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Pre-Season Training: An Overview

Read Time: 3 Minutes

By Mark Keil, CSCS

September 5, 2022  

Strength Training PRe Season

It’s Pre-Season. 

The excitement of games is right around the corner. You want to set your athlete up for success as they move into this next season, but how does that look? Are they supposed to Strength Train differently than they do in the Off Season?  

Absolutely. Strength Training will vary depending on where the athlete is in relation to their Sport Season. 

Information below is applicable to athletes ages 14 and older and may vary between athletes.

How is Strength Training segmented based on Sport Season?

Strength Training is often broken down into 4 seasons:

The exercises – including the number of sets, reps, and the length of rest period – are all dictated by the Training Phase within each of these Seasons. There are several ways you can approach the length of a Training Phase, but most often they will last 3-4 weeks. The athlete will then have a ‘De-Load Week’, or, immediately move right into the next Training Phase. 

Why does the athlete have to move through different Training Phases?

For several reasons. First, this keeps the athlete from hitting a plateau. While athletes who are new to weightlifting may be able to continue in the same Training Phase for several months and not plateau, a well-trained athlete will plateau. By moving the athlete to a new Training Phase, their body will realize it needs to adapt, thus developing the athlete. 

Secondly, the Training Phase will effect the outcome. Here are the typical goals associated with each of the four seasons:

  • Pre-Season: Goal – Increase Maximal Power
  • In-Season: Goal – Maintain Strength & Power; Stay Healthy for Competition
  • Post-Season: Goal – Active Recovery
  • Off-Season: Goal – Develop Muscular Size and Strength

Lastly, not all Training Phases are appropriate for each Season. For example, you do not want your athlete performing an Off-Season Hypertrophy (muscle-building phase) In Season. Why? Because the goal of this phase is to break down the muscle to trigger growth. And if they’ve fatigued the muscle, then they will likely be sore and unable to produce maximal power, which will hinder their performance. 

So how does Strength Training look in Pre Season?

That really depends on the Training Phase. There are several phases that can make up Pre Season Training. At SportStrength, we use 4 Phases:

  • Strength
  • Max Strength
  • Power
  • Max Power

Each of these phases will last 3-4 weeks. Our goal at SportStrength is to have the athlete completing the Max Power Phase as season begins. This way they will be physically prepared for competition. 

If you are interested in learning more on each of these phases, you can find more information below. 

These sets, reps, and rest periods associated with each phase typically just apply to the Core Exercises (multi-joint exercises, such as the Deadlift, Squat, Clean Pull, etc.). Accessory lifts can fall outside of these parameters (within reason).

*Note that these are the sets, reps, and rest periods we use at SportStrength and may differ slightly depending on the source. 

Strength Phase

  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-8
  • Rest Period: 2-4 minutes

Note: A true Strength Phase (and Max Strength Phase, which we will look at next) will reduce the Rep scheme to a single Repetition (1RM). However, we do not prescribe this Rep scheme at SportStrength, nor do I train my athletes that way. Why? Because I’ve had Collegiate athletes try to lift more than they were able (no, we didn’t tell them to; and they did this while myself and the other staff were helping their teammates) and almost hurt themselves. That said, I just don’t see the benefit of 1RM training outweighing the risk. You can easily back into a 1RM using a 3RM without the heavier loads associated with the 1RM.

Further, a true Strength Phase will prescribe up to a 5 minute (or more) rest period. I’ve found it’s next to impossible to keep the athletes engaged in training with a rest period of that length. Therefore, I cap it at 4 minutes and usually superset a strength exercise with a mobility movement. The mobility movement will take up part of the rest period and thus keep the athlete engaged in the training.  

Max Strength Phase

  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-6
  • Rest Period: 2-4 minutes

Note: See note on Strength Phase above. This is essentially the same as a Strength Phase. However, I will have athletes stick to around 3-4 Reps and lengthen the Rest Period to around 4 minutes.

Power Phase

  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-8
  • Rest Period: 2-4 minutes

Note: Same as the Strength Phase, this phase is known to drop the athlete to a 1RM (see note on Strength Phase). The big difference between the Power Phases and the Strength Phases is that the Power Phase involves moving the weight explosively. While the goal of the Strength Phase is to lift the maximum amount of weight possible, the goal of the Power Phase is to perform the movement with speed. Note that if your athlete is moving straight from a Strength or Max Strength Phase into the Power Phase, they will likely have to reduce the weight as the objective has shifted from overcoming the weight to explosively driving the weight.

As mentioned above, this explosive style of lifting is typically set aside for the Core Exercises only and does not apply to Accessory exercises (e.g., dumbbell curl).

Max Power Phase

  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-6
  • Rest Period: 2-4 minutes

Note: See note on Power Phase above. This is essentially the same as a Power Phase. However, I will have athletes stick to around 3-5 Reps and lengthen the Rest Periods to around 4 minutes.


Your athlete’s Strength Training will vary dependent upon where they are in their Sport Season. It’s important that your athlete move through the different Training Phases so they may develop physically and correctly prepare for sport.