Every team wants to be peaking at tournament time. And that means different things for different sports.
Typically, your team sports want to be gelling. They want to be in sync and sharp. Basically, you want to be peaking at the right time, tournament time.
Other sports, you want to be moving your fastest, jumping your highest, or throwing your farthest. Individual sports such as track, cross country, or swimming. Once again, you are trying to set up your training plan so you are peaking at tournament time.
With a lot of these sports, it boils down to who is the healthiest. Who can stay fresh at the end of the season? The competition is getting tougher so which team can perform well and bounce back the quickest.If we look to the individual athlete, what is his/her concern towards tournament time?
A lot of the same things we mentioned above, but specifically they want their athletic skills to be at their best in the tournament. Their speed and strength that they worked so hard in the off-season to improve needs to be at their best NOW.
In order for that to happen, what does the athlete need to do? Well I already mentioned about rest and recovery. This helps keep the athlete stay fresh and ready to play at his/her optimum level.
How will you keep your speed and strength up to their best levels though?
Here is a fact about strength. If you do not tax it appropriately, you lose a little bit of strength each week. After 4 weeks, your strength starts to drop exponentially. So, if you do absolutely zero strength training throughout the season, you will be decidedly weaker come playoffs then you were at the beginning of the season.
This not only affects your strength, but your speed. Even though you are running full speed in practices and games, if your strength and power decrease it will negatively affect your speed and quickness.
With that mindset, many sport teams aren’t necessarily hitting the tournament at optimum strength and speed levels. More so, it is which team has decreased their speed and strength the least.
If you want to address one thing with your in-season training, it has to be strength maintenance. Not at a high volume like you did in the off-season. This would affect your recovery/energy and you need your energy to focus on your sport. BUT, you need to lift at a level that keeps your strength HIGH.
If done correctly, you could tax the muscles twice a week at most, but at least once. Then make sure you are lifting 85-90% of your maximum, low reps, and not a lot of volume. This will keep everything firing at max capacity and you won’t have such a drop off in speed or strength.
CASE STUDY: My daughter’s sophomore year she transitioned to in-season lifting beginning of outdoor. The lifting she did in-season was decidedly with less weight then what she did off-season. This wasn’t because the strength coach told her, she just was putting weight on in-line with her teammates to make the workout short and sweet.
Thus she ran her fastest time of the season in mid-April at 12.45 in the 100M (about 6 weeks after the season started). Come tournament time (a month later), when she should be running her fastest she hits 12.48 in Districts, then regionals, and then states. Yes, it was good that she was able to maintain that fast level, but she should have gone a little faster towards the end of the season.
Some might argue that the sprint workouts didn’t peak her well enough. Or, you could go the route that I am taking and her in-season lifting program did not maintain her optimum strength levels as long as it should have.
One last point. Indoor track in January. My daughter altered her lifting program a week before her first meet due to a muscle strain. Didn’t lift the entire week before and she popped off a 7.91 in the 60M.
For the next two months, we had to change the strength program so some key lifts were eliminated or varied. She battled a sickness for a few days which affected her for about 10 days after. Thus, in mid-February she ran a 7.92. The week before states a 7.91 and the state meet finally breaking that mark with a 7.87.
Point is if we had been able to continue her normal strength program and progressed the way we had originally planned, she might not have plateaued at that 7.91 figure for so long and probably continued to improve her speed.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: Do an in-season training program. The volume can be reduced so you aren’t spending so much energy during the workout, but the intensity needs to be high to maintain your strength and power.
If you do not do in-season training like that, then basically hope and pray your opponents don’t either so their speed and strength can decrease like yours. Hopefully at a faster rate.