Written by Team Juggernaut
By: Nate Winkler, Juggernaut Training Systems, LLC
Why Train In Season?
March is the time when the Winter sports are entering their championships and Spring sport athletes are getting prepared for their own seasons to begin. No matter what your sport is, during the competition season, your lifting volume and time in the gym need to take a back seat to performing well in your sport. In season lifting should emphasize maintaining the strength you built in the off season. Wasting all your energy under the bar during the season isn’t going to help you get over the rim or past that defender. Because of this, however, people often times go the opposite direction and make the mistake of removing themselves from lifting all together. Many athletes train hard all off season and come to the first game strong, explosive, and prevented from injury. However, at the end of the season, when they need to be at their strongest, injuries creep in, and that explosive strength has disappeared along with their due to a lack of strength maintenance in the weight room. Chad and I are constantly going to games and matches watching our athletes compete, and nothing is more disappointing than to watch a 3 month, de conditioned, hollow shell of the athlete we saw leave our gym a few months prior.
Let’s to go over the simple logic of why in season training is important. 1) Muscles move the body by generating force, not bones. Going 3-4 months without putting a bar on your back or in your hands is going to reduce your ability to apply and generate force. 2) Without proper surrounding muscle mass and strength, joint injury is inevitable. Muscle mass/flexibility and joint mobility are two things that a proper in season program emphasizes on maintaining or increasing. When you don’t lift weights, muscles atrophy and injury risk increases. 3 to 5 sets of 5 at 60-70% of your preseason 1 rep max will keep your strength levels maintained during season, if you have injury prone areas, i.e. shoulders, knees, low back, make sure you include accessory movements into your in season routine. On off weeks or times when you have extended breaks between games/matches, make small gains then and increase your weights.
In Season Volume and Specificity
Last week, we received this question via email concerning in season training:
“I am a sprinter. I am extremely strong in the gym but seem to have problems transferring the strength and power to my sprinting on the track. I am presently doing indoor competitions to enhance my speed. In the gym I do Bulgarian squats, deadlifts, ham curls, toe raises, millitary press. I also do a lot of explosive type work. ie single leg jump squats, explosive deadlifts, plyometrics such as box jumps, depth jumps, single leg hops. Do you have any suggestions that you could make please? I got most of my strength training concepts from an athlete named Dwain Chambers and he made me a beast in the gym. So I am in excellent anaerobic shape. I just feel that i am lacking that explosive power on the track. Thanks in advace and have a pleasant day.”
Most of the time strength is the limiting factor in sprinting, but this doesn’t seem like the case for you. What I did, after first doing it wrong with track, is when competition season got closer and closer, I would put less and less time and energy into my lifts. You can put 6x body weight on your legs during sprinting, which I would guess you aren’t getting up to in the gym. Just get to a weight that will keep you explosive, and you know that you are getting stronger with, but focus on bar speed (causing some type of CNS excitement). I would drop my lifting movements down to only the major ones and possibly some accessory movements that strengthen weak points only. Plyometrics are good, but again, don’t let them take away from your running, use them as a means to prepare the body and central nervous system for sprinting. Also, make them more and more specific to your sport as you get into competition season, bounding comes to mind as a great April-May plyometric. You mentioned Dwain Chambers, in getting to witness his April training before outdoor season, it was simple and specific. He wasted no time in the gym, only doing heavy explosive exercises. In watching the British Olympic team last Spring, the only themes seemed to be sport specificity and avoid over training.
As far as running goes, if your main goal is the 100m, try to run your 60m in a way that is geared towards the 100m, i.e. try to drive longer instead of trying to be at maximum velocity so early. Fitness is huge as well, running 250s is a great distance for the 100m, this will make your maximum velocity window longer in the 100m and help the body recover from high intensity sessions on previous days. Good luck, keep in touch.
What have you learned from your experience with in season training? Please share your opinion below.