AFL W Injury crisisCategoriesBlog Training Program

From Risk to Resilience: Dean Benton’s Approach to mitigate ACL Injuries

Dean Benton

What is the true magnitude of the ACL injury problem in sports today?

It is a significant global issue. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has really illuminated this, with a host of big names that won’t feature in the tournament due to ACL injury. Also, ACL injuries in the English Women’s Super League and the US NCAA football have never been more prevalent.

However, Australia is leading the world with ACL injuries. Based on estimations, the annual number of ACL injuries in Australia is expected to more than double by 2030-2031 compared to 2017-2018 levels, with a projected cost being estimated at a staggering AU$300M. Sadly, our AFLW competition statistically leads the world when compared to other team sports. The ACL injury rate in the AFLW competition is 3–7 times higher when compared to other female team sports and 10–19 times higher when compared to male team sports, such as European handball and football (soccer).

How can we shift the focus from curing ACL injuries to preventing them in the first place?

Sometimes we have significant barriers to interventions with serious and complex medical conditions. In these situations, there is understandably extensive research required, ethics committees, financial resourcing, trials, etc. When it comes to ACL prevention, there are no real barriers to intervention. The only apparent barriers are knowledge (coaching), compliance, and allocation of time. At times many leading experts around the world have suggested there exists a culture of acceptance of ACL injury as being something that ‘happens’ to women.

In contrast to anatomic risk factors, power, strength, and neuromuscular coordination deficits can be addressed with proven interventional strategies. These interventional strategies do not require expensive equipment and/or facilities. A lot can be said for good quality coaching, the appropriate time to implement, and the time for the athlete to adapt.

 

Which sports have successfully addressed and reduced the disparity between male and female ACL injury rates?

There are many examples of other sports around the world, such as skiing, dancing, and some women’s rugby programs that have put in place proven methods to significantly mitigate ACLs. World renown expert, Bill Knowles originally built a reputation over 20 years ago when he was at the Burke Mountain Ski Academy. Bill reduced ACL injuries with mogul skiers from approximately 30+ per year down to 2-3 per year. The Australian Women’s Rugby 7s program has an excellent track record with ACL injury over the past 7 years with only 2 ACLs (1 contact & 1 non-contact). The program was led by respective S&C coaches Craig Twentyman in the Rio Olympics and Tom Carter in Tokyo Olympics. Both these coaches did a superb job providing these athletes with advanced, but appropriate leg power development and coordination training modalities. There are other examples of physical development programs in the US that have resulted in an 88% drop in ACL injuries. This should be the rule – not the exception. We all accept the ‘non-modifiable’ factors associated with female ACL injury. However, infinitely more can be done with modifiable factors such as total body coordination and strength.

 

What are the contributing factors that make AFLW (Australian Football League Women’s) rates of ACL injuries particularly high?

The issues facing the AFLW athlete are not unique. The same issues will be faced by NRLW athletes this year and are also being reported by field and court sports in Europe and North America. There has been an explosion of female athlete participation in our field sports in particular, which is great. However, for various reasons, our female athletes have not had the background, or been afforded the same opportunities as our male athletes. The covid lockdown period has and will have implications for us. Our children are not as physically active as they used to be. Furthermore, early specialisation with single sports is depriving our developing athletes of the broader movement vocabulary they require. Particularly, body awareness and control with locomotive skills, which field and court sports demand such as running, jumping and landing, etc. These generic skills are the foundation for being able to express sports skills.

 

If a sport does have a distorted number of ACL injuries, then it is obvious these athletes are not adequately prepared for the demands of the game. As such, preparation is either inadequate or inappropriate. The question is how?

 

The subject of the quality and quantity of coaching and support staff for female field and court sports is something that is discussed globally. The argument of financial resources is typically raised, but conversely so is the duty of care. Some would suggest it becomes false economy to take shortcuts here. Particularly when you take into account the cost of surgery and rehabilitation (~AU$15K per athlete) and replacing players. Also factorising, of course, the long-term issues of not regaining pre-injury levels of performance and early onset of osteoarthritis. However, there are many fine examples around the world of women’s programs being resourced appropriately.

 

How does the Prepare to Play (P2P) Triple Hop Test help in assessing ACL injury risk?

Prepare to Play has partnered with VueMotion in designing the P2P Triple Hop Test, which has been specifically designed to assess both locomotive performance and related coordination; the lack of which, is correlated to ACL injuries. In comparison to expensive and time-consuming laboratory-based testing methods, it offers a much more functional, economical, and readily available method for field or court sports at all levels. The test utilises AI technology that analyses an athlete’s movements. This approach offers an unprecedented, prospective, and preventive approach to field or court sports preparation. The test can be completed with minimal equipment and on any firm and level surface, ideally in an athlete’s own training environment. An analysis is made available as an individual athlete and a group report within 24 hours. From there, interpretation and recommendations can be made available, which provides valuable insights for practitioners and coaches from a coaching and programming standpoint. The uniqueness of the test is that it is able to assess performance and injury risk synonymously.

