Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maintaining Your Gains During the Season

We've previously touched on why we should maintain our off and pre season gains in strength and fitness as well as setting out some weekly schedules that we can follow to allow the time and energy to fit these in any given week.

Today we'll touch how we can specifically maintain strength, muscle mass, speed and endurance during the season all of them can be done if you dedicate a little extra time to train.

Strength and Muscle Mass

I'll pair these together as a lot of players think they are one of the same when they are really by products of each to a certain degree but are also attained with 2 very different types of training protocols.

Strength basically refers to how much weight you can lift for a certain exercise. It's all relative of course but generally a set that is 5 reps and under will be a display of strength.

Hypertrophy refers to actually increasing the cross sectional area of a given muscle and is attained by using sets of 8 - 15 reps using the continuous tension principle.

It basically comes down to the use it or lose it principle too. Give the body to use what you have and it will preserve it. If not then all your hard work was in vain.

So for strength at a bare minimum you should aim to perform one exercise for the upper and lower body each week. Now to keep fatigue at bay you want these sets to be low reps and also use low sets to keep the volume down. The important thing here though is also to keep the intensity high so if you built your strength up to 100kgs for a given exercise, then using 70kgs won;t maintain your strength.

You should strive to hit at least 90% of your off season maximum weight during one lower or upper body exercise per month.

For a host of reasons you might not be able to train at the level you did in the off season so you might need to use a wave like approach throughout each month and schedule that into your training, much like Eric Cressey does with a lot of his training:

Week 1 - high intensity which may equate to 80 - 85% at your heaviest wt
Week 2 - moderate intensity which may equate to 70 - 80% at your heaviest wt
Week 3 - very high intensity which may equate to 85 - 95% at your heaviest wt
Week 4 - deload / low intensity which may equate to 40 - 60% at your heaviest wt

As you can see you alternate harder weeks with easier weeks to fluctuate the training stress.

Now depending on your recovery abilities from resistance training (which will correlate with your training experience more then likely), you may opt to do 2 exercises for both upper and lower body or 2 for upper body and 1 for lower body each week respectively but if one of those options seems to be hindering your recovery before game day then less is better in this case.

Now that we have strength maintenance taken care of we can easily address muscle maintenance by simply ingesting enough calories to sustain what we have. The heavy lifting from the strength maintenance is enough for the body to realise that it still needs it's newly attained muscle mass so now you only need to fulfill the other factor in gaining muscle.

Of course this doesn't mean to just eat what you want, you still need a lot of high quality food to maintain a high performance level all year round. Not that I'm into calorie counting much but a ball park figure to go by for those who do would be about 17 - 18 calories per pound of bodyweight and see how that goes.

If you do see yourself losing strength from week to week then you're either not eating enough, lifting heavy enough or simply putting enough into your recovery overall.


As mentioned in the first post of this series, you don't need to spend a great deal of effort on developing speed but whatever you do do, each rep of each set needs to be of the highest quality. Now take into account that you'll do a fair bit of sprinting within your actual team training on a Tuesday and Thursday so it's a great idea to take some time on your own to maintain your speed though various low level, quick response plyometrics which can be as easy as 2 exercises performed after your warm up such as ankle hops, level ground and low barrier jump variations keeping all sets under 10secs in duration to minimise fatigue.


Endurance is probably the easiest one here to maintain simply because we all have Tuesday and Thursday night training and a game on a Saturday.

Tuesday nights are usually reserved the longer ball drills and if you've been flogged on the weekend, another flogging on the track. This is the perfect time to try and get some extra kilometers into the legs so get involved in the drills, don't just stay on the hats. Run off to receive any fumbles or just be their support. Any running will be of help here.

Thursdays are usually reserved for quick, short and sharp sessions and is more a 'focus" and skills session then anything else.

Last year I played without training throughout the year (I might got down there once I think for a 30mins session on a Thursday) so the only running I got was during the game on a Saturday. Now granted I was only playing reserves but I was playing in the midfield for 75% of the year and thus had to run more then I ever have in years and I saw great boosts in endurance simply from that one game session a week. You tend to run harder and for longer during a game when the ball is rolling around so you can really make some in roads here if you start behind the others. Also make good use of split rounds, weekends off and byes as it essentially gives you 2 - 4 extra days to play with, training wise.

AFL coaches often play some top line stars in the NAB Challenge games out in the country simply to get more running volume into them if they need it.

This series has just been a brief rundown on what you can do to maintain your strength and fitness during the season. I never know why many players do plenty of weights during the off season but as soon as the season starts, the weights gather dust. I did that plenty of times when I was a youngster and then I'd have to start all over again when I started back up with them in October, essentially getting nowhere in the long term.

