Yep It’s preseason… that time of the year where you dig out your muddy old footy boots, lace them up and head to training. The worst part about it is it normally involves ALOT of fitness, beep tests, hill sprints, time trials etc etc. And I can’t even imagine what the first session of full contact is like!
Sporting seasons whether it be football, rugby, soccer, hockey are long… and most people who play at a semi professional level understandably spend their offseason doing anything but thinking about training for their particular sport. This makes these initial sessions a little bit of a rude awakening as to just how unfit you have become in such a short space of time.
Training in the 6-8 weeks prior to a season is crucial not only to the sucess of the athlete but to that of the team.
Why is pre-season important?
- To develop ‘Match Fitness’: Regardless of how naturally fit of an athlete you are and even if you have been regularly hitting the gym in the off season, none of this prepares you specifically for the demands of your sport. The stop start nature of most sports combined with tackling, contact and unforeseeable events within the game make ‘match fitness’ a difficult thing to maintain unless your training is tailored towards that. You need to prepare the body for what’s coming.
- Injury prevention: Obviously when playing a contact sport you can’t prepare yourself for ‘freak’ unavoidable accidents that result in ruptured ACL’s and broken ribs, that’s the nature of the game you play BUT by implementing effective training programs especially in the gym certain soft tissue injuries can be prevented or minimised. Excuse me while I get a little technical here but hopefully you will get the idea!
- Lets use hamstring strains as an example; probably one of the most prevalent injuries in the rugby codes especially AFL. As a general rule I think all players should have some specific hamstring strengthening built into their gym program. I’m not talking max sets on a hammy curl machine; exercise needs to be focussed on the eccentric phase (control and loading when the hamstring is lengthening). For example swiss ball bridges, Nordic hamstring exercises or single leg hammy curls with a 4-5 second lowering phase
- This can be applied to other areas of the body for example shoulders needing proprioceptive retraining and rotator cuff strengthening, ankles needing stability work etc etc. This will give you the best chance of having an injury free season.
- Team bonding: There really is nothing more frustrating than getting to the first game of the season and some muppet turns up who hasn’t come to preseason at all, he doesn’t know the plays or the patterns and he just throws the entire balance of the team out! Its so obvious when teams have trained and played together because they just gel so well. Pre-season is vital to developing these relationships!
So boys and girls get your butts to preseason.. It may mean you spend less time in the physio room this year!