In 2020, clubs & inter-county teams got faced with the daunting task of keeping their players fit and interested during strange times within GAA. As COVID19 struck across the country, coaches and players were left scratching their heads as they questioned if any football was to be played throughout the year. Unfortunately, it may seem that 2021 could follow a similar approach.
I guess in 2020, most clubs had a “pre-season” under their belts, training in the months of January, Feb and March before the pandemic. Coaches were able to get their players onto the pitch, improving their fitness levels, body composition and game-based skills right up until March. Right now, in 2021, coaches are unable to guide their players through a pre-season which can have a negative effect on the players come summertime.
Majority of county finals across the country finished up in September with little to no football being played since with no provincial championships in 2020. Club players have not been able to access their local GAA pitch and gyms for over four months now which is a much longer off season than they would have previously encountered. The biggest danger right now is that club players continue to do very little to no work on the playing field before being rushed into trainings in the summer to be ready for club action. The risk of injury increases as players go through a very long off season with no access to run on their playing surface or go through certain movements in the gym to ensure they are robust for the return of GAA.
Now, more than ever, club players must ensure they are doing everything they can to be ready for a short but stacked season.
The idea of club players going into a pre-season program can be daunting as it can be understanding that motivation may be low but now is a great time to make improvements to your physical performance. Exercises can be done at home with little to no equipment and if a player is lucky enough to have access to a running track/pitch, there is some individual work they can do to gain not only an edge over their opponents in the season but to ensure they keep the risk of injury to a minimum.
I have attached a little bodyweight movement pre block below which can be done in the comfort of your own home along with some running methods that I have my senior ladies team doing during this time. Coaches right now, can expect their players to get to work on their own because when the time is right for GAA collective training to resume, they will want to focus less on the fitness aspect and more so on the ball skills & tactical understanding of the gameplay they want to set out.
Deadbug - 2 x 10 (each side)
Elbow Plank - 2 x 60 - 90 secs
Nordics - 2 x 6-8
Banded Clams - 2 x 8 (each side)
BW Bulg Split Squat - 2 x 8 (each side)
Banded Push Ups - 2 x 20, slow eccentric
Side Plank w/ leg lift - 2 x 30 - 45 secs
Bridge Walk Out - 2 x 30 secs
BW Calf Raises - 2 x 10 (each side)
Superman - 2 x 10
Hollow Hold - 2 x 30 secs
Wall Sit - 2 x 60 - 90 secs
Nordics - 2 x 6-8
SL Glute Bridge - 2 x 8 (each side)
Pallof Press - 2 x 10 (each side)
The above workouts can be done with zero equipment.
Running blocks right now get the player to a standard where they are able to perform the basic skills of the game to the best of their ability. There are many different methods to improve a players fitness levels, through aerobic and anaerobic training. As a coach, I will always test throughout the pre-season, usually at the beginning and towards the end as they get closer to competitive training and matches. One test I will perform is the 5 minute test, to see how much distance a player can cover within five minutes. When the distance is found, I can program running blocks from that score.
Maximal Aerobic Speed, Intervals, Tempo and Sprinting are usually the different categories I would run my club players within. I like MAS as I can move around the intensity & volume quite easily based off each player, Interval running can be generic but an easy way to have a player covering certain distances at a high intensity while Tempo running is mainly used on “Active Recovery” days running at 70% and finally Sprinting being the icing on the cake. Club players can forget to include sprinting in their training programs as they may not feel they are taxing the body to a point to exhaustion, therefore not feel they are benefiting from sprinting. The goal for me; is to increase a players top speed through the weights room and the pitch so their sub max speed increases. Rarely will a player hit their top speed in a match but through improvement of their top speed away from matches, their sub max speed will therefore improve for game-based situations.
As we move closer to the unknown date of club season returning, players should be following a regime that allows them to be ready for competition. Mixing between movement prep workouts and running, a player will be ready for the training on the pitch. Studies and findings showed that in 2020, hamstring injuries were at an all-time high. 2020; Ekstrand J, Waldén M, Hägglund M. Hamstring injuries have increased by 4% annually in men's professional football, since 2001: a 13-year longitudinal analysis of the UEFA Elite Club injury study.
Let's be fully prepared for what is in store for us, as players. Roll on a successful and enjoyable return to competitive club football.
About the Author: Shane Rice is a graduate of DkIT with a Bachelors Degree in Business, Eleiko Strength Coach, Active IQ Personal Trainer and Mobility Specialist with MobilityWOD. Shane has worked with thousands of GAA players within his coaching platform, was voted Canada's Transformation Coach 2018 and continues to coach GAA squads across Ireland on the pitch. Shane is the founder of GAA Periodization and you can find him on Instagram at @coachshanerice.