Basics of Weight Training

Chapter 8 – Weight Training

This will be the biggest chapter in the book as quite simply it is a huge area. Before we go on and give you the exercises we want you to do let's look at the basics we need to be aware of.

When it comes to the human body we need to...

  • Train in more than one plane of motion, this means things like sideways moves and "twisty" moves should be somewhere in your programme, more on this in a bit. S&C coaches will talk about the Saggital, Frontal and Transverse planes, it makes us sound smart.
  • We need to Push Something vertically and horizontally,
    this is where your typical GAA player spends far too much time in, i.e the Bench Press.
  • We need to Pull something vertically and horizontally, and for every push, we need a pull. Hopefully this is making sense.
  • We need to work our legs with Hip dominant moves and Knee Dominant movements.
  • We need to do some form of core work.
  • We need to do some form of 1 leg training (Riain spoke about this in the screening chapter).

  • We need to do some form of Conditioning or "fitness" work.

We can boil all this down to its MOST simple expression of Push, Pull, Puff, and legs. Puff meaning working your heart and lungs or
cardio fitness.

This seems a lot, and it can be a wee bit confusing but it’s important to realise what some of your athletes are doing is WRONG. I see a lot of mini Arnies in GAA teams these days and it kills them as effective players.

I believe one of the worst things a GAA player can do is get too bulked up so that he can’t move properly for the demands of the game. It happens all the time in our experience, when I work with a club there is always two or three “mini arnies” on every panel. Coaches may love the look of these guys but they always scratch their head at why these guys don’t hit guys hard, run quicker and jump higher. The problem is Compounded also by the fact these guys nearly always pull hamstrings and other muscles more frequently than the other players, a lot of the time due to their extra bulk they can be found wanting in the runs or conditioning drills too. This of course doesn’t mean that weight training is counterproductive or my professional career is a waste. It simply means that doing poorly constructed, out of date, misinformed, and sloppy weight training is counterproductive.

Story from the trenches: The Gym Bunny

It's probably the most frustrating person I deal with as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, it's the player that shows an initial love for the gym programme and is one of your best-committed players, but, then they take it too far and go down the rabbit hole of bodybuilding. These players absorb all your advice (at the start) and they usually have a genetic makeup that gets good results from weight training, they usually have a gym at home or at least easy access to their club gym. These players take something that was supposed to make them better at Gaelic Games and in essence become a "gym bunny". Not that there is anything wrong with that but if our goal is to make players better at GAA it's a bit of a killer. It's very hard to turn around these players once they start doing their own thing, they simply love the feeling of lifting weights more than they love doing a balanced, sensible programme that makes them better at GAA. Keep trying however and keep showing them how poor they are getting on the young leg, mobility issues, lack of cardio fitness etc. 

Be careful your athletes don't ….

Build up more benching strength than squatting strength:

This is a statement I wish I didn’t have to make but is all too common, if GAA is played on your hands certainly bench away but it’s not, you use your legs.

Some people can con you and say they can squat huge weight but when you look into it they barely come near to parallel in squatting depth.

Guys, it's common sense if you are too top-heavy you can’t move too well.

We always say you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe, balance your strength. The programme I'll give you will be balanced at the very least. Remember all the things we need to hit in the programme, and if in doubt think push pull legs.

Don’t let them do too many curls, sit-ups, triceps, chest workouts:

Okay I know you need a little arm strength and a few ab exercises won’t kill you but again if you have two massive sets of arms you will kill your mobility unless it’s in proportion.

Things like chest flys or any old school bodybuilding routines have no place in the vast majority of situations. Sit-ups are just plain useless for the GAA player also as you exist in constant flexion all day, it will tighten you up and put undue pressure on your lower back and groin over time. Avoid.

Do some stretching/mobility:

We have touched on this before but the point remains, too much beach weights with no mobility work is a bad idea if you want to move free and easy on the GAA pitch.  

One of the world’s greatest strength and conditioning coaches says it best “if you coach yourself, you have an idiot for a client”.

I have countless niggles and issues from my days benching my brains in whilst I was a competitive rugby player, I thought I knew best.

We see this attitude all the time amongst some of the squads we work with.

You see the problem when you train yourself is you do the stuff you want to do not what you need to do and you can get side-tracked
by the latest new cool exercise very easily.

Do some power work

Power training or speed training is crucial, power training has many definitions but really it is moving quicker than you are used to.

Power and speed are expressions of your strength, working on one without the other is not good.

Consider also a bodybuilder doesn’t care if he gets slower but it's disastrous for the GAA to become slower. I have a motto “train slow become slow” meaning if you are slack on the pitch or dossing around in the gym you can actually make yourself slower.

Don’t chase numbers in the gym for the sake of it:

What do we mean by this statement? Lifting heavier for the sake of it never ends well in the long run.

The true reality of S&C should be slow and steady progress, but no one ever wants to hear that.

If you do add plates to make them small ones, your technique should look the same for the lightweights as the big weights.

Not for a moment am I saying not to lift heavy but sloppy technique can kill your mobility on the pitch and no one wants that.