The offseason is a crucial time to fix imbalances, build strength and train hard. An athlete's offseason training program is designed to have them in top shape to start the season. This is of great importance, but so is preserving that strength & mobility throughout the in-season. A solid in-season program will have you feeling good at the most important time of year (playoff time). The in-season program often gets overlooked and in this article I will give you a closer look on building a successful in-season program.

The challenge with an in-season program is training to stay strong and mobile throughout the season, while not overtraining the athlete (burning out their nervous system). Below are the key components of a successful in-season training program:

1. Maintain Mobility

The rigors of a season really wear an athlete down. The offseason can't simulate the intensity of a game, and fatigue sets in. Fatigue might be the number one variable when comes to injuries for players who move well. The better an athlete moves the more he or she will play. This will lead to an athlete playing at high speeds in a fatigued state. If you think about it, squatting a heavy weight immediately after 5 minutes of sprint and agility drills would certainly impact your motor control (please don't do it!). Playing in a fatigued state can cause an athlete to lose some motor control and give them some unwanted stiffness. Foam rolling and mobility training drills to address tissue quality is very important. It will aid in recovery, and also give clues on how one is moving in the game (think about how the same mobility drills felt in the off-season). This can help prevent a drip from becoming a flood!

2. Balancing out Movement Patterns

To develop a good in-season program, you must know the dominant patterns of the sports at play. Take a hockey goalie for example, a goalie is in hip flexion the whole game, working on his hip extension will make him more mobile and increase his or her ability to cover more net. For athletes in lower back hyper extension, a program incorporating core strength, specifically anti-extension exercises will go a long way in keeping an athlete healthy.

My colleague Frank Duffy, was an intern at the top baseball training facility in the country, Cressey Performance. Just recently, Frank was giving a seminar on In-season arm care for pitchers and he explained, "With a sport like baseball, where repetitive rotational movement is constantly performed in one direction, it's critical to follow an educated in-season protocol in order to remain as durable as possible. Addressing dysfunctional movement patterns created through sport are one of the primary benefits behind a solid in-season training program. By focusing on maintenance during this time, you're setting yourself for long term success on the playing field".

As we can see, each sport has different repetitive motions. It is critical to understand this and to tailor a program to meet the sport's demand.

3. A Great Offseason Strength Program

For one, it's hard to catch up during the In-season. The offseason functional strength training will carry you throughout the season. The main lifts chosen for the in-season program should be from the ones done during the off-season. It doesn't have to be all of them (I will touch on this later), but the exercises performed should come from the off-season program. The offseason program should be centered on the balance of joint action and a buildup of speed drills. The offseason is a time to train hard, and the in-season preserves that training, you're either ready or you're not. In-season is not time to try condition the athlete.

4. Stay Strong throughout the In-season

Lifting weights in-season is best when kept simple. I like to pick about 5 - 6 exercises that I have done in the offseason that will have a big carry over to performance. The offseason exercises have the athlete dialed into the form and he or she can work off the percentage of their max to ensure nervous system readiness for competition.

Staying in between 65 - 75% on my max, and doing a couple singles or doubles of each, three times a week, will ensure neural readiness. The energy demands and frequency of the sport will dictate how much volume (sets, reps) the athlete performs. Being fresh daily is of utmost importance to the athlete, and being overly sore or fatigued can lead to breakdown. Choosing exercises from the off-season also helps the athlete stay fresh; the neural pathways are laid down and are accustomed to the stimulus. This allows for great form and effectiveness with fewer reps (new exercises need more reps to engrain a pattern). New exercises or ones that haven't been used in a while are also accompanied by soreness. For a closer look at an in-season program, you can check out my article here: In-Season Training for Football & The Weekend Warrior.

5. Limit Deceleration

Deceleration, or the eccentric portion of the lift, produces muscle tearing and soreness. This is a good thing during the off-season, but we want to limit this in-season. An example would be moving from barbell front squat to a kettlebell front squat in order to limit deceleration load while keeping the strong squat pattern. The deadlift here would be a good choice for the main lift. There is no need to remove all deceleration lifts, simply be aware of their effects.

The In-season training program is a challenging one, I hope these insights can help in dominating your upcoming season.

About the Author: Chris Carlsen is a former division 1 athlete, Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), SFG (Beast Tamer) and Fitness Therapist (ISSA). He is the owner of Iron Lion Performance, in Astoria, NY . Chris owes a huge part of his athletic and career success to Pavel and Gray Cook. Learning and studying from the pioneers in strength and movement, has filled his life with great knowledge and purpose. This knowledge has given him the ability help a lot of students and indoctrinate many trainers with the skill of strength. He shares over a decade of coaching experiences at his facility's website and blog . You can also follow him on his Iron Lion Performance facebook fan page.

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