When you’ve been a strength coach for over 30 years, one question that comes up all the time is: Should athletes do strength training during the season? The long answer is it really depends on the athlete’s situation, but more often than not the answer is yes.
The first thing to consider is the purpose of training in-season; most athletes who play at a competitive level have a high volume of practices and games. Therefore, it is very difficult to make gains without getting too tired which in turns mean performing less than optimally in games. But if you’re not going to make any gains, why even bother training? For one, injury prevention is very good reason to train in-season. That way training can be geared toward fixing imbalances created by the same repetitive movements that the athlete will perform over and over in the practice of their sport.
Second, if the athlete has been training during the off-season and made tremendous gains in strength and power, you would definitely want to train to at least maintain those gains. Strength and power are the two most important qualities that you want to maintain. I am saying that because gains made in speed, agility and level of conditioning in the off-season will, most of the time, be easily maintained through the practice of their sport alone. Let me give you a couple of examples: will a soccer player really improve his speed by doing, let’s say, an additional 10-15 sprints in their training while they’re actually sprinting for the ball hundreds of times a week while practicing and playing? Similarly, will a basketball player really improve his conditioning with 15-30 more minutes of interval training while he’s practicing and playing in a sport-specific environment for over 5 hours a week? I think you get the idea…
Please note here that I also said “most of the time” speed and agility training as well as additional conditioning are not necessary in-season. An exception to that might be if a player is not on the starting line-up or just not playing a lot; in that case, the athlete might need the additional volume of speed, agility and conditioning to stay on top of his game.
Strength and power are totally different though. The reason is because these two qualities require the use of some sort of additional resistance. That is why if not trained, strength and power will progressively decrease and the athlete might lose all of what he gained during the off-season. That is going to become more obvious as the season progresses, as athletes gets more and more tired from the high volumes of practices, games and stress in general related to everyday life (school, family, boy/girlfriend, job, etc). It is imortant to be careful with the volume of training that is given to the athlete, because it can contribute to overtraining. Also, you do not need high volumes of training to maintain athletic qualities; most of the time, only a couple of sets per week will be more than enough.
Again, there are a lot of factors to consider for training in-season, but it is definitely essential to maintain gains made in the off-season and help prevent injuries and for an untrained athlete even get stronger.