Perhaps the hardest decision when training athletes is deciding the best workout for an individual while they are in the middle of their season. A coach has limited time with athletes outside of practice, but more importantly, must weigh the decision between maintaining performance through the end of the season and avoiding any detriments for upcoming games. With the high school club structure, and the World Series lasting until November now, most athletes are spending the majority of their year “in-season” so this training decision is crucial.
The largest detriment incurred by athletes during their seasons is a loss of range of motion, usually from collisions, explosive movements, and traveling to and from the game site. Picture a football player dragging himself into a weight room after the equivalent of a few dozen car crashes that night before his game. For that upcoming workout, he will never lift his heaviest weight, or run the fastest sprint, but these workouts present an opportunity to make the athlete feel better than when they arrived
Pursuing flush runs (see Sparta Point 6/30/10) or other activities with short range of motion will only exacerbate the tightness. However, there are several resistance training options that can improve both strength and skill due to their flexibility benefits. Athletes can squat with less weight to work on their skill (see Sparta Point 4/21/10), or even learn squat variations that are lighter due to increased difficulty. At Sparta, we use overhead squat variations, because holding a bar overhead simultaneously improves shoulder stability and places a greater mobility demand on the lower leg joints that are habitually under stress during the season. Because the off-season focus should remain on heavier lifts and faster runs, in-season workouts that focus on mobility can challenge the athlete, allowing them to hit personal bests in a lift that is not often used.
Coupling myofascial release (see Sparta Point 1/28/09) with these resistance exercises is an excellent way to increase flexibility and keep the athlete motivated during a time when the weight room represents more soreness, fatigue, and mental stress.
With the trend toward 10 month long seasons and baseball in the snow, you are sacrificing your off-season gains, but more importantly your career by avoiding workouts in-season.