CSCS Athlete Training by Season | Off Season, Pre Season, In Season Examples

Jun 18, 2024

Edited by: Danielle Abel

In this comprehensive article, we delve into the intricacies of training like an athlete through different phases of the year: off-season, pre-season, and in-season. We'll go beyond merely listing exercises, providing you with detailed guidance on how to execute these exercises during each training phase effectively.

This approach is grounded in the principles taught to Strength and Conditioning Specialists, aiming to optimize performance and prevent burnout or decreased performance, especially during the in-season phase.

Off-Season Training: Building Lean Body Mass

The off-season is crucial for building lean body mass and preparing for the next level of competition. Depending on the athlete’s individual goals and the size of players at the next level, the training focuses on:

  • Calorie Surplus: Consuming 5-15% more calories than usual
  • Higher Volume Training: Engaging in exercises with longer tempos, full range of motion, and lengthened stretches
  • Load Intensity: Using weights that are 67-85% of the athlete's one-rep max (1RM)

Some examples here might include Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs), seated incline dumbbell rows, and machine calf raises. 

Pre-Season Training: Strength and Power Development

As the pre-season approaches, the focus shifts to building and expressing strength, quickly. Key elements include:

  • High Intent Through Concentric Phase: Avoiding slow, bodybuilding-style tempos
  • Power-Based Training: Using loads around an 8RM but performing only 3-4 reps per set
  • Lower Volume: Focusing on 3-4 main exercises rather than multiple variations

Some examples here could include barbell step-ups, plyometric push-ups, and power cleans. 

In Season Training: Maintaining Performance Without Burnout

In-season training is often misunderstood, leading to mistakes that can result in burnout or decreased performance. Research shows that training to failure significantly lowers performance, such as jump height, for multiple days, such as the article by Morán-Navarro et al., 2017. To avoid this:

  • Avoid Training to Failure: Performing fewer reps with weights that could be lifted for more reps
  • Focus on Efficiency: Ensuring that training remains effective and does not impair performance in subsequent days

Exercises that may be used in season include barbell quarter squats from pins, reverse banded bench press, and overcoming isometric mid-thigh pulls. 

Post-Season Training: Recovery and Stability

Post-season training focuses on recovery and building stability to prepare for the next training cycle. This involves:

  • Movement Variability: Incorporating different types of movements to enhance overall athleticism
  • Stability Exercises: Performing heavy marches, step-ups, and exercises challenging ankle and shoulder stability
  • Isometrics: Utilizing isometric exercises to rebuild tendon strength

Hip flexor marches, isometric bicep curls, and Copenhagen side planks are examples of exercises that might be used during this training phase. 

By implementing these training principles, you'll optimize your athletic performance and be better prepared for the NSCA CSCS exam. Whether you're an athlete or a coach, this video provides valuable knowledge to enhance your training regimen.

Support & Courses Available

Ready for more support to help you prep for the CSCS exam? Join our Facebook Group, “Strength and Conditioning Study Group,” here. Ready for even more? Our 24-module CSCS Prep Course has program design and periodization completely laid out for you with even more content than what we’ve provided here, plus chapter quizzes to help you pass the NSCA exam; click the link here to check it out.

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