During the off-season, you will always find athletes in the weight room trying to get bigger, stronger, and faster for next season. Once the season starts however, the weight room is commonly empty. This is the biggest mistake an athlete can make.
When I played college football, we were required to lift between three and four times per week, depending on year and playing position. These lifts would take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete. No, they were not as hard as off-season training workouts, but they were still intense enough to create neurological response. The reason why? Heavy resistance training creates an increase in muscle, ligament and tendon strength.
In a study by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation, comprised of 52 collegiate female soccer teams of over 1000 individuals, found an 88% reduction in ACL injuries in programs which incorporated a neuromuscular protocol vs the control group. There was a 71% reduction in ACL injuries vs the control group in programs which used any type of in-season resistance training. The control group had no in-season resistance training.
Another study, by the University of Florida, found 78% of serious upper body injuries and 65% of serious lower body injuries in football happened to programs without in-season weight training.
This brings me to the next point: what type of training should be done in season? Neuromuscular training involves things such as plyometric, forceful lifting, and balance work. Specifically work should be done in the said order.
In season training workouts do not need to be long. An effective neuromuscular based workout should only take 20 minutes. Think about incorporating these simple exercises into your training routine.
Explosive Box Jumps: In these box jumps, think about stepping into the jump and landing with as straight of legs as possible. The goal is to land in a standing position, not a deep squat position.
After three weeks, move to a 12-inch box and practice taking off on two legs and landing on a single leg. Be aware of the knee angle on landing and constantly remind yourself to NOT let the knee come towards the midline.
The last progression involves stepping off the 12-inch box and landing on one leg. Again, remind yourself to NOT let the knee fall to the midline upon landing.
For all of these, do not do more than 5 sets. The goal is to strengthen the ligaments and tendons. It is not supposed to be a hard workout, but rather supplement the work you do in practice.
Squat Jumps: Load up to 30% of your 1RM back squat or up to 60% of your bodyweight on to a bar (whichever is less). Set up like a normal back squat except jump as high as you can and land back into the squat. Perform four to six sets of three reps. Remember to land soft and continue straight into the back squat.
30/30 Presses: Take a set of five pound dumbbells. Press straight overhead for 30 seconds then hold for 30 seconds, repeat this again, all without putting the dumbbells down. That is one set, rest for two minutes and do another set. You only need to do two sets.
Cup Taps: Take four solo cups and place them in a semicircle an arms length in front of you. Stand on one leg and squat down, trying to touch each cup with each arm. Perform two sets per leg. Again, insure the knee DOES NOT bend towards the midline.
These workouts do not take long and have the ability to prevent serious, season ending injuries. You do not need to be a current athlete to add these exercises into your training sessions. I would recommend adding one of these four to your current training regimen, especially if you have a ski trip or other active activity coming up in the next three months.