JOHN MCMAHON: How to get more from less

HAVING spent years as a strength & conditioning coach/consultant working with Gaelic players, coaches and organisations, the most common problem area I have observed and encountered is the transition from the pre-season phase to the in-season phase (competitive games).

The key questions have been how many times a week should we train? What session fits best when? How ‘hard’ should we train?

These are all common dilemmas I have worked through over the years and at times there have been more questions than clear answers.


The pre-season phase is relatively easy to plan – pitch, gym, video analysis, recovery etc…time to complete all these components is abundant during this phase.

The in-season phase is much more time-constrained with a quick turnaround, juggling weekly games, recovering players, analysing performance, reviewing KPIs, pitch and gym sessions and preparing a game plan for the next game. It is not easy!

So how can you get more from less?

The first rule in-season Gameday is King!

This may sound ridiculously obvious, but sometimes in the pursuit of improvement this gets completely overlooked and you can lose sight of this fact.

The number one goal of your training week should be to have your best players available on gameday and as a result achieve a higher level of team performance on the field. There is no doubt that improving players’ strength, speed and fitness is a very effective way to achieve optimal team potential, but chasing these physical improvements should never take priority over high player availability and readiness to perform on gameday.

Structuring the week to facilitate recovery, improvement, and readiness to go again is not an easy balance to achieve. Below are some guidelines I have developed over the many years experience I have gained with the teams and organisations I have helped move forward.

This is not an exhaustive list, but contains some key guidelines that will help the team navigate the in-season phase:

– Recovery: To perform at your best, you must spend a little less time training and more time recovering. “Training makes you worse, not better”.

In order to benefit from all the physical training that you are undertaking, you need to sufficiently recover, otherwise, you won’t adapt and realise your true individual and team improvement.

– Weekly structure: Plan your weekly structure into High and Low volume sessions – where High volume sessions = 70-80 per cent of a game load and low volume sessions = 40-60 per cent of game load.

– Prehab: Incorporate short sessions of prehab and rehab robustness work into your pre-pitch schedule to utilise your available time and injury reduction protocols.

– Duration specific intensity: Plan your sessions thoroughly. Achieve all the physical outcomes you want in a timeframe relevant to the game. Two hour plus sessions I would suggest are not an efficient use of your time and only induces unnecessary player fatigue.

Some good numbers to aim for are:

**GD – Gameday

– GD+1: One recovery session to be performed on either the first or second day after the match.

– GD+2/3: High volume pitch session (70-80 per cent game load). Obviously, this is dependent on your player group. Some players may require more recovery and individual planning. One maximal velocity speed session per week. You seldom hit top speed during training or matches, you are at a much higher risk of injury on that rare occasion when you do hit top speed, for example on a transition run following a turnover. Aim for two to four high end exposures during your training week. Listen to players feedback on how they are feeling and adjust when needed.

– GD+4: One lower body dominant or whole-body gym session. Low volume power and strength focused. Target the key high injury areas. Individual accessory work if required. This session does not have to be a standalone session. You could complete a split session – low volume pitch session followed by a gym session.

– GD+4/5: Low volume pitch session (40-60 per cent game load).

– 80 /20 rule What does it take for your best players to be available week to week? Don’t treat all your players the same as some players may require an individual approach to their weekly training.

Your probability of success increases when your best players are available to play. Less is More!

John Mc Mahon

Strength & Conditioning Coach


Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW