The importance of off-season training for peak high school athletic performance


One of the most common questions we hear from parents who bring in their high-school athletes is whether or not they should commit to training in the off season. CFU’s Kyle Krogmann works with a number of local high school athletes who are improving their performance off the court and field.

“My goal in working with high school athletes – and really athletes of any age – is to improve their athleticism,” he said. “In the off-season, we focus on General Physical Preparedness or GPP.”

This means that regardless of the athlete’s sport (or sports), Kyle starts by focusing on the athlete’s ability to do the body’s basic movements: push, pull, hinge, squat and loaded carry. He also adds in core strength.

Some high-school athletes also approach training as a way to improve and focus on a perceived weakness.

“A soccer player might come in and say, ‘I want to work on becoming faster,’” he said. “But improving your overall athleticism will make you a stronger, faster soccer player. It’s far more effective in the long run than focusing on just one thing.”

However, that’s not to say that certain weaknesses aren’t common.

“Depending on the athlete’s sport, he or she may have more skill and strength in certain areas,” he said. “For example, a hockey player would naturally have more rotary strength because of how the sport is played, but it would be common to see some weakness in a hockey player’s ability to do pull-ups and pushups.”

When a new athlete of any age approaches Kyle for training, he also starts with a functional mobility screen to assess any mobility issues, which can occur without the athlete even knowing it. He also takes anything noted in the FMS into account before creating an individualized training plan.

When should post-season training start?

“At the end of a season, regardless of the sport, an athlete is tired,” he said. “His or her body may not be performing at its peak. I totally understand that – but the start of post season training can begin right away because we’re not going to focus on season prep. It will be on other skills and conditioning.”

For example, a high-school football player’s season ends around the beginning of November. Coming off of the season, Kyle’s focus is on “prehab” – general mobility work that will get the student athlete moving and feeling better without being taxing.

“We wouldn’t do heavy lifting – it’s about keeping the intensity and volume down,” he said.

From there, Kyle likes to move into a macro cycle of training. With a regular training schedule, he’ll change things up about every two weeks. It could be the volume or the mechanics of the workout. He’ll also start including some conditioning.

As the athlete progresses toward the upcoming season, the next two to three months will start a slow ramping up process, with more intense workouts.

“This is when you really build a better athlete,” he said.

About two months out from the season, Kyle will modify the focus of the workouts to be much more sport specific. For example, that football player might start doing sprinting reps that mimic what he will do on the field; a soccer player would be focused on endurance-based running drills.

“We’ll also hit the correct lifts and develop the right things for that particular sport,” he said. “This is the time to look for any specific weaknesses and correct them.”

In-season work can also occur

Once the season starts, is there room for continued training? Absolutely, says Kyle.

“It’s not about piling on more training or about working a student athlete to the point of puking,” he said. “It’s about recovery and regeneration, and about working with him or her not to leave overly sore. In-season training is designed to keep the athlete strong and healthy without pushing with unnecessary volume and intensity.”

Kyle recommends that high-school athletes (and their parents) consider training at CrossFit Unbroken. We can have a conversation about their future goals, whether it is through one-on-one athletic training or through group classes available to high school athletes.