22 Mar In-Season Soccer Training: Don’t Wither Away
I’ll admit: I’m proud of myself right now.
Because I did something so unthinkable, so unimaginable, almost impossible recently that I’m still in awe of the whole thing.
No, I didn’t visit every Lord of the Rings site in New Zealand.
No, I didn’t switch over to the fashion industry.
No, I didn’t climb Mount Everest.
No. Even better.
I got all of my athletes to continue an in-season strength program.
For me, this is revolutionary.
In past years, youth athletes would train with me for a few months in the off-season, peace out to be with their team coach, and then come back to me and start from the beginning again.
I found myself having to re-teach everything – from deadlifts, to squats, to running mechanics, to pull-ups. Additionally, I found them regressing in their strength numbers and withering away from what we had worked so hard for in the off-season. Worse yet, I found them coming back to me with overuse injuries due to losing strength in-season, and overworking themselves with the running and impact.
So this bears repeating: do your in-season training. Don’t wither away.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard coaches and parents utter the words, “kids just don’t have time to see you during the season.”
Excuse me while I put my hand on my hip and nod at you in disagreement.
They DO have time. People are just being lazy.
Yes, I said it.
In fact, everyone has time to maintain their strength, especially if it is a priority for them to 1) stay in shape and 2) stay healthy for the demands of the game.
ACL injuries anyone?
IT band syndrome anyone?
Patellar pain anyone?
Yeah. Stay strong. Stay resilient. Why wouldn’t you strength train in-season?
I mean come ON.
I don’t care if you’re coming in to see me for a 45 minute lift that touches on all of the muscle groups, or training with me online from the comfort of your own home, or you’re performing bodyweight, coordination work while watching the Walking Dead, or you’re banging out Pull-Ups on the goal post before practice.
Some degree of in-season strength goes a long way, so instead of being lazy, get creative, and squeak it in.
Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t drop me with the “I-don’t-have-time-to-strength-train” argument, especially if your average iPhone screen time is 6.5 hours.
So why is in-season strength training so paramount for young athletes?
For starters, it helps to maintain strength. There’s plenty of research on the cessation from a lifting program and the amount the muscles decrease in strength from just a few weeks time, and there’s plenty of research on the strength and speed benefits of an in-season program.
To summarize the research, a decrease in strength leads to several things:
1. Not being able to withstand the demands of the game.
2. Not being able to stay resilient during a rigorous 3 or 4 game tournament schedule.
3. Not feeling as confident or strong as they once were. <— mental piece is huge here
4. Not being able to maintain speed and acceleration gains.
This isn’t rocket science.
Alas, I digress.
I always freaking digress in these articles:
Lack of in-season strength is tantamount to high school Senioritis.
Kids stop studying, stop going to class, stop putting in the work, show up late, only to find out their grades suffer and they are not prepared for the demands of their first college semester.
Bad freaking habits.
So what does this mean?
I’m good at analogies.
But also: when you stop doing something consistently, you fall of the wagon.
In my experience, the athletes who discontinue lifting in-season are the ones who 1) get injured from overuse and load 2) come back feeling weak and frail 3) come back mentally not confident and 4) have to be re-taught every strength movement and start from the bottom again.
And this is why nowadays, I have set in-season strength training as the standard for my girls.
It’s the norm.
What’s boded well is, I’ve informed parents why it’s important, and how it will be done with great care.
Where people go wrong is, they believe in-season strength training is go-all-out the entire time, lift heavy weights, or run kids into the ground. Alas, this couldn’t be more far from the truth.
What I will comfort you with is, as long as a youth athlete is with a qualified and knowledgeable professional, then they will be lifting to stay healthy, rather than to be fatigued.
Their strength sessions, then, become more of “excite the nervous system” sessions. And that’s it.
Not tiring. Not exhausting. Not performance hindering.
Only empowering, energizing, and performance enhancing.
As an example, in-season lifts should be sub-maximal with lower volume, and touch on the upper and lower extremities. It’s also worth mentioning that the in-season lifts should make the athletes leave the gym feeling like they can conquer the world.
Adding on, the athlete will be getting proper recovery sessions that address stretching, mobility, and plenty of relaxation from the “grind.”
Funny enough, recovery sessions have been awesome for honing mobility work, but also for allowing girls to have fun and laugh for once. The first yoga session I did with my girls involved more laughter than meditation, but I was all for it. There’s something to be said about the impact of laughter on the parasympathetic nervous system and anxiety. ;-O
Keep in mind that in-season training is just as critical as off-season training.
I will do a Part 2 to this article with more insights on how to program in-season workouts and how many sets/reps to do, likely a special guest post. ;-O
Oh, and don’t wither away in the mean time.