3 Training Phases of an Athlete’s year

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When we think about the programs of our young athletes we break up the year into 3 parts. Depending upon which phase of the year they are, we will develop their program to tailor it to what they need.

Truly great, and successful athletes take part in each of the 3 phases.

This model was originally put together by European coaches in the 60’s and 70’s and has been refined more and more by sport coaches around the world. We have used this to great effect with the 1000’s of athletes we have worked with and the 80+ that have gone on to Division 1 athletics.

Phase 1 — The Off-Season

Coach Speak: General Preparation Period

The general preparation period should be the first period of training in an athlete’s off-season. This period is just like it sounds, general.

This period will focus on training with multiple tools and modalities, to improve the general qualities that improve the performance of an athlete in a given sport.

For almost every athlete, this could be general strength and establishing an aerobic base of conditioning. 

It is also important to develop the athletes in ways that they may not be challenged in their specific sport, many times this means more work on weak points even if it isn’t super involved in your sport. Our swimmers doing dry-land training are doing plenty of strength work, and plyometric work.

Most other countries, from Canada, to Germany, to Russia would recommend that athletes spend some of the off-season playing another sport. We advocate that as well, as so many studies have shown that early specialization is a TERRIBLE idea for athletes.

Weightlifters would spend a period of their general conditioning phase focusing on movements from the sport of track and field.  For the high school athlete this is another nail in the coffin for the argument of sports specialization, playing another sport (along with strength training) is the generalized training athletes need for their primary sports.

Big Takeaway: Play multiple sports and strength train in the off-season. All research shows this will help athletes be more successful and healthier.


Phase 2–The Pre-Season

Coach Speak: Specific Preparation period

The specific preparation phase begins to dial in on the specific traits that will make them successful in their sport.  In the eastern European model this would mean the elimination of activities such as track and field events. Keep in mind that we are focusing on the specific traits, not the specific abilities. For example a baseball player doesn’t need to throw a weighted baseball (specific ability), instead they may rotate with Medicine balls (a trait).

For your athletes this is an important time for you to really plan ahead of time, focus on learning the ins and outs of what makes a player successful in this sport.

In football players the specific traits that result in success are things like speed and power. In the specific preparation period we add things like Olympic lifts and sprinting.

As this phase progresses, we can work to dial in even more specific abilities to lead into the competition period.

Big Takeaway: This phase is all about translating some of the awesome abilities that we gained from the general phase into more specific abilities. Without the General stuff first athletes shouldn’t move into this phase.


Phase 3–The Season

Coach Speak: Competition period

Finally we have the competition period, this usually starts in the several weeks leading up to the competitive season, and lasts through the final games.  This is the phase where athletes will work on the specific abilities associated with success in their sport i.e. Throwing a baseball vs. throwing a medicine ball.

During this phase the athletes’ sport coaches will handle the bulk of training and our job is to continue to work on the most vital parts of the success puzzle while in the weight room. It is vital though that athletes continue some work in the gym. Strength and speed are 2 qualities that begin to decline within 5-7 days when an athlete does not work on them. So much of the work that we put in during the off-season and pre-season start to disappear as soon as an athlete stops training.

Big Takeaway: Most of an athlete’s work should be done on the field/court/track/pool during this time, but don’t neglect some weight room time to maintain strength, speed, power.

With all 3 pieces of training in place your athlete should be prepared to be successful in their sport, but also have a lot of fun in their sport. We work with athletes in each phase, but our most successful athletes come in consistently from the off-season through the season itself.

Want to learn more about our Sport Performance training? Email us, and we’ll get you set-up for a free success session.

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