In-Season Strength Training

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This is a topic which books could be written on but I’d like to pass on some practical guidelines that I’ve found successful:

  • Do it: Too many people seem to stop way too early or not do any strength work during the season. While you can maintain 80+% of your strength gains with 6 weeks of complete strength training cessation, this is not an acceptable trade-off. You’ve worked too hard for those gains to lose them when it takes so little to maintain them.
  • It’s more than just strength: Strength training does more than just increase / maintain strength. It has hormonal, neuromuscular and structural changes that improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury beyond mere improvements in your ability to move more iron. Once you realize this, the need to continue strength training becomes obvious.
  • More than just weights: While I personally like to stay in the weight room for the entire year, I also recognize that many of the general strength bodyweight circuits, multi-jump, multi-throw and even sprint training can play a role in maintaining strength.
  • Stay focused: One of my favorite quotes is: The goal is to keep the goal the goal. In other words, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re a track and field athlete and that in-season strength training may mean a reduction in some strength values as training emphasis is shifted.
  • Be economical: What exercises, frequencies, set-rep schemes can accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish with the optimal energy and time requirements.
  • Be smart: This is closely tied to the previous point. The further championship period is away, the more luxury you have in doing ‘pet exercises’ and inserting new exercises you want to test out. The closer you get to championship periods though, the more you should stick to the staples, the known commodities, that you can be assured will get the job done.
  • Keep intensity high: When volume is reduced you must increase or at least maintain intensity to retain previously developed strength values. Exceptions apply when other stimuli are applied appropriately but this is a good rule of thumb.
  • Intensity? Most people get locked in to thinking intensity in the weight room just means % of your maximum but increasing speed of movement can also be used effectively.
  • Volume reduction: because more energy should be / will be dedicated to more specific on-track work, recognize that weight room volumes need to adjust accordingly.
  • Frequency: Don’t reduce it too much. Research suggests your better to keep frequency of a stimulus the same than just insert more off days. That means, volume reduction should come from within session, not from omission of sessions. Obviously, the competition schedule is going to supersede this point on many occasions but again, it’s a good guideline.
  • Be careful with what you remove: I’ve found that if I remove some exercises from rotation for a training cycle that I may not be able to put them back in because it will cause too much soreness at a time when that’s unwanted. So if I have the expectation of being able to do one of these exercises later in the competition cycle, I make sure I keep it in the exercise rotation to some small extent so I can use it more effectively when I want without negative effect.
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