Witmer’s Wisdom: Maintaining Strength During the Season

Two strength training sessions for in-season training

Oregon's Sarafina Angstadt-Leto goes up for a catch at Stanford Invite 2018.
Oregon’s Sarafina Angstadt-Leto goes up for a catch at Stanford Invite 2018. Photo: Natalie Bigman-Pimentel — UltiPhotos.com

Keeping up with your strength training during the season is a difficult thing. Over the summer you’ve probably got a lot going on like team practices, throwing practices, tournaments and league games. It’s easy to let your strength training fall to the bottom of that priority list.

But do you really want to lose everything you worked so hard for in the off season?

Fortunately, maintaining strength doesn’t take as much time and effort as obtaining it. With a clear focus and some simple protocols, you may even be able to gain some strength without compromising the quality of your other workouts.

The strategy we’ll use is to aim for two types of lifting sessions. The first will focus on lifting heavy in the major lifts – squat, deadlift, pullups, and bench press. The second session will focus more on functional strength.

Session 1: Go Heavy and Go Home

Luckily, this type of session fits well for those in-season. You don’t have as much time for long workouts, and with this protocol you can be in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes.

The strategy: low volume, high intensity.

Because you’re lifting heavy, you’ll want some warm-up sets. Start each exercise with one warmup sets of 50-60% of your training weight, and a warmup set at 70-80% of your training weight for just a few reps. Then do your working sets. Rest 3-5 minutes between each set.

Doing three sets of 3 or three sets of 5 will work well. If I’m feeling drained by other training demands, I’ll do only two sets of 3-5 reps.

Exact protocol doesn’t matter. What’s important is providing enough stimulus a the pure strength end of the spectrum so that you can keep more of the strength you earned in the offseason. Once every 10 days is about the minimum you can get away with for maintenance on this protocol.

The Exercises

  1. Squat (here’s a front squat)
  2. Deadlift
  3. Bench Press
  4. Pullup

Session 2: Full Body Functional

I like to vary the exercises to keep things interesting. But like any full body strength session, you’ll want the right balance of exercises.

I try to choose two hip-dominant leg exercises, two knee-dominant leg exercises, two pushing, and two pulling exercises. One of each of those will be unilateral. I love choosing exercises that incorporate more than one of these categories at once.

Do two to three sets of 8-10RM (the highest weight you can lift for 8-10 consecutive repetitions in a set). The goal of this workout is to maintain strength and endurance in exercises that have more carryover to sporting performance. These exercises require more overall body control than the four main lifts of Session 1.

Here’s an example session that meets all of the above criteria using only six exercises

How to Use These Sessions

Simply alternate your strength training days between session 1 and session 2. You want to aim for two days per week in the gym. But even if you don’t always get both days in, you’ll still be likely to get a pure strength and a functional strength training stimulus about once every ten days.

During the in-season, remember that your first priority is staying healthy. If you are finding yourself accumulating fatigue, don’t be afraid to cut the volume of your sessions, or take an extra day off if needed. But there is no reason to stop strength training entirely, and it would be detrimental.

With this protocol you can more easily fit the minimum effective dose of strength training into a busy summer.

Should I Start Training in Season?

If you haven’t been strength training, should you start now?

While it’s not typical for athletes to begin strength training in the middle of the season, it can be a great fit for you.

I’ve seen athletes start training in season, and the results they get in a short amount of time really motivate them to continue their training more seriously in the off season. If you’d like to give it a try, with the types of sessions I’ve talked about in this article, you can get started with The Ultimate Athlete Project Strength and Conditioning program here!

If you’d like more information about In Season training, you can join our free email course about In-Season Training here.

  1. Melissa Witmer

    Melissa Witmer is the founder of the Ultimate Athlete Project. She has been a part of the ultimate community since 1996, and is an author, content creator, and coach. Something of a citizen of the world, Melissa lives and works abroad and has instructed and connected ultimate players and coaches from all over the world.

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