This post was written by Zach Dechant, Senior Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at TCU.
The in-season period for a youth or teen athlete can be as important, if not more so, than the off-season when it comes to building their body. A major problem at the high school level are athletes who train hard in the off-season but stop completely when the in-season arrives. The only reason an athlete trains to build his physical capacity is to display it on the field during their sport. That seems like a pretty good reason to me to continue development throughout the year and not just a small portion of it. Excuses for become run away trains once competitive play picks up for athletes, and parents alike.
“I don’t wanna be sore.”
Soreness happens when you aren’t consistent with sessions, workloads, movements, etc. It all comes down to being consistent and soreness is all but eliminated. Training smart with a plan shouldn’t cause problems for athletes. A long term approach should be considered here as well. We are developing for the future, not just the now. Taking the approach of training through the competition schedule when it will allow will aid future development to a much larger degree.
“I don’t have time.”
Anything thing important takes time. If you want to be your strongest, fastest, most explosive you, MAKE TIME. I know athletes that drive over an hour one way to train throughout the year at various facilities. Imagine how much time a high school kid spends staring at Instagram, or Facebook on a daily basis before you comment on them having no time. If you’re an athlete that is crushing lessons a half dozen times a week plus playing games all weekend. Time would be much more wisely spent building your body during lesson hours. If you’re already practicing all week, and playing games all weekend allow your body to step away from baseball during down time and add strength, power, and speed to your routine. At some point those will become a limiting factor in your game.
“It will take away from my games.”
Since when did being bigger, stronger, and faster than you were last month hurt your athletic abilities. Those abilities all seem important on a baseball field. Training throughout the year keeps athletes more protected from injury and continues to raise the bar when it comes to performance. Any competent coach can create and install a performance program that aids overall development with young untrained athletes.
An in-season period for most baseball players these days is too long to go without training. True off-seasons have become a thing of the past with showcases, select tournaments, etc. filling summers, and falls these days. In-season periods can often stretch from January thru October for many athletes leaving only a few months for development of physical abilities outside of the sport. Let me tell you this is not optimal. Next year at this time, you’ll wish you started today. That’s one of my favorite sayings. And it holds true in many cases. There isn’t a more important time for continued development than the large span of an in-season period. Young athletes make massive gains during only a few months of off-season periods. The gains that can be compounded through another 7, 8, or 9 months of continuous training throughout the year enormous. If the baseball season is the most important part of your athletic career, why wouldn’t you want to be at your absolute best instead of at 70% of what you were 3 months ago. Using the in-season to continue development cannot be understated. Fatigue is easily manageable for untrained athletes, and gains can be made from minimal work. Even just 1 or 2 sessions a week for a young athlete is plenty to build upon during a long season.
GAINS COME AND GO
An off season filled with hard work and huge gains for young athletes can be all for not when it comes to the in-season period. Athletes work their tails off for months then go completely cold turkey and stop training all together come season. It really is two steps up the mountain, 2 steps back down every year.
Younger, untrained athletes lose gains quickly. The more highly developed an athlete is, the longer the nervous system retains the effects of training. Advanced athletes can maintain 90% of their strength for several months following a stoppage in training whereas a novice athlete can lose the effects of training in a matter of days. I’ve seen high school athletes lose 15%+ strength in a matter of a 10 day period of missing training. Gains are short lived with high school and younger athletes. If you think 3 months of hard off-season training has a residual effect after 3 months of not doing anything, you are kidding yourself.
Consistency is the most important aspect of the in-season for a baseball athlete. Soreness, stiffness, and fatigue come from being inconsistent with training. An athlete that doesn’t miss training, weekly cycles can make significant gains without bouts of muscle soreness hampering them. Consistency is more important than hard work. Gains add up by being consistent with training. The 1% rule of compounding interest adds up every day. After months of consistent training, gains can be exponential with young athletes.
Training for the season is just as much to prevent injury as anything. It is well known the rotator cuff loses strength, especially eccentric, in throwing athletes throughout the course of a season. An athlete doing no routine strengthening to gain back lost control is at greater risk. The body functions one unit. As the lower body loses strength the shoulder and elbow can take on increased demands as less force is transferred up the kinetic chain. Developing strength protects the body in compromised positions.
The real reason outside of injury prevention that most athletes take up training in the off season is for performance. It’s not easy for a pitcher to watch velocity drop throughout the season. Throwing hard for a pitcher is just like an other motor ability in that something built quickly in an off season requires time to stabilize at the new level. Performance drops just as quickly when the stimulus that was used is stopped. Strength is the most important ability in youth, and teen athletes. All other abilities, such as speed, and power are dependent on strength.
DON’T COMPLICATE IT
Training even just one or two times per week during an in-season period can be extremely beneficial. Hitting a total body session in 20-30 minutes twice a week is easily manageable.
A 20-30 min session could look something like one of the following:
Squat 4×5 w/ 2 min rest DB RDL 3×10 w/ 1 min rest Pull Up and/or Push Up 2×8-15 w/ 1 min rest
Another example variation:
Trap Bar Deadlift 4×5 w/ 2 min rest Reverse Lunge 3 x 5-10 w/ 1 min rest Reverse Pull-Up and/or Push-Up 2 x 8-15 w/ 1 min rest
If time presents itself, active rest between exercises might be the addition of rotator cuff, and core work. Something as easy as 3 exercises can stack up gains if done with consistency. Don’t neglect the in-season as a period to grow not only on the field but off it as well.
This post was written by Zach Dechant. Zach has been in place since 2008 at TCU as the Senior Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning. He oversees the development of Baseball, as well as the quarterback development for Football. Alongside these priorities he also handles the development and implementation of the Strength and Conditioning Internship Program. You can check out more of Zach's posts here.