As far as an athletic based society goes, training gets very complicated very fast if you tumble down the rabbit hole that is weightlifting/strength and conditioning. Bodybuilding, powerbuilding, olympic weightlifting, strongman training, crossfit, circuit training and the list goes on and on with hundreds if not thousands of different training philosophies and paths to train. It goes without saying that many athletes get lost in the mix on what’s going to be the biggest impact on our training to allow them to become a more complete athlete. The first thing that is not up for debate is that a strength training program’s number one goal for the athlete is to do no harm or not get them injured. If your strength program does not keep this goal in mind to keep your athletes healthy and progressing forward in their sports, weight training is then a liability for an athlete and not an asset.
In order to not be a liability any strength program should incorporate testing into its design. If you are not assessing the athlete, you are simply guessing the athlete’s athletic ability. I remember getting in an argument with an egomaniac track coach I used to coach with, who has since retired from coaching (thank goodness!), about giving an unathletic looking athlete a relay spot over an athlete who looked strong and fast. “He passes the eye test” he said simply looking at him he had sized him up and thought he was fast while I had tested these athletes racing and the unathletic looking kid was significantly faster while the fast looking kid was tight and muscle bound with his athletic look. Looks can be deceiving and good program testing exposes both strength and weaknesses in athletes you are testing whether its power, speed, endurance, flexibility, or another metric you need to get a baseline to establish where they are and if the training gets them closer to where they want to be.
Now as far the off season training plan goes general physical preparedness (GPP) is the normal start for most programs. This GPP training phase should be emphasizing movement and health that is good for just about everyone. Training should emphasize movements like pushing, pulling, hinging, and squatting to name the bigger movement where people should be capable of doing and not exercises. My biggest complaint in the adolescent community is athletes focus training on things that have no significant impact on their sport. Adolescents will spend 15 minutes 3 times a week doing biceps, triceps, and abs but if they allocated that same amount of time investing in pull-ups and hip hinging they would move and look significantly better but in a high school kids brain thinks bigger biceps are more importanter (not a typo 🙂 )
That being said the training will develop a physique that serves the sport rather than a physique that serves the mind. However with this people will still choose to avoid training they still dislike even if it provides the results they want; if most people want a six pack and every olympic sprinter Ive ever seen, male and female, has abs then why does everyone train long distance running to try and get a cut six pack? Most distance runners have some flab because well abs aren’t as good of a fuel source as fat when doing endurance training. If you are training properly GPP should touch all your bases for general strength movements and then as the season gets closer you perform more sport specific movements advancing into preseason and then into competitive season where strength training is more maintenance than anything. But the further away from your sport you are then the less specific your training needs to be to your sport. This is typically why 3 sport athletes are more athletic than one sport athletes. Every 3-4 four months they start a new sport specific program and the more varied the sport the more prepared the athlete is since they are exposed to a larger variety of training than a one sport athlete who often plateaus from doing the same training all year.
In summary, off-season weightlifting should never result in injury, it should start by assessing your strengths and weaknesses that correlate with your sport through measurable tests, and it should try to make you a generally more well rounded athlete before your competitive season starts.