If your training is consistent, then you'll improve from year to year. If you stop training then you lose whatever you gained, thus you actually become a little more effective on the ground. This really underlines the importance of maintaining your strength and fitness during the season.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Scheduling Your In Season Training

A lot of players will think that they need to train at the same volume as they do in the pre-season which will set you back more then it will push you forward. As much as we try to, the intensity of a game cannot be replicated during training and even practice matches don't quite reach that level either.

As stated in yesterday's post, your main goals for the in season is to maintain your strength, speed and endurance. Early in the season you'll hear how coaches in the AFL manage game time for players at certain points of the year. This mainly occurs at the start of the year when a player has come off a short pre-season and needs extra work during a game, and at the end of the year when an older player might be rested for the finals.

Also stated yesterday;s post was that once you have gained that new level of a particular fitness component, then it's not too hard to maintain it with lower volume during the season to ensure you are at your freshest for actual games.

Here are some possible schedules that you could follow during the season to maintain these fitness qualities:

Option 1

Saturday - Game
Sunday am - recovery session
Monday am - main full body weights session
Tuesday pm - football training
Wednesday pm - moderate intensity full body weights session
Thursday pm - football training
Friday am - low intensity full body weights session

This schedule is ideal for someone who can train everyday. There is at least 24hrs between each session so it spreads the volume out throughout the week so with an adequate nutrition and restoration plan, this could easily be done during the season.

Option 2

Saturday - Game
Sunday am - recovery session
Monday - off
Tuesday am - main weights session
Tuesday pm - football training
Wednesday - off
Thursday am - moderate weights session
Thursday pm - football training
Friday - off

This schedule s ideal for those who cannot train everyday so what we do is put a lot of stress on our training days with 2 sessions a day (sessions to be at least 6hrs apart) but it also gives you 3 full days off a week so it allows for plenty of rest after the high stress days.

Tomorrow we'll discuss how we can maintain our off and pre season gains during the season.

The Season Is Here, But I'm Not Ready!

Round 1 for all of the AFL's 16 teams is over and done with and upon is round 1 for our own teams.

I'm sure you've all put in the hard yards up until now by getting stronger in the gym and increasing your work capacity on the track.

Some of us though are behind the rest of the pack for one reason or another and I'm one of them. I read on the Internet the other day on a forum where a player asked how he can reach peak fitness in 4 weeks.

Now you can run your little heart in those 4 weeks and limp into round 1 or you can take the sensible approach as organising your in season is a very delicate matter.

When you're organising your training, the most important thing is that you plan it out so that you can train hard, but not so hard that it exceeds your recovery abilities and this is even more important once the season comes around as your game day is the most important day and the one that you should be at your most freshest on.

What this means is that if you are trying to "catch up' in the fitness stakes, you need to be careful that you don't too much volume or use too much intensity that you can't fully recover between training sessions and games.

An overlooked component of restoration and recovery is overall training volume. A lot of players simply look at how much running they do or how much weight training they do on an individual basis. This is a big mistake.

Now during the in season your main goals are to maintain your new found strength levels that you improved upon in the off season as well as maintaining your fitness levels too. Now maintaining something is a lot easier that actually getting something so you don't need to use a lot of volume but it is wise to maintain, or even increase, intensity at planned stages of the year.

I actually deadlifted a personal best during the season last year, as was my dedication to my gym program/s.

Now I hate running. Despise it. Can't stand it.

Even at my fittest in my teens and early 20's, I could not run a proper 3km time trial without needing an "active rest" during it. The fact that I haven't ran continuously for more then 2kms (and probably nowhere close to it to be honest) in over 6 years just shows how much I hate it.

Last year when I made my long overdue comeback after 5 years off, I did a little running twice a week (sprints mainly, no long distance running) for the about 3 weeks before and after the start if the season and it was probably just enough to get me by. I didn't continue running during the season, even though I was playing in the midfield.

What I made sure of though was that if I wasn't going to do any running outside a game situation, I had to make sure that I got a lot of it during the game and this is where you should be getting a lot of your running volume if you're behind in your fitness base. This should also hold true during training. Instead of adding more volume to your training and simply running yourself down, use what time you do have effectively.

This means that you can aim at getting a full recovery early in the week and backing up with 2 solid training sessions on the track and 2 solid gym sessions (strength focused) in the gym each week.

Tomorrow we'll go through some weekly schedules that you can use during the in season.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


If you've made it to this page then you must have passed by my little notification.