 

The test also offers a paradigm shift, in that, we no longer need to be ‘chained’ to one-dimensional movement analysis via in-situ laboratory-based testing equipment such as force plates or jump mats. We can now seamlessly analyse training modalities organically but with lab conditions.

 

The test is also advantageous for those athletes wanting to rehabilitate from injury, as effectively as possible. Given that bounding and hopping are respectively exaggerated and unilateral forms of running, the triple hop test shows a clear relationship to gait analysis. Given ACLs are predominantly a running-based mechanism, we must relate the restoration of function to running.

 

The test has also been validated by Australian Catholic University (ACU) against the Vicon camera-based motion system in a laboratory setting, showing a 95% accuracy. It is not the intention to try and compete with systems like Vicon. The P2P Triple Hop Test is a coaching tool. The intention is to make it readily available to more people – more often.

 

There has been a good deal of interest and uptake from Australian clubs and national bodies. Namely, A-League teams, Queensland Rugby League, NRL, Melbourne Storm, and a leading football club from the Netherlands.

 

What are the key gaps or limitations in the current research on ACL injury prevention?

We should never stop researching or looking for gaps within our research. However, we have a plethora of research. In fact, there is now 6 times the research relating to ACLs in comparison to 20 years ago. A quick search on PubMed will reveal this. A lack of research isn’t our issue, but simply the utilisation of it. The narrative and statistics regarding ACLs haven’t changed in 30 years – in fact, it’s getting worse as we know. We must remember that the transfer of sports science/medical research into practice must require a coach. The whole point of sports science is to challenge, change and improve coaching practice – not research for the sake of it. Although, at times there can be a reductionist approach to the research, in there is an exclusive focus on the stance leg and in particular the knee in isolation. It requires strength and coordination of the entire body to ensure forces are absorbed in other parts of the body rather than the knee per se.

 

Many of the answers are staring at us in plain sight. Go and watch any world-class coach of vertical and horizontal jump events. The techniques and methods these coaches teach axiomatically offer substantial insights into preventive measures for ACLs associated with high-speed stepping.

 

In what ways can coaching practices be improved to better address ACL injury prevention?

Quite often we have a false dichotomy of injury prevention and performance enhancement. These two important aspects of athlete preparation are absolutely synonymous.  What is required athletically and technically for ‘stepping’ and ‘stopping’ in terms of performance enhancement also has a protective benefit. Research clearly shows it is eccentric rate of force (RFD) development that distinguishes elite v sub-elite athletes in the speed and power events. Eccentric RFD also separates Men and Women as the effect of gravity takes effect. However, eccentric RFD is the most important quality for the prevention of impact injuries – particularly in women.

 

The primary training modality to improve this quality is plyometrics, which as we know, develops the important quality of reactive strength. Often there is an unfounded perception that plyometrics as a modality causes injury; conversely, it prevents injuries. This perception has resulted in quite a lot of conservatism with the programming and coaching of this training modality – particularly with the female athlete. It could be suggested that the fear that plyometrics can cause injury may well result in many field and court sport athletes being undertrained in terms of preparing them for their respective sports. We must remember that when we change direction, we must tolerate forces up ≥4.5 times body weight. Or, depending on how fast we run at speed, up to >6 times body weight. As such, we need to apply the training principle of progressive overload to ensure our athletes can tolerate and negotiate these forces. Ask an experienced S&C coach how many injuries have resulted from when they have coached plyometrics as a modality over the years. I think you will find you will draw a blank.

 

Importantly, we shouldn’t just think that the development of reactive strength is only relevant to the lower body; it is a total body quality. Mainly as the trunk/core has a significant role to play in force reception and production. This is not to suggest that traditional strength training doesn’t have a role with field and court sport athletes – it does. Although, as Vern Gambetta has always said, “if the only thing you do is weightlifting, then all you end up with is weightlifters”.

 

There are some differences between female and male athletes, which require consideration when designing strength training programs. Essentially females should undertake the same strength training methods as males. However, we need to consider the following generalisations with the female athlete:

  1. Compared to males, females are approximately 50% and 30% weaker in upper body and lower body strength respectively
  2. Females lose strength and muscle tone faster than males

 

Due to these challenges, as well as structural and hormonal considerations, strength training is even more important for female athletes than male athletes. As such, some training variables and training principles require consideration:

  • More frequent exposure to strength within a training week
  • For strength training to be periodised through all phases of the training year. This is a requirement for the female athlete – not an option

 

It is worth noting that, the female athlete is typically ready to commence formal strength training at a younger age in comparison to the male. If we consider the years when the female athlete is most vulnerable to ACL injury (late teens-early 20s), then it makes sense to commence training interventions post-puberty with females from age 13-16 years. These are the critical years to formally commence coordination with jumping, landing, and foundational strength.

What role does strength and conditioning training play in ACL injury prevention?

