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GAA is a speed and power-based sport. In order to maximise your potential, you must analyse the demands of the sport and train accordingly.
And playing GAA does put a lot of demand and stress on the body – especially if the season is drawn out too much or there’s not much of an off-season. To balance yourself out, it’s important for athletes to maintain strength in their legs, core and upper body to prevent overuse injuries, remain pain-free and to stay strong and powerful year-round.
If you’re a GAA athlete, you will definitely want to incorporate these five exercises into your training.
1. Sled Variation
First step acceleration and being ‘quick off the mark’ is crucial in GAA. We all know someone who might not be the quickest runner over longer distances yet, their acceleration and speed over the first 10-20 metres is more than enough for them to get by in any game.
But how do you train acceleration and speed?
Sprinting is the most dynamic movement you can do. You cannot practice sprinting and proper sprint mechanics by doing it slowly. Furthermore, the more you have to think about how to sprint properly with good technique, the more likely you are to run slower because you’re thinking too much.
So how can you learn proper sprint mechanics without too much thought while being able to practice the technique.
Enter the sled! When you break down proper sprint mechanics, you have to look at:
The sled offers you the opportunity to practice all of the above. And the best part? By adding weight onto the sled, it literally allows you to perfect the technique of sprinting while training slowly! In other words, the more weight you add to the sled, the slower you’re going to be able to move which means the more you’ll be able to focus on moving with good form.
As my favourite (and also legendary) strength coach Joe DeFranco says, “Training slow to get faster.”
Some of my favourite sled exercises for improving sprinting speed include:
If your gym does not have a track and a sled, here are some good alternatives:
2. Deadlift Variation
As previously mentioned, GAA is a speed and power based sport – it requires you to be able to accelerate quickly and be quick off the mark. Applying this to a game situation, one moment you might be static but in the blink of an eye, you may be required to accelerate and sprint.
Being able to accelerate and sprint promptly requires you to produce a lot of force quickly. Essentially it requires you to overcome inertia.
So how can you train this? What exercises can you incorporate which require you to produce a lot of force quickly in a short period of time?
Enter the deadlift. It’s you against the bar. Do you have enough strength and power to overcome inertia, to apply as much force as possible and to pick up the weight from the floor? It’s a fantastic exercise to train these qualities and increase your strength and force production.
My personal favourite exercise for GAA athletes is a Hex Bar Deadlift. Why? Because it’s like a hybrid exercise between a squat and a deadlift. It’s kinda like a combination of both together! However, more importantly, with the handles on either side, it means there’s less of a hinge/bend down required to pick up the weight meaning there is a reduced risk of injury.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the straight bar deadlift is a brilliant exercise. And I don’t want to nocebo (the opposite of the placebo effect) anyone into thinking ‘it’s bad for your back.’ It is not by any means and is probably my favourite back exercise as a whole. However, the fact that you have to hinge/bend down lower to pick up the bar does mean there’s a greater risk attached of injury if you’re technique is not on point.
My recommendation would be to use the Hex Bar Deadlift in season and if you are a fan of the straight bar, use it in the off-season. If you don’t have access to a hex-bar, use the straight bar provided you’re confident in your technique. If not, then continue to use the Hex Bar just use different lifting methods so you’re consistently progressing.
3. Lunge Variation
When you look at sprinting mechanics and specifically having a nice forward body lean and positive shin angle, the lunge is an excellent exercise to train these qualities. Just like the sled, it’s joint specific and allows you to train some of the prime moving muscles of sprinting – specifically your glutes and also your quads.
Furthermore, when you are running, you run on one leg. Therefore, it’s a good idea to train on one leg. This way, it can allow you to identify if one leg has more strength and/or stability as another and enables you to train those imbalances.
And finally, lunges are just a brilliant exercise in general for building muscle! Yes, they suck and yes they are so hard BUT, your glutes, your quads and your legs in general will thank you when the season comes back around again and you know you’ve put in the work.
Some of my favourite lunging exercises include:
4. Nordic Hamstring Curls
What is the most common injury amongst GAA athletes? A pulled hamstring! Sprinting puts a tonne of stress and strain on the hamstrings and therefore they need to be built up and trained adequately.
Most hamstring injuries occur when they are in a lengthened state. Therefore, by building strength in your hamstrings in a lengthened state, you are making your training more sport-specific and you’ll see more of a carryover onto the pitch.
One of my favourite hamstring exercises which trains them as they are lengthened is the Nordic hamstring curl. It is a fantastic exercise for both injury prevention and strength building. If your gym does not have a Nordic hamstring curl, you could tuck your feet under a treadmill or rack or even get someone to hold your heels.
If this is not possible, some other brilliant hamstring exercises include:
5. Landmine Variation
It would be a shame if I listed 5 exercises GAA athletes should be doing WITHOUT mentioning an upper body lift. I love the landmine press, and specifically the single arm landmine press for developing upper body strength and power.
Why? Being able to hold the ball in one arm and hand off your opponent with the other is important in GAA. I can’t thing of a more specific exercise to train this quality than a single arm landmine press. On top of this, it’s a brilliant, joint friendly exercise for improving shoulder strength.
Every exercise you do in the game is general physical preparation. In other words, gym work has the potential to positively carryover to your sport.
However, by doing the right kind of gym work, it can help you bridge the gap between the gym and the pitch which will allow you to stay strong and powerful year round.
By doing these 5 exercises, you are giving yourself greater potential to see that positive carryover.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this helpful.
If You Want Some Additional Support:
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There’s no doubt, these exercises are fantastic in helping you become a better and stronger athlete. But how do you put it all together in a program?
That’s where my Aesthetic Athlete program comes in. It’s built for GAA athletes who want to the best of both worlds - possess the rare combination of strength and speed while looking lean and fit.
What’s the purpose of the consultation call?
To deep dive into your health & exercise history, your goals and current struggles and from there decide if we’d be able to work together (note – I am not the right coach for everyone which is why I have consultation calls with potential clients of mine).
If we are a good fit, we can get working on your personalised program so you can finally make the changes you’ve always wanted.
Adrian McDonnell -
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