Should strength training be on the priority list in-season?

By Katie O’Brien

As the seasons change in sport, the priorities on and off the field change with those seasons. In any sport, many coaches include strength and conditioning as an off-season priority. We slowly see that priority shift as athletes progress to pre-season and eventually competition. But the question is: where should strength training be on the priority list in-season?

It would be unrealistic to think that athletes can train in the same capacity throughout the entire year, but it would be detrimental to performance to stop training completely once the competition period begins. Many sports priorities in the off-season will typically rank conditioning > strength > technical skills. As competition gets closer, these priorities will flip to technical skills > strength > conditioning. Strength may not be the top priority, but it should remain on the list.

Just as sport coaches continue practicing throughout the season, athletes should continue to include strength training during this period. The volume and intensity of training can be manipulated by coaches to fit busy practice schedules and improve athletes performance, while minimizing the risk of injury. Here are the main reasons to train in-season:


  • Maintain strength and get stronger!
    • An old adage of in-season training was “maintenance” – but we should be aiming to not just maintain, but gain strength in season.
    • A decrease in strength and power will result in a decrease in performance. Peak performance should be achieved by playoffs, which means strength training should be consistent and periodized to develop the athlete throughout the season.
    • Training as little as 30-60 minutes for 1-3 days per week will maintain power output and strength. Proper programming can increase muscle strength and power during this time.
  • Stay injury free
    • The prevention of injury is not absolute. There is always a risk of injury in sport, and in particular overuse injury during the competition period. However, proper manipulation of strength training can significantly reduce the risk of injury throughout the season.
    • British Journal of Medicine found that strength training can decrease sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved.1
  • Filling the buckets to fit demands of the sport
    • Every sport is unique, which means that there are different demands during competition season. The weight room can be a great benefit to athletes to compliment the movements that athletes are performing in their sport.
    • Coaches should manipulate strength training programs specific to sport to fill necessary buckets in-season. Whether this is with different movement patterns, plyometrics, flexibility, conditioning, etc., each athlete and sport requires a periodized in-season plan.

If you are looking to continue to perform at a high level and stay injury free during the season, training should be on your priority list.