It takes a lot of effort to build strength. Anyone who has tried can attest. It takes much less effort to maintain strength.
Let me give you the inside scoop on strength coaches. Man do we love building strength. Try catching the look on your strength coach’s face next time you tell ’em you’re in the off-season.
Ohhhhhhhh baby. Drop sets, super sets, interval training (of course high intensity duh), and PRs let’s goooooo! Excuse me for the next half hour while I go make your shiny, color coded, champion sculpting program.
It’s hard. It’s pain staking. It’s intense. It can make you want to pull the sheets back over your face, instead of getting up in the morning, but that’s what it takes to build strength. During the off season it is my job to build athletes. I am not your sport coach or your skills coach, I am your athletic coach. I can’t help you make quicker decisions on the field or shoot more accurately.
I can however, give your body the tools to perform all those skills at a higher level. If you can’t hit the net from 10 feet or use a lacrosse stick both ways that’s time you need to spend on the field playing and practicing sport specific skills.
If you continually get beat to ground balls, loose pucks, shoved around, beat in the corners, or pushed off the puck come see me.
What about maintaining strength?
During the season the athlete’s goal is to win. Unless your sport is power lifting, we aren’t going for PRs or starting earthquakes throwing medicine balls. Too much stress during the season creates soreness that can negatively impact sport performance. That’s why the off season is so great. We’re not worried about soreness! We can train unabated.
Once an athlete has built up base strength (typically takes 4-6 weeks of 3+ high intensity days/week), it can be maintained quite easily with 1-2 less intense training sessions each week.
Why do we care about maintaining strength?
This is an important one so pay attention. Don’t do one of those “read then forget immediately after.” Remember this one! Okay I typically see a pattern like this. Athlete builds college scholarship worthy, super power inducing, galaxy exploding type strength and power. Athlete stops resistance training in order to stay fresh for the season. Athlete comes back 4-5 months later sometimes injured, sometimes lighter, but always allllllllllllways weaker. We build them back to where they were last off season. Athlete leaves for sport season annnnnddd repeat.
There’s no improvement and eventually the athlete cannot hack it because the competition has improved. Allowing atrophy to occur during the season is counter intuitive. By the time the post season rolls around the athlete is at their weakest! They are sport conditioned, their sport skills are polished, but physically at their weakest in the most crucial point in the season.
There is a HUGE difference between in-season and off-season training programs.
In-season strength maintaining differs from off season training in several ways:
- Decreased intensity
- Decreased volume
- Decreased load
Building strength involves alternating periods of breaking down muscle tissue and that tissue recovering, healing, and becoming stronger. Maintaining strength involves stimulating an athlete’s nervous system for a shorter duration in order to impart just enough stress to the body that it is forced to maintain the neurological changes made during the “build” phase we worked so hard on during the off season.