I suggest it’s critical our S&C coaches have a well-developed coaching skill set and knowledge in developing running, jumping, and landing skills. Also, to consider a move away from the mindset of just having quantitative performance measures and shift to physical mastery with our younger field and court sport athletes. For example, not having a sole emphasis on how much can be lifted; or how fast can they run. Namely, a more qualitative approach to how the athlete runs, lifts, jumps, and lands. Importantly, mastery of these skills. Quantitative performance can then be appropriately pursued at the elite level.

 

Dean Benton: Sprint running for football codes | Prepare Like a Pro

CategoriesBlog Training Program

Dan Baker: How to use velocity base training with team-based athletes. | Prepare Like a Pro


  1. What is velocity-based training (VBT), and how does it differ from traditional strength training methods?

 A – I don’t like the actual term VBT, I do not recommend basing everything on velocity alone. But the term is pretty much out there, so I use it. But basically, it means using velocity scores to help inform about resistance training…about the correct resistance to use, about fatigue, etc. So coupled with the coach’s eye, set RPE/RIR, % est. 1RM, it adds more objective data upon which informed decisions can be made.

 

  1. How can VBT be effectively utilized with team-based athletes to enhance their strength and power development?

A – By getting a resistance/velocity profile for CERTAIN KEY different strength and power exercises for each player, we can see any changes in the velocity score for any given resistance, relative to a certain smallest worthwhile change, indicating a change in strength or power. It is that simple.

And by knowing that your 1RM or max effort velocity before failure is the same. The 1RM velocity, the 5th rep of a 5RM, 10th rep of a 10RM, it is the same velocity. By knowing this velocity, I then know how close each set was to failure/complete fatigue. Therefore I can better control training, get closer to failure when I want, or steer a bit further away from it when I want.

 

  1. What are the key advantages or benefits of incorporating velocity-based training into the training protocols of team-based athletes?

 

A- As above, without having to test, we can see on a regular basis if strength/power is maintained, improving, or temporarily suppressed due to fatigue from games or training or perhaps due to some niggle or injury. And the great thing is we know the exact amount or are pretty close to it.

For every 0.05 m/s change in velocity, the equivalent change in strength is ~2-2.5% 1RM.

Eg. From my above answer, the athlete comes into training, we use a last warmup set of say 60-65%1RM x 1-2 reps for a squat. Their score is 0.1 m/s down on the usual score they get with that weight. Say it is 100kg and the athlete’s most recent 1RM was 150kg. This means their strength is suppressed on that day by around 5%. So, if their training program for this session was to do 70% x 5, 75% x 5, and 80% x 5, meaning 105, 112.5, and 120kg, we may need to adjust those resistances. Instead of using those resistances, we lower them by ~5%. So, the first set is 100kg (but we do it for 5-reps now, not the 1-2 as per when it was last warmup), then 107.5 kg, and then 112.5 kg. Simple.

But if during any of those sets, the scores tend to shift back to normal, well we would increase the resistance for the following set and take it that the athlete was starting to feel better (this happens sometimes, they “warm up” better into the session).

The other way is to do a CMJ 1-2 per week, at the end of warmup, to monitor leg “freshness/readiness to train” in relation to loads, on an ongoing basis.

 

  1. How do you determine the appropriate velocity ranges or thresholds for different exercises when implementing VBT with team-based athletes?

 

A – The threshold is a 0.05 m/s change for all strength exercises (average velocity) for the BEST rep in a set and 3% change in peak power for a power exercise. Do not act on anything less.

And that is just a ~ 2.5% change as well. So, for some exercises, it may mean no change in weight (eg. female athlete with 50kg 1RM bench press, the minimum weight change of 2.5 kg means 5%…so do we change the weight 5% if their score may be 0.05 m/s or ~ 2.5% 1RM down on a given day?) I probably would not…or I would consider other factors besides just the velocity score before deciding (I always do anyway, consider other factors).

Get to know Dan Baker on our Podcast:

  1. Could you provide examples of specific exercises or movements that are commonly used in VBT for team-based athletes?

 

A – Your KEY movements that relate to success in the sport or that relate to physical tasks in the sport (sprinting, jumping, CoD, tackling, etc). Squat, pull-ups, bench press and bench pull, rows, deadlift, OH pressing, deadlifting, jump squats, power cleans, med ball throws, jumps, etc. We don’t bother using it for isolation exercises or minor things.

  1. What role does technology play in monitoring and assessing velocity-based training in a team setting, and which devices or tools do you find most effective?

 

A- Test what is important. Collect data on what is important. Technology allows us to do that.

Right now, OUTPUT is what I use and recommend. Push was what I used for years, but they got bought out by Whoop and shut down. I have used GymAware and Tendo and they are great as well.  And the PlyometricPower system and a jump matt back in the 1990s.

Most of the devices now that have been around 2 years or more are pretty good and have been validated in university studies. I will leave it to the individual to decide, there are clearly budgetary considerations.

I have been using Velocity devices for 30+ years now. VBT is not new at all.

Just new to some peoples’ minds and the price and size of devices have made them more available to everybody.

OUTPUT is great, same technology but it also measures angle for ROM testing and stability testing. So, this one device, OUTPUT, wow, it tests all our gym stuff. You can also put it on the foot during acceleration and get foot contact/flight time ratios. So, it is pretty cool.

