Two of the biggest misunderstandings I come across from players is gym training during the actual footy season, some stop entirely, and some overdo it. Some believe that the methods you practised in the offseason/preseason should cease altogether as soon as the new Rugby League season kicks in. Some think to maintain those offseason/preseason gains you have to continue to train in the gym at the same intensity and volume.
Both theories are trash, and I’m going to clear it up for you.
1. Don’t Stop Gym
First of all, to stop gym entirely as soon as the season commences will see you lose muscle pretty damn fast, with a loss of muscle will come a loss in strength, with a loss of strength comes a loss in power and speed. Do you get what I’m saying? Discontinuing your gym work is not an option if you want to perform all footy season efficiently.
2. Don’t Continue Training The Same Way!
Preventing yourself from burning out during the season needs to be on your list of priorities, you can’t train as intensely as you were in the off-season/preseason then expect to back it up at footy training and the game. Footy training and the game are now your big main sessions for the week, nothing else. Your gym work needs to compliment it, not take away from it.
So How Should We Train In-Season?
In-season my approach and number one objective is to maintain as much muscle and strength as we can with the best minimal effective dose of training.
It does not take the same intensity and volume to preserve size and strength as it does to build it. There is a heap of different ways to achieve this, and I can only share with you how I program in-season training for my players.
Please keep in mind programming will differ from athlete to athlete and their positional requirements. But for the sake of giving you something to work with here we go.
Below is what a typical week of in-season training would look like for my guys playing on a Sunday afternoon:
As I already said, it varies from player to player, but this is an excellent template to work off, and I hope it clears up a few questions on in-season training for you.
In-season Training Template
Upper body gym session and tempo runs
This session is performed a day or two after the game. The session would be more of a bodybuilding style of training using 2/3 sets of 12-15 reps, not pushing to failure, so we leave a few reps in the tank each set. The tempo runs would be performed at around 60-70% of your fastest sprint for 6 to 8 sets of 40-60 meters, taking full recovery in between each run.
Full body gym session
In this session, I would have a main lift for the upper body with one or two accessory exercises. For the lower body, I would have a main lift with an accessory exercise. The main lifts in this session will be performed for 2-3 sets at 70-80% of our one rep max for around 2-3 reps. The selection of main lifts will vary with each athlete; sometimes, I might opt for partial rep ranges on bench pressing.
I might opt for a safety bar squat over a barbell squat, I might drop deadlifts all together, again it will be completely individual, and dependant on how banged up they are and how much stress I think their bodies can handle.
Auto-regulation plays a considerable part at this time of year. If your program requires you to perform a specific exercise, but it feels like crap that day, drop it or regress it. An example of this could be replacing barbell squats for bodyweight or goblet squats or sled work.
Rest/ positional skills
Today is where the players can choose to chill and rest or go and practise some kicking or passing depending on their positions.
Mobility and CNS priming
This session is one of my keys to performing like a beast on game day, and I’m reluctant to share it to be honest, but let’s go anyway.
This session is an extensive full-body movement prep, with lots of static and dynamic stretching. Our goal is to unlock all those tight areas for the game the next day. As well as this, we will have a small circuit of explosive exercises to really fire up our central nervous systems. If you do these sessions correctly, you will leave the gym pumped and switched on, feeling better than you did when you started.
On game day we will hit a smaller version of Saturday’s workout to again loosen up everything and get fire ourselves up.