Getting the Most Out of Your Off-Season

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From being involved in various strength sports for this long one of the big mistakes I see is that guys never take time to have a real off season.  You also see guys who have no idea what the off season is for.  We all did it growing up with different sports.  There should be a long period when competitions were not happening. Take a break from all of the max lifting and sport specific training to get our shit back together, reassess, and plan our attack for the next season.  Instead of always just going from one meet to the next with a minimal deload followed by the same cycle.  Putting together solid Off-season programming can make the difference in your next season.

I schedule my off season for throwing at the end of the season after the big games are done usually October.  By this point I have been throwing and competing since March.  I know that the Highland Games bring out some different training than other strength sports due to the volume of competitions.  I can do as many as 20 games in this time.  Whether or not you are competing this much, it is the same thing of continuous stress you have from Powerlifting, Weightlifting, or Strongman.  This continuous abuse you are putting on the body from event training, geared lifting, or event training takes a toll over the year.  It seems that more and more people are getting smart to taking prehab and recovery seriously.  Yet still many have no idea of how to plan an off season.

My off season consists of 20 total weeks.  2 blocks of High Volume split into 5 week cycles.  I take some time to completely deload (2 weeks no lifting) and think of the issues I need to address so that I can fix the problems, nagging injuries, or weaknesses I had throughout the season.  Generally speaking I take my four main lifts: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, and Overhead Pressing and really focus on regaining full range of motion.  Getting back to the basics of training and build a better base for the season to come.  These four lifts, no matter what your sport are the best way to build full body strength.  Also spending extra time or some real time rolling, stretching, and properly warming-up each training period will really make a difference here.

The 1st Block is high volume training.  It is going to kick your ass.  You will come out mentally and physically stronger.  All of the major lifts are done 10 sets of 10 reps.  The main focus is on full range of motion and hitting all of the reps.  You will be working up to a prescribed weight.  This weight is going to be based off of your raw max.  You will be using the 90% Rule to establish your Training Max.  All of the lifting percentages will be based off of this.  This accomplishes a couple of things.  First starting with weights this light for the offseason there is no risk of injury (you are trying to repair at this point).  This light weight rep work will start to establish lots of blood flow and help heal some of your busted shit.  Second it will allow you to hit all the reps as prescribed.  Here is a basic breakdown of the main lifts in the 1st cycle of Block 1.

90% RULE:  Training MAX = Raw Max x 90%

CYCLE 1 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Week 1 SQ- 10×10@50% OH- 10×10@50% DL- 10×10@50% BP- 10×10@50%
Week 2 SQ- 10×10@50% OH- 10×10@50% DL- 10×10@50% BP- 10×10@50%
Week 3 SQ- 10×10@55% OH- 10×10@55% DL- 10×10@55% BP- 10×10@55%
Week 4 SQ- 10×10@55% OH- 10×10@55% DL- 10×10@55% BP- 10×10@55%
Week 5 (deload) SQ-   3×10@50% OH-   3×10@50% DL-   3×10@50% BP-   3×10@50%


This is the basic of the progression on the main lifts for the 1st 5 weeks.  There are some slight changes to the sets and reps moving into the 2nd cycle of the high volume block.  The main difference is the weights are going to increase and the Sets will drop to 5.   Also on Week 4 you are going to make it a test week on your main lifts.  This is going to be for pushing a Rep Max.  By this point you should have a good idea of what you can do for 7-10 reps, that is the weight you are going to pick and give it hell.  The Basic percentages, sets and reps are as follows.


CYCLE 2 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Week 6 SQ- 5×10@60% OH- 5×10@60% DL- 5×10@60% BP- 5×10@60%
Week 7 SQ- 5×10@60% OH- 5×10@60% DL- 5×10@60% BP- 5×10@60%
Week 8 SQ- 5×10@65% OH- 5×10@65% DL- 5×10@65% BP- 5×10@65%
Week 9 (test) SQ- Test OH- Test DL- Test BP- Test
Week 10 (deload) SQ- 3×10@50% OH- 3×10@50% DL- 3×10@50% BP- 3×10@50%


There is also some basic accessory work that goes with each workout.  It is a main lift and two accessory lifts.  Olympic lifts will be added on the days 1 and 3 however they are very light weight and used as an accessory to work on speed and flexibility (can be replaced by clean pulls and snatch pulls).  Your daily training session looks as follows, you just input the different weights for your main lifts based on the percentages.  Your accessory lifts should be kept light as well.  I never do more than 135lbs on good morning for example keeping them strict and accelerating the bar hard is the goal, not doing shitty squats.

