In-Season Strength by Charlie Manganiello

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and the air is getting warmer. You’ve probably even dusted off your race schedule and summer goals on the calendar you’ve been staring at for the last six months. Unless you’re an ice climber or skier stuck in the Northern Hemisphere, the “in-season” is upon us. In some way, shape or form, you are striving to perform well in a triathlon, run a half-marathon faster than last year, bike 100 miles without killing yourself, or send your hardest route to date. Maybe, you’re even planning to run your first 5k. Regardless of the goal, you’re looking to perform your best on game day.

Now stop…

Remember all those early mornings and late nights at the gym strength training? All those sessions, just dreaming about running through the Wind River Range, crossing the finish line at a race, or clipping the chains on your latest send? You were probably thinking, just a few more months and I don’t have swing kettlebells for the whole summer, I don’t have to pick up a heavy barbell only to drop it again after lifting it two feet, or even think about doing another Turkish get-up.

You probably see where this is going…


Strength training is still important, even during your sport specific season. To not strength train in-season is like putting money away for retirement for eight months out of the year and then proceed to spend part of the money saved the other four months on frivolous items. With this cycle you’ll have a very hard time saving money, and with strength training this cycle makes it hard to stay strong. Why not maintain all your hard work instead of letting it all go just to start over again?

Studies have shown that once you stop training, strength can diminish in as quick as two weeks. I’m no accountant, but if you also stop saving money, you’ll save less. You should strength train like you save money. Some months you can sock more away and other months you put just a little away, but at least it’s something. How can we stay strong without spoiling game day performance? We will reduce the volume of our strength sessions by two-thirds to one-half, but still lift heavy.

For example:

Lets say your training weight for the deadlift is 185lbs and you did that at 5×2 or 3×3 (or whatever set/rep scheme that was around 10 total reps). For in-season training you will perform the same lift at the same weight, but at 3×2, 5×1, or 2×3. Instead of doing 9-10 reps you’re doing 5-6. The volume is lower, but you’re still handling the same heavy weight. By doing this you’ll never be far from strength. You should perform this twice a week (maybe as little as once a week) and work it into your training so it doesn’t interfere with your scheduled events, most likely a Monday and Wednesday or a Tuesday and Thursday.

Remember to stick with the four major movements when strength training.

Hip dominant/Hamstring – Deadlift or RDLs
Knee dominant/Squats – Front Squats or 2 Kettlebell Rack Squats
Pull – Pull-ups or some variation of the Row
Push – Bench press or Military press

There are lots of options to progress or regress each movement and that’s fine, but just stick to the principles. You should pick one of the four patterns to focus on and put the other three in between sets as “fillers,” just to grease the groove. Rotate to another movement pattern after 4-6 weeks.

Don’t forget to add these in every sessions as well:

Total Body – Turkish Get-up or Farmer Carries
Anterior Chain (AKA: Core) – Hardstyle Plank or Ab Wheel

Remember, these session should be approached like you’re practicing strength. You are not working hard in these sessions. Let me repeat. You are not working hard in these sessions. You are barely breaking a sweat or maybe not sweating at all. At no point are you increasing weight, even if it feels easy. You can attack the numbers once you start your off-season training. Your session should clock in around 30 minutes after you’ve properly stretched and warmed-up.

Save money and lift heavy weights often. Don’t lose what you’ve already worked so hard to gain.

Strength be with you!


Charlie Manganiello