By Lukas Smith BS, CSCS
By this point in time it is well known that strength training can enhance athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury. The term “strength training” refers to any type of movement under load with the intention of getting stronger, faster, or more explosive. It does not strictly mean lifting heavy things all the time. “To bring about positive changes in an athlete’s state an exercise overload must be applied” (Zatsiorsky et al 2021). This applies to athletes in both the short term as well as the long term. The importance of a periodized, long term training program for athlete’s wanting to progress athletically cannot be understated. It is the job of strength and conditioning professionals to guide athletes in the right direction to take advantage of their full athletic potential.
Youth performance and strength training is becoming more and more popular. Many outside of the strength and conditioning world do not fully understand the importance of physical training or that, ideally, it should be done nearly year-round built around the athlete’s competitive season. In the book, “Science and Practice of Strength Training”, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky says that, “In elite athletes, many training improvements are lost within several weeks, even days, if an athlete stops exercising.” This concept of detraining applies to athletes of all ages and skill levels. Another common misunderstood factor is the frequency that athlete’s need to train at to adapt to a stimulus. The frequency that athletes need to train differs during the year and can range from 1 day per week up to 5-6 days per week which will be discussed later.
The term periodization refers to a systematic style of physical training that involves specific phases designed around an athlete’s competitive season. The training year can be split into 4 different periods of time: general preparatory, specific preparatory, competitive, and recovery. Or in other words, offseason, preseason, in-season, and postseason. The training styles differ greatly between these 4 periods of time. During the general preparatory phase, or offseason, the athlete will be doing some aerobic work mixed with true strength training. This phase typically has higher volume and lower intensity. During this phase, the athlete should be training 3-6 times per week depending on age and skill level. The next phase is specific preparatory, or preseason. This is where the training becomes more sport specific to the athlete. Volume of training goes down and intensity goes up. Here the athlete typically tries to develop more power and explosiveness to prepare for competition. Frequency ranges from 3-5 times per week. The third phase of competition is completely different. Usually volume and frequency and both reduced to assist the athlete in recovery from competitions. This phase is termed the “maintenance” phase as frequency of training is only 1-2 times per week and is meant to maintain the strength and power gains that were achieved during the previous 2 phases (Ronnestad et al 2011) . The last phase is recovery, or offseason, and is exactly what it sounds like. This is the athletes only real rest from training. However, athletes are usually advised to keep up some physical activity by playing other sports or some other sort of cross training.
Benefits of long-term training
The benefits of long-term, periodized, strength training are numerous and include increased strength, power, motor control, body composition, and injury resiliency (genetics play a role in all of these as well but is not discussed in this article). A strength and conditioning professional who takes all those factors into account along with sport and health into consideration and can mold a program for an athlete can be a huge asset.
Educating both athletes and parents on the importance of strength training is imperative and unfortunately, in many cases, nonexistent. The education of the clients starts with education of the coaches and their ability to communicate. Having an experienced and knowledgeable strength and conditioning professional in your corner can be a massive competitive edge for athletes looking to maximize their athletic potential and continue their athletic careers.
If you are interested in training with the team at Kinetic Sports Performance or would like to learn more visit www.kinetic-sportsperformance.com or contact Lukas Smith by email: email@example.com or by phone at: 641-891-5304.
Fleck, S. J. (1999). Periodized Strength Training: A Critical Review. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13(1), 82. doi:10.1519/1533-4287(1999)0132.0.co;2
Rønnestad, Bent R1; Nymark, Bernt S1; Raastad, Truls2 Effects of In-Season Strength Maintenance Training Frequency in Professional Soccer Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 10 - p 2653-2660 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822dcd96
Zatsiorsky, V. M., Kraemer, W. J., & Fry, A. C. (2021). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, IL, IL: Human Kinetics.