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Maximising Athletic Potential: Why In-Season Strength Training is Essential for Team Sports

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Maximising Athletic Potential: Why In-Season Strength Training is Essential for Team Sports

As the intensity and demands of team sports continue to increase, the importance of in-season strength training for athletes cannot be overemphasized. In-season training allows athletes to maintain their strength, power, and agility during the competitive season, thereby reducing the risk of injury and improving their overall performance. In this article, we will discuss three main reasons why in-season training is crucial for team sport athletes.

Keep intensity high

During the competitive season, team sport athletes are likely to experience a significant increase in their training and competition schedule. This can make it challenging to maintain the same volume of strength training as in the off-season. However, it is essential to maintain the intensity of training to prevent a decrease in strength and power. To achieve this, in-season strength training should focus on exercises that require high intensity but with lower volume. A simple rule to follow is to utilise more "concentric" movements rather than "eccentric", meaning you shorten the range of a movement whether this be a box squat or raised deadlift, so you don't have to worry about lowering the movement, and can just produce as much force as possible. This approach ensures that the athletes maintain their strength, power, and explosiveness, while still having enough time to recover and prepare for the next game or training session.

Mobility for recovery

In-season strength training should also prioritise mobility exercises. This is because team sport athletes are prone to fatigue and muscle soreness due to the high demands of their sport. Mobility exercises help to increase the range of motion of the joints, which in turn, improves blood flow and aids recovery. It is crucial to ensure that the athletes recover adequately to reduce the risk of injury and improve their performance in subsequent games. An athlete's best ability is their availability.

Speed and power focus

In-season strength training should prioritise power and speed of exercises, rather than building fatigue. This is because team sport athletes require explosive movements and quick reaction times, which can be compromised by fatigue. By focusing on power and speed, athletes can improve their performance without accumulating unnecessary fatigue. The exercises should also be specific to the demands of their sport, such as sprints, jumps, and change of direction.

At Inner Athlete, we utilise a more power and explosive approach to programming when working with athletes who are in season. The beginning of the off-season is very general and as we get closer and eventually into the season we move the programming to be more specific to the needs of the sport. We have found that this approach has allowed athletes to maintain their strength during the season but also is a lot more enjoyable as the sessions are more relaxed and can be changed regularly. Additionally, it has allowed us to adapt programs on the spot if they come in with a little niggle or sore spot in their upper body, we can focus on lower body power for that session and vice versa if their lower body is sore.

In-season strength training is crucial for team sport athletes to maintain their strength, power, and agility during the competitive season. By focusing on maintaining intensity while keeping the volume lower, prioritising mobility exercises, and prioritising power and speed of exercises rather than building fatigue, athletes can improve their performance while reducing the risk of injury. It is essential for parents of youth athletes to encourage their children to engage in in-season strength training to help them achieve their full potential in their chosen sport.

For more information on strength and conditioning for youth athletes and increasing your sports performance check out our website and podcast (also available on Spotify and YouTube!).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete - Bayside's premium strength and conditioning coaching for youth athletes

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