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Pre-Season vs In-Season Strength Training; A ‘How To’ guide for amateur athletes

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. I hate that saying, but for this blog topic, it seemed relevant.

When talking about strength training over the course of a sporting season, this saying makes even more sense!

Getting strong doesn’t happen in one session. It doesn’t happen in one week. It takes time, just like it took more than one day for the Romans to build Rome!

Many amateur athletes struggle to understand that strength training needs to begin early. By early, I mean prior to pre-season beginning, and definitely prior to the season commencing!

The off-season and pre-season is all about building that strength base and laying the foundations for yourself to be able to tolerate the intensity of the peak of pre-season, and the season ahead.

This is important for not only being strong in relation to your sport but having a solid strength base will positively benefit your speed during competition, sport specific skills and injury prevention throughout the season.

Pre-Season. The time to attack!

With no games/competition on the weekend, this is the time for you to really target some serious strength work.

For a field or court-based team sport athlete, your strength training should focus on higher volume hypertrophy (building muscle mass) training that includes large multi-joint movements.

Think squats, bench press, chin ups, deadlifts, etc. Depending on your schedule, you should be looking to incorporate at least 3 strength sessions per week throughout pre-season. As mentioned previously, in this phase, you would tend to see higher volumes of lifting.

Sets would be between 3-4 per exercise, and repetitions of around 6-8 for your ‘A’ complex, then reps anywhere from 8-12 for your ‘B’ and ‘C’ complexes are commonplace.

Accessory work can be anything from specific injury prevention exercises, to just trying to get those pipes as big as Popeye’s.

See below for a schedule you could use to guide your training week:

Figure 1: Option 1 – 3 sport trainings per week

Figure 2: Option 2 – 2 sport trainings per week

The make-up of these strength sessions should follow the below theme. Exercises are just an example of the specified movement. (You can download a PDF with links to the exercises below)

PDF Program Download: Specific movements in your lifts – Pre-season

Specific Movements
Download PDF • 155KB

In-Season. More Sport Specific

As the pre-season winds to a close and the season approaches, your training should mould into more sport specific strength targeted training.

This phase is usually lower volume, but higher intensity in nature.

Usually for my main lower body and upper body lifts, I like to use reps of between 3-5, with secondary exercises ranging from 5-8, with sets hovering between 3-5 depending on the phase. I recommend getting in at least two strength sessions per week whilst in-season.

Now I already know what you’re thinking, “I’m sore from the game”, “I don’t have time”, “it’s winter and it’s cold”, blah, blah. I’ve heard every excuse in the book. All I’m telling you, is that two strength sessions per week is optimal and highly recommended for you to excel, perform and stay injury free throughout the season.

With my past and current athletes, I like to structure the two sessions as follows:

Figure 4: 2 sport training per week, 2 strength sessions per week:

The first strength session of the week would be your higher intensity session. You would tick off your main lower body lift, with an upper body push and pull, followed by a hamstring dominant exercise.

You should be feeling like this session is ‘harder’ than your Wednesday strength workout.

The second session of the week is your lighter load, more power dominant workout. The flow of your session should start with 1-2 power focused exercises, followed by your secondary lower limb, and an upper body push and pull to finish.

Actually, I almost forgot something…obviously I want my athletes feeling good. And what makes them feel good, working those Wayne Harmes (Arms for those playing along at home 😂). As long as my athletes get in what they need to and what is prescribed, I’m more than happy to oblige with an Arm Farm finisher.

Figure 5: Specific movements in your lifts – In-season

To summarise the above, there are 3 main positives of strength training for sports:

1) Get bigger, stronger and faster

2) Injury prevention

3) Aids in sport specific skills

The sooner you can hit the gym either before or at the beginning of pre-season, the better it will be for building the foundations of strength for you to grow and adapt upon. Don’t be deterred when you wake up the next morning from training and your body is sore. This is normal. Your body needs time to adapt to the new stimulus you’re adding. The same goes for when you start playing games. Your body needs to adapt to the demands of match play, and after a couple of weeks, you’ll get into a routine and you will see the benefits of sticking to your strength training, especially in the back half of the season.

Use the above figures as guides and if you’d like more information, direction and/or coaching, please get in contact with us.

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