AFL Preseason vs In Season Training
Aerobic capacity is arguably the most important aspect of modern-day AFL due to the high-intensity/fast paced nature. Professional midfielders often cover anywhere between 15-20km in a game. High intensity running is the most commonly utilised and sport-specific way to increase aerobic capacity as it simulates game-day running speeds and distances while additionally strengthening high-risk injury sites such as the hamstrings. A proper warm-up that activates the thigh/hip muscle groups is also essential to injury prevention and running mechanics.
Given the physical nature of AFL, strength & power are crucial if an athlete is to withstand the body to body contact. Resistance training, in addition to increasing muscular strength and hypertrophy, may also aid in the prevention of injuries. (Fleck and Falkel, 1986). The approach most AFL clubs utilise is a focus on aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular interval training to build cardiovascular fitness, (as touched on in the introduction), while focusing on AFL specific cardio requirements such as repeat effort running. This is a major part of AFL as players are constantly performing repeat efforts to win a contested ball or gain distance on the opposition.
If players are unable to repeatedly contest a ball it can easily be identified through GPS units, which track top-speed, high-intensity efforts, repeat efforts and total distance to name a few. Nowadays, due to technology there is no-where to hide on the football field, and data can identify those who are underperforming and/or identify those carrying injuries.
An AFL conditioning session can include any and/or multiple of the following:
- Shuttle runs: Increase in anaerobic capacity and metabolising function
- Boxing circuits: Hand-eye co-ordination and off-leg conditioning
- Ball work: Small sided competitive games for aerobic conditioning
- Repeat effort running: Increase in anaerobic capacity and metabolising function
- Swimming: Aerobic fitness while deloading the body
- Cycling and Core strengthening for decrease in injury
When in-season training commences, the contrast between preseason and In season training is a strategic and periodised focus; which changes from hitting peak fitness/strength levels (pre-season), to maintaining a steady level of fitness while also reducing chances of injury (in-season). As recovery and rehabilitation becomes the focus in-season, intensity and frequency of strength and conditioning sessions are lowered to ensure a maintenance of fitness is still maintained.