Considerations for in-season strength training
The offseason is a key period for athletic development in the weight room, but don’t make the mistake of pausing your strength program when the season kicks off.
Protocols must be adjusted to accommodate the grueling season, but in-season strength training should be a requirement of all programs. Coaches should consider a variety of factors before developing a plan that suits all their athletes.Coaches must start by understanding there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Ken Mannie, head strength/conditioning coach at Michigan State University, recommends that frequency is determined by a player’s workload on the field. Those who go both ways or participate on special teams must be afforded adequate recovery time, while the freshmen or sophomores who see little action can see up to three non-consecutive training sessions per week.
Head coaches should ask their assistants to track the workload of each player in their position group to help establish what’s appropriate.
“Most athletes will do very well in a detailed, highly-organized in-season strength training program that entails two 35- to 45-minute sessions per week,” Mannie wrote. “A little more time — up to around 50 minutes — can be implemented early in the training week, but that would be the top end. Sessions lasting longer should be evaluated for flaws that can be corrected to improve tempo, flow and efficiency.”
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Another consideration is injuries. Players are banged up as the season progresses, and coaches must adjust. But coaches have options that don’t involve entirely shutting down their strength programs.
For example, it’s not uncommon for players to injure hands and fingers. Some coaches might find it tempting to take a player off their training program to allow the injury to heal, but there’s no reason lower-body exercises can’t still be in play. Coaches should do what they can to keep players active, while making sure that the program has the support of a certified strength coach.
“It’s important to understand that in-season strength training must be a no-excuses proposition,” Mannie said.
One final point to consider: In-season training isn’t all about lifting weights. Football players should continue to make flexibility and conditioning a priority, keeping in mind the physical skills necessary to excel at their respective positions. Consult with an experienced strength coach to identify the needs of your program and how to continue improving players throughout the football season.