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Why Athletes Should Train on Game Day

Athletic development has come a long way since the thought process: "If I lift heavy weights, I won't be able to shoot or move well during a game." As the knowledge, information and research widens in the field of athletic development, so does the understanding of what creates optimal performance.

Game-day performance | How are your athletes preparing for competition?

If you're a head sports coach, you may have a plan in place with your performance coach on what your athletes will be doing for game day preparation. Furthermore, if you're in the strength and conditioning space, you've probably been part of some game day programming discussions.

It is my goal to help sport heads understand why game day lifting preparation can be so beneficial. Additionally, if you're a performance coach and having a hard time creating "buy-in" on this subject from your coaches, I encourage you to share this article.

jv basketball coach training on 2-v8 platforms

A strength and conditioning program built for game-day should be just that. Built for a day in which competition will occur. Elements such movement patterns, weight and time frame should all be taken into account with the ultimate goal of improved performance.

Mental Preparation Before Competition

In order to excel in sports, mental awareness is fundamental. Most athletes have game-day rituals in order to help them get "in-the-zone" for optimal performance. Game-day lifting is no different.

High School Strength and Conditioning Coach, Adam Lane teaches his student athletes that mental preparation and a game-day training session (their pre-battle ritual) is a must before they compete.

  • Greeks: used sacrifices to predict the outcome of battles
  • Maori Tribes: practiced intimidating dances
  • Spartans: clean of their war suit, comb their long hair, and horse hair on helmet (visual appearance was an intimidation over their enemies)
  • Indian Tribes: war paint rituals

Promotes Flexibility and Range of Motion

Flexibility promotes an athletes ability to move through a full range of motion and prevent injury. A proper strength program will get the joints initiated and stretch the muscle fibers. While this is fundamental during any workout, it can be exceptionally beneficial and important on game-day.


When a muscle is properly stretched, the associated joints become more flexible and range of motion increases. Reason being? Flexibility directly impacts athletic performance. Tightness will severely impede on speed and acceleration. For example, a lack of flexibility in an athletes hips will limit the range of motion in running mechanics. The outcome? Athletes will be moving slower because of a limited stride length.


Strength and conditioning programs have the great ability to establish a culture throughout their athletic program. Monte Sparkman, Director of Athletic Performance at Richland High School is no stranger to continuing this tradition.

For us, the game day lift is an extension of our athletic culture. At Richland, we have a very strong weight room culture, that was started before I got there. Our athletes LOVE to train. Training on game day, gives our athletes a positive mental stimulus before a stressful time, competition. We have been lifting on game day for so long now, that it has become routine for our athletes. 

Richland's athletes get to school at 7:30AM and sometimes don’t play their game until 12 hours later.  That’s a lot of down time, sitting and inactivity. The game day lift allows for their athletes to get moving, and begin the pre-game nervous system “ramp up” before competition. 

Primes Central Nervous System

While we all think we know how to warm up, research has consistently found that warm-ups need to have periods of high-intensity exercise to enhance performance. But, keep in mind, a game-day lift is not intended to be taxing on the athlete, as the training loads are sub-maximal.

Let's think about how our central nervous systems function. It is the conductor that allows the mind and body to work as one. Think of the CNS as the "battery" that allows muscle movement. Just like power workouts, complex training should be used more than traditional strength training as you get closer to competition.

As the information surrounding athletic development continues to evolve, so must we. Keep in mind, it has been a relatively short amount of time from the thought process of "we need to train as far before games as possible" to "we lift on game-day to give our athletes optimal performance opportunity."


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