T Nation

Playing Sports While Lifting?


I play soccer and/or flag football 2-3 days/week. I'd like to lift more, but I am afraid I won't have proper recovery time if I am playing sports so frequently. For example, if I do a leg workout, in the past I've needed 72-96 hours for full recovery, whereas if I were to play in 2 days that would cut this short. That being said, athletes seem to do this all the time, but I wasn't sure what was the best practice.

Does anyone have references indicating how much is too much (e.g., diminishing returns due to overwork in this context)? I searched and saw another thread (url pasted below) where people indicated that we often can do more than originally planned (i.e., don't be a wuss), and wanted to follow up and see if there was research supporting this. All input is appreciated - thanks for your help!



If you would like to lift more try lifting more and see how it goes.


Im a football(soccer) player.

In-season I only lift twice a week. One upper and one lower. 5/3/1 been one of my preferred schemes.

Upper on Tuesday, Lower on Thursday, and I play on Saturday nights/Sunday day. Whenever I feel "beat up" I may even miss a lifting session. No biggie. While in-season, you really want to concentrate on recovery and been in the best shape come "game day".



To add to this, try it out for a few weeks. Even if your performance is negatively affected in the beginning, you will adjust. You will also have to eat more to balance the additional energy going out.


Depends on in what sense you mean "research supporting". There's tons of research at the collegiate and pro level. College football players are lifting 5x a week and practicing 3 hours a day on top of that in the pre-season. They do fine. Most major NCAA programs have in season lifting programs as well.

If you mean scientific journal articles though, then not much to help you. But this is not an instance where you should need some of those to persuade you it works or doesn't. Either you compensate after 3 weeks of lag adjustment time, or you don't. Generally speaking though, if you're playing soccer and flag football recreationally then it doesn't matter--unless you have a competitive recreational sports career you want to pursue :).

The simplest change is to just move your leg day farther from your sports days. Just rearrange the days of the week, instead of doing legs on Thursday, do them on Monday.

In the larger scheme though, generally speaking light cardio and light movements (goblet squats, bodyweight squats/lunges, overhead squats with the bar, light explosive stuff like jumping or bounding, and ESPECIALLY eccentricless work like sled dragging) helps work through soreness.


No references or anything, but I've got personal experience doing this.
I tended to find that 2 full body lifting sessions was as much as I could manage. Rugby training involved a lot of drills like kangaroo fighting etc, and if I did more my legs wouldn't recover in time. I found that splitting stuff up by body part wasn't the best plan, as I needed to stick all my strength work away from training sessions.

Another thing I found useful was, funnily enough, to do strength training the day after practice, which I treated as skill-based, and endurance training the day after that. As well as rugby practice, I was doing military-style circuits most days.

If I did it again, I'd do more or less the same thing, but I'd cut the more intense bodyweight exercises like one arm pushups and close grip pullups out of the circuits and endurance workouts. I'd also use weights during the circuit/endurance work, but keep the loads to 10RM or under, and not do them in straight sets.

With hindsight, I'd do more sprinting and unilateral work, but I'd keep the unilateral work relatively light and rarely do it strength-training style and be pretty sparing with the sprinting outside practice. 3x25 and 1-2x50-60 is as much as I'd do, except on interval training which I'd keep to one day a week.
Just my experience and some food for thought.


What would this kind of workout look like - the exercises, sets, and reps?

If performing well is a big deal, you can and should think about tweaking your training depending on where you are in the game schedule (scaling back on the lifting in-season, adjusting things pre- or off-season).

Check this article, particularly the "Precious Commodity" section, for some ideas:

Another thing both of these groups have in common is that they're not exactly skimping on things when it comes to the chow hall. Copious nutrition, especially immediately before/during/after training, can do wonders for overall recovery even without a change in training.


Considering these comments, thanks pk0ad and 1 Man Island for the suggestion to try it out - perhaps I just need a kick in the pants to try for a few weeks and I'll figure it out from there. Thank you theBird and Der_Steppenwolfe for specific suggestions and for the personal experience, I will take this into account as I go forward. Thanks Aragorn for the context and the specific suggestions, tough to hear there's not much in the literature but the real world experience you mentioned makes sense.

Chris, as far as exercises I haven't lifted in a long time so I would start easy with bodyweight exercises, but after a couple of weeks prob squats, stiff legged deadlifts, maybe regular deadlifts, and with some leg extensions recommended by knee doc to stablize minor knee injuries I have had, would be either simple hypertrophy program (8-12 reps, ~ 80% 1RM) or going lower on reps and higher on weight for more strength. Hope this helps provide info in case it spurs ideas, and thank you for the link!

For overall context, performing well isn't a huge deal to be honest (these are rec leagues), I just want to not interfere with hypertrophy, so I will work with these suggestions and any further feedback is also welcomed.


