A common question and concern from athletes, coaches and parents is whether or not athletes should train in-season…and my answer is a resounding YES!!!
But as with any training program, there are certain factors that need to be taken into consideration, and during the in-season the focus of the program shifts…but only slightly.
The goal of any performance training program at any time during the year (off-season, pre-season, in-season, post-season or general life for the recreational athlete) is to enhance, or at the very least maintain, performance at that given point in time. And the first factor that has to be addressed is proper and efficient movement.
When in-season, athletes are repeatedly exposed to the same sport specific movements during practice and competition, and if not counterbalanced via an appropriate training program, overuse injuries often occur. Even if an injury is not sustained, the athlete’s performance will decrease as a result of the unbalanced and overworked movement.
And even with an amazing off and pre-season training program, if the athlete goes into the in-season and discontinues training all together, performance will decrease and injury potential will rise. So again, YES, athletes should train in-season.
So here are a few points that must be considered and addressed with an in-season program in order to keep athletes performing at an optimal level.
1) Proper movement to combat repetitive sport movements and reduce injury risk: As mentioned above, too much of any one movement without a counterbalance will result in an overuse injury. An in-season program (and really every program) should focus first and foremost on proper movement. A base of proper movement is the only way to build optimal and sustained performance!
2) Strength and power maintenance: Although some athletes will actually experience gains in strength and power during the in-season, the main goal is maintenance. We typically observe a decrease in an athlete’s performance as well and an increased injury rate towards the end of a season. A loss of strength and power is a major factor playing into these unfortunate results. But on the bright side, it has been observed that athletes can maintain measures of strength and power with as little as 1 to 2 sets of efficient exercises per movement per week!
3) Training is rehab = rehab is training: This is a phrase used by many of the leading experts in the field of physical therapy and strength and conditioning as it is absolutely true. But I would like to expound upon this statement and state that training is PREHAB for the individual who is not yet symptomatic (experiencing pain). This goes along with the first two points and can basically be broken down to if you train properly all year round, your potential for injury and decreased performance is drastically reduced.
4) Little need for sport specific energy system conditioning: Due to the fact that athletes will be participating is practice and competition 5-7 days per week, there is little need to “condition” these athletes during an in-season training session. They are receiving enough sport specific conditioning within the sport itself (running, sprints, agilities, etc.) that taking valuable training time to try and condition is not only an inefficient use of time, but it is also feeding in to the overused patterns (refer back to point #1).
5) Volume must be kept low: Along with point #4, this is probably the greatest difference to an athlete’s in-season program. Total volume must be kept low in order to keep the athlete from over-training (burning out) and to allow for adequate recovery between training/practice/competition. And as stated above, the goal of an in-season program is to maintain the performance measures gained in the off and pre-season. Again, this can be achieved with very little volume as long as the exercise selection (movement) is efficient and individualized to the athlete’s specific needs.
Taking these points into consideration for an in-season training program, athletes will better maintain performance and reduce their risk of injury during the season. An athlete cannot perform well if efficient movement, strength and power are lost…and an athlete will not perform well if they are camping out on the sideline as a result of an unnecessary overuse injury!
So…“Should an athlete train in-season?”
Many of our Momentum athletes and parents have recognized the importance of continuing quality training during the in-season, and because of the dedication from these athletes and their parents, many of our athletes continue to experience enhanced performance and reduced injury rates…again the goal of any quality training program.
And to any athletes, parents or coaches in the athletic world who feel that it is not necessary to train in-season, or who believe that “training is for the off-season,” good luck to you! I truly wish you the best and hope that your season is successful and injury free.
But to everyone else, know what it is that you need to do during the in-season (Yep, from the points above), get your in-season training on, stay healthy and continue to crush the athletic world!
For more information or help about in-season training please email Kyle at email@example.com or call 508-422-0101.
By: Kyle Arsenault CSCS
Athletic Performance Enhancement Coach
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Momentum Physical Therapy 141 Main St Milford, MA 508-422-0101