Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
It’s coming towards that time of year again – the GAA ‘off-season’ or ‘bulking season’ as its more commonly known as is nearly upon us. Depending on how far your club has gone in this years championship, bulking season may have even begun for you. Either way, in the matter of a few weeks, a lot of GAA players (with the exception of inter county athletes) will be hitting the gym more consistently and looking to rebuild some strength after the season. Here are 3 ways GAA players can make the most of their off-season so they can perform better in-season next year
1. be clear on your goals
Having 12 weeks to zone in on gym work is a great opportunity for you to work on your weaknesses and build up those weak links. In order to work in your weaknesses, you first need to identify what your weaknesses are and what goals you’d like to accomplish. For instance, some people might like to:
Once you know which option works best for you, its just a matter building a structured training plan and eating the right quantities and types of foods to allow you to accomplish those goals. A mistake I made in the past was not being clear on what I wanted to achieve when the off-season did arrive. One year for instance, I focused WAY too much on metabolic conditioning and HIIT (high intensity interval training) training. Yes, I got a good sweat from those workouts. Yes, I felt like I could barely move the next day (which must be the sign of a good workout)? And yes, I thought I was eating more than enough calories when in reality, I was eating enough to barely maintain.
Needless to say, I returned the following year with decent conditioning levels, but this shouldn’t have been my main priority in January pre-season. I had spent the last 9 months running on the pitch, yet I continued to do running and lots of conditioning work which was the opposite of what I needed to do in the off-season. I needed to do more structured & specific strength work and I didn’t realise the importance of training for the specific demands of my sport. On top of that, I was scared of eating carbohydrates because I lacked the nutritional knowledge to understand the role they play and the benefits they can have if used properly. In short, I needed to dedicate more time to re-building my strength, to transition into doing some speed & power work and to focus on getting the right foods in to fuel my body properly.
This is the focus of my Aesthetic Athlete Off-Season Program which would really have benefited me in previous off-seasons (unfortunately I learned the hard way) if I had the proper structure and guidance in place which the program provides. Just to give you an idea of its breakdown, firstly each program is individualised to the specific needs of each athlete. However some principles of it include:
The extent to which each quality above is trained depends on your goals as does the amount of food you eat. Being clear on your goals are fundamental to having a successful off-season.
2. Aim for progressive overload
Once you’re clear on what specific areas you need to improve on & once you have built your training program around that, it’s time to aim for progressive overload.
What is progressive overload?
In its simplest form, progressive overload is nothing more than lifting a little more weight than you did the previous week (and when I say a little, I mean as little as 2.5Kg - 5Kg) or by doing a few extra reps than your previous session.
But here’s the catch: your body won’t always adapt at the same rate each week. Some weeks you won’t be able to add more weight. If you were to add 2.5Kg to your bench press every week, that would result in a 130Kg increase by the end of the year! So, adding more weight isn’t always possible. And that’s okay.
As I said, progressive overload isn’t only about lifting more weight week after week. Let me explain. Say you’re performing a dumbbell bench press. This week you lift 20Kg and perform 3 sets of 8 reps. But next week, you decide to add one more set. So you do 4 sets of 8 reps using the same weight. That’s 8 more reps than last week. You didn’t lift more weight, but you still did more reps. And that too is progressive overload; your body is doing more than it did before.
But what happens if you can’t lift more weight or reps one week? There’s another way you can practice progressive overload. Example: let’s say your final rep of an exercise the week prior wasn’t smooth; you lifted the weight, but your form wasn’t great. You didn’t quite look like you were having a seizure, but you didn’t quite NOT look like you were having one either! And, most importantly, you know there is no way you can lift more weight or reps the next week. So the next week you return to do the same weight and sets/reps. But this time you decide to focus on making each rep smooth. Your focus isn’t on weight or reps alone. But your focus is on performing the technique of the exercise better than last week. That’s progressive overload as well.
So, sum this up, progressive overload (which matters) usually boils down to you focusing on one of three things every time you step in the gym:
The best way to seek progressive overload is to track every lift you do. If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing. Whether that means getting an old school pen & paper, using an excel doc or hiring a coach to do it for you, keep track of your lifts and each week aim to do a bit more.
3. fuel your performance properly
Depending on your goals, you might feel you need to get leaner & get more powerful (calorie deficit), to maintain & get more powerful (calorie maintenance) or to build strength & become more powerful (calorie surplus). As you can see, all three of these goals have different caloric needs. What this means for you is you firstly have to find out your maintenance level of calories and then scale up or down depending on your goals.
How do you find out your maintenance level of calories? In a recent blog post, I teach you how to do this.
As I said previously, at one stage I was scared of eating carbohydrates. They got such a bad rap in the media I thought they made you fat & so I avoided them as much as possible (how naïve!). This effectively meant that I was primarily using fat as a fuel source for my gym and pitch sessions. The last thing you want to do when playing a match is to tap into your fat stores. You want to use your bodies preferred energy source – carbohydrates to fuel your performance. Undergoing a GAA off season program is no different. I didn’t realise that if used properly, carbs can in fact be the difference between getting ok results and exceptional results.
The methods I use in my Aesthetic Athlete Program revolve around carb & calorie cycling. In short, carb & calorie cycling is the process of scaling up or lowering down both your carbohydrate and calorie intake to match the demands of your activity levels. On the days of harder, more intense sessions you need the extra calories and carbohydrates to fuel your performance and aid your recovery. However, on rest days where you’re not as active, your energy demands aren’t as high and this should be reflected in your overall caloric and carbohydrate intake. This is the key to really getting exceptional results from a performance and aesthetic standpoint.
And just a final note on the above – if I was to give one piece of advice to anyone starting into an off-season program, it would be to focus on your performance first and the look/aesthetics second. Because guess what? When you focus on moving better, lifting heavier, jumping higher or getting faster, the look naturally comes with the improvement in your performance. If your lifts are improving, your rate of force development is increasing, it’s a sign your body is adopting positively to the training stimulus you’re providing. And when this happens, you’re naturally going to look stronger and more aesthetic. And that essentially is what my Aesthetic Athlete Program is built upon.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you want some more information of my methods of training, join my free facebook group.
P.P.S. If you’re interested in looking good & performing even better through my Aesthetic Athlete Program by working with me directly, then contact me today and I’d be happy to help you.
Adrian McDonnell -
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