If you’re reading this during your sport’s season, you’re probably feeling at least a little beat up right now. Given the nicks and dings that inevitably come with practices and games, it’s tempting to skip out on weight training.
Don’t. Although you needn’t lift like you did in the pre-season, when you were bulking up—in fact, you should definitely not do that—weight training is important to prevent your body from breaking down.
“The demands on your body are much higher during the season,” says Duane Carlisle, director of sports performance at Purdue University. “You need to account for your overall workload so your body can recover.”
Carlisle recommends his athletes abide by four rules during the season.
Instead of loading on plates, use no more than 85 percent of your max weight and focus on speed. This challenges your muscles without fatiguing your body. Bonus: explosive lifts more closely simulate how you use your muscles during a game.
Spend extra time before and after workouts foam rolling and stretching tight muscles. Try some yoga or massage on off days. Most important, get at least eight hours of sleep each night to allow your muscles to repair and grow.
If you feel pain during training, see your athletic trainer. You can also modify your workouts by swapping out weighted exercises for bodyweight moves, switching from barbells to dumbbells or changing your grip.
Some days, you might feel too burned out to hit the weights. That’s okay as long as it’s occasional. Skip today and come back stronger tomorrow.