In the gym, if we are measuring, objectively, velocity, ROM, stability, and left v right differences in those things, that is pretty good.

 

  1. How do you ensure that the use of velocity-based training does not compromise the technical skills or sport-specific movements required by team-based athletes?

 

A- How would it be? The idea of using velocity scores is to better manage the training and overload.

 

  1. Are there any specific considerations or adjustments you make when implementing velocity-based training with different team sports (e.g., AFL, basketball, rugby)?

 

A- No. Adjustments are in the program already. Velocity scores just help inform training decisions about loading, motivate the athlete, and hold everybody accountable (S&C Coach and athlete).

 

  1. How do you individualize velocity-based training for team-based athletes who may have varying strength and power profiles or specific positional demands?

 

A – Just do the load-velocity profile for the KEY exercises. Simple.

Your program need not change, you are just supplementing it with a knowledge of velocity scores.

Eg. If we are doing trap bar jumps, what resistance are you using? How do you know if the athlete is trying as hard as possible?

If I program we are doing trap bar jumps with the highest load that allows us to attain 1.2 m/s average velocity, then the athletes and I know what the weight is going to be for their first set (based on data from their load-velocity profile) – this does not matter if it is 35%1RM for one athlete and 50% 1RM for the other, it is the resistance where they get 1.2 m/s on their best rep. Individually determined.

 

Were you over that score by 0.05 m/s average velocity or 3% peak velocity?

If so, add 2.5% to the bar for the next set. Over by 0.1 m/s (ie getting 1.3 m/s), then add 5% for the next set.”

And vice versa if the scores are lower. Simple.

 

Knowledge of velocity scores DRIVES the athlete on power exercises. Drives competition.

 

  1. In your experience, what are the key factors or strategies that contribute to successful implementation and integration of velocity-based training within team-based sports environments?

 

A – Need to develop the load-velocity profile for the Key exercises. It takes about 15 minutes in a test situation. Or it can be done during usual training and does not need a designated test day. Or just gather the info over a few weeks.

For strength exercises, 4-5 resistances, being the last warmup weight (60-65%), about 70% or a 12RM weight, 80% or 8RM, 90% or 3-4RM, all done for just 1-2 reps. Not fatiguing. Take the best rep average velocity score for each resistance.

Then do either a 1RM OR do a full max-out set with about a 6RM (a resistance halfway between the 8RM and 3-4RM). The last rep before failure is your 1RM or max effort velocity. That is the velocity you will fail at, no matter how many reps you do in a set. Ie. Your max effort velocity.

Any other resistance is linear in the velocity relationship. So, what is 75%1RM, I did not test it. The velocity score for 75% will be halfway between what you got for the 70% and 80%% resistances. No need to test every single weight, simple extrapolation does it for us.

 

CategoriesBlog Training Program

Kelvin Giles | An Athlete Development Model | Prepare Like a Pro

I know I seem to just be meddling again but with the new UKA Coaching Development Strategy underway it is important that everyone keeps on trying to make a contribution as each new step is taken. The words contained in the strategy are being driven to their destination by Mark Munro and Jackie Newton (I am guessing that there are many others behind the scenes as well). I applaud much of what is contained in the document but also know the difficulties that will surround just about every step forward. Some of these difficulties will be physical, some financial others human but most will require a deal of patience, adaptability, and open-mindedness. Transforming words into action must always go through a process of ‘interpretation’ and so it is vital that everyone who is interested make enough contribution to ensuring that the ‘interpretation’ is appropriate. I have already sent these thoughts through to the decision-makers.

The strategy mentions, “Define and publish an Athlete Development Framework with clear coaching roles mapped.” This is of particular interest to me and many others who see the clear link between ‘what has gone before and ‘what is yet to come in terms of the progression of an athlete along their chosen pathway.

It is a very big step to consider trying to create a model that satisfies the demands of the 21st century and the demands of a fledgling coaching strategy. We have all seen hundreds of these in the past and it makes me think that if you are going to create a major change in things then maybe there are some questions to ponder before any decisions are made.

Maybe it is appropriate to consider more than just another flowchart. Don’t get me wrong there is much to be gained by all coaches by offering them some type of diagram that makes things easier to understand. No doubt that without such an overview it is likely that coaches will continue to ‘race to the right’ as they succumb to fast-tracking, quick-fixing, and ‘winning at all ages’.

My point is that we have seen these diagrams since the mid-1990 and yet we are still facing all the limitations that the use and understanding of these diagrams were meant to eradicate. It begs the question ‘are there some smarter things to consider?

Do we need to flesh out the flowchart with initiatives that can make a difference? Do we need to see the journey in a different way? The following diagram was created to form the context of all those elements that form the journey of each athlete. I have always used this chart to act as a template for the courses and workshops I have delivered. Letting this template guide me reduced the chance of me presenting information out of context. It also helped me get things in the right order so that the athlete’s journey was always one of progression and ‘earning the right.

