The HPCT #4: How to Successfully Transition from the In-Season to the Off-Season

The High-Performance Chalk Talk #4

This is the fourth installation of what will become a weekly email covering high-performance training.

How to Successfully Transition from the In-Season to the Off-Season

For football athletes, the end of the season is not something they look forward to, however, for a strength and conditioning coach the end of the football season signals the start to their in-season, or as many of us call it, the Iron Season. 

The Iron Season is a 9-month training period that kicks off the annual plan for a comprehensive year-round strength and conditioning program.

Every sound strength and conditioning program should base their annual plan off of macro, meso, and micro cycles…

  • Macrocycle – the entire year’s training protocol
  • Mesocycle – 2-6-week training blocks
  • Microcycle – 1 weeks’ worth of training

The day the season ends should be the day you start your first microcycle and begin your overall mesocycle.

For the purposes of this article, I will be covering your initial mesocycle and be looking at the best ways to transition from the in-season to the iron season successfully.

Personally, my first mesocycle is always a three-week training period.

It is absolutely vital for you to begin your program in a systematic and intelligent way. Every athlete is at a different developmental level and has varied performance goals.  With this in mind, you will want to perform a detailed ‘athlete intake process’ that allows you to design your program as effectively as possible.

What I am going to share with you is my three ‘big ticket’ items that need to be done to insure you are getting off to a successful start to your off-season training program.

1: Goal Setting and Identification of Performance Objectives:

When the off-season officially begins, you will have the opportunity to assess your athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, and individual performance goals.  From there you will set a number of performance objectives you will want to hit.

For me, I am not a fan of assigning specific metrics to each athlete. Rather, I want their performance objectives to be centered around how they perform in their sport. This allows us to stay completely focused on building towards those individually desired qualities.  Remember, we are building athletes, not powerlifters or bodybuilders.

There should be short term and long term goals and once you have identified what you want to accomplish the rest is about putting together an effective plan.

  • Short term goals should be something along the lines of – improved mobility, injury recovery, or a body composition goal.
  • Long term goals should be focused around improving specific skill sets such as – improved linear speed, enhanced upper body power, or lower testing times in agility drills.

2: Complete a Movement Screen and Performance Assessment:

This is an absolute must for every athlete.  If you are in a program that does not screen each athlete on a regular basis you need to find another program.  There is a reason every collegiate and professional team completes a movement screen at least 3-4 times per year.  This is the roadmap from which a skilled coach programs.

  • Movement Screen: I use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) which is a compilation of 7 assessments that gives me a clear picture of what we need to do in order for my athletes to move optimally. This looks at stability, mobility, and strength from a unilateral (side to side) perspective. By completing this screen athletes can be assigned a ‘corrective exercise’ protocol that will help mitigate the potential risk of injury. This approach is called PreHab and is an absolutely critical component for an athlete who wants to stay healthy and perform at a high level.
  • Performance Assessment: the goal of the performance assessment is to identify the athletes base-line starting point from a strength, speed, and power standpoint. From there you can pinpoint specific areas of need and attack those areas within your program design.
  • In my program (for high school athletes) I test the following…
    • Upper Body Strength: 135/185/225 Bench Press for reps, Pull-Ups for reps.
    • Lower Body Power: Peak Velocity Jump (meters per sec), Triple Broad Jump.

3 Week General Physical Preparation (GPP) Phase:

The first three weeks of any training program are critical to the long-term success of the athlete.  Especially in this case where we are dealing with an athlete or team coming off a long season. They need to be re-conditioned to meet the demands of your program and their foundation must be built back.

I attack my GPP phase by looking at what I want my athletes to look and perform like next August.  From there, I reverse engineer that and begin to slowly build my athletes towards how I want them to perform at the end of the summer when I hand them over to their sports coaches.

In my program, I have four big lifts that I want all my athletes to be proficient in.  They are Trap Bar Deadlift, The Front Squat, Box Squat, and Bench Press.

During my 3-week GPP phase I will have my athlete do some variation of each of these movements and focus on building stability and a solid range of motion.  This is accomplished by selecting specific movements that improve some phase of one of my focus lift and assigning rather high than normal rep ranges (8-12). For example, I would use the goblet squat for the front squat and perform 4 sets of 8 reps.  This allows me to get some hypertrophy work in while re-building my stability and range of motion.

The best way to predict your success is to plan for it.  If you really go deep into your goal setting, movement screen, and you attack your 3-week GPP phase you will be set up for a successful Iron Season.

As always, please feel free to send me any questions you may have.  Also, if there is a specific topic you would like covered I am happy to have that as one of the topics for The High-Performance Chalk Talk.


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