Strength and Conditioning is now widely regarded as a must have service for all inter county teams; previously we had teams doing laps and running sand tracks and hoofing up hills now we have teams employing full time S&C coaches and sophisticated methods like GPS tracking, hydration monitoring and training camps abroad. Whilst it’s accepted at county level what about at the club level? The aim of this article is to empower clubs to get something started that’s safe, coached to some degree by a qualified person and does more good than harm.
Below we will outline common obstacles encountered before starting some basic S&C modalities in your club and how all of these barriers can be circumvented.
Common obstacles encountered by most GAA clubs
Everyone has the time for some basic strength and conditioning, circuit training is your saviour here. At FTI we have rolled out very good basic work in 20 minutes. Does this mean its gold standard? No, but it’s pretty darn good. So if you train normally at 7.30pm turn up at 7.10pm sharp.The key is to be consistent and not ditch something. We like to annex a hall, a dressing room or even a pitch and do simple push, pull & legs circuits with teams. You can accomplish a lot in a short space of time if it’s done correctly.
A fully equipped gym & hiring a S&C coach full time is beyond the remit of most clubs. The solution here is to use a good S&C coach on a consultancy basis; they can direct you on the most cost effective manner to invest in equipment and implement a flexible functional training circuit. This will maximise what little space or equipment you may have. Poll the players, how many have dumbbells at home? How many can make sturdy boxes for plyometrics? How much would steel bar cost for chin ups?
The key thing to remember with gym design is dumbbells, medicine balls and chin bars. Get the basics forget the fancier stuff, you can get seriously strong with just body weight training also.
- Why Bother?
Burying your head in the sand and saying stuff like “weights make you slow” or “we never did that in our day” is ignorance of the highest order. I have yet to encounter the most dedicated guy in any squad say those lines, nearly always the laziest undedicated player says it. My advice is to run out your energy vampires regardless of how talented they are, they will always let you down.
Every top athlete in the world does S&C; every successful Intercounty team does S&C. Be under no illusion the top club teams do too. Your players will run faster, hit harder, move better and have less injuries so start now.
Never use the exception to explain a rule, of course there is freak athletes that don’t need S&C but ask yourself how many of them are at your club?
- Too Young?
Let us be very clear, weights do not stunt your growth. Targeting the youth section of any club may be the best thing you can do to improve your clubs chances of success. With the prevalence of smart phones, Xbox and internet our young people are exhibiting the same postural problems as our elderly population when they come into Functional Training Ireland, it’s imperative to expose young people to proper technique young. Technique is the key word here not lumping them with a heavy bench press straight away.
- It’s mid-season?
My response to this is so what! Start now. Good training is good training, get a head start on the competition before the start of next season. What are you afraid of, muscle soreness or fatigue? Muscle weakness is the real enemy so avoiding S&C because its mid-season is plain stupid and will fatigue your players a lot more.When the matches come thick and fast being strong is MORE important. Don’t do the usual 12 week preseason of weights and then stop, sheer madness and a waste of time.
- Where do you start?
This is where you really need to have a system; if it’s just a collection of people coming in and just “doing weights” you’re sunk. Having a plan of what you need to hit will save you headaches. All the best Strength and Conditioning centres in the USA have a systemised approach to their gym sessions. Here is an example of a sample FTI style workout; this is a basic template but it will get you started.
7pm – Players Arrive
7.00-7.05pm Foam Roll, Tennis ball work, Soft Tissue work
7.05 – Static Stretching, we can argue the toss here but we love static stretching
7.10-7.15pm – Dynamic style warm up/mobility/Explosive work at end
7.20-7.40pm – Circuits, Push something, Pull Something do something for your legs and core. All free weights
7.40pm – Post workout shake (chocolate milk will do) and hit the pitch.
7.40 – Speed then all Skills Training (depends on level of club or county)
8.40 – Conditioning or Fitness training (again depends)
Just Get On With It!
When we started in Longford GAA all we had was two squash courts stocked with weights, we didn’t moan we just got on with it and applied best practice. When we worked with Ballymun Kickhams all we had was an Attic with no windows and a tonne of dumbbells.
We have supplied countless gyms to GAA clubs around the country with this player flow in mind and it has saved the club thousands in misspent money for machine weights or needless fancy gear.
So get started, call a good coach buy a few dumbbells and get the head down. I have enclosed a few training cards below to help you on your way.