Updated: May 9, 2022
Resilience is a trait most coaches look for in high caliber athletes. The stress our bodies can handle determines our work capacity, our ability to work is based upon the accumulation of stress placed on our bodies over a period of time.
Why is it that so many strength coaches think the training should be reduced or nonexistent over the course of a season?
Let's say, for all intent and purposes, that you as a lifter are a car, and I as the coach am the driver. I have to get from A to B being the most efficient as possible with the limited amount of resources that my car has (in this case, gasoline in the tank). There are 3 options to choose from here; I as the driver can speed up, and get there faster, I can slow down save some resources and get there at a later time; Or I can coast, and maintain my speed and current velocity. You see most coaches go the route of either pressing the gas or stomping the brake, both of those actions will result in a loss in performance, due to inadequate recovery from using too much gas, and not enough stress to maintain the current levels of strength if the brake is pressed on too much.
Obviously the car analogy doesn't fully encompass what goes on in making a strength and conditioning program. But a well rounded S&C program involves training both off season and in season, the question then becomes, "How is it different?".
Let's go back to the car analogy; During the off season, we can use as much gas as we want without having to deal with any competition, we can drive a strength adaptation if we are smart about how much stress we put on the body. Once the season rolls around however, the last thing we want to do is lose all the work put in during the off season. So rather than stomping the gas and overtraining or pressing the brake and under-training, we choose the route of maintenance.
We apply what is called "Minimal Effective Dose" or MED for short. This principle allows us to maintain our current work capacity while doing as little "stressful" things as possible. Going back to the car analogy, we do this by setting the cruise control. A steady amount of gas being pumped into the engine over an extended period of time can see some increases in performance. This will be the case for most novice trainees, but once the athlete becomes adapted these gains will slow down gradually.
Between how many throws a pitcher has, to how many clean and jerks a weightlifter has done over the course of their workout, we can always find way to manage and monitor stress related to increasing work capacity. Stress is a good thing, this physical stress we place on the body trains the organism on my different levels (that is a topic for another article). Cars need some work done on them every now and then. Sometimes, driving into the shop for a check up or tune up can yield positive results for long term performance. Again the question is not, "Should we stress the athlete during the season". But rather, "What type of stress should we apply?".
When utilizing MED, you the simply tell yourself, "Do as little harm as possible". You've seen how crazy we get here at Ironworks, but in season is a much more discreet approach.
So what does any of this have to do with us and what Ironworks does? We are very serious about training, especially during the season. Injury prevalence increases when there is a lack of stress being applied to the athlete. The reason an injury may occur is due to a lack of significant work being done to prepare the athlete for their performance. We can all agree overuse injuries and working TOO much is bad for player development. But undertrained and underprepared athletes won't perform near their potential unless work capacity is gained. Only then can true player development flourish and the athlete is not in a state of survival, but is in fact thriving in their sport. The idea is to keep you on the field playing, not on the sidelines injured.
This way of thinking goes against what many people think should happen in an a athletes program. But the benefits of in season training far out weigh the consequences of not utilizing an in season training program. Strength is something that you keep, and we at Ironworks will help you fight to keep It!
Neuschwander. "Frequency of Injuries with Periodized Resistance Training in Young Untrained Men and Women", University of Connecticut, 5 July 2011, https://opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1089&context=gs_theses
Rippetoe. "The Minimal Effective Dose of Training", Starting Strength, 8 Jan 2020, https://startingstrength.com/article/the-minimum-effective-dose-of-training