The strength gained by athletes throughout the course of the season in the weight room can be maintained during the rest phase of their season plan with a fairly basic prescription; however, it is very easy to undertrain or even completely change the nature of an athlete’s strength training when resting for end of season competitions.
Athletes who had been training for strength leading up to the end of the season can sustain their strength by maintaining their poundage and reducing the number of sets or the number of repetitions. For example:
Athlete A finished the strength phase of her training with a squat set of 5 sets of 5 repetitions with 165 pounds on a 2:00-3:00 rest interval. During the rest phase of training she continued to squat on the same rest interval, but during the first week did 5 sets of 3 repetitions with 165 pounds and the second week did 3 sets of 3 repetitions with 165 pounds. She did not squat at all the week of her competition.
The above example accomplishes two things:
- Maintains strength while reducing the total workload
- Allows for a smooth return to the weight room if the athlete qualifies for the next level of competition
The mistake that is often made during the rest phase of the season is to reduce the amount of weight an athlete is lifting and increase or decrease the repetition scheme.
- Increasing the number of repetitions with a lighter weight will change the focus of the athlete’s weight room training from strength to muscle endurance, in addition to a loss of strength. The rest phase of the season is not the time to drastically change the focus of strength training and not a long enough period of time to benefit from a different focus.
- Decreasing the number of repetitions and reducing the weight will present no stimulus for the muscles and will likely result in a loss of strength for the athlete.
For athletes focusing on strength at the end of their training season reducing the volume of work (sets and repetitions), but maintaining the weight lifted is a superior choice to increased-rep/reduced-weight or reduced-rep/reduced-weight strategies.