AFL Pre-season Training

AFL Pre-season Training: Essential Tips to Maximize Performance

As the AFL season approaches, teams and players gear up for intense action on the field through AFL Pre-season Training. The pre-season phase plays a pivotal role in preparing athletes for the challenges of the upcoming season. Effective pre-season training tailors the preparation to align with in-season demands. In this article, focusing on AFL Pre-season Training, we’ll explore key strategies for optimizing the training process. This ensures players are not only ready for the first whistle but also equipped to maintain peak performance throughout the season. Jarrod, experienced in strength and conditioning, has worked with Collingwood FC, Geelong FC, Essendon FC, and South Sydney Rabbitohs. His expertise in AFL/NRL codes, coupled with a strong research background, makes him a valuable resource in shaping successful pre-season training.

Highlights of the episode:

  • Considerations for loading in pre-season
  • Importance of chasing one key area of athletic development each week rather than all of them
  • Why GPS is not a good measure of training load
  • How to manifest energy when players are having it tough during their training block
  • Common mistakes when planning in-season performance work

The Importance of In-Season Alignment

One of the fundamental principles of successful pre-season training in the AFL is the alignment with in-season requirements. It’s not just a matter of ramping up training intensity and volume; it’s about understanding the specific demands players will face during the 26-week season. This encompasses a range of factors, including sessional loads, match conditions, weekly training loads, and even scenarios involving short turnaround times between games. By tailoring the pre-season training to mimic these demands, players can seamlessly transition from preparation to performance without unnecessary shock to the system.

Balancing Frequency and Volume

A common pitfall in pre-season training is the temptation to scale back training frequency while increasing session volume. While it might seem logical to focus on longer, more intense sessions, this approach could potentially lead to overtraining and increased risk of injuries. Finding the right balance between frequency and volume is crucial. Rather than reducing training frequency, consider maintaining a consistent training schedule while gradually increasing the intensity. This approach allows players to build stamina and endurance progressively without pushing their bodies to the brink.

Load Assessment: Beyond GPS

Traditionally, GPS tracking has been a popular method for measuring training load. However, it’s important to recognize its limitations. Training load isn’t solely about tracking movement; it’s about understanding the impact on the body. Instead of relying solely on GPS data, focus on metrics like time and RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Calculate the workload over various timeframes, such as 7, 21, and 28 days, to gain a comprehensive view of the load athletes experience. This approach provides a more accurate representation of the physical toll on the body, ensuring that training is aligned with performance goals.

Strategizing for Peaks and Troughs

In the AFL, the season can be a rollercoaster of peaks and troughs in terms of training and game demands. Planning for intense periods with multiple games within a short span requires strategic thinking. Identify potential peak scenarios, such as back-to-back games or a compressed schedule, and design the pre-season training to prepare for these challenges. Aim to surpass the expected in-season demands by a margin, such as targeting 20-30% higher workload during pre-season. This over-preparation not only equips players for the toughest scenarios but also allows for performance spikes during the season when the training load is reduced.

Building Energy and Fun

A crucial aspect often overlooked in pre-season training is the psychological component. Training can be physically demanding, but it shouldn’t sap players’ energy and motivation. Building a positive and energetic training environment is vital. If players are going through a tough training block, consider introducing elements of fun and camaraderie. Psychologically, this can rejuvenate players and help them push through challenging sessions. Flexibility in the training plan is also essential. If a session is particularly demanding, introducing a lighter activity or a small change can have a positive impact on player morale.

Avoiding the Maintenance Trap

A common mistake is to transition from pre-season to in-season training with a maintenance mindset. While pre-season builds the foundation, it doesn’t mean the pursuit of improvement should halt. Players can continue to make gains during the season. In fact, the transition from a high-volume pre-season to a relatively lower-volume in-season period can lead to performance spikes. This is due to the accumulated training load during the pre-season phase. By maintaining a focus on improvement, players can capitalize on the foundation they’ve built and continue to enhance their speed, strength, and agility.


AFL pre-season training is a critical phase that sets the stage for a successful season. Aligning training with in-season demands, balancing frequency and volume, accurate load assessment, and strategizing for peaks and troughs are all integral elements of effective pre-season preparation. By understanding the nuances of each player’s physical and psychological needs, teams can ensure that the transition from pre-season to in-season is seamless, maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injuries. Remember, pre-season training isn’t just about getting ready for the first game; it’s about setting the tone for the entire season and setting the bar higher for continuous improvement.

People mentioned:

  • Tim Rogers
  • Julian Jones
  • Ross Smith
  • Dean Robinson
  • Paul Haynes
  • Suki Hobson
  • Wayne Bennett
  • Craig Mcrae
  • Steve Hocking
  • Neil Balme
  • Paul Devlin
  • Gregg Inglis
  • Dean Filopoulos
  • Mark Thompson

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