Structure In-Season Training to Maintain High Energy Levels

Hopefully you have spent the eight months of the “off-season” in the gym becoming bigger, faster, stronger, and more durable. Now that we are half way through the regular high school season, it is important that you have a plan to maintain your off-season improvements over the next 4-5 months.

Dedication to training has helped Kobe have a long and productive career {Courtesy -}
Dedication to training has helped Kobe have a long and productive career {Courtesy –}

It happens all too often, that a player will cease training throughout the season and lose a great deal of the athletic enhancements they worked so hard to achieve in the first place. Without staying in the weight room throughout the season, you will become weaker, less explosive, and more prone to injury as the season wears on, and the games become more important.  The goal should be to ensure that you are physically capable of outlasting your opponents, both at the end of the fourth quarter in game one, as well as in the championship game.

There are many excuses players come up with as to why they can’t continue their training during the season. These excuses typically involve both physical and time constraints. Whether it’s not having enough energy, lifting weights making you too sore, or the combined time demands of practices, school, homework, and other commitments, it can sometimes feel like in-season training is detrimental to your performance, causing you to fall behind in your academics, or you just don’t think you have the time at all.

The aim of this article is to discuss how to structure your weight lifting workouts from so that you still have plenty of energy for practices and games, and how to fit these workouts into a busy schedule.

Excuse: In-Season Training Causes Too Much Soreness

Exercise induced soreness, otherwise known as Delayed On-Set Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is common after training sessions that feature a high level of intensity, volume, or those that involve movements new to the athlete.  The problem with DOMS is that it can lead to a reduction in performance, and can be a distraction to the athlete, who will feel painfully aware of every movement they make. Because of this, it is important to choose training methods that do not lead to a high degree of DOMS.



-Limit a build up of lactic acid, by decreasing your ‘time under tension’, and limiting the degree of eccentric muscle action (muscle lengthening) for each exercise. (1)

-Use no more than 10 working repetitions per exercise, ideally keeping repetitions per set to 2-5 with 3-5 minute rest between sets (this can change if the exercise does not require a high external load). Use loads of 80-95% of your 1 rep maximum, leaving 1-2 reps in the tank. (2)

-Limit the variety of exercises used. Due to delayed transformation, it can take 2-3 weeks for your body to adjust to the introduction of a new exercise. Change your routine every 2-4 months, yet also be sure not to implement a new routine just prior to an important part of the season. You may alter the accessory exercises on a more frequent basis to prevent staleness for the player.  (3)


Excuse:  In-Season Training Limits Energy Practices, Games &

Decreases Performance

Training with a high level of intensity and volume can cause both Central & Peripheral Fatigue.  While the two are often inter-related, I’ll briefly discuss them separately.  Simply put, central fatigue is fatigue of the nervous system.   Central fatigue leads to a reduction in the firing rate of motor units, deactivation of individual motor units, and a reduction in intramuscular and intermuscular coordination (4).  This means that your fast twitch muscle fibers, the ones responsible for explosiveness, will not be firing on all cylinders.   You will feel physically fatigued,  but you will also be affected mentally, which can be identified by a lack of motivation to train (your body is telling you to take a break!)  Peripheral fatigue may be seen as fatigue of individual muscles themselves.  In order to reduce both central and peripheral fatigue, and leave you feeling fresh, energized, and athletic for practices and games, it is important to consider the solutions below. (4)  For more information, read my previous article on overtraining.


-Choose exercises that involve high internal loads, rather than external loads.  For example, you may be able to lift much more in your back squat than in your front squat, but both can feel just as strenuous. The external load is much greater in the back squat, but the internal loads are similar.

With such a high volume of practices and games during the season, it is important to take load off of your joints, and reduce nervous system fatigue. Aim to include more exercises with a high internal load, but lower external load.  Exercises with a high internal load will not necessarily challenge your raw strength, but will challenge your posture and stability to a higher degree.

-Eliminate high intensity plyometrics or jump training from your program as your body will already be experiencing a high degree of stress at the joints from all the basketball you are playing.  If you want to train explosiveness in-season, perform box jumps with a step down to eliminate the forceful landing.

-Lift weights 2-3 times per week, varying the intensity (load) every session (2)(3)

-Keep training sessions to 30-40 minutes, focusing on using 3-4 “big bang for your buck” exercises, heavy loads, and low repetitions.  These sessions should take up as little of your time as necessary (2)(3)

-Finish your workout before you feel fatigued, and never train to failure (leave 1-2 reps in the tank at the end of each set) (2)

-Reduce your overall training volume 2/3 to ½ compared to the off-season. (2)


Lastly, while the first goal should be to leave yourself fresh to play ball after leaving the weight room, it is also worth discussing how to optimize in-season strength and power maintenance (if not improving it for the novice trainee) if players and coaches have the time and desire.

-To optimize force production and rate of force production while training, it is best to get in the weight room prior to a practice, or another time of the day.  Scheduling a lifting session immediately after a practice will lead to a decrease in strength and power; this is better than not getting in the weight room of course, but if you have the option it is best to lift prior to getting on the court. (4)

Sample 2-Day Per Week Workout

Begin Each Session with

Easy Warm Up (treadmill etc, shooting hoops)

Mobility Drills

Stability Drills

Day 1

Front Squat 3 x 3 or 2 x 5

Single Arm Dumbbell Press 3 x 8 each arm

1 Arm Single Leg Deadlift 3 x 8 each leg

Bat Wing 3 x 12

1 Arm Farmer Carry 3 x 20 Yards Each Arm

Day 2

Box Jump (step down to floor) 3 x 6

Rack Pull Deadlift 3 x 3 or 2 x 5

Bench Press 3 x 3 or 2 x 5

1 Side Loaded Step Back Lunge 3 x 6 each leg

Single Arm Row 3 x 6 each arm

Stir the Pot 3 x 8-10 each direction



Tips for the Holidays

-Keep in the weight room 2-3 days per week.  Moderately increase the external load of the exercises to give your body a mid-season performance boost.

-Conditioning should be maintained and developed in order to avoid skipping a beat in January, and catch other players and teams who have slacked, off-guard.  Conditioning can be done on-court, or in the gym on a cycle, treadmill, or pool.

-Be mindful of what you are eating. Limit intake of sweets and excessive carbohydrates.  Eat plenty of lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and water on a daily basis.

-Use this opportunity to rehab from any addictions you have had, visit for more information.



(1)Baechle, T.R., and Earle, R.W. (2008) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd Ed. Human Kinetics. Windsor, ON.

(2)John, D., Tsatsouline, P. (2011). Easy Strength. Dragon Door Publications

(3)Siff, M. (2004). Super Training. Super Training Institute

(4)Zatsiorsky, V.M., Kraemer, W.J. (2006).  Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics

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