·        I use this diagram to ensure that whatever courses, lectures, and workshops are created, they are in a progressive context. Try to see each box as being the foundation around which the courses are being created.

·        The vertical columns indicate the pillars that support the detail. The General to Related to Specific modules illustrate the ever-changing structure of training as the athlete progresses toward HP. The boxes illustrate some of the content detail.

·        The right-hand side deals with the sports-specific technical journey while the left-hand side deals with the physical journey. This is not to say they are treated as silos, far from it. Coaches will be taught how activities can be chosen and integrated into a valuable prescription.

·        Obviously, the early stages that appear in the top half of the page are those that are applicable to the Children and Youth stages. As each athlete and coach navigate down the page so the content becomes more relevant to Talent and HP – but don’t forget the ever-cycling General to Related to Specific system.

·        You will notice that there is no mention of chronological steps. While all the previous Athlete Development (LTAD) models link quite strongly to chronological age groups (and can offer a semblance of guidance to inexperienced coaches) such reference has done harm in interpretation at times. The Children and Youth sectors are dependent upon maturation/adaptation rates and not on chronological age.

·        When considering the move towards a modular approach to the Coach Education / Development strategy I would suggest that enough time is spent on ensuring that before a coach can make the choice of which journey they wish to undertake they have completed the required introductory courses. “Get them to know what they don’t know”.

·        My first recommendation is to deliver a course that outlines the full fabric of what the coach is about to experience. I call this the Toolbox Course where things like the Maturation Journey, Physical Journey, Skill Journey, Learning Journey, and Behavioural Journey are outlined and experienced by the coaches. Added to these components are things like Planning. All in all, they should leave this introductory course with the tools to conduct at least part of a training session.

·        Obviously, this first step into the world of coaching needs to be immediately backed up when they leave the course. The development of handheld multi-media resources that they can turn to in their first-ever session would be an advantage. Housing appropriate resources (human and physical) at their Club will also be vital so that their first coaching steps are fully supported.

·        Further support should be available locally by the national roll-out of supporting mini-workshops at the Club level all coordinated by the future Club Coaching Directors. These are particularly important in the Physical and Technical components. One can envisage these workshops (30min to 120min) fleshing out the details of the activities designed for each sector. Consider rolling these out via handheld resources, online, and via intra-Club mechanisms.

·        Here it is important for me to make some comments about what you see on the right-hand side and left-hand side of the two journeys (Physical and Technical – two of the building blocks of all journeys)

a.    There is a continuous linking of both sides of this learning continuum.

b.    The ability to integrate elements from both sides into a coherent, progressive training session is vital.

c.    This is where the ‘workshop’ curriculum plays its part.

·        I have a list of tried and tested modules in the form of courses, lectures, and workshops that might be of value for you to scrutinise. If there is any value in them they can be examined by your experts to see if they fit into what you intend to have as the modular structure.

·        I think it safe to say that some of the principles contained in these thoughts are applicable to the Talent and HP pathways also. The content may be different but the continuous link between the Physical and Technical must prevail and is a proven element of Talent Development and HP. The ‘Competition and Arena Skills Journey’ forms the backbone of the transition from Talent Development through to HP and this pillar will require the best minds to assemble the content.

·        This link between the Physical and Technical journey will be a vital component for the Director of Performance to facilitate when the methodology of High Performance in the Tournament setting is examined. However, if the athlete and coach development model (Children – Youth – Talent) is created effectively then the HP pathway should naturally be enhanced.

Happy to share all this with everyone. I hope it stimulates much discussion and that more people add their thoughts so that your decision-making is enhanced. The Coaching Forums that service the Event Group Advisory Panels will be a source of valued information for all coaches.

 

How to build an AFL body 1CategoriesBlog Training Program

Jack Mclean: How to Develop an AFL Body | Prepare Like a Pro

1. Jack Mclean is a professional AFL strength & conditioning coach who knows a thing or two about preparing athletes for the rigours of the season
2. In this blog post, he shares his top tips on how to develop an AFL body
3. He explains that it’s not just about going to the gym and lifting weights – diet and recovery are just as important
4. He outlines a typical week in his training regime, including conditioning, strength, and skills work
5. Finally, he offers some advice on dealing with injuries and staying motivated throughout the season

  1. What muscles do you use in the AFL? 

Hips: 

The pelvic area is an important component in the AFL due to the high demands of running. High degrees of stability reduce muscle imbalances and improve biomechanics, reducing injury rates for football players who typically kick with only one leg over time.
As you build up your own imbalance from kicking as all the stress goes onto its opposite side through muscular strength alone – thus putting greater force onto this area–you’ll develop pain in what would otherwise be perfectly healthy tissue.

Shoulders: 

The shoulder is an open, unstable joint that requires strength to keep it strong and safe. In many cases where athletes have been injured or unable to perform at their full potential due to injury their shoulders were not able enough stability so they ended up getting hurt more than once even if everything else seemed fine with them! This leads us to why you need delt exercises like rear and lateral raises which will provide support for this important muscle group as well help protect against further injuries from happening.

