Strength and conditioning training blog

Should I be prioritising physical preparation for AFL football?

Author: Matt Ross
strength training for AFL gym session
This becomes a topic during every pre-season, and leading into the regular season where teams, coaches and athletes are asking themselves – have we/I done enough? - This depends heavily on your situation and circumstances.
This topic varies significantly depending on your profession and who you ask. Coaches and S&C coaches will more than likely have different ideas for pre-season and what training sessions should look like. S&C coaches may argue that pre-season should consist of copious amounts of conditioning blocks to prepare athletes for the upcoming season, and have more of a focus than the technical and tactical side of the game. Whereas coaches will still want to focus on these aspects, despite understanding the demands of the game.
Several aspects influence how pre-season is conducted and will be different for each and every team. Some of these aspects are:
- Level of professionalism (AFL, VFL, NAB League, Local)
- Staff numbers
- Athlete numbers
- Environment (ground availability)
- Resources (Weights, GPS etc.)
- Time
- Travel
There are graphs some may have seen, depicting a percentage or amount of how much conditioning or skills-based training should be done. For example, a pyramid graphic (similar to the food pyramid) may show the following;
- BASE: Movement (Mobility, stability etc.)
- MIDDLE: Performance (Speed, Power, Agility etc.)
- TIP: Skills
This insinuates movement as the most important aspect of training and skill work as the ‘cream on top’. The reason behind this is to ensure athletes are putting significant focus into their fitness, strength, flexibility etc. which are all crucial in order to stay healthy and perform at an enhanced level. This also assists in allowing athletes to reduce injury risk, giving themselves a better chance of being available throughout the season.
In my opinion, this basis is skewed too far toward movement and conditioning, and should still consist vastly of technical and tactical skill training. For a team sport requiring vast amounts of skill, this needs to be a focus all year round, especially when conditioning can be easily adapted and manipulated into skill-based training. Athletes and coaches, I have come across prefer to get as much conditioning done as possible with balls involved, as it not only keeps them engaged but gets them conditioned specifically for the demands of the sport. Obviously, conditioning is an important part of AFL football and definitely needs to be worked on, however, the aim of almost every footballer, coach and team is to improve and become better at the sport. Therefore, in my opinion, these “performance pyramid’s” should always prioritise sport-specific skills, with conditioning, movement and performance work, adapted to fit the needs of the squad.
Some examples of how training can be adapted to vary intensity and loads, without conditioning blocks:
- Small-Sided Games
o Vary distances, numbers and rules
- Intensity of rotations
- Number of rotations and timing of drills
- Match Simulation
Although we have gone into how important sport-specific training is all year round, this still shouldn’t devalue the importance of physical preparation. Conditioning, weights, mobility and stability are all extremely important in AFL football, however, it’s what you are going to prioritise depending on the level of competition and resources. AFL teams have the luxury of putting 100% effort into all accounts of sport-specific training, conditioning, Strength training etc. Whereas VFL, NAB League and local footy do not have the same luxury, so they should be asking themselves, “what’s most important, and how are we going to improve?”.
Matt Ross strength and conditioning coach

about the author

Matt is an experienced and qualified trainer who works with athletes of any age to achieve their sporting goals and improve athletic performance.

Matt develops custom, elite training programs that focus on strength and conditioning training and athletic performance.

To work with Matt, get in touch.

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Strength and conditioning coaching.
Based in Melbourne, servicing regional Victoria.
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