“The specific training aims of a preseason in team sports include injury prevention, strength and power development, conditioning development and tactical training.” (Burgess, 2014)
It is important to establish a general preparatory phase at the beginning of the preseason in order to ensure athletes have the requisite movement patterns, proper techniques, and strength to begin an intensive preseason strength and hypertrophy program.
The goal in the preseason is to build “body armor.” This body armor enables the body to better withstand the loads and demands about to be placed on the muscles and tendons during a rigorous season.
The goal of the initial preseason sports training program following the general preparatory phase was to ensure our athletes could get as close to an accurate 3-rep max on their key lifts. This is not always easy in a team setting, especially with high school athletes, since many are in the middle of a season in a different sport, or are in the middle of their club seasons. Knowing these limitations is important to ensure that the athletes are not overworked, as well as to understand why they may be coming in week after week with some nagging injuries or overuse injuries from their other activities. This may mean some athletes are prescribed lighter loads or additional mobility work for example as opposed to those that are strictly participating in the preseason program only.
The second phase of the preseason training program focused more on conditioning with emphasis on starting and acceleration speed as well as multi-directional agility work. There was still a focus on strength training, but with lighter loads. This was to ensure that the body armor was not completely lost prior to the season beginning as well as to continue to adapt the body to the rigorous demands it will experience in the season ahead.
Much like the preparatory strength phase the prep conditioning phase starts very basic in nature and works to build a robust aerobic system. Our primary reasons for starting our conditioning development with aerobic work is to increase the size of their engine. By building up their engine they will have better recovery not only between hard reps in practice but also by aiding their recovery between games. Once a solid aerobic foundation is built, more anaerobic and more game-specific conditioning can be attacked in the late preseason/in the season.
As stated before we introduced our speed training at the beginning of phase two. This is not to be confused with conditioning. The speed work that we do is placed at the beginning of the workout immediately following the dynamic warm up. When working on speed development we wanted the team to work on perfecting technique and sprinting at high rates of speed. It is vital for speed training to take ample amounts of rest and focus on getting the most you can out of every repetition. Once we finished up the speed work, roughly 20-30 minutes we moved into our aerobic conditioning. Typically the strength training session would follow our speed work however with the constraints of working in a high school system with many teams needing a small weight room scheduling does not always work out to be the best for a sound training philosophy.
We primarily used tempo runs for our preseason aerobic work. Our tempo runs are run at about 65-75% intensity focusing on brief acceleration technique off the line then coasting the remaining distance. We would run goal line to goal line on a football field. Once the athlete reaches the far goal line he would walk across the goal line to the opposite side of the field. Once at the opposite side of the field the athlete performs the next repetition. In our first conditioning session, we started with 12 repetitions and week to week increased by 1 or 2 repetitions finishing the preseason conditioning at 18-20 repetitions.
Following our conditioning, we would go to the weight room to finish up the workout with a quick lift. Our goal in the lift was to maintain all the strength and hypertrophy gains we accomplished in the offseason. The lift was programmed to be short and focus on quality movement at a high intensity but low volume. In a typical program, we would want to build more strength and size at this point however after a speed workout and conditioning already done we had to be really careful about taxing the team in the weight room after all that work was already done.