How To Strength Train For Athletic Performance

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I first started “pumping iron”, as my dad would call it when I was 14 years old. 

I never had a hot clue what I was doing, so I always had someone older to guide me through the exercises. While at the same time keeping an eye on the WHL trainer for the Wheat Kings, making players do countless sets of squats to build the muscles in their legs next to me. 

By the time I hit 17, I was introduced to local bodybuilding and decided to hire him as my trainer. I gained 30 lbs of muscle in 3 months during the off-season and built serious strength.

The only problem was that I was training like a bodybuilder. My exercises were related to muscle size verse strength.

The Rule Of Specificity For Hockey

If training is not specific to the sport you play, chances are you will not see any progress on ice with your off-ice training. Check out my article on how to start training for youth kids and why technique is key!

When training for sports, dryland and weight lifting should reflect;

  • Lower reps (5-10 reps)
  • Lifting closer to 85 percent of your “1 rep max” (the heaviest weight you can lift for one reputation)
  • Long rest periods to maximize your weight (around 90-120 seconds)

What Does This Mean For Body Composition?

Strength and condition training will maximize power by lifting as much weight as possible. 

Muscle size will increase for beginners! However, the main objective of strength training is to increase strength without increasing your muscle size. 

Why Athletes Choice Strength Training

Powerlifting is beneficial to athletes looking to improve speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, mobility, balance, and durability! All are related to strength and conditioning.


At one point or another, we all fall into the same trap, train harder, longer, sleep less, and im sure there are lots more outrageous accusations floating around the internet to have continued progress.

These training myths are all ways that lead straight to overtraining and make plateaus more likely to happen. Athletes have related a plateau-like quicksand. The harder you fight, the deeper you can sink! 

Once reaching a plateau with overreaching, your body has become custom to the demands of your workouts. Therefore, any further progress will be on hold until you take the necessary steps to get over this hump before turning into non-functional overreaching.

Functional Overtraining

Functional overtraining is when you purposely train hard beyond what your body can sustain, but only for a short time. 

Usually only for one or maybe two weeks max. 

When functional overreaching, you will create a short-term decrement in performance when increasing training stress. It is a usual part of the training process of elite athletes and quickly recovers to baseline for

further progress within a few days.

Non-Functional Overtraining

Non-functional overreaching is common among most athletes and the general public. 

We need to count on all stressors in our lives like work, household chores, family time, and anything that indirectly causes stress or our attention besides our training.

When in the non-functional overreaching state, it is more common to become sick, lose motivation, and experience higher fatigue.

How Do We Avoid Overtraining Syndrome?

Overtraining Syndrome is also known as OTS. When training is in a non-functional state for too long can lead to someone losing all motivation and taking an extended time away from the sport and their training.

Common signs of OTS are;

  • Decline In Performance
  • Lack of motivation
  • More frequent injuries
  • Prone to Illnesses
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Delays in muscle recovery

When athletes experience a loss of interest in their sport, the next best step is to take a long rest period and focus on their nutrition. 

Better yet, here are four easy steps to help avoid Overtraining Syndrome!

1. Deload Week

Deload week is a fancy word for Recovery week or the re-sensitization phase!

There are different ways to deload, but the most common version is when you cut everything down 50 percent for an entire week.

  • Lift half the load
  • Perform half the amount of sets
  • Do half the amount of reps

Deloads will help your mind and body relax without taking time off from progressing in your sport.

2. Tapering

Tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before a competition or game. 

For many athletes, a significant length of tapering is essential for optimal performance.

The goal of tapering is to keep all of the physical adaptations of the training process while eliminating effects such as fatigue and muscle soreness from occurring during the actual event.

3. Maintenance Training 

Training in the maintenance phase during a competitive season will help hang onto all your hard work in the offseason while helping control fatigue management to support high-level performance.

The maintenance training phase is to preserve strength and power that was built in the off-season months before the season. 

4. Rep In Reserve

Old school style of training made us believe the best way to train is to push until you physically can’t anyone.

Repeating excessive training to failure causes our bodies to fail faster, leaving us fatigued too quickly. Normally, halfway through a season or even worse, following fall camp. 

Reps In Reserve, also known as RIR, is another form of fatigue management that can be a secret weapon during on and off-season training.

Reps In Reserve is how many reps you are away from failure before you stop your working set. 


Train with specificity in mind! If training doesn’t reflect your end goal, immediately change training to benefit your sport.

Fatigue management for athletes is overlooked and needs to be considered for off-season and in-season training. 

A good off-ice training program should consist of Progressive overload, Rep In Reserve, and Deload Weeks.

Season training programs should be done as maintenance training while maximizing recovery with adequate sleep, nutrition, and relaxation. click here for more on the important of nutrition and why Carbs Are King!

Supplementing creatine will help with muscle performance and recovery during peak competitions.


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