We arrived to the final article of our blog series on Strength and Conditioning for GAA Athletes and today all I am going to discuss is how exercise programming for the experienced athlete is different from the beginner strength and conditioning plan.
The approach for an experienced athlete in S&C terms is to build muscle in the off-season. How much does one need? The scope for development dissolves as we age and get experienced with resistance training. What works at 19 will likely not work at 26.
Inevitably the season just past will have worn on you. This means you are still in a mode of regeneration. This is a time not only to build muscle for regeneration or some size. It’s also a time to regenerate, activate and develop some of the areas most banged up over season.
Other areas of movement may also need development, especially where your larger muscle may have taken over and rendered certain critical muscles inactive or underused which can cause asymmetries or weaknesses and even instability.
Training Variations – In-Season
Invariably we have to reduce exercises and volume in-season to fit into an already tight schedule. I may advise lifting straight after field training if facilities allow. For efficiency we may use exercises like Squat Thrusters or modified Olympic lifts and variations.
The issue sometimes with this is it can be a little bit of a calculated risk when trying to replace 45-60 minutes of strength training done in winter with 15 mins after training in summer. So, as well as general floor stability and dynamic stability exercises we will re-introduce multiple movements in various planes of motion.
The reality is that some strength and muscle mass is likely to be lost as the season goes on due to time constraints placed on an amateur athlete. It shouldn't and doesn't have to be the way, but normally it is. This is going to be particularly the case for dual players in Gaelic Sports in Ireland.
So as the season grows, your aerobic capacity and endurance will grow but your strength and muscle mass will dissipate unless you have a clever strategy in place. If you don't maintain strength, power & muscle mass you will lose points of ability in acceleration, deceleration, flying speed, agility, jumping ability and injury resilience.
What we want to do is to avoid that obviously as these are all critical parts of the games we play. Something that is often overlooked when people talk about sport and the arguments between spending time on "skills" and "athletic development" is the fact that most of our movement is done off the ball and without the ball.
The amount of times our sport skills are called into action is minute compared to how much athletic abilities are tested. Now I believe athleticism and skills are completely intertwined. However, that's an incredible long and deep discussion and not one for the purpose of this series.
I am in no way degrading skill work, it underpins everything you do, but simply making the case for athletic development thru S&C.
How do we do this with experienced athletes?
Over-compensation is one approach. Put simply get stronger pre-season than you need to be to allow for some loss of that strength. But to gain new strength we need new muscle. So, in this phase we concentrate on muscle development to largely the detriment of other qualities.
The other important strategy I feel that coaches and players in Gaelic Sports could adopt is Boxing style "Mini-Camps" or mini Pre-Seasons. If you look at present setups, many counties’ teams are asked to peak at various times of the year. If you take your sport seriously you will want to be competitive all year around. But you cannot train full-on the whole year around and neither will a 8-12 week Pre-Season bring you all the way to September or further.
This is what many Gaelic Athletes peaks will look like:
So, what I am suggesting is that a large Pre-Season approach should be taken to Nov-Dec-Jan. Then depending on breaks, a short 2-week rehash in middle of March and a longer 3-4 week mini Pre-Season in May-June.
There are a number of ways to skin the cat. And the individual is important as we may need to tweak due to strengths or weaknesses, time, facilities etc.
The above are simply examples. The important thing with Hypertrophy is volume and nutrition. You need to do high volume training and you will need to eat plenty and well to support muscle growth. Gaelic Players lose weight as the season continues.
The difference between some players from March to September can be stark. This is not a problem as long as strength is being maintained and injuries are not an issue. Even the most committed Gaelic Players are invariably put to the pin of their collar to sustain strength training and maintain muscle mass.
The conclusion is that overloading is probably needed. And then returning to little pockets where mini pre-seasons can take place as mentioned before is best practice.
Do you have a question on any of the blogs or maybe need a little advice on how to start Off-Season on a high and stay on top of the game throughout the year? Feel free to get in touch!