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Who Needs an Offseason?

Who Needs an Offseason?
 An Outlook on In Season vs Out of Season Training for Athletes
By Adrian Quimbayo-Cipric
Whether it is for fun, recreation, school, or profession all those who play sports are athletes in some way,
shape, or form. Whether it is you, a teammate, or even a child, overdoing it when it comes to physical activity
can lead to prolonged fatigue, disdain for the sport, or even injury. This is why it is important for one to have
one’s training properly programmed and structured. For athletes, their training for sports is usually split into
two seasons, an in season and an offseason. Both are important, but they serve different functions. In season
training is when they are actively competing in their sport and performing more sport-specific training. The goal
of offseason training is to build strength and endurance in the athlete in order to increase their athletic
performance for the upcoming season. This distinction in training is important to look at this as many athletes
today, especially high school athletes are involved in sports that last throughout a majority of, if not the whole
year, giving them very little time for the improvement and rest that comes during the offseason. 

During the offseason, athletes are able to train longer, more intensely, and at higher volumes due to
not worrying about games/competitions and having more rest and recovery time. This is the time for
an athlete to make the greatest increases in muscular strength and endurance. An important
component of offseason training is doing some form of resistance training in order to increase one’s
strength. These increases in strength have been found to increase an athlete’s speed, jumping ability
and throwing velocity1. In addition to improved performance, having a successful offseason training
program can make an athlete less prone to injury2. The high training loads of offseason training are
what bring forth beneficial increases in cardio capacity in athletes as well as a more ideal body
composition. In a 2017 study run on rugby athletes, they found that ten additional offseason training
sessions reduced injury risk by 17%2. Then as the in season gets closer the volumes and intensities of
training will slowly taper down.

For in season training, the athletes will be performing more sport-specific training will perform
workouts at lower volumes due to less recovery time and increased stress on the body. In a study
published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, it was found that athletes
had an increased risk of injury during in season training if they had cumulative loads that were too high
during a week and if they had large training load changes from week to week3. This shows that during
the in season it is not ideal for an athlete to train at higher loads or have sporadic changes in load
volumes by the week. As previously mentioned, the bulk of an athlete’s in season training should be
placed on skill work and other sport-specific training. There should also be an emphasis placed on
mobility work and stretching during training in order to further reduce an athlete’s injury risk.
The focus as far as strength is concerned, should be maintenance. In a 2011 study done on professional
soccer players, it was found that performing a strength maintenance program once a week was enough
to maintain the strength they had gained in the offseason4. Although it’s performed on soccer players
who may not have the pure strength needs of an athlete like an American football player the same
concept still stands; that the focus should be placed on maintenance.

In regards to training for sports, sometimes it is better to work smarter and not harder. It is great to be
ambitious about sports, but sometimes, especially when playing sports throughout the whole year, it is
easy to bite off more than one can chew. Using the high school athlete again, it can be hard to find
enough time to rest and recover when juggling around practice, studies, social events, and getting
enough sleep; especially doing this year-round with no breaks. It is okay to relax once in a while for the
sake of recovery and injury prevention, after all that is when a person gets stronger, when resting not
by continually breaking down. When it comes to the offseason an athlete is obviously going to want to
improve as much as they can and push hard, but also be sure to get adequate rest and recovery. On
the subject of long-term health and performance especially during an athlete’s in season training,
sometimes less is more.

PROFESSIONAL TEAM HANDBALL PLAYERS. J Strength Cond Res. 2006;20(3):563-571. doi:10.1519/00124278-
2. Windt J, Gabbett TJ, Ferris D, Khan KM. Training load-Injury paradox: Is greater preseason participation
associated with lower in-season injury risk in
elite rugby league players? Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(8):645-650. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-095973
3. Cross MJ, Williams S, Trewartha G, Kemp SPT, Stokes KA. The influence of in-season training loads on injury
risk in professional rugby union. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016;11(3):350-355. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2015-0187
4. Rønnestad BR, Nymark BS, Raastad T. Effects of inseason strength maintenance training frequency in
professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(10):2653-2660. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822dcd96


  1. Well done Adrian, I believe this approach should be used by schools at all levels, specially in middle school, to reduce the amount of injuries among athletes and improve their performance.


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