What Is The Best Off-Season Training For Strength Athletes?

What is the best off-season training for strength athletes? The off-season gives an athlete time to focus 100% on training and conditioning. Try the following out and see if they work for you!

TOPIC: What Is The Best Off-Season Training For Strength Athletes?

The Question:

Athletes need to be focusing on their physical conditioning year round. The off-season gives an athlete the time to put 100% focus into their training and conditioning.

What is the best off-season training for strength demanding athletes? Be specific.

How would an athlete's diet alter from on-season to off-season?

When do you feel you achieve the most out of your training, on-season or off-season?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

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Being an athlete is more than just knowing how to play a sport. It's more than just being good during the season. Being an athlete means using certain tactics in the off-season. Just as bodybuilders bulk months before a competition and cut during the last stretch prior to the competition, sporting athletes must do the same to a certain extent.

In a perfect world we could workout one way and gain muscle size, lose fat, gain strength, and increase endurance all at once. Obviously this isn't the case, so as athletes we must prioritize our yearly schedule and devote certain times to certain goals.

During the season all we care about is excelling in our sport of choice. If that sport may be football and you were a wide receiver then you'd want to focus less on strength, size, and more on agility and endurance. However still on the subject of football, if you were an offensive lineman then you'd want to focus your program on strength, size, and less to endurance.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Your Position On The Team
Will Dictate What Areas You Need To Focus On.

Things are a little more laid back in the off-season. The goal during this time is to build our functional strength as much as possible. We aren't necessarily looking to increase our endurance; that is important mainly during the season.

So during the off-season our diet is more relaxed, cardio is reduced, and our weightlifting goals become focused on strength, with less regard to excess fat gain. How do we transition our bodies to an off-season program? The question will be discussed and answered in this article.

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Whatever your sport may be, it requires a certain cycling of bulking, cutting and endurance. I'll discuss the best strength routine for athletes in an off-season, along with a change in diet. If you are an athlete then don't miss this article, it's a good read.

Part 1:
What Is The Best Off-Season Training For Strength Demanding Athletes? Be Specific.

First off you must identify what kind of strength your sport requires. This may seem obvious, but it's alarming how many athletes only play for the tactics of the game and do not know proper conditioning. While your workout should include strength training for all parts of the body, in some sports it is better to be weaker in certain areas than to gain extra weight, forcing you to move up a weight division.

Does your sport require strong shoulders, as baseball does to drive a ball? Or it may require a strong back to throw harder punches, as needed for boxing. What about strong legs, such as being a football lineman? First identify the strengths needed from the chart below:

Strength In Sports:

Type Of Sport Primary Strength Secondary Strength Main Exercises Done
Baseball Shoulders Legs Military Presses
Bent Over Rows
Basketball Legs * Squats
Boxing Shoulders Back Military Presses
Barbell Rows
Football Legs Shoulders Squats
Military Presses
Hockey Shoulders Back Military Presses
Bent Over Rows
Barbell Rows
Mixed Martial Arts Legs Back Lunges
Barbell Rows
Soccer Legs * Squats
Track Legs * Squats
Wrestling Legs Back Squats
Barbell Rows

Once you have your main exercises that need to be done, insert them into this workout below:

Off-season Strength Training Program:

Body Part Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Primary Strength X X
Secondary Strength X X
Other Body Parts #1 X
Other Body Parts #2 X
Sets/Reps 5 Sets, 5 Reps
Rest 90 seconds between sets.
3 minutes between exercises.

As you can see from the chart above, the optimal number of workouts for the primary and secondary body parts is 3 times a week. The reason one can work a body part 3 times a week without overtraining is because muscles are not broken down as much with lower reps.

Another reason is because in the off-season you will not be doing so much cardio, allowing your body to take more work without being overtrained.

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All of the exercises in the workout above should be done with the highest weight possible for 5 total reps. Using high weight with low reps is the best way to increase your strength. You will not get as strong using low weight with high reps as you would with high weight and low reps.

As each week passes and you become stronger, your poundage used should also rise. This means increasing your lifts by at least 5 pounds per week. If you force yourself to add more weight each week, then your body will have no choice but to adapt and get stronger.

For the days when you will be working your "other body parts," this means splitting the remaining muscles over two days. For example if you play baseball, your shoulders and legs are your most important muscles. On day 1 you'll work your shoulders and legs.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Baseball Primary Muscles: Shoulders & Legs.