Knees: 

Knee injuries are a very common occurrence in football, especially when changing direction or looking to give off the ball. The most severe of these is the “ACL” (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). It can be injured by direct contact with another player during twisting motions such as stopping suddenly and then changing direction.

Strengthening muscles around your foot and hip complex in conjunction with efficient running and jumping techniques develop stability and reduce the load on an athlete’s knees.

Check our injury mitigation exercises here:

  1. Does size matter in the AFL? While some successful AFL players come in all shapes and sizes, there are a few physical attributes that seem to be important. For instance height gives an advantage when trying reach for the ball or jump higher than your opponent because it takes less energy for you do so with greater altitude; arm length can affect balance since longer arms mean more time spent balancing on one foot before running back into position. Due to the large running demands of the game it helps to be around 10 – 15% body fat and as it’s a heavy contact sport having enough critical muscle mass around the torso to protect the internal organs and assist in contested ball performance is key. Overall each player will have their preffered optimal weight and this will largely depend on their role for the team and their individual strengths.

  2. How do AFL players gain weight?                                        You should eat around your training times to optimise gains. You’ll be fuller for longer, so don’t worry about trying too hard with food or not being able eat in between meals; just focus on getting some good nutrients into each one! A great way of doing this while still following the rest of our guide is by adding extra scoopfuls into whatever you’re eating at that moment – whether it oatmeal during breakfast time slotting right before workouts…or a protein shake after weights session has ended. You can also improve the nutritional content of your workout by adding further nutrients to the food you already eat. For example, if training early in the morning then try eating breakfast before going to the gym floor so that it contains enough energy for intense workouts and adds a rich sources of necessary vitamins such as Vitamin B12 which is only found naturally occurring within bodily fluids (such as sweat).

  3. How much sleep should I get each night?Professional athletes typically need more than most—it’s recommended that they get 8-10 hours every night.Individual sport athletes are reported to sleep on average 6.5 hours per night while team players get 7 hrs, according to an article from The Conversation. It was also revealed that individual sportspeople were more prone than groups who played together for long periods of time at any given moment due in part by their unwavering commitment towards regular sleeping routines, high quality mattresses and pillows as well most importantly naps during the day which helps them stay fresh before returning back into competition later on throughout tournaments or seasons respectively. Everyone needs sleep in order to feel restored and function their best the next day. Other physical benefits include:
    Allowing your heart rate or breathing patterns, which are controlled during waking hours by thoughts and emotions; these change back as you fall asleep so that they may be re-established on an even keel throughout slumber’s restorative cycles. This helps promote cardiovascular health by stabilizing blood pressure levels at night similar to what occurs when we lie down after being upright for awhile

  4. What type of diet does an AFL footballer need to lose weight? 

The pre-fueling for a training session or a game is a time when athletes must think about their energy needs, carbohydrate intake, and protein consumption. In addition, fruit vegetables provide important micronutrients which assist the immune system with high-stress levels prevalent in this phase of training.
The more you put into it, the better your results will be. It’s important that during training days eat foods like protein-based meals or snacks with wholegrain carbohydrates because this helps ensure adequate recovery from workouts so athletes can back up training sessions with energy and focus!

 

I elaborate more on tips you can start actioning here:

 

 

dean benton 003 300x300 1CategoriesBlog Training Program

Dean Benton: Sprint running for football codes | Prepare Like a Pro

Dean Benton

  1. Who has influenced your coaching philosophy the most?

I have always tried to maintain a balance between developing my experience-based knowledge and knowledge-based experience. With the former being practical and the latter theoretical. Although, far from being world-class, having a background as a track athlete gave me a great sense and perception of what speed, power, and strength training aimed at enhancing running should feel like. I have benefited from some amazing mentors over the years who have been more than generous with their time and knowledge. Vern Gambetta’s GAIN faculty has had a big influence on how I think and what I do. These professionals include Frans Bosch, Gary Winckler, Jimmy Radcliffe, Bill Knowles, John Pryor, Kelvin Giles, and Vern himself of course. Others include Bill Sweetenham, Frank Dick, and Esa Peltola. One professional I would have loved to have met was the late Charlie Francis.

 

  1. What are some key considerations for sprint running for football codes?

Track athletes aim to have perfect mechanics in a predictable, ‘closed-skill’, and stable environment. Sprint running in field sports creates the best mechanical outcome in a highly unstable, ‘open-skill’, and unpredictable environment. Coaching and programming based on this philosophy is something John Pryor does better than anyone I know.

 

There needs to be a balance in how acceleration and max speed is addressed depending on the sport and position played. Whilst acceleration development must be principle-based, field sport athletes typically accelerate from an upright posture. As such, training/teaching acceleration must orientate around creating pre-tension and hip projection from standing and rolling starts. Sometimes max speed requirements in field sports are underestimated. However, how it is trained and coached is certainly different to track sprinters. A footballer needs to obtain max speed or a high % of max speed over shorter distances, whereas a track athlete is intentionally delaying the attainment of max speed as long as possible. Practically speaking, I believe we should aim to develop max speed in field sport athletes from a stride frequency standpoint rather than a stride length standpoint. Noting that, a field sport athlete can develop a substantial max speed based on stride frequency rather than prioritizing the development og a long stride length. This approach will transfer best to a field-sport environment, as a field-based athlete must have one foot on the ground to change direction, accelerate/decelerate, resist and break contact.

