Maintaining Strength In Season

By Charles Poliquin


Stay strong, powerful, and muscular during the in-season with regular short, intense workouts. Whether you are an elite athlete, recreational trainee, or someone who trains to be strong and healthy, busy times often require you to scale back weight training in favor of other endeavors, whether they be competitions or the rigors of everyday life.


The goal during such times is to avoid losing muscle, gaining body fat, and a loss of strength. Depending on training status, detraining will result in a loss of 55 to 100 percent of strength gained during a previous training program.


A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides strategies for maintenance during the “in-season.” Researchers had players from the Norwegian national soccer team do a 10-week pre-season weight training program, and then they broke the players into a once-a-week training group and a once-every-other-week training group for the duration of the 12-week in-season. Sprint, 1RM squat, and 40-meter sprint tests were done to measure the effects of training and detraining.


Results showed that the once-a-week training group increased half squat 1RM by 19 percent and sprint time decreased by 1.8 percent during the preparatory period and they maintained these gains for the duration of the in-season. The once-every-other-week group finished the preparatory period with the same gains, but 1RM strength was reduced by 10 percent and sprint performance was 1.1 percent slower at the end of the in-season. Jump performance was not changed after the competitive season in either group.


Take away the following points from this study:


• Sports training will not maintain strength or muscle gains if no weight training is performed. Strength and muscle loss will be greatest in sports that have an aerobic component, such as soccer.

• If aerobic interval training is performed (as often does in soccer), athletes will require a higher frequency of strength training per week to avoid the effects of detraining due to the fact that endurance exercise inhibits adaptations to strength and hypertrophy.

• Too frequent weight training and too much volume must be avoided because they can lead to reduction in strength and loss of muscle. For example, another study showed that twice-a-week training was too much for elite soccer players in season and they lost strength and muscle by the end of the season.

• If you are a recreational trainee who must scale back workout frequency due to time constraints, shoot for at least two (ideally four) high-quality workouts a week. Since you aren’t also practicing a sport daily, you will need more frequent workouts than the athletes to maintain strength and muscle.

• Likewise, when sleep deprived due to excess workload, childcare, or other responsibilities, be sure to avoid detraining and shoot for at least two workouts a week. Focus on keeping your diet clean, with a large dose of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies to maintain muscle and keep fat off.



Ronnestad, B., et al. Effects of In-Season Strength Maintenance Training Frequency in Professional Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(10), 2653-2660.



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