JOHN McMAHON: Effective in-season strength training

GAELIC games has a gruellingly long season, which includes league, championship campaigns and trial games. The body is beaten up and players are in a constant state of recovery. The in-season therefore becomes the dominant training period of the year. It is therefore imperative that players have a proper strength program in place if they want to improve/maintain their strength & power whilst staying resilient to injury.

During my career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach I have travelled far beyond the shores of Ireland to develop my learning. I have been extremely lucky to work/intern with some iconic performance coaches: Mike Boyle, the late Louie Simmons, Al Veremeil, Eric Cressey to name a few.

When you’re in these environments it forces you way outside your comfort zone. Exposure to elite sporting environments is a development pathway I encourage all performance coaches to embark upon. Back here in Ireland I have also worked alongside some amazing Sports Performance Physiotherapists – Conan Kearney Loughrey (Derry) & Anthony Fearon (Armagh) are high end sports performance practitioners. Similar to myself they have an extensive background in working in elite sporting environments & have influenced my continual development & learning.

During my continual study there is one S&C Coach who’s approach to in-season strength training has always impressed me and aligned with my thought processes – Dan Baker (Australian S&C Coach). Over the years I have manipulated Dan Bakers program to align with my philosophy: however the core of the program remains in place. Unless you have been living under a rock, I’m sure you know who Dan Baker is? And his no BS approach to training.

Dan Baker’s 20 plus years of data research has shown that using his approach strength and power levels can be maintained at a high 90% in elite professional athletes across time periods of up to 32 weeks. Personally, I have also seen this during a Gaelic season, with even greater improvements (90%+) with athletes with a low training age.

Below is an overview of Dan Baker’s in-season strength/power training approach (In summary there is approximately two days of lifting per week In-season):

*I also will program unilateral leg work in our robustness circuit before each strength session with individual robustness work for those athletes that require extra work.

Day 1: Strength/Hypertrophy Emphasis

Day 2: Full Body/Lower Power/Upper Body Strength Emphasis

In-season you normally have a seven-day turn around which allows us to get both days of lifting in. However sometimes with a short turn around I will program only one day of strength/power training. I have found this set up below has worked best in this scenario:

Game day + 3 (3 days after the most recent game) Strength Emphasis

Game day – 2 (2 days before the next game) Power Emphasis

**Recovery- If the schedule allows & you can do some off feet conditioning, mobility, single leg work, extra core work Game Day+ 2 to help with the recovery process.

In summary, the Dan Baker’s In-season cycle looks like this:

Week 1: Volume load, neural/de-load

Week 2: Base Load

Week 3: Intensification, Neural load, volume de-load

Week 4: Base load (same or like week 2)

Week 5: Intensification, load (same or like week 3)

Week 6 Peak Intensification, highest neural/adrenal stimulus, lowest volume load.

The ‘magic’ of Baker’s system is that strength is wave-loaded across the 6-week cycle whilst power and hypertrophy are maintained through-out the period. This is fundamentally important as all qualities need to be maintained throughout the season. This is why I am guiding you towards Dan Baker’s in-season approach. A great template to follow for your athletes.

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