How long should a Strength Training Program last
As an athlete or a coach of an athlete, you are faced with a high demand of competition and doing an intense strength training routine can interfere with optimal results in competition.
The question arises, how long should a strength training program last, in order to produce the best results in competition?
This article and video covers
- How long should a Strength Training Program last
- What are the challenges when designing a Strength Training Program
- How to fit the Strength Training Program into the competitive calendar of athletes
How long should a strength training program be
In my opinion strength training is a continuous process and there is a large body of evidence, that supports the idea of a continuous and ongoing strength training program throughout the competitive season.
But how does a continuous strength training program align with the thought, that an intense strength training routine can interfere with optimal performance in competition?
First and foremost, I discussed different types of strength training and different types of strength training methods before in the articles
- How much Strength Training is too much
- How Long Should A Strength Training Session Last
- Insider Guide reveals How many Reps in the Back Squat you should do
These different types of strength training and different types of strength training methods have different adaptations, as well as different effects on fatigue and are not always interfering with optimal results in competition.
I have outlined, how different types of strength training and strength training methods entail different levels of exertion, in the article
And I have shared this overview in the same article
|High||High||Medium to high||Low||Low|
|Medium to high||Medium||High||High||Medium to high|
|Low to medium||Low to medium||Medium to high||High||High|
|Low to medium||High||Low||Low||Low|
|Low to medium||Medium||Low to medium||Medium||Medium|
Here you can see, that just by changing up the types strength training methods and focus on different goals, you can influence the exertion and consequently the recovery period following the strength training session.
The challenge, as well as the art of designing strength training programs, is
- To sequence the different strength training methods in the right order
- To manipulate and modulate training intensity, training volume and training frequency
I have explained the interrelation between training volume and training intensity in the article
If you want to take the understanding of the interrelation between training volume and training intensity one step further, have a look at the load exertion table from Complementary Training
Here you can see that different repetition and intensity schemes lead to different exertion levels.
And yes, you don’t always have to train with maximum exertion.
An applied strength training program example
I have been contacted by a professional tennis player, who I used to work with before.
He was suffering from exactly this vicious cycle of training hard, competing, training hard, competing, etc
So, how is that a vicious cycle you ask?
Every time he was competing he stopped his strength training routine. He had the same thought, as I have outlined above, that strength training interferes with the ability to optimally perform. Which is true, as we saw earlier if you don’t choose the right type of strength training.
The problem with this approach is, that if you engage in intense strength training for 2 weeks, then stop your strength training routine for 3 weeks, not only will you see little to no progress, but also you have to deal with the negative consequences of the strength training, when you start again – excessive DOMS / sore muscles.
So, what is wrong with DOMS / sore muscles?
Well, not only your normal life suffers, which should be a minor concern, but also the tennis training suffers, which is a concern.
What is the solution?
There is more than one solution.
Let’s start with the most simple solution. The most simple solution is to have a maintenance program that can be carried out throughout the tennis tournaments/competition period. The basic idea is you build your physical qualities outside the tennis tournaments and do the bare minimum during the tennis tournaments to maintain what you have developed.
With this approach, you will see continuous progress over time. Please note, when I talk about time, I talk about months to years, not days or weeks.
A more sophisticated solution, that I also use with our Olympians is, to plan your training goals and training methods according to the competitive calendar. To go fully into detail, how this approach works would go far beyond the scope of this article, so here is a rough outline.
As I mentioned in the articles
- The Ultimate Guide to Strength Training for Beginners
- How to begin Strength Training in 5 steps
- 8 Simple Steps To Figure Out How Often Should Strength Training Occur
You start with the end in mind and look at the annual plan and all the tournaments or competition you participate in and prioritize the competitions.
Quick side note: If you are not able to design an annual plan and participate in a sport that requires high levels of flexibility and the tournament schedule changes frequently, break it down to a 12-week plan.
Back to prioritizing, not every competition has the same level of importance. Once you are able to mark the competitions and label them by most important, medium importance or least important, you will see certain time periods in your calendar. As an example the time period between two important competitions might be 6 or 8 weeks, however, there might be lesser important competitions within this 6 – 8 weeks. You have the opportunity right in front of you. Plan a training period for this 6 – 8 weeks and add in a deload week in the week of the competitions with lower importance.
The next step is to understand how to use periods as building blocks.
As an example, generally speaking, a Power Training Program or Plyometric Training Program works well if it’s preceded by a period of maximum strength training.
If you go back to the exertion table, you can see, that Power Training has a low level of exertion.
That is another opportunity.
You have identified the competitive periods and you plan your Power Training program or Power Training block as a part of your training that you do during your competitive period. And the period leading up to the competitive period you plan your maximum strength training. This way, you have added a highly effective sequence of training into your overall annual training plan or 12-week training plan.
I am aware that each sport has a different competitive set-u, which refers to the competition could last a full week (example of this would be Tennis or Beach Volleyball, just to name a few), other competitions are held on the weekend over 2 days (such as BMX), other competitions are spread over an entire year, the variations are endless.
However, if you are able to use your creativity, combined with understanding the basic principles of programming, you will find a way to improve and perform optimally in the competition.
Concluding How Long should A Strength Training Program Last
Strength training is a continuous process, the art and science of designing and delivering strength training programs that lead to optimal performance are to manipulate and modulate training intensity, training volume, and training frequency.
Understanding the principles of programming, combined with understanding the different exertion levels of every different strength training method, will allow you to produce the best results in competition combined with a continuous strength training program that you can carry out on a continuous basis.
More information on strength training
The Fundamentals of Strength Training
The Ultimate Guide to Strength Training for Beginners
The Importance Weight Training Has On Power
Power Training vs Strength Training – what is the difference?
8 Simple Steps To Figure Out How Often Should Strength Training Occur
Why Strength Training is important
Why Strength Training is important for athletes
How often should you do Strength Training
How long should a Strength Training Session last
How Strength Training works – accommodating resistance
How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight
How much Strength Training is too much
How many Strength Training sessions per week
How to do Strength Training at home