Here we are, the last week of the blog series on strength and conditioning for Gaelic Games Athletes. I will be discussing how to gain muscle mass to boost performance and improve your game. Buckle up for part 1.
Building Muscle, You Say?
This is likely to scare the crap out of a lot of Gaelic Players and they will worry about having "too much muscle", "getting slow", "not being mobile" and so on. Well that's all rubbish really. It takes an awful lot of weight lifting for a Gaelic player to put on too much muscle, especially during times of sports specific training and games in-season.
In fact, the biggest issue is keeping muscle on because of the high endurance and aerobic nature of the games. With so much running, it's highly likely you will lose strength and muscle mass by the end of the season.
This is obviously not a good thing as it can seriously impact your resilience to injury and hurt performance aspects like acceleration, change of direction, agility and flying speed in particular.
Speed, Power and Plyometrics
Lifting weights is all about developing force. Force that can be applied into the ground to propel you off with as much speed as possible. One of the links between the weight room and the pitch or the track will be Power Training and plyometrics.
This is teaching us to apply that force faster. Which obviously with speed and power being central both to athletic movements and the efficiency of our sport specific motor skills makes building and maintaining strength critical to performance, robustness and injury resilience.
The bottom line is that you need muscle for strength. Amateur athletes often get confused by this and wonder how much muscle exactly? Well that’s personal. And you probably need assessment and there is probably some trial and error involved as you know your body better than anyone.
Should All Athletes Train for Strength the Same Way?
There is also a difference between how a seasoned athlete or a 17/18 year old young new player with little training experience can approach this type of training.
The fresh young athlete can do very basic training in the same high rep/low resistance range for a long time and continually make improvements. It’s largely accepted by the S&C world that (once good compound movements are used) that a well thought out and structured program works for the young athlete.
The Yessis Plan
I personally have used with great success a 1x20 program made popular in American High School Football by Dr. Michael Yessis (designer) and Jay De Mayo (known user and podcaster on subject).
This is essentially performing the Main Human Movements of Squat, Hinge, Lunge, Push, Pull, Press for 1 set of 20 every 2nd day or even more. There are also other more single or double joint Movements added. But no more than 1 set of each. Essentially this to me is micro dosing.
A little bit consistently. The benefits of this approach are multiple. A young athlete has light load but is doing around 20 reps (minimum is 14-drop weight if you can't do 14, max is 25- add weight if going over that).
This allows them to safely groove the movement and get good at the exercises. It also does not take too long. Sessions can be done between 20 & 30 mins. What I really like is they can be tagged onto field sport sessions if facilities allow and this means the coach can monitor the training.
Yessis Plan Applied
I have adjusted the system both to my liking and the culture of Irish sport. I add in Mobility-Stability warm ups, not really promoted in the Yessis plan. I also ramp up more in movement than in weight. So, I will add different planes of motion and single leg movements.
This has worked very well, and I have used it with young hurlers, tennis players and rugby players. All got stronger, all got leaner and all got faster. Again, these are young athletes. Anyone who understands the science of S&C and has experience will acknowledge that these are not massive boasts since almost anything works for them.
The problem with young athletes’ training is that poorly designed programs can often work as well. Young athletes pick up bad habits, poor movements and injuries or the training becomes the catalyst for injury.
This 1 x20 process can work simply as long as it works. When performance drops a little then you may have to readjust. And if you make clever small tweaks as you go depending on the athlete this could last a year or more.
Stay tuned for the last pat which will be about strength training and building muscle for the seasoned athlete.
Feel free to get in touch if you have questions on any of the topics discussed in the series.