The reality of team sports – a planning puzzle
A unique challenge for S&C
In competitive team sports, strength training sessions that are not only effective but also efficient are crucial due to the complex schedule throughout the periods of competition (Gonzalez et al., 2013; Schelling & Torres Ronda, 2016). For instance, an elite European basketball team, for example, competes a minimum of 75 games over a span of 6.5 months (2 – 3 games per week). These packed schedules present an ongoing demand for less-time consuming, but effective, strength training sessions. Thus, the major focus of teams during the in-season is the sport itself, and technical and tactical sessions take precedence while decreasing the importance of physical development (Marques et al., 2006; Yule, 2014). The reality of sports during the in-season presents a unique challenge for the Strength and Conditioning (S&C) coach: high volume of games, long hours of training and team meetings (Figure 2) and combined with early-morning hours of travel and a reduced motivation of players due to the long-season. All these challenges are presented besides attempting to maintain an optimal level of performance with limited time and accumulating fatigue levels (Yule, 2014).
Figure 1. Average percentage of time spent during the season
Minimal dose effect – how much is enough?
Existing evidence refers to the importance of optimize the S&C training during the in-season in order to provide enough stimuli to maintain initial strength gains but avoiding large loading that lead to overtraining (Rønnestad et al., 2011). Nevertheless, it should be noted that subsequent findings are affected by the level of athletes, their training history and the length of the season. In regard to one weekly training during the in-season, a maintenance of strength, sprint, and vertical jump was achieved compared to the performance during the preparatory phase in semiprofessional (Rønnestad et al., 2011) and professional soccer players (Silvestre et al., 2006). Interestingly, strength-training twice per week during the in-season displayed improvements in female softball players (Nimphius et al., 2012), elite young soccer players (Otero-Esquina et al., 2017) and elite senior female volleyball players (Marques et al., 2008). The improvement of performance through the combination of different strength-training programs might produce higher impulse, rate of force development and ground reaction forces (Seitz et al., 2014). Nevertheless, it can also be found evidence where strength training twice a week during the in-season may follow to a reduction in strength, vertical jump and sprint performance (Kraemer et al., 2004). The large volume of stress during the season (~10 hours / week) might cause the overtraining. Thus, it seems that one to two strength-training sessions per weeks is a logical choice to improve performance during the in-season but, two sessions per week may represent an additional improvement in COD (Otero-Esquina, et al., 2017).
“Give them what they need not what they can handle.”
Micro-dosing in performance training
Many S&C coaches usually tend for a “more is better” approach where the greater overall effort in training will ultimately be expressed as greater performance in competition. Nevertheless, the reality of sports does not provide enough time to S&C coaches to stimulate the athletes during the in-season. The development of a time-efficient strategy of loading athletes in a low-volume, high-intensity and high-frequency training basis may preserve the quality of work, minimize overuse injuries and maintain an optimal level of performance along the competition (Mujika et al., 2009; Hansen, 2017).
The training concept termed as ‘micro-dosing’ or ‘micro-loading’ refers to the application of low-volume and high-intensity stimulus on a daily basis in the team setting (Hansen, 2017). Because of the limited time to work certain qualities effectively during the in-season, the establishment of a protocol to perform key elements every day (20-30 minutes) is paramount. The application of high-intensity actions emphasizing the quality of the movement, will help to maintain or even improve good levels of strength, speed and explosiveness without creating excessive fatigue or an environment of injury (Yule, 2014; Pacey Performance, 2018). High-intensity efforts on a volume relatively low, may reduce the demands on the central and peripheral nervous system and allow to accept these stresses without affecting the readiness of the athletes (Hansen, 2017).
Regarding the micro-dosing strategy, on one hand, it is important to consider the in-season training should avoid excessive stress that may limit recovery from matches and practices. On the other hand, professionals’ athletes with a larger strength training experience may need more training loads or training frequency during the season (Mujika et al., 2009; Rønnestad et al., 2011). Therefore, the overall volume should be reduced a 40-60% of the total workload prescribed during the pre-season (Rønnestad et al., 2011; Hansen, 2017). A reduction in form of less exercises and less repetitions will ensure to do it on consecutive days. Furthermore, high-intensity exercises might combine maximal strength and maximal speed in order to improve more effectiveness throughout the training (Otero-Esquina et al., 2017).
