Stay away from the “maintenance program” mentality.
It may just be arguing semantics, but I always cringe when I hear the phrase “maintenance program”. The mentality just doesn’t correspond with the reality. In any situation that you can set a goal, why would you set a goal of staying the same as you are today? Here at AMP, we have our athletes set lofty goals so that even if you fall short, you’re still better off than you were in the first place. The maintenance program mentality will usually equate to a steady decline in performance and a higher likelihood of getting hurt as the season progresses. Elite athletes are always striving to get that 1% better. For our high school and college athletes, there is no reason why you can’t make gains in-season, other than that you have convinced yourself that it can’t be done. Remember, there is always someone out there working hard to get better, and if it’s not you, then it’s your competition!
Lift heavy to stay explosive.
On the same note of the previous tip, in-season is the time to lift heavy weights! Most coaches or athletes will be hesitant to do so because they don’t want to be sore or get hurt. This is an understandable concern. One of the main in-season concentrations is to minimize soreness and to ensure that the athletes don’t hurt themselves. In the off-season, the main focus is to build a solid foundation of movement, strength, power, and a high ceiling of work capacity. We also begin the process of adding balance and restoring lost mobility for our rotational athletes. When it comes time for an In-Season program, the focus shifts to more power work and neuromuscular efficiency, which means getting your nervous system firing on all cylinders. Nervous or neuromuscular system training will produce extremely powerful athletes that are able to react quickly and fully utilize their strength with minimum resistance.
Off-season sets and rep schemes will generally look like 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions, which are stressful on the muscle fibers because the time under tension is high (a set of 10 may take up to 35 or 40 seconds of tension with slower eccentric contractions or lowering of the weight). However, the in-season set and repetition range would be 1-3 sets of 2-6 repetitions on the big lifts such as the deadlift and squat. So that means heavier weights, but less time the muscle is under tension (from 1 to 10 seconds), therefore minimizing post workout muscle soreness and continued strength and power gains. Obviously, timing is something we work closely with our athletes on during their season to optimize when we lift heavy and when we do more recovery and mobility work. Another advantage to seeing your strength coach regularly through the season is the ability to be proactive, instead of reactive when it comes to programming.
Keep a strength training and practice log.
What you measure, you can manage. Like many things in life that you’re trying to improve, keeping track of different aspects of your day to day activity will be a huge help when you’re trying to get the most out of yourself. Pitchers should keep track of the throwing that they do each day of the week. Keep a running note of how many throws and at what effort you threw them on a daily basis.
Write down how you felt throwing that day and how sore you were from the day before. This is a great way to start developing the process that will get you closer to your maximum athletic potential and reach your goals.