In Season Training: Avoid These Two Common Mistakes

by | May 29, 2014, 7:44am 2

With club season tryouts and practices starting up, I’m getting a lot of questions about how to schedule training around practices and how much has to be done to maintain the gains worked for in the offseason.

The main purpose of in season training is to stay healthy. Secondarily, you want to maintain the gains of the off season or even make some progress.

Mistake #1: Not Lifting

Too many players stop lifting altogether in season. Many justify this by saying that the amount of running they are doing is keeping their legs strong. This is ridiculous. Some believe that lifting will just add fatigue to already tired legs. The solution here is not to stop lifting, but to cut out some of the running. If you stop lifting completely, you will start losing strength within a few weeks.

Extra leg strength reduces your injury risk and helps you last through a multiple day tournament. Stopping lifting during the season might make sense if the season were only a month long. But to stop lifting from June through October is pure madness. Even just once per week can go a long way in maintaining the strength gains you’ve worked hard for in the off season.

In The Ultimate Athlete Project we lift twice per week in season. We divide lifting into one upper session and one lower body session. This division makes scheduling a little easier since most athletes prefer scheduling around their leg day and having it early in the week. The day devoted to upper body strength provides an extra rest day for the legs.

An alternative split is to have two full body lifting days with one devoted to heavier lifts and the second having a more functional strength focus.  Click here to read How to Maintain and Build Strength in Season in Two Hours or Less for example workouts.

Mistake #2: Taking the Day Off Before Every Tournament

Many players think they have to “rest” several days before every hard practice or tournament. If you take a day or two off before every weekend practice or tournament and need a day to recover after every hard practice or tournament, that’s eliminating a lot of your training time.

I would rather have players take too much rest than too little. But if you’ve consistently trained 5-6 days per week in the offseason, you can handle several days of training during the week in addition to a tournament.

I believe that taking off the day after for recovery is more effective in the long term than taking off the day before for rest. The nervous system, mobility, and how your body feels change a little bit every day. Many athletes feel a little sluggish the day after a day of complete inactivity. This is because the nervous system hasn’t been activated for 48 hours. A very light workout including a full warmup and some speed and agility drills will have you feeling much better the day after than you would if you spent the day watching Netflix.

Example of a Good Pre-Tournament Workout

This is a great format for any workout. Substitute other drills of your choice.

1. Warm Up

2. SAQ Drills

Fast feet to 5 step accelerations (3 reps)

5-10-5 (1 each direction)

Jab step progression or other footwork drill (3 reps)

3. Light Conditioning

6 X 20/40 intervals at 80%

Rest 2 minutes

4 X zigzag sprints

If you have a partner, you could substitute throwing instead of light conditioning. As a general rule, the conditioning should be half or a third of what you might do for a normal workout.

A Reasonable In Season Schedule

Keeping the above principles in mind, here is a good schedule to work around tournaments and weekend practices.

M – Rest and recovery post tournament or practice

T – Lift (legs or full body)

W – Throwing workout. Or maybe a few speed and agility drills paired with a moderate to high volume conditioning workout.

R – Lift (upper or full body)

F –  Pre-Tournament Workout: A few speed and agility drills paired with a very light conditioning workout. Do this regardless of whether or not you have practice or a tournament on the weekend!

With an easy to follow plan in place you can survive and even thrive in the sometimes grueling and long ultimate season.


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  • Leslie Wu

    Thanks Melissa! I've been experimenting with the following scheme by coach David Tenney:

    " If I were to give you a weekly template on what I think is a great weekly training model for an MLS team, I would say the following:

    Saturday: Game day
    Sunday: Off
    Monday: Recovery/Regeneration day for those that played
    Tuesday: Heaviest loading day of the week, small-sided high intensity (alactic or lactic) activities, with a second session in the weight room in the afternoon
    Wednesday: Off
    Thursday: Larger number (oxidative/aerobic emphasis) tactical day with a warm-up period involving core stability, and either starting speed, reaction speed, or coordination
    Friday: Pre-game, low volume training session (50-65min)
    Saturday: Game Day"

    Aligns with what you pointed out, but balances strength earlier in the week (which takes longer to develop but fades slower) with oxidative/aerobic emphasis later in the week (which develops faster but also fades faster).

  • Thanks Leslie. That is a great interview! Interesting that the above schedule provides even more recovery time (which is great!) but also does not have a day off before competition.