Day 1: Day 2: Day 3: Day 4:
Squat: Push Press: Deadlift: Bench:
Snatch: 3×5  50-60% Pull ups: 3×10 Cleans : 3×5  50-60% Dips: 3×10
Good Mornings: 3×10 Single arm rows: 3×10 Good Mornings: 3×10 Single Arm Rows: 3×10
Prowler: 10×40 yds Prowler: 10×40 yds Prowler: 10×40 yds Prowler: 10×40 yds


Yes there is conditioning in there as well.  Dropping some of that extra baggage and becoming a better athlete is not going to hurt any of us.  I use a prowler since I find it to be the most bang for buck.  Hills are not an option since I live in Louisiana and it is flatter than… well things that are really flat.


Following the High volume I go into a 10 week strength block of two 5 weeks cycles.  This Block will start ramping up the weights and pushing down the reps.  Now that you are done with the volume you will be much better conditioned for the three days a week training and sets of 5 and 3 will seem like a breeze.  The shift to three day a week will give some more time for recovery between training days.  The days break down with a squat/bench day, overhead press/deadlift day, and an Olympic lifting day Clean/Snatch (Again high pulls or snatch pulls are possible alternatives).  The basic sets, reps, and percentages are as follows.

You should set a new training max based off of the previous 10 weeks.  You can figure that out by taking whatever your rep max was one week 9.  By using this formula you will have your new training max to base all of your percentages off of.  This formula already has the 90% rule set. The formula is as follows.

(Weight lifted x reps x .0333 + weight lifted) x 90%

CYCLE 1 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Week 1 SQ/BP- 5×5   @ 85 OH/DL- 5×5   @ 85 CL/SN- 5×3   @ 85
Week 2 SQ/BP- 5×5   @ 90 OH/DL- 5×5   @ 90 CL/SN- 5×3   @ 90
Week 3 SQ/BP- 5×3   @ 95 OH/DL- 5×3   @ 95 CL/SN- 5×2   @ 95
Week 4 (test) SQ/BP- 5×1   @ 100 OH/DL- 5×1   @ 100 CL/SN- 5×1   @ 100
Week 5 (deload) SQ/BP- 3×10 @ 50 OH/DL- 3×10 @ 50 CL/SN- 3×5   @ 50


CYCLE 2 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Week 6 SQ/BP- 5×5   @ 90 OH/DL- 5×5   @ 90 CL/SN- 5×3   @ 90
Week 7 SQ/BP- 5×5   @ 95 OH/DL- 5×5   @ 95 CL/SN- 5×3   @ 95
Week 8 SQ/BP- 5×3   @ 100 OH/DL- 5×3   @ 100 CL/SN- 5×2   @ 100
Week 9 (test) SQ/BP- 5×1   @ 105 OH/DL- 5×1   @ 105 CL/SN- 5×1   @ 105
Week 10 (deload) SQ/BP- 3×10 @ 50 OH/DL- 3×10 @ 50 CL/SN- 3×5   @ 50



The daily template is as follows.  Insert weights and percentages.

Day 1: Day 2: Day 3:
Squat: Push Press: Clean:
Bench: Deadlift: Snatch:
Good Mornings:  3×10 Pull Ups:  3×10 Seated Box Jumps:  3×5
Weighted Dips:  3×10 Single Arm Rows:  3×10 Single leg jump:  3×5
Prowler:  8×40 yards @ 90lbs Prowler:  8×40 yards @ 90lbs Prowler:  8×40 yards @ 90lbs


We all get caught up in the chase for the next completion and breaking the next PR.  In that it is easy to lose some focus and forget the simple things that got you where you are now.  Spending some extra time during the year readdressing those things will help you be in better shape for your next season.  I personally still love competing on a regular basis and need that edge I get from it.  So at the end of 20 weeks of off season I will find a competition that will test my off season.  For example Last year at the end of this I did a RAW Powerlifting meet.  This coming year I will do some weightlifting meets.  I have never done one before and it seems fun.   This is just more fun than doing it in the gym.  Also this gives something to think about as a reason to the training.  Spending some time to deload mentally and physically from your regular training will put you in a better position of a healthy year of training and breaking PRs.

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