“The key is to prescribe the right amount of work at the most optimal times to elicit a positive training response, but avoid placing too much stress on the athlete that can be compounded by the rigors of practice” (Hansen, 2015)
The in-season training philosophy
- Coordinate with the head coach in order to facilitate what he wants from the team across the year.
- Develop a foundation of work during the off-season.
- The physical demands of the sport will determine the type of strength quality required.
- Coach the athlete, and make decisions considering individuals’ responses to training. The micro-adaptation dictates the progression through the system.
- Apply training variation and make athletes remain challenged during the season.
- Keep it simple.
Gonzalez, A., Hoffman, J., Rogowski, J., Burgos, W., Manalo, E., & Weise, K., … Stout, J.R. (2013). Performance Changes in NBA Basketball Players Vary in Starters vs. Nonstarters Over a Competitive Season. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(3), 611-615.
Hansen, D. (2015). Micro-Dosing with Speed and Tempo Sessions for Performance Gains and Injury Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.strengthpowerspeed.com/micro-dosing-speed-tempo/
Hansen, D. (2017). Applying the Concept of Microdosing in Performance Training Scenarios. In J. DeMayo, M. Yessis, B. Alejo, C. Dietz, M. Van Dyke & K. Wenham-Flatt et al., The Manual, Vol. 2 (pp. 135-156). Central Virginia Sports Performance.
Kraemer, W., French, D., Paxton, N., Häkkinen, K., Volek, J., & Sebastianelli, W. et al. (2004). Changes in Exercise Performance and Hormonal Concentrations Over a Big Ten Soccer Season in Starters and Nonstarters. The Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 18(1), 121.
Marques, M., González-Badillo, J., & Kluka, D. (2006). In-Season Resistance Training for Professional Male Volleyball Players. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 28(6), 16-27.
Marques, M., Tillaar, R., Vescovi, J., & González-Badillo, J. (2008). Changes in Strength and Power Performance in Elite Senior Female Professional Volleyball Players During the In-Season. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 22(4), 1147-1155.
Mujika, I., Santisteban, J., & Castagna, C. (2009). In-Season Effect of Short-Term Sprint and Power Training Programs on Elite Junior Soccer Players. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2581-2587.
Nimphius, S., McGuigan, M., & Newton, R. (2012). Changes in Muscle Architecture and Performance During a Competitive Season in Female Softball Players. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 26(10), 2655-2666.
Otero-Esquina, C., de Hoyo Lora, M., Gonzalo-Skok, Ó., Domínguez-Cobo, S., & Sánchez, H. (2017). Is strength-training frequency a key factor to develop performance adaptations in young elite soccer players?. European Journal Of Sport Science, 17(10), 1241-1251.
Pacey Performance. (2018). 183 [Podcast]. Retrieved from https://paceyperformancepodcast.podbean.com/e/pacey-performance-podcast-183-yann-le-meur-sports-performance-consultant/
Rønnestad, B., Nymark, B., & Raastad, T. (2011). Effects of In-Season Strength Maintenance Training Frequency in Professional Soccer Players. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 25(10), 2653-2660.
Schelling, X., & Torres-Ronda, L. (2016). An Integrative Approach to Strength and
Neuromuscular Power Training for Basketball. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(3), 72-80.
Seitz,L., Reyes, A., Tran, T., de Villarreal, E., & Haff, G. (2014). Increases in Lower-Body Strength Transfer Positively to Sprint Performance: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 44(12), 1693-1702.
Silvestre, R., West, C., Maresh, C. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Body Composition and Physical Performance in Mens Soccer: A Study of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Team. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,20(1), 177.
Yule, S. (2014). Maintaining an in-Season Conditioning Edge. In J. David & L. Daniel, High-Performance Training for Sports (pp. 301-318). Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics.