Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
I recently got asked this question from an online client of mine.
“Should I try gain some weight now or just leave it off until after football?”
This is a common question – especially among younger athletes but it’s equally applicable to anyone wondering what’s the best way to find a balance between your gym and pitch work in season.
The golden Rule
If you’re an athlete reading this who is currently (or hopes to) combine gym work with your pitch work, the most important thing to remember is this: performance on the pitch comes first, your gym work comes second.
What do I mean by this? Hitting PR’s in the gym is all well and good, but if this happens at the expense of being overly fatigued and tired on the pitch, how beneficial really is your gym work? I know this because previously in the past I made this mistake. I’d train hard in-season at football but equally train just as hard in the gym. I’d try max out, hit new strength records and even do some hard conditioning sessions. Madness!
This was a huge mistake I made but something I also learned from. Here’s a real life example of what I mean - I once hit a 200Kg straight bar deadlift one week out before championship. What was I thinking? I wouldn’t dream of attempting this now! Firstly, doing a straight bar deadlift is not optimal for most athletes in season in comparison to say, a Hex Bar Deadlift. Why? The elevated handles on the Hex Bar means you do not have to bend down as low to pick the bar up reducing the strain on your lower back. Secondly, the risk attached to doing lifts at 95% or above if your max is not worth the reward. Not only risk of injury, but also the risk of completely frying out your Central Nervous System. At the time, I genuinely felt that if I wasn’t training as hard as I could, I was a p*ssy! Thankfully, I don’t think this way now but it did take me a while to get out of that mindset, I’m sharing this with you so you don’t make the same mistake.
A better approach
Everything you do in the gym should complement, not take away from your performance on the pitch. So what’s a better approach? In my GAA in-season program, I take a much more conservative approach. The goal of it is to activate not annihilate your muscles. I did this by building a 2 day week plan with the option of a third post game day recovery session if you’re feeling good. The focus of the program is on developing elastic & explosive power, maintaining strength and staying injury free. To date, I have gotten some great reviews of it including “I’m winning some sprints in training that I would never win” and “I feel more powerful and quicker…the manager is even surprised.” It is the program I wish I had two years ago
to gain weight or not - that is the question!
Now back to the original question – should you focus on gaining weight in season or wait until the off-season? My answer is similar to the above. Gaining weight & increasing muscle mass is optimally done through heavy resistance training, minimal cardio & a calorie surplus. As I already mentioned, heavy resistance training is not ideal in season. Couple this with training three times a week on the pitch, you’re just left with the last option – eating in a calorie surplus. So while gaining weight in season isn’t impossible, it is very difficult with your reduced volume of strength training and all the running you do. On top of that, you don’t want is to be carrying excess weight which your body is not accustomed to carrying. This will make it harder for you to move around on the pitch or potentially make you tire easily.
A better approach is to maintain your current physique in season and try build it up in the off season. This allows you to focus all your efforts on performing to your potential on the pitch in season without feeling tired or sluggish from the gym. It will allow you to still feel strong, powerful and explosive with the understanding that all of your efforts in the gym are helping your performance on the pitch.
Then, once the off season arrives, the long winter evenings are a perfect time to focus on heavier resistance training, hitting new records and working on your weaknesses. It’s particularly a great time to build up your legs as you don’t have to worry as much about being fresh for a training session or match. If you were to follow a running program in the off season, my opinion would be the gym would come first and the running second. Why? 9-10 months of running in season is more than enough for you to get fit. The 2-3 months you have in the off season is your best window of opportunity to focus on building strength.
.So to sum it all up:
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you'd like to become an insider or find out more about my GAA in-season program, click here to apply for your free Gameplan call.
P.S.S. If you'd like to learn more training tips and takeaways, join my free Facebook group.
Adrian McDonnell -
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