In-Season Strength Training: Why it Matters

By: Mackenzie Perttu, MS, CSCS

The offseason tends to get a lot of hype regarding training strength, speed, and power for a sport. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “Champions are made in the offseason,” coined by the legendary Nick Saban. Or perhaps you have watched videos of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, A’ja Wilson, or Caitlin Clark working out in the offseason. While there is certainly truth to the idea that offseason preparation is crucial to success, it also seems important to note that champions need to stay consistent throughout the season. And while the off-court/field/ice/course training isn’t highlighted as much during the season, great athletes (yes, including the ones listed above) don’t let that aspect of their training fade during the regular season.

Throughout my career as a strength and conditioning and collegiate basketball coach, I have witnessed athletes, teams, coaches, and parents push strength training to the side during the regular season. This tends to happen for a variety of reasons: time constraints, fatigue, motivation, scheduling, etc. Despite these obstacles, I am here to tell you that continuing training during the season is SO important.


Here’s why:

Basketball player wit text that says strength Training for basketball
  1. Maintain Strength. Let’s say you had a phenomenal offseason in the weight room, where you built strength and stamina for your sport—nicely done! The goal of that offseason training is to USE it, not lose it, come game-time. Consistent strength training throughout the season allows athletes to maintain and build on their current fitness level, priming the body to PEAK at the right time (playoffs/end-of-season tournaments).
  2. Reduce Risk of Injury. Every athlete wants an injury-free season. With the unpredictability of sport, nothing can truly prevent injuries. However, strength training has been proven to reduce the risk of injury in athletes by improving bone mineral density, increasing muscle mass, and improving connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) strength. Beyond that, injury is most likely to occur in-season due to the increased demands on the body: longer, more frequent practices, high-intensity output, reduced recovery time, plus outside demands (school/homework or social demands). Strength training helps to “bulletproof” your body by keeping you strong and resilient when fatigue sets in.
  3. Increase Recovery. During the season, athletes often repeat the same (or similar) movements over and over in practice and games. The repetitive motions can cause fatigue, tightness, and muscular imbalances throughout the body. Strength training helps reduce the risk of overuse injury and gives the body a balanced workout that includes stability and mobility training. This type of balanced training will help promote recovery throughout the season.
  4. Build Confidence. There is something to be said about feeling strong in your sport. If you’re a little stronger than your competition – a little faster and can jump a little higher, too – you will go into every practice and game using that ability to your advantage. The MENTAL STRENGTH built in the weight room is just as important. You will earn the confidence to go into games/matches/competitions, KNOWING that you’ve put in the work to win.
  5. Elevate Performance. Increased strength, speed, balance, agility, and stability all contribute to improved sport performance. Likewise, a decrease in any of those factors could potentially lead to a decrease in sport performance. Staying sharp with your strength and conditioning during the season, combined with sport-specific training, can produce elite results!

Think of it this way: Strength training is your ATHLETIC BANK ACCOUNT. All offseason, you spend time making DEPOSITS into your account with speed, strength, and agility training. During the season, you take WITHDRAWALS from your account for practices, competitions, and games. The goal is to keep your bank account FULL throughout the entire season. Over-withdrawals without deposits can result in fatigue, poor performance, or injuries.

Some final food for thought on this topic: While in-season strength training clearly has many benefits, it is important that load, volume, and intensity are carefully managed to avoid overuse injury or fatigue. Working with a certified strength and conditioning coach is important to ensure safe movement and load management. 

No matter what season of sport you are in, join us at Momentum Fit to work with NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coaches to optimize performance and athletic potential!

Mackenzie Perttu, MS, CSCS

References:

https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/smb-resistance-training-and-injury-prevention.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-019-01169-8

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