Training Athletes Who Never Have An Off-Season

Have you ever wondered how to train athletes who never have an off-season? You aren’t alone, we received a great question from one of you, and we want to address it. In this blog we will dive into, Training athletes who never have an off-season

For this one, we called on Periodization Expert, Karsten Jensen, to share his decades of experience working with over 27 different sports through the Olympic Levels, in a blog just for you! (And there will be more to come as he expands on the concepts he speaks about here)

Here is what he had to say:

I am familiar with the scenario you describe. 2008-2010, I consulted for the Varsity Men’s Volleyball Team at The University of Toronto, Canada. There were no conditioning requirements over the summer. When the student-athletes returned to campus, they had five volleyball practices per week from the beginning of the semester. Strength training was scheduled from 08.30-09.15 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.

Having limited time and energy for S&C can be a blessing in disguise. It forces us to be precise, efficient, and creative with our training programs.

These strategies, which I will share in the upcoming posts, are not just solutions to your time and energy constraints, but powerful tactics that will significantly enhance your athletes’ performance. They show that even with limited resources, you can still achieve remarkable results.

The first step is to get clear on the athletes objective for the strength and conditioning process:

What do they say they want?
Ask the athlete and the coach,

“What is the limiting factor in your ability to practice and compete?”

I have asked athletes and coaches this question for more than 20 years. The answer always falls into one of the following categories, which in the context of the Flexible Periodization Method, are referred to as ‘type 1 goals’.

These are the primary objectives that the athlete aims to achieve through their strength and conditioning program.

Primary Objectives:

  • Increase daily energy/vitality.
  • Prevent repeated injuries or rehabilitation.
  • Increase ability to perform a high amount of sport-specific practice with high quality and
  • Improve peak performance in selected elements of the performance or game.
  • Improve the ability to repeat/maintain current peak performance in selected elements of
    the performance or game.
  • Improve performance in prolonged or repeated competitions.
  • Body composition (changing weight class).

Understanding the athlete’s type 1 goal is crucial.

It saves time and helps identify elements that don’t need addressing in the S&C program. Before working with the University of Toronto’s Varsity team, I worked with the best Danish men’s volleyball club and the Danish Men’s National Volleyball Team.

In 90% of the cases, the requested type 1 goal was ‘the ability to practice and compete with high quality and intensity.’

The Danish National Coach (my first mentor) also organized the volleyball practice to create the necessary energy systems conditioning effect (what soccer coaches call small-sided games). As a result, the athletes required no additional conditioning.

There are three additional implications of designing the S&C program around improving the athlete’s ability to practice and compete.


  1.  The focus of the S&C program is the ability to train and compete above weight room numbers. In scientific studies, many weight room numbers, such as 1RM Back Squat, correlate to sprint speed (short distances). However, improving the 1RM squat is not always what an athlete needs to practice and compete better.
  2. The S&C program is elevated from a sport-specific program to an individualized program. This shift in focus acknowledges each athlete’s unique needs and goals, making them feel valued and understood. The trap in sport-specific programs is ‘great programs with the wrong goals’, for example, giving a volleyball player who already jumps high enough a plyometric training program. By tailoring the program to each athlete, we show them that their goals and aspirations are important to us.
  3. The type1 goal is targeted with the optimal amount of exercises, volume, intensity and frequency. Address secondary priorities if any ‘space’ is left in the program.
  4. If the athlete can dedicate enough time to strength and conditioning, the program can address more than one type1 goal.

Coaches communicate an individualized program more confidently because they know it is the right program for the athlete. The athlete is more motivated for a program when they truly understand how the program is supposed to help them improve their sports performance. This approach proves effective time and time again, instilling confidence and trust in both coaches and athletes.

In addition to a precise type one goal, four additional program design strategies help train
athletes with minimal time and energy for S&C.

Program Design Strategies

  1. In the off-season, strength and conditioning prepare the athlete for sports practice. In-season, strength and conditioning supplements the sports practice.
  2. Create optimal synergy between the warm-up and the main practice.
  3. Add volume with micro-dosing and all-day movement.
  4. Use visualization to improve muscle, strength or power outside the gym without physical strain.

In future posts I will go into detail with these four strategies.

In the meantime, you can catch up on this blog: Periodization as a Strategy, Not a Tactic by Karsten

Take advantage of our Educational Resources- Get 15% off your entire cart by using code KJENSEN15 at iyca.org/store

Author: Karsten Jensen

Karsten Jensen, MSc Exercise Physiology, a renowned figure in the field, has been assisting world-class and Olympic athletes from 27 different sports since 1993.

His track record includes athletes who have clinched Olympic medals, European and World Championships, and ATP Tournaments. Karsten is the pioneer of The Flexible Periodization Method, a comprehensive system of periodization that allows for adaptability and customization based on individual athletes’ needs and goals. He works closely with busy coaches, offering his expertise to optimize their periodization and program design





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