 

Running must be approached as a skill that can be taught and enhanced. As we know, running in field sports doesn’t occur in isolation; handballs, catching, passing, and kicking all need to be executed at speed. As such, when appropriate running and sports skills should be trained concurrently. This requires upper/lower body independence when executing ball skills at speed.

 

I elaborate more on field sports here: https://www.hmmrmedia.com/2021/10/rethinking-speed-development-for-team-sports/

 

  1. Can you explain your approach to holistic preparation?

To improve speed we must create appropriate and adequate training stimuli. Only providing field sport athletes with 1-2 brief speed-based warmups is an inadequate stimulus. There are many indirect methods of speed development that are often overlooked, including flexibility, leg power, and removing counterproductive modalities.

 

Flexibility – often our single greatest limitation to speed. You can become faster simply by getting more flexible. Furthermore, a lack of hip extension is one of the greatest predictors of injury.

 

Leg power – unless you can produce it vertically then you don’t have it to apply horizontally. Acceleration is the easiest speed quality to improve, as it is most affected by strength qualities. Having a good countermovement jump usually enables an athlete to accelerate well over 10m. In short, unless you have leg power you will not be able to develop an athlete’s speed potential

 

Often an opportunity that isn’t taken advantage of is in a return-to-play set. Medium to long-term injuries can be utilized to improve a player technically and athletically.

 

Removing counterproductive modalities – the disproportional use of cycling is one sure way of dulling speed development. Remove ‘junk’ running from all aspects of the program. In particular, jogging has no application as an endurance mode for any field game. Jogging reinforces poor running mechanics, and poor posture and tires athletes in between high-quality running efforts. Jogging should be seen in the same light as walking, in that, it should not be prescribed or coached. Faster, high-quality running training develops all the endurance required for all aspects of sub-maximum locomotion.

 

  1. What would you recommend as areas of focus for developing coaches hoping to improve their application of sprint running for pro sport?

Develop an understanding of how to TRAIN and TEACH speed. Training is below the shoulders and teaching is above the shoulders. Developing athletes are often told how ‘fast’, how ‘far’, and which ‘direction’, but not ‘how’ to run. Real coaching requires knowledge of running and the skill of seeing and teaching athletes how to execute technical elements of training.  The attention to detail and coaching skill required to develop sprint running at an elite level puts some coaches off, especially those coaching at the youth level. Consequently, mediocrity is routinely accepted with many young athletes adopting a poor running technique. These poor habits can be carried through their careers.

 

  1. What would you recommend as areas of focus for developing athletes?

I believe there are five primary areas of functional and technical capability that must be addressed in conjunction with the appropriate progression of athletic qualities. These five critical areas will be apparent in various degrees across ages, gender, sports, and individuals. Importantly, these five areas are not mutually exclusive and are very much interdependent.

  1. Running technique
  2. Strength training technique
  3. Flexibility
  4. Postural strength
  5. Force reduction ability

 

Other key growth and development considerations:

  • Develop key physical capabilities before puberty to minimize the loss of coordination during puberty. Place an emphasis on moving body weight at a young age to prepare for changes due to puberty and continue to reinforce this throughout puberty
  • Children grow up and then grow out; we must take into account the strength-to-length relationship. Get them strong before they grow long
  • Establish pristine movement patterns through full ranges of motion and through all planes from the youngest age groups on
  • Understand the difference between developmental age and chronological age

 

  1. What are common challenges performance practitioners can make in developing speed?

Under the training and not challenging athletes. As an example, I see so much programming of jumps and plyometrics for developed elite athletes that would be applicable to 14-year-old kids. Furthermore, athletes can often ‘sleepwalk’ through sessions, not being challenged. Research shows us that unless we have an error rate of 15-20% then we aren’t challenging our athletes. Unless we have ‘success or failure’ consequences built into our sessions then learning will be very limited.

 

  1. How do you measure speed development in team training?

The obvious one is GPS. I discuss this in detail at: https://www.hmmrmedia.com/2021/10/rethinking-speed-development-for-team-sports/

Coaching observation is a dying art. I do feel that current technology is ahead of coaches’ capability to apply it. However, hardware/software platforms are becoming a lot more accessible and easier to use. To measure speed properly we must isolate it as a quality. I have always assessed speed formally with timing gates and assessed specific leg strength qualities with jump mats and via the speed bound index. Ultimately a coaching eye, experience, and judgment are still required to interpret video/data and apply it to the practical environment. What can be heard, seen, or sensed, still largely cannot be measured. In many ways, it is better initially to learn how to coach speed without the use of technology.