On day 2 you'll work legs, and on day 3 you'll work shoulders. So what muscles are left after shoulders and legs are worked? Well you have your: back, biceps, chest, traps and triceps. Split these remaining body parts into two separate days and work them on day 2 and 3. This ensures that you are not neglecting any muscles in your routine.

For the sports listed that only have a primary strength listed, it's because any other muscles in that sport play a negligible role. Thus you should focus on training only the primary muscle, and train all other muscles as "other body parts."

Also note that you are not limited to the exercises listed in the above chart. They are just there for a good reference. If you do not have access to certain equipment or want a change of exercises, Athletes.com has a huge database of exercises at this link.

For optimal recovery time, the end result of your schedule should look like this:

Day 1 ... Rest ... Day 2 ... Rest ... Day 3 ... Rest ... Rest - Repeat

Part 2:
How Would An Athlete's Diet Alter From On-Season To Off-Season?

During the season an athlete must keep their endurance at a great level. Often during a season an athlete will stay in "cutting" mode, in order to keep their endurance high by losing as much fat as possible and doing great amounts of cardio.

In the off-season, endurance isn't that great of a priority, thus your diet should be catered toward a "bulking" diet. This means a diet specifically for gaining strength, which will in turn also make you gain some fat. The amount of fat gained is determined by how well you plan your bulking diet.

Depending on your sport, during the off-season you want to increase your calorie intake to 500-1000 calories over the amount you burn off. With a sport that includes weight divisions such as boxing, you would not want to make a huge increase in calorie consumption.

On the other hand if you play as a defensive lineman, a great calorie increase would be beneficial due to the added size you'll gain. A calculator to find your daily calorie expenditure can be found below:

Your Bodyweight In Pounds:: or
Your Bodyweight In Kilograms::
Your Body Fat Percentage:
Your Gender:
Your Activity Level:
Your Athletic Category:

If you are inexperienced in creating a proper bulking diet, or want to brush up on your knowledge of macronutrients, I wrote a great in-depth article on the subject which can be found at this link.

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What is the best bulking program? I'll go over the basic and advanced methods of bulking and lay out a training program for you to follow or just take advice from. Try it out and see if it works for you!
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Part 3:
When Do You Feel You Achieve The Most Out Of Your Training, On-Season Or Off-Season?

Depending on what is considered "training," the answer to this question can vary. I feel that I achieve most of my strength and size gains during the off-season. During the season is when I achieve my greatest endurance and fat loss levels.

In most cases, an athlete should not focus on one aspect of training year around. If a baseball player decided to cut and do heavy cardio all year, that person may have great conditioning and a low body fat level, but his strength would suffer greatly. This is why the majority of your cardio and endurance training should come during the season; it's when you need it most.

Athletes, When Do You Feel You Achieve The Most Out Of Your Training?

They're Both Equal.

During the off-season, your endurance level plays a small part in your training. For instance take the baseball player again, during the off-season what he is most likely doing? The answer is little practicing with focus on weightlifting.

Since weightlifting does not require high endurance levels, it would almost be a waste of time to do large amounts of cardio. Instead that baseball player should be focused on bulking up, since when the season starts he will not get a chance to gain much strength because of the rigorous cardio that will be done.

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This article will teach you how to get the most out of the off-season through workouts and cardio with a 12 week program. Be warned though, because these programs are anything but easy.
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Another great reason why heavy weightlifting should only be done in the off-season is because of the risk of injury. The heavier weight that is used, the chance of an injury increases. While most injuries can be avoided by using proper form, there is the occasional time when an injury will arise.

When this time does come, it is best that it comes during the off-season as opposed to during the season. During the off-season one can rest and recuperate without worry about missing important games.

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While this article does not plan to revolutionize injury prevention in the major leagues, it should provide a decent framework for coaches and players at the teenage level to prevent damaging injuries.
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As an efficient athlete, we have a responsibility to cycle our training focus. While some may only play the game for the sole reason of competing on a certain day, we know that a successful athlete is not made only during the season. A successful athlete is also made during the off-season.

Separate yourself from the norm of athletes and excel into the elite level. Train hard, but also train smart!


  1. www.athletes.com/fun/exercises.htm