When you need to get your team ready for a rigorous season these rules should be written in stone.
Australian football is a skill based game so this must be reflected when designing a training program. Give priority to skills training. Practice skills when you are fresh. You can’t improve them when you’re tired.
Aussie football is also a running game. A minimum of six weeks is required to achieve an appropriate level of running fitness. Rush this part of training and the risk of injury is increased.
Focus on repeated efforts of short, high intensity, football specific running. The type of preseason running depends on the positions played. The demands on a fullback are very different to those on an onballer.
3. Weight training
Weight training should be individualised as much as possible. Regardless of the player’s development, a weights program should include full body, sport specific exercises, with the feet on the ground. Walk lunges, for instance, are useful strength exercises for players who have to lunge and pick up a football several times during a match.
Minimise the number of exercises that isolate a single muscle such as the biceps. Players need to balance looks and possible psychological advantages against carrying extra body weight that may hinder them during a game.
4. Cross training
Cross training provides variety and reduces risk of overtraining injuries. Using cross training the total volume of training can be increased.
Aquatic exercises (swimming, water running, water polo), cycling (stationary, spinning, road), and boxing are effective in cross training.
5. Warm up, cool down
These are a critical component of any exercise program. Make the warm up specific to the exercise being performed, anticipating the movements involved during a football game.
Despite the importance of the cool down it is often completely ignored. A thorough cool down will enhance post-match recovery.
6. Prevent injury
Hamstring, ankle and knee injuries are the most common injuries in Australian football. Body awareness exercises performed on unstable surfaces and equipment such as a wobble board or balance beam are the best bet for trying to avoid them. These exercises increase your balance and strength around joints such as the knee and ankle.
7. Fuel your body
Depending on the conditions, a footballer can lose up to 4 kilograms in one training session or game. A reduction of as little as two percent body weight as a result of sweating will affect performance. Drinking 2 litres of fluid every day plus 250mls for every 30 minutes of exercise is recommended.
Weigh yourself (nude) before and after exercise. The difference in weight indicates how successful you’ve been in maintaining fluid balance.
Every kilo lost requires one litre of fluid to be replaced. Drinking a combination of water and sports (carbohydrate) drinks will optimise fluid replacement.
8. Rest and recover
If you do not allow your body sufficient time to rest and regenerate after hard training you will not get the best out of it.
Recovery techniques can include hot-cold therapy (alternating hot and cold showers), massage and consuming carbohydrate-rich food and drinks as soon after exercise as possible.
Changing your training routine on a regular basis is known as periodisation. You can vary training focus, intensity, volume, duration, venue and time to enhance performance. Changes in volume alone allow the body to progressively adapt to the workload.
Enjoy your football and training. Combine games and skill activities in your fitness program at every opportunity.
There are numerous simple, innovative, football specific games which can be used. These have the dual benefit of improving mental (decision making/awareness) and physical skills.