  1. What is the relationship between general running capacity and speed?

This relationship is very important. It is often not well understood and often overlooked. Some considerations:

  • It makes sense to profile players that are either ‘fit-not fast’ or ‘fast-not fit’. General running capacity is not a difficult quality to attain or maintain. Speed, however, takes longer due to the higher degree of motor skill involved. As such, ‘fit-not-fast’ players should have speed training and complimentary strength programs as their primary training direction, whereas ‘Fast-not fit’ players should continue to be allowed to run fast for maintenance.
  • Maximal aerobic speed (MAS) training does not have to be distance dependent. Field sport athletes do not have the ability to maintain good running form at a constant speed for any longer than 3-4 seconds. Therefore, setting long intermittent distances at 100m or greater develops and reinforces poor running mechanics, which in turn, develops poor running economy
  • Running drills were originally designed to specifically strengthen the muscles in postures and actions that are like those that occur during the sprint action. It is through strengthening in the specific positions that technique is improved. Running drills promote good posture, specific lumbopelvic strength, and functional flexibility drills. These drills can also be used very effectively as a local lumbopelvic conditioner and general conditioning modality

 

  1. What does a typical speed session look like?

Probably an oversight I see a lot of younger coaches is proper planning going into a session. By that I mean, clear objectives and consideration of appropriate methods. Good-detailed planning should take just as long as the session takes to coach – often twice as long. If coaching a larger group of players implicit methods are essential. Implicit coaching is infinitely more effective, but session preparation requires much more foresight. Implicit, or outcome methods are where the exercises and drills are the coaches. This increases effectiveness and task-intrinsic-based learning, which is more permanent and effective. Consideration in terms of the type of feedback is also important. Whether this is extrinsic, intrinsic, or a mix of both.

The structure and sequence of the session require thought. John Pryor’s motor racing analogy is brilliant and a great way for young coaches to conceptualize the planning of a session:

 

  • Where will you pump up the tyres? – a warm-up can be utilised for more than it implies. It takes about 10mins before an athlete is ready to undertake speed and leg power development. Therefore, this period can be utilised for specific mobility and functional development via specific drilling that develops calf and lumbopelvic integrity. If done well, there is a seamless blending of mobility and drilling that escalates to more dynamic movement. We all accept athletes can’t sprint in the part of the session, but they should be under challenge either
  • Where will you build the motor? Elastic and reactive leg strength developed through jumps and plyometrics not only underpins speed qualities, it is also a great way to prepare the nervous system for speed development. We must not forget too: if you want to get faster you must run fast. Having an appropriate and adequate speed of volume is essential but requires judgment
  • Where will they learn to drive the car? Running is a skill and drills don’t equate to skill. If you want to improve your running skill you must teach it directly whilst running. The primary benefit of running drills is to specifically strengthen athletes in postures and actions similar to those that occur during the sprint action
  • Where will they race the car? The best way to facilitate training intensity is competition. Matching players of similar ability to race against each other creates a great atmosphere and energy

 

AFL pre season runningCategoriesBlog Training Program

How to Optimize Your Football Clubs Preseason Training

As a strength and conditioning coach or sport scientist, you know that preseason is a crucial time for athletes. This is the time when they need to be in top form to perform their best during the regular season. Here are four elements to keep in mind for a successful preseason:

1. Have a plan.
The first step to a successful preseason is to have a plan. You need to know what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them. Without a plan, it’s easy to get sidetracked and waste valuable time.

2. Keep players in condition during the off-season.
It’s important to keep athletes in shape during the off-season so they’re ready to hit the ground running when preseason starts. This means making sure they’re doing some sort of training, whether it’s lifting weights, running, or playing other sports.

3. Monitor performance progression.
As preseason progresses, it’s important to monitor how athletes are performing. This will help you adjust your plan if necessary and make sure everyone is on track.

4. Meet the specific needs of individual players.
Each athlete is different and will have different needs during the preseason. It’s important to tailor your program to each individual so they can get the most out of it.

Preseason is an important time for athletes and coaches alike. By following these four tips, you can set your athletes up for success and help them reach their goals.

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How to Prepare Like an AFL PlayerCategoriesBlog Training Program

Why you need to prepare like a pro if you want to make it to the AFL

If you want to play professional Australian rules football, you need to prepare like a pro. This 8-week training plan will help you develop the speed, strength, and stamina you need to compete at the highest level. With three strength training workouts and three speed/energy systems development sessions per week, this program is designed to get you football ready. You’ll need access to weights for the strength training workouts and a football oval or park for the speed and conditioning elements. So if you’re serious about making it to the AFL, start preparing like a pro today.

Week 1:
3x Total Body Strength Training Workouts + 2x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 2:
3x Total Body Strength Training Workouts + 2x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 3:
3x Strength Training Workouts + 3x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 4:
3x Strength Training Workouts + 4x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 5:
3x Strength Training Workouts + 4x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 6:
4x Strength Training Workouts Workouts + 3x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 7:
4x Strength Training Workouts Workouts + 3x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Week 8:
3x Strength Training Workouts + 4x Speed/Energy Systems Development Sessions

Professional athletes didn’t get to where they are by accident; