Monday, October 23, 2017

My Off-Season Training Part 1 - Function and Contraction

Our last game for season 2017 was all the way back on August 27th.

I can't do too many days off without training of some sort so I was pretty much straight back into it 3 or 4 days later.

Looking ahead with my off-season plan I broke my training up into FUNCTION and CONTRACTIONS.

Function refers to the specific actions or movements I wanted to work on and contractions refers to the speed and/or tempo at which I train at.

FYI, my focus is 805 lower body and 20% upper body and the following info refers mostly to my lower body training. To be honest, I only have upper days to do something on my training days where the lower body needs to rest.

My function list is:

 - Big Toe
 - Hip lock Position
 - Ankle Rocker
 - Foot/Ankle/Lower Leg Stiffness

Big Toe

Being able to mobile the big toe, as in lift it off the floor in isolation, provides the vital link to connecting your feet (that are the first point of gathering force from the ground), to the hamstrings and glutes so the less force your feet can absorb, the less force you'll get through to the middle of the body, and the slower and more injury prone you'll be. This is barely training as you simply need to raise your toes up and hold for designated time so there's really no excuses for not doing this.

Hip Lock Position

The hip lock position is a single leg stance with the opposite leg in hip flexion with a slightly elevated pelvis on the hip flexion side. It trains the muscles in and around the hip and pelvis to automatically co-contract and decreasing muscle slack, improving the time it takes you to apply force to the ground.

Ankle Rocker

This refers to how far you can rock your lower leg back and forth over the foot and ankle when it is on the ground. For years PT's have been rolling with a "no toes past the knees' mantra which robs you of horizontal displacement, which is what running, a pretty big part of football, is all about. Ankle rocker can be limited by strength, mobility, flexibility and past injuries meaning we could all do with training this.

Foot/Ankle/Lower Leg Stiffness

What rally sets the elite sprinters apart from even Olympic long jumpers (who are often not quite fast enough sprinters), is the ability ti stiffen the lower leg just prior to ground contact. This results in your foot holding it's shape with limited deformity and therefore less time on the ground, equaling more time moving forwards. Think of a half flat footy bouncing off the ground, slow and low, versus a fully pumped up footy bouncing off the ground, fast and high.

My contraction list is:

 - Isometric Push
 - Isometric Pull
 - Isometric Switch
 - Isometric Catch
 - Eccentric
 - Isometric Hold
 - Reactive

I'll detail these in another blog in the next few days.

For September, I put together a little regeneration + GPP block to recover from season 2017 but to keep training going, albeit light and low intensity, while I get my home gym set up.

I put together 3 training days for this training period:

Day 1 - Full Body Gym using isometric holds x 60 - 120secs per exercise where I alternated between different days
Day 2 - 1 exercise each for my function list + some extensive medicine ball work for the upper body + some abs work
Day 3 - Sprints
Day 4 - Off
Day 5 - Repeat but start with 2nd full body gym isometric day

After 2 - 3 weeks I altered the full body gym days to isometric holds x 20 - 60secs + 10 - 20 reps per exercise.

In my next post I'll run through the what's, why's and how's of my testing week.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

No Shit - You're Endurance Training is Backwards


It's all wrong.

And it's been this way for far too long.



Most endurance looks like this.

Run hard, get puffed ON PURPOSE and repeat for x amount of sets or time.

Now I've been there and done this in past years, we've all been there.

Footy coaches are footy coaches, not fitness coaches but they are passing on what they used to do and it the cycle continues..but hopefully gets broken after reading this.

So you're doing a running session and you go as hard as you can straight out of the gate until you feel like throwing up, you rest just to get your breath back, and then you go again.

You might be doing sets of 100m, 200m or 400m, regardless of the distance you will rarely cover a distance like that in a game footy without having to decelerate and re-accelerate or to stop all together.

In most cases, there is no timing of sets, but a lot of players time the rest.


If you're not timing the activity then why are you timing the rest period?

The rest period can only be decided once you know what the activity period is.

This means you have absolutely no idea what you just did.

You have no idea of the volume you covered, you have no idea what the activity:rest ratio was (and thus what actual energy system you trained), you have no activity heart rate information (so you don't actually know how hard you work, just that it was "hard') and zero recovery heart rate information (timed rest periods are not ideal if you have a sub-par aerobic system which most of us do).

The other part of this whatever you end up doing, you do it hard (which is great) so that you get tired, and then you try and do as much as you can while fatigued.

Sounds like a good idea, but it isn't.

Apart from 3 - 5 efforts in a game maximum, you'll rarely need to repeat high intensity efforts over and over like that, if at all.

The game style at the local/amateur level just doesn't require it.

If we did attached some data to this type of session this might be how it looks:

Distance Per Set - 200m

Set 1 - 200m in 25secs, 30secs rest

Set 2 - 200m in 28secs, 30secs rest

Set 3 - 200m in 32secs, 30secs rest

Set 4 - 200m in 38secs, 30secs rest

Q1 - From those numbers what changes here?

Q2 - What is the most important number out of all 3?

If you answered the time per set and output then you're correct.

This players time has dropped close to 75% from set 1 to set 4 which isn't the red flag but what would happen if you're speed dropped this dramatically in a game?

You'd probably get dragged because you're not getting to the ball or the contest AT ALL.

The work:rest ratio has changed each and every set during this session from just under a 1:1 ratio for set 1 to 1.2:1 in set 4.

Minor alterations in work:rest ratio can alter the benefits of the workout greatly so it's crucial that it is maintained throughout the session, if that's what you're working off

So is this the type of fitness for footy then?

Probably not.

So why train it that way?

Here's the solution.

Instead of trying to do as much work once your fatigued, where along with decreased output also comes decreased speed, decreased efficiency with decision making going to the shit, how about you train your energy systems in a way that allows you to do more work BEFORE you hit fatigue?

In the words of Bob Ryan from Entourage, Is that something you might be interested in?

From the above example, your times decrease because of fatigue but that's no surprise.

What you need to know is why this level off fatigue decreased your times this dramatically.

If you just jogged the 200m in a slower time, then you could maintain them each and every set. A little bit of fatigue builds up but you are able to buffer, recover between sets and continue.

What happens with an increase in speed/intensity, is that sooner or later you'll hit what's called your anaerobic threshold and it's what you want to avoid at all costs if you plan on doing a lot of running volume because once you hit, there's no coming back from it.

Let's take a treadmill run for example, simply because it's easily quantified in regards to speed and duration.

You jump on and start at speed 10 for 1 minute and you increase the speed each minute. By speed 17 you're going pretty fast but you are able to keep pace with the treadmill and probably could for another minute or so but you increase to speed 18 for the next minute as prescribed.

What happens at speed 18 is a completely different story.

What felt more then doable in the previous minute at speed 17 is not at all doable at speed 18, just a 1 speed difference.

You only manage to get 20secs of the way into that set at speed 18 but why?

You hit your anaerobic threshold.

At speeds 10 - 17 you were running a pace that allowed you to continually fuel the activity and to maintain pace but at speed 18, you hit your end point where you simply can't keep up without a decrease in speed.

OK so from this point you actually can't keep going because you cannot maintain speed 18 and compared to above where you simply take longer to complete the set distance of 200m, you'd have to decrease the speed to continue on the treadmill.

Getting back to our game situation, you'd have to run slower to the ball and contest to keep going, again failing to make an impact on the game.

So to try and do more work while you're tired is a futile effort as your output will decrease dramatically for every effort you complete once you hit this point, rendering you pretty much useless for the rest of the game.

So what if you could increase your anaerobic threshold bu doing more work before fatigue, and being able to reach speed 20 before tiring out?

This is where raising your anaerobic threshold is THE key.

I've talked about this before here and here.

Another aspect of endurance training is measuring output where usually it's how far you can run in what time which only tells you what you did, not how you did it.

A better way to monitor your endurance is by converting your running activities into meters per second.

So if you covered 2kms in 8mins 37secs it looks like this:

Distance - 2000m
Time - 517secs

2000 / 517 = 3.85m/s

Now that you have your baseline score you can then plan your training off of it so if you want to train at 60%:

3.85 x .6 = 2.31m/s

If you want an 80% session:

3.85 x .8 = 3.08m/s

This is extremely helpful because it can let you know that you are keeping pace with your other runs of different distances.

You can also set how far you should be able to cover in what time without hitting your anaerobic threshold, essentially training at or just below your anaerobic threshold, which can help you raise it and thus do MORE work prior to fatigue.

Every run you do from now on will have a purpose to actually improve you a footballer, streamlining and increasing the efficiency of your training.

I might do a post on data collecting soon but if you're serious at all about your football, then you MUST keep training data from year to year otherwise you're probably just the same footballer each and every year, no worse but no better.

Right now in my Women's Football Training Private Group I have a 19 day endurance training program designed to raise your anaerobic threshold but if there's enough interest from the blokes then I'll run one from the ART Facebook page too.

Get in ASAP as there's a test that needs to be don that I have to develop your program off individually which will take me a little bit of time to do for everyone.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Women's Football - Too Many Combines

With the AFLW Draft just around the corner it's Combine season for all the hopeful draftees.

In 2017 prior to inaugural AFLW Draft there were state ran combine days to provide opportunities for women all over Australia the chance to impress recruiters in the hope of being selected in the inaugural AFLW Draft.

With the introduction of the AFLW, talent searches has increased dramatically for women footballers, and fair enough.

My minor gripe is that there seems to be too much testing and not enough development.

Just last week I saw a women's football training camp advertised with a huge emphasis on testing.

Breaking it down, most women footballers will be still be in the beginner stages in regards to training and playing age.

Players at this level require great exposure to the repetition of skill and tactical development along with being taught the basics of running mechanics.

Testing requires a 1 all out effort of intensity and with as intensity increases, technique usually decreases.

These women don't need testing.

They need to be taught the intricacies of kicking, handballing and marking.

If any tests should be conducted then it should be around the aspects, especially for local/amateur players.

If you do go ahead with physical testing then fine but testing cannot be effective on it's own so once you do some testing then there must be a plan on improving the qualities that go into the test so that the test can be beaten next time around.

Most times after these testing days, players will "train the test" which can yield some results, but it has a very little lifespan in that regard because once you master the technical elements of the test, then you'll plateau.

If you keep repeating the test at this stage you'll enter into diminished returns where you now start getting slower!

The biggest improvement in AFLW this season will com from skill development as we had too many players last year who hadn't played enough footy to be good enough from a skill level point of view and skills is the hardest part of footy to develop.

At local/amateur level there will players just as fast and just as fit but in the end it's the elite skill level of players like Daisy Pearce, Emma Kearney and the Brianna Davey that runs the show.

So testing is fine IF you provide further training to these women to improve their output the next time around, otherwise provide them with training that will reap a personal improvement either during the testing day/training camp, or in the weeks afterwards from the training information you provide them.

Do you need your training optimised?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Training Priorities for a Local/Amateur Footballer

It's off-season time again and for all local/amateur footballers, the most important training time of the year in my opinion.

My rationale is that L/A football club coaches have very limited resources and time, so team training usually follows a cookie cutter approach where everyone does the exact same thing.

What happens here is that the fittest blokes get a very good hit out each training session as they dominate the running drills (are they getting better though? Another topic for another time...), the next level down will be pretty fit come the end of pre-season if they can get through the initial weeks and the rest simply do too much then their bodies can handle resulting in huge system fatigue and a high potential for short and long term injury risk.

What the off'season allows for is the time and resources to improve on an individual level, where the most benefits will com from.

Below I've listed, in order, what you should focus on and prioritise in your off-season training period, which is from now until the first night of pre-season training.

I'll lay out some levels to aim for so if you already tick off #1, then had to #2 and so on.

That being said you can tackle multiple points at the same time with a personalised programming approach (I know that my women's post but blokes can get in on this too).

#1 - Body Composition

We're talking bodyfat levels here where there's no need to pay $150 for a dexa scan or anything - simply put that if you have a beer gut then get rid of it. Decreasing excess mass will make you faster and with more endurance simply from doing just that and nothing else as it costs less energy to move a lighter load then a heavier one.

Don't go all silly ad go off the grog completely if it's not gonna work but cut down where you can. Those 3 - 4 beers you have after work can probably go can't they?

On the eating side of things can the pies, pastries and chips for more protein, fruits and veggies.

Minimal change for maximal results!

#2 Sprinting Speed (Acceleration/Max Velocity)

In the NFL what's the number 1 test recruiters look at? The 40m sprint.

In the AFL, along with the Yo-Yo test, what's the next things recruiters look at? The 20m Sprint.

There are plenty of players in local/amateur leagues who could reach near elite levels in the Yo-Yo test if they're careers were at stake, but not many of them can run 20m in under 3secs, which is what rally sets the elite apart from us normals.

The 20m sprint test acceleration which is crucial for football as most sprints are acceleration in nature because as soon as you need to deviate off your line even a centimeter, you're essentially braking and then you need to re-accelerate in another direction.

That being said I still believe max velocity/top end speed needs to be trained because you'll reach it in training and in games from residual fatigue, and when you do reach it is when you'll tear a hammy so to avoid injury at high speeds, train at high speeds.

A flying 10m sprint of 1.2secs or so is a good measure of top end speed.

#3 - Aerobic Capacity

Base fitness. Tun in the legs. Foundation running. We all know what this is but it's not usually trained optimally.

Aerobic Capacity is usually measured in how far you can cover a certain distance which is wrong because that means at some point you will be working in the upper regions of submaximal speed, if not maximal speed, which means you;re not training aerobic capacity.

Having adequate aerobic capacity means that you can do more less at low intensities before fatigue sets in, your recovery between of acceleration and max velocity sprints is greater meaning you can repeat high speed more often and also your recovery between training sessions and games will be faster so you can train more days with greater intensity.

Remember it's not how much you can do when you're already tired, it's how much you can do before you get tired.

Aim to get your resting heart rate somewhere in the mid to high 50's, and your your heart rate to drop about 20 beats within 1 minute of intensive activity.

#4 - Maximum/Relative Strength

When you hit the gym you've got to make it efficient and above all effective. Adequate maximum strength levels is the base of all other strength qualities unless you're a genetic freak. Speed starts with strength to move mass. Power is submaximal max strength. Endurance is potentially greater when paired with high strength.

Train the big 5 80% of the time in the gym - deadlift, squat, bench press, chin up and row.

Aim for these targets:

Deadlift 1.25 x bodyweight x 3 - 5 reps
Squat 1.25 x bodyweight x 3 - 5 reps
Bench Press 1 x bodyweight x 3 - 5 reps
Military Press .75 x bodyweight x 3 - 5 reps
Row 1 x bodyweight x 3 - 5 reps

#5 - Lactic Power

Quick energy systems lesson.

You have 3 main energy systems - alactic (high speed/short duration), lactic (dependent on alactic/aerobic levels but is essentially the point where you blow up)and aerobic (slow speed.long duration).

Each 3 energy systems has a capacity and a power component.

Capacity is continuous/short rest work and power is 1 all out/fully rested effort.

Most footy teams will go straight to capacity for everything which can be a pointless exercise because if you're not fast over a fully fresh 20m sprint, how can be fast for anything after that, especially when fatigued?

Lactic Power is trained for sets of 20 - 30secs all out sprints with full rest which can be a bit a hassle in a team setting but if you place some easy skill/tactical work in the rest periods, you can make it work.

#6 - Hypertrophy

Getting back to the gym, if you're slight of frame, have some high injury area's or a bit weak over the ball then you might just need to gain some weight which will probably also coincide with a requirement of greater max/relative strength from point #4.

I'd still have you focus on the big 5 for the most part but insert some higher volume stuff in there as well and a LOT of food.

Once running comes around you'll find it near impossible to add weight which is why the off-season exists.

When I was a young tacker I put on 7kgs of bodyweight in about 2 months from 3 weight sessions a week, granted I was a whippet at 55kgs at 18 years of age.

#7 - Repeat Speed

Going back to our quick energy systems lesson in #5, repeat speed is lactic capacity. It is the ability to sprint at high speed, recover quickly and do it again and again and again.

Like I said though if you're not fast in 1 sprint then you won't be for any others so it's crucial that you first develop max speed then move to this.

Again most footy teams go straight into this regardless of the players' speed levels making it a complete waste of time.

Also training for lactic capacity has about a 3 - 4 life span so you really need to only start doing it in February, not doing repeat 300's in December.

Need a hand with any of these? I can help.