I have made up a short report titled '10 Things You're Not Doing, But Should Be, To Become A Better Footballer" which touches on 10 area's (funny enough) of Aussie Rules Football that you should take into account when planning your training.

I also have made up a Facebook group that you can join that can be found here:

Hopefully we can build that page up with 100's of members from footy followers all over the globe.

The Swannies almost got over the line and we would have if we kicked those early goals but we gelled magnificently for a team with 7 new faces in the team so we're easily finals bound.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Round 1, Super Coach and Tips

Round 1 (and Lewis Jetta, above) is here.

I went and had a look at the Tigers and Blues last night and really it didn't matter who was playing or what standard the game was, I just wanted footy to start again.

Now with another season comes another year of Super Coach and Footy Tipping.

Last year was simply a disaster for my Super Coach as I started off ordinary and then had used all my trades by the split round leaving with half a team by the end of the year.

Not this year.

My line up is as follows:

Backs - Goddard, Hodge, Gilbee, Kennelly, Josh Hunt, Schonemakers, Beau Waters with Moore (Port Adelaide) and Maguire on the bench.

Midfielders - Ablett (captain - you gotta have him), Goodes, Selwood (the good one), Kerr, Cotchin, Dustin Martin (Richmond) with Barlow (Fremantle) and Bastinac (North Melbourne) on the bench.

Rucks - Cox, Naitanui with Robbie Warnock and Grimley (Hawthorn) on the bench.

Forwards - O Keefe, Franklin, Brent Harvey, Hall, Ryan Murphy, Dangerfield, Hitchcock (Port Adelaide with Ballantyne (Fremantle) and Rockliff (Brisbane) on the bench.

A winner definitely.

My tips for this week are Carlton over Richmond, Geelong over Essendon, Hawthorn over Melbourne, Sydney over St Kilda (I'm a Swannies fan), Brisbane over the Eagles, Port Adelaide over North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs (my premiership favourite by the way) over Collingwood and Adelaide over Fremantle.

Again, definitely a winner.

Now that my wedding is done, I'll be able to put more time into posting more regularly so as usual send any content requests through if you have some idea's.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ankle Sprains

We've all had one and they can be just as debilitating short term, as a serious joint injury. It's very hard to run and kick with 1 leg.

There are 2 kinds of sprains.

The most common is the lateral ankle sprain which stretches and tears the ligaments of the outer shin. The peroneals muscle group runs down the lateral side of the lower leg and it's job is to quickly activate and prevent inversion by contracting fast and powerfully enough to straighten the foot before the ankle rolls in. When it is not trained to do so, which is often the case, a more serious sprain is the result.

The less common one is a medial ankle sprain which is very rare but if anyone remembers the Jason Snell injury from the 90's, this is definately one you don't want to do but it's a luck of the draw for the most part.

If you have had an ankle sprain in the past or recently, then it's a great idea to grab a theraband and do some inversion reps for 10 sets of 10secs each day.

If you had a medial ankle sprain then do band eversions for 10 x 10secs daily.

I suggest just doing both anyway and you can do them in between sets of other exercises without them affecting your workout.

Bosu balls and discs are good for initial rehab to improve proprioception for message relaying efficiency but after that you really need to hammer home the single leg work (split squats, reverse lunges, dynamic lunges, single leg romanian deadlifts etc) to really get the stabilisers working under a decent load.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shin Splints

Shin Splints is actually a localised injury and you get it mosly from a history of repetitive movements, especially running. If you're running on concrete then it only makes the problem worse because of the higher impact.

My suggestion here is to back off the running a bit (you might be able to replace some road running with sprints) and/or move to grass if you haven't already. Try doing do 1 long distance run a week and then some 200 - 400m sprints.

You'll also need to activate and strengthen the psoas (a hip flexor muscle) that will actually "lift your leg up" each step so the stress of the impact goes through the entire leg, not just the lower leg.

The point of this exercise is to hold your knee above 90 degrees of hip flexion (higher than parallel) while keeping your lower back flat against the wall. Do 3 x 15secs each leg.

If you haven't done any foam rolling before then I suggest you start, especially for the lower body.

If you find a tender spot then sit on it and hopefully it dissipates. It will over time anyway. Do this daily.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Joint by Joint Approach to Training Part 4

Lets run through some exercises we can do for each joint to provide it with mobility or stability.

For ankle mobility we can do wall ankle mobilisations making sure to keep your patella in line with your second big toe and keep your heel flat on the ground. Start with your toes against the wall and draw back as far as you can while keeping the heel down. Push down, and forwards, into the wall.

