Train everything, all the time
You are only playing 1 game, once a week, for 60-90 minutes.
Or if boxing, 3 x2-3 minute rounds.
Volume of training is important. But at the right times. And that time is generally in the pre-season. The reason for volume is to build various capacities of modalities of physical & mental fitness.
However one mistake I see made a lot of building that capacity to a moderate to high level before ever working on the actual game i.e. playing football, soccer, hurling, boxing sparring or whatever.
Think of it on a scale of 1-10. Let’s for sake of this discussion reduce our preparation into 3 sections
Why does so much training preparation bring athletes to a 7/8 on physical preparation, often a 1-3 on mental fitness and similar on game fitness?
Let’s give this scenario;
Physical fitness @8
Mental fitness @3
Game Fitness @2
Coach decides “right, we have enough fitness done, let’s play some ball”
And for maybe 2-4 weeks it’s all ball.
Now skills will improve. Game fitness will improve. But after 3-4 weeks peak conditioning will drop to a 6 or 7. General Conditioning is something that can be implemented year round. Game fitness reaches a 6. What you will arrive at is a reasonable level. But an ordinary one. Do you want to be ordinary?
Maybe mental fitness goes to a 4 or 5 based on players enjoying the game play and at least feeling better about their game than when they finished the season.
But first game of the season comes and they lose. They don’t feel as fit as they thought. They are out ran by another team.
Physical fitness is at 7
Game fitness is at 6
Mental fitness is at 5
Lose the first game badly or perform poorly and followed by another loss....
Physical fitness is at 6
Game fitness is at 6
Mental fitness is at 2
And then you are in trouble. Then it’s not fun. Then you start over reaching. Then nightly injuries appear.
General Conditioning underpins Specific Conditioning.
Let’s explain as simply as possible.
General conditioning is Tempo runs, MAS Running, Extensive Intervals, Cardiac Output sessions. There is a lot of A-To-B stuff. Very low cognitive challenges. But that’s fine. We are putting in the foundations to the house.
Specific Conditioning is more like Conditioned Games that a coach will design to work on skills, gameplay and tactics. You are Conditioning the team and players specifically for the demands of the game AND the way you want to play the game SUITABLE TO THE PLAYERS YOU HAVE. There is a much higher development of agility, perception-action and skills within Specific Conditioning.
So it surely makes sense that if we take a step or two forward with our physical fitness (general conditioning), we should pull along our game fitness (specific conditioning) and mental fitness (specific Conditioning) as we go.
Reach 3/10 in physical fitness
Bring game & mental fitness from 1 to 3
Reach 5/10 in physical fitness
Bring game & mental fitness up to 5/10
.....and so on
I also believe this “train everything all the time” approach enhances injury robustness. I theorize that if you do 4-8 weeks of straight line running and general conditioning you will develop an ability to move fast and often. However the gap between that and game based agility can be too wide. So you have a Ferrari engine in a machine with the Movement capabilities of a Combine Harvester. Changing direction, reacting to opposition, deceleration etc is all compromised.
Another really important aspect of this approach is FUN. Players who enjoy training, are challenged but actually get to play the game they want to play will engage with the management and embrace physical challenges a lot more robustly.
While I would sometimes do a 2-6 Week GPP (General Physical Preparation) phase that maybe largely just gym work, Movement work and maybe some really easy tempo running, once you get out on the pitch training everything all the time really is a much more stable approach. The slope up the graph might be less steep than what many are used to but the overall results and benefits are significant. The problem often is that a coach wants fast results, wants the world changed in 4 weeks. A S&C Coach is then under pressure to show improvement. Everything is rushed. One important change that is evolving now is the development of the hybrid coach. S&C Coaches that can coach the game and skills as well. On one level it reduces costs. But a coach that can fuse physical preparation, game play, skills and tactical training all in one training session, possibly within one or two games can be of huge advantage to everybody.
Of course if you are really brave you could go with the radical idea of playing the game right from the word go and letting that inform you as to what needs training. If you were lucky enough to have GPS and Heart Rate monitoring to track the game then you could even make your “General Conditioning” more specific and maybe even less time consuming. Very often we are in a “covering bases” mindset starting off the season. But I have no doubt, and I include myself in this in the past, we did general conditioning that was unnecessary. This kind of approach is the approach I have been slowly employing and will go more into going forward. It will allow for more game play and more skill development.
To finish. Training everything all the time does not mean you have to train every single element of every modality. Experienced coaches will understand that there are many games and training set ups that will give you “bang for your buck”. As an example in my experience using GPS and HR monitors I know 8 v 8 games in Aussie Rules with a 3:1 work to rests ratio on a 50x50M pitch develops aerobic capacity. The heart rates stayed within the parameters we know develop this capacity. This helped inform me (although a bit more subjectively) with Camogie and Gaelic Football teams I worked with that even when we didn’t have fancy equipment I could be reasonably confident we were working our aerobic capacity. When I added time constraints like 3 secs on ball I know I was adding a cognitive element as well as team play. Add in MAS running in small 4-8 minute blocks in between games and we are hitting some aerobic power as well.
Similar results can be got from the 4 goal change of direction game where a score is got by working through any of 4 gates but then must be worked to another game. Add in a 6 second time cap on moving that ball and we are hitting all sorts of elements of the game. Aerobic fitness, speed of thought, long striking/kick passing. Using constraints to develop our game while also keeping an eye on fitness development. I really believe this is the future and where training at its most efficient lies. Assessment, testing and sensible RPE monitoring will inform us where our levels are at. If we need to revert to some general conditioning to “top up” then we can. And I would certainly have a schedule of general conditioning drop ins throughout a season. Based on what science tells us about drop offs in capacity of different modalities like speed, power, strength, aerobic capacity we will program some general work to maintain progress across the board.
If you are interested in staying injury free, getting stronger, fitter and faster for your sport, check out our online S&C Programs below or call Kevin at 0874633454
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