer. A good program will consist of a good strength and speed program, sport specific conditioning and position skill work. Then, when the season is about to start, the teams will condense their practices down to only 4 to 5 practices per week only working on sport specific skills during the season. But the problem we run into is they forget to maintain the physical foundation of the athlete. That is speed and strength! Also, there was no taper to the work that they are pulling out.
In the beginning of the season, or after a long break from training, you can't start where you left off. You have to build yourself back up. The same goes for tapering down for a competition or season. You must gradually taper the work back and then maintain the fitness components built in the off season. Imagine how you would feel if you took 3 months off from the gym and then tried to go back and use the exact same weight you used 3 months ago? You would feel horrible and probably get hurt. I'm here to tell you the same works in reverse. You cannot suddenly pull out work and expect to be healthy and perform at your best for a whole season. Now go look back at the training residuals and tell me if you have trained those components enough during the season to maintain your hard earned athletic improvement. My guess is you probably didn’t.
In season training has a much different goal than off season training. For in season training, the key component is maintenance. The biggest goal of this type of training is to maintain everything we have built in the off season without interrupting game time performance. This includes correct movement patterns, speed, strength, and endurance for the entire body. To maintain these aspects of athleticism, we still must train the body. The intensity of the workouts will still be high on some exercises, but the volume will be much lower. For example, let's say in a typical speed workout, we would do 400 meters of speed work for that day. This may be cut in half to 200 meters. The sprints will still be run at 100% intensity, but the overall volume is half. This means the athlete will have less work to recover from, and will be able to maintain the speed they have built in the off season because they have stimulated the central nervous system with 100% intensity. This can be applied to mostly any exercise that is used to build speed, strength or endurance. Examples: Sprints, squats, power cleans, or heavy pressing and pulling movements. With that being said, single joint exercises or open chain movements, which are less intense, may be applied more in the program. This may be for a few reasons. One being that these exercises are easy to recover from. Another is they don’t drive the central nervous system down, while maintaining muscle hypertrophy. Lastly, we can target a specific area of the athletes' body that is very important to maintain a certain level of conditioning specific to the athletes sport. An example would be all of the deceleration muscles in the shoulder of a baseball player. Overall, these maintenance workouts are shorter in duration, easy to recover from, and low volume for easy recovery. This can be as simple as 1-2 workouts per week. And if designed correctly, they can cover all the fitness components needed.
Now looking back, I'm sure you can see why your batting average went down at the end of the season. Your pitching velocity may have gone down. Your 4th quarter stamina suddenly took a turn for the worst. This can all easily be corrected with in season training. This is the easiest training for the athlete to do in their career, but yet it’s the most overlooked and has the worst consequence when forgotten. At the end of the day, training for an athlete never stops. It just evolves to become optimal for the athlete at all times no matter the season or sport.