Bingo! You got it.


Ok, so your goal changes things. Now that I know your goal is hypertrophy it makes things much easier than if your goal was sports performance. I rather suspected as much but I couldn't be sure from your original post.

1) hypertrophy is your goal, so make your lifting your priority and don't worry about the sports. I would do recovery work day after a leg day though, to work out some soreness. I would make it a goal to do something every day of the week with your legs. I don't mean squatting or lifting weights even, but doing work daily like bodyweight squats and lunges and stretches, a jog, or hell even hiking/walking/frisbee golf, working through soreness (light to moderate, not severe), just plain moving around will eventually make your legs recover faster from soreness.

2) your goal is HYPERTROPHY, so eat like you mean it. And pay attention to workout nutrition. These things make a huge, huge difference in soreness, recovery, everything as Chris alluded to with the collegiate athletes.


Thanks for the feedback, especially the comment about light exercise to relieve leg soreness. Eventually the program may be more performance based - how would that change things in this context?


Der_Steppenwolfe wrote

No references or anything, but I've got personal experience doing this.
I tended to find that 2 full body lifting sessions was as much as I could manage. Rugby training involved a lot of drills like kangaroo fighting etc, and if I did more my legs wouldn't recover in time. I found that splitting stuff up by body part wasn't the best plan, as I needed to stick all my strength work away from training sessions.

I train mostly hockey, but I think similar to Rugby/soccer. In season these kids can be 20-30hrs of ice time per week, from games and practices. We scale back to two sessions a week whole body, 3 exercises only - legs/push/pull - Squats-dips-chins or Deads--incline--cleans, somthing like this. The point is you should be training year round, and the time to make big strength and size gains is in the off season. In season train to keep the strength you have (and body weight with hockey) and keep the groves greesed so when season ends, your ready to make improvements where you left off. Pushing to hard in season in the weight room can lead to injuries, not just poor performance. Also I would be carefull using High level foot ball as your gauge, lots of PEDs going on here, as well as games and practices for football although gruelling I think are hard to compare to a fast paced games, where your doing huge energy expenditure dumps, moving fast pace and pretty constant for hours somtimes upon hours. Anyway I can only tell you what we do with hockey and thats two whole body days a week in season. Goodluck




Yep, you're quite right about the high level football. However, I do have the liberty of being acquainted personally with a good many FBers over the years at a major Div 1 program, and I can tell you they're not all using. The ones who did weren't that undercover about it and the ones who didn't didn't bother.

Mainly though, I didn't want him to use it as an actual gauge so much as to illustrate the principle of being able to do both things with heavy training. I do not believe somebody should just jump into something crazy like that!


I may not be able to provide you scientific studies that details how fast a body recovers and all that whatnot, but I can say by firsthand experience that it's more than feasible to squat six times a week and not overtrain. If you know how to manage the intensities, you'll progress fast.

Don't believe me? Look up Ivan Ivanov. 60kg lifter with a 210kg front squat. There's also another Bulgarian weightlifter (I forgot his name) who can front squat 255kgs. It's all a product of frequent, heavy squatting. In my opinion, if those guys can handle that kind of workload, you should realistically be able to lift three times a week and make progress while doing flag football.


I thought this thread was dead, and I realize your not a high level athlete, but understand that if you want to train like one, you should set your training up by the year. The trainig should the be devided up into blocks, to coinside with your athletic indevours. To say I have to be ready in a month what can i do is stupid. All the things said above will work, within the context of your yearly training cycle, and individual blocks. This is what I do for hockey, probably pretty similar for soccer, and rugby.

1, depending on the length of the season, April, May, June, getting back to heavy basic weights slowly, not doing much, if any conditionoing. Training 3x a week getting strength back, while letting body heal

2, July, August, training 6 x week 3x weights, 3x out door conditioning. We push conditioning hard this time of year, and get our main lifts ready for a IRM test first week of Sept.

3, Sept to Jan We test 1RM first week of sept and set up Pling % based program (531) to compete in mock PLing meet, during Christmas holidays.No conditioning this block because they're back playing hockey, but it's not super competative yet, so we lift heavy.

4, Jan. to end of season 2 basic whole body workouts a week, trying to keep what we worked all year to build., without a negative effect on ice performance.

This is real basic compared to real training blocks for collage, or pro sports, but seems to work well with the age group we have. you would have to adjust the time of the year of each block, to suit your sport, and mabey some other small adjustments for your sport, but this should give you a basic idea how to lay out a year. be able to get stronger through out the year, and not hurt your performance. goodluck


Thanks for the example, AnytimeJake, I'll take this into account. TY also Bee_Brian for the feedback - you mentioned about knowing how to manage the intensities ...


Elite fitness, today Nov, 9 just posted article on training in season