Your approach to pre-season training needs to be holistic to best prepare the athlete for the upcoming season, from working on strength, power, speed, agility conditioning, mobility and nutrition to also rehabilitate any injuries from the previous year of competing. It is the time the athletes gets a break from playing, the body and the mind both get to freshen up. It is important at higher levels that the athlete really enjoys this time as training and games can be very full on, anywhere from 3-6 nights/days a week training and competing whilst at a high level.
A lot of field based athletes (soccer, AFL, netball, hockey etc.) put their body through a variety of actions from running, suddenly stopping, tackling, sprinting, kicking, jumping, falling and catching during training and competing. In order for the athlete to perform these skills at their best, we want to work on improving their weaknesses, increasing their strengths and performing the actions mentioned above as fluently as possible. We also want to work on performing them while under fatigue so that the athlete can build and hone their skills to prepare them for a game. The only way to improve is by doing the training. That is why we have a pre-season and keep working on these skills with weekly sessions.
Pre-season is also a time for athletes to increase their strength and power through specific, individualised gym programs. It is also a time when injured athletes can begin their journey back to training after surgery or little niggling issues they may have carried in the back half of the season. It is very difficult to do this during the season as the main focus is working on the game plays, recovery and maintaining what strength gains were made during the pre-season. There may be certain periods in a season (for example, leading into a bye or easier block of games) where the workload and intensity will increase briefly, to help get that extra gain and to provide the best opportunity to compete well in finals. It would put the athlete at risk of injury if you tried to increase both strength and power during the season as it puts the body under greater stress. It also takes the body longer to recover due to the bigger effort expended to produce the movements. To then to make the athlete go out and play games where they will produce even bigger efforts and make recovery twice as long may lead to soft tissue injuries or burned out athlete.
In the gym, it is important that field based athletes perform compound movements (movements which use multiple joints and muscles groups) as these exercises recruit maximal muscle fibers, produce high activation in the nervous system and produce muscle growth. Examples of compound movements are deadlift, squat, bench press, chin up/pull up, shoulder press. Keep the weight heavy and focus on fast lifts, low reps.
Glute activation is also something that is very important. Our glutes are one of our bigger muscle groups but a lot of athletes tend to be weak in this area. This can lead to strained hamstrings, knees and back issues due to these muscles over-compensating. It can also lead to weaknesses through the core and hips. We get a lot of our power through the glutes, so the stronger they are and the quicker they are to switching on, the better the athlete will be (for example, jumping higher, running faster and changing direction quicker). Activation should be included in a warm up as an easy exercise with no equipment, for example, hip/glute bridge or clams.
The season is very long. Field based sports are high intensity in nature. To prepare ourselves for games, it is pointless going and running long distances as this doesn’t replicate the sports. Longer runs will increase the aerobic system, which in time will lead to better recovery in rest periods training and games, but you have to think what the athlete performs – repeat efforts, short sharp sprints, change direction. This is what you should be working on. Shuttle runs are great as you have to accelerate then decelerate then change direction and repeat as to interval efforts. You will find you perform more of this style of running during a game as opposed to 10-20km runs. We should also be performing game based drills to help improve the athlete’s skills whilst under fatigue. This means that come game time they’re prepared for the intensity and the pressure. Try to limit the running amount outside of training. Use training as your way of building a running base and perform activities such as boxing, cycling and high-intensity circuits to mix it up and still build a great fitness base.
Lastly, mobility should be considered. Athletes need to be able to move efficiently and if they’re lacking movement through their hips, ankles, spine, shoulders, it will only lead to injuries and being less efficient. You should be working on this daily as it will increase your range of movement (ROM) meaning you decrease the chance of injury, it also helps to enhance an athlete’s performance in the gym or training track whilst improving recovery mentally and physically.
If you are looking any more information, you can find me at the gym or reach me on (08) 8344 7187.
10 Week Pre-Season Package
Are you are looking to get fitter, faster and stronger for the 2016 sporting season? Guy can help you achieve your goals in a variety of different sports.
Guy has played for Sturt football club and has been involved with NSW representative programs. He knows what it takes to compete and train at high levels and can help you bring your game for the 2016 season.
Currently, he is offering 10 week pre-season packages which will include:
- A personal training/coaching session
- A sports specific periodised program
- Regular monitoring and assessment
- Nutrition guidance
For more information or to register, call (08) 8344 7187 or speak to our customer service team.