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Most GAA athletes spend anywhere from three to four months training hard in the gym and pushing new PR’s. You get stronger, feel fitter and have gotten bigger.
Then, the season comes around and most people do one of two things:
Neither approach is optimal – the first approach being most common.
When you have to balance training and matches along with recovery, the weight room is often left out of the equation. This can have a negative effect on an athlete’s overall performance.
In this blog post I’m going to explain why you need in-season strength training and a common mistake people make in-season training.
Want to Remain Powerful YeaR Round?
Power = strength x speed. In other words, your ability to display your strength quickly. This means, in order to be as powerful as possible, you need a baseline level of strength.
Everything you do on the pitch is focused on speed – sprinting, acceleration, agility work etc. Yet, you can’t argue with physics – that’s only addressing ½ of the equation.
If you want to be as powerful and explosive as possible, you need to be strong. The stronger you are, the more force you can produce into the ground which in turn will allow you to run faster.
It’s relatively early days in the season so far and if you have neglected the weight room, you may not notice any major reductions in performance yet. But, as the business end of the season comes round, it’s likely you’ll detrain your initial gains and lose your off-season strength. This can result in you tiring faster in the final quarter. It can also lead to an increase in the likelihood of injury along with a reduction in power.
Would you rather be marking an opponent who trains twice a week and plays a match at the weekend? Or someone who trains twice a week and plays a match at the weekend on top of doing two in-season strength workouts a week?
My advice for anyone hoping to train optimally in-season is to focus on:
Do You Make this Common In-Season Training Mistake?
“Should I try gain/lose 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.
If you’re an athlete reading this hoping 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!
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.
Everything you do in the gym should complement, not take away from your performance on the pitch. So what’s a better approach?
A Better Approach
In my Aesthetic Athlete 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.
As mentioned above, the focus of the program is on developing elastic & explosive power, maintaining strength and staying injury free. Some feedback (from both guys and girls) include: “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.
Now back to the original question – should you focus on gaining/losing weight in season or wait until the off-season? My advice would be to wait until the off-season to focus on training your weaknesses.
Gaining weight & increasing muscle mass is optimally done through heavy resistance training, minimal cardio & a calorie surplus.
Losing weight in season on the other hand will mean you’ll have to reduce your calories so you’re in a calorie deficit which in turn will decrease your energy levels.
As I already mentioned, heavy resistance training where you’re pushing PR’s 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/deficit. While focusing on gaining strength or getting leaner in season is not impossible, it may come at the expense of your performance.
In my opinion, 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.
References: Mitch, G (2016): “Why Every Athlete Needs In-Season Strength Training and How to Do it Right.”
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