Should You Be Working Out In-Season?

Should You Be Working Out In-Season?

Now that strength training programs are commonly done for athletes in all sports these days, the challenge of what to do for training during the sports season often times must be determined.

To be honest, there is no easy answer to this.   There are a range of reasons why it is beneficial, but done incorrectly it can raise the risk of injury and exhaustion for many kids.  In fact, the continued rise in drop out rates and sports-related injuries may be in part coming from improper training during the season.

Each case is a bit different, so to help you make the best decision for your child or team, here is a list of some pros and cons for in-season workouts geared towards middle school and high school age athletes.

PROS

- Long Term Athletic Development is the goal of all workout programs, and strength training in particular works by accumulating training time so that your body has a stimulus to grow and develop.   Although you may not be able to train as often, in-season strength workouts help accumulate the training time needed to stay ahead of your competitors & maximize your growth potential

- An in-season workout can be an ideal time to target some injury prevention training using specific flexibility and stability exercises.   For baseball and softball players that may be arm care drills, for sports like soccer, basketball and lacrosse it could be knee and ankle injury prevention work.

- Research has shown that strength gains from the off-season can mostly be maintained for a month or more without training, but speed and explosive power gains disappear much sooner.   So by doing lighter weight, explosive lifting exercises an athlete can stay powerful right through playoff time without experiencing a lot of soreness.

- There's a fairly big psychological component to training properly in season if you're doing it as a team.   It's an environment where no one is competing over playing time, everyone can work together to accomplish a goal, and the mindset of going the extra mile together can be cemented as a core value of your team.  You'd be amazed at the growth of team culture that can come from a properly outlined in-season workout program.

- For individuals training away from their team, it builds the mindset of effort and determination that all top performers demonstrate.   Read the biography of just about any top performer in sports, business, academics, the arts....those who rise to the top tend to do the extra work that the average person would make excuses as to why they can't get it done.

- You can teach basic movements that will allow you to ramp up your off-season workouts far quicker.

- When else are you going to do it?  For the kid who has 8 to 9 months to train in the off-season a break during the season might help.   But most kids play their sport year-round now, and will be judged at the next level by how fast, fit, injury-free and physically imposing they are.   In today's sports culture, training gives kids the upper hand at making the team at the next level and to succeed you'll have to fit it somewhere.

- During the long grind of a sports season, taking 30-45 minutes once per week to do a strength/injury prevention workout can serve to break the monotony of a regular practice schedule.  

- It also can serve as a pick up moment after a tough loss.

CONS

- The exhausted, over scheduled kid who is playing on multiple teams at once is likely just hanging on energy-wise and time-wise.   Training in a totally exhausted state has less benefit, so unless more room can be made to devote to physical development there might not be enough time in the schedule.

- If the only times you can train are right before games (24-36 hours before) an intense workout can lead to soreness and fatigue that can impair game performance.   The timing of the workouts must be properly addressed to get the benefits of training without hurting your play.

- Travel time can be pretty intensive for youth sports these days.   It's possible that your workout location is simply too far away to get to even once a week to get the benefits listed above.

- Because workout programs are in a controlled environment, they are inherently safer that actual sports events.   That being said, a poorly designed in-season program can over-work fatigued muscles and increase the likelihood of overuse injuries to the lower body and arms.

 

Of course there are many more reasons why an in-season training program can help you, or impair your performance.   This is meant to serve as a starting point for understanding what benefits you may be passing up by not training in-season, but also what potential risks may come of it.

Ultimately you need to determine what is best for your child, or your team, in order to best serve their long-term goals and opportunities.

 



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