For knee stability we want the aforementioned wall ankle mobilisations as well as some a knee to knee stretch for hip internal rotation and some hip rockbacks for hip external rotation. For the rockbacks make sure to assume a neutral spine position and only push back as far as you can maintain it. Turn your feet out away from you and do these for a bit more extra stretch. knee to knee

For hip mobility as well as the aforementioned knee to knee stretch and hip rockbacks, some hip circles will also help out too. Just make sure that your range of motion is coming from the hips and not your lumbar spine.

For lumbar stability you can simply do anything from my video from the 21st Century Core Training blog series.

For thoracic mobility we'll opt for some thoracic extensions over a tennis ball or a foam roller and also some thoracic extension-rotation stuff with the aim being to get your top side shoulder to the floor without your hips rotating even an inch.

For scapula stability we need to address some different muscles. First we'll address the serratus anterior muscle which when active, clings the scapula to the ribcage where it belongs so for this we'll try some scapula prone hold push ups but hold each rep x 3secs. We'll also activate the lower traps with a prone trap raise where you'll want to make sure that you depressing (pulling down) the scapula the whole time so as not to "shrug" your shoulders up as you do the movement.

For glenohumeral mobility, in most cases addressing thoracic mobility and scapula stability will clear most restrictions up but feel free to pop some of these in but if you don't have thoracic mobility and scapula stability, don't do these until you can.

Here is a video of each exercise. Just note that the hip rockbacks are called roll backs in the video, Adam couldn't read my writing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Joint by Joint Approach to Training Part 3

Yesterday we discussed one basic example if one joint does not have the mobility or stability it requires and how it can affect other joints in the body.

Here's a list of each joint and how it can negatively affect the other joints if it does not possess what it is supposed to (mobility or stability).

Requires: Mobility
Implications: Range of motion is increased at the knee and the lumbar spine, joints that require stability.

Requires: Stability
Implications: More stress moved to the lumbar spine, especially during high impact activity.

Require: Mobility
Implications: Range of motion is increased at the knee and lumbar spine, joints that require stability.

Lumbar Spine
Requires: Stability
Implications: Range of motion is increased at increased at the same joint, the lumbar spine, a joint that requires stability.

Thoracic Spine
Requires: Mobility
Implications: Range of motion is increased at the lumbar spine, a joint requiring stability.

Requires: Stability
Implications: Range of motion is decreased at the glenohumeral joint, a joint requiring mobility. Range of motion is also increased at the lumbar spine, a joint requiring stability.

Glenohumeral Joint
Requires: Mobility
Implications: Range of motion is increased at the lumbar spine, a joint requiring stability.

In the next installment we'll go through various exercises you can use to train each joint and provide it with what it needs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Joint by Joint Approach to Training Part 2

Now that we know the requirement of each joint of the body, we'll now move onto implications of not adhering to this.

Remembering that the body alternates joints requiring mobility and stability as you go from the feet up to the head, it's important to know how this continuum effects the rest of the body.

The hips are the center of the body, where all your strength is generated so we'll take that as a starting point.

The hips require mobility as they are a much deeper ball and socket joint then the shoulder and with the sedentary lifestyle that is lead now, is severely lacking in everyday movements.

The joints either side of the hips is the knee and lumbar spine, both of which require stability. The biggest problem when a joint requiring mobility but doesn't have it, is that mobility will need to be generated from somewhere else. That somewhere else is the joint above or below it. This a would mean that mobility is required and thus developed at the knee and/or the lumbar spine which goes against the whole mobility-stability continuum.

What this results in is knee and lower back pain as you it giving the range of motion that the hips can't give you and now a joint that is mean to be stable and strong, is mobile and weak and prone to injury.

This is only one example but each joint will need to compensate somewhat for the lack of mobility or stability at another joint.

Pain is often referred from another area of the body so next time we'll discuss how everything links up and how you can determine your actual problem, rather then treating the symptom of your pain.

A Joint by Joint Approach to Training Part 1

This method of training each joint in the body was made popular by Gray Cook.

Simply each joint in the body requires mobility or stability.

What's the difference here?

Well mobility is the ability to perform a desired movement where stability is the ability to prevent an undesired movement.

As part of this training methodology, a mobility-stability continuum was developed to better explain what each joint in the body requires.

Starting from the feet and moving up each joint alternates in it's demands.

Ankle - Mobility
Knee - Stability
Hips - Mobility
Lumbar Spine - Stability
Thoracic Spine - Mobility
Scapula - Stability
Glenohumeral Joint - Mobility

Training joints on purpose, or in many cases without knowing, for what they aren't meant to do will result in a decrease in performance and potentially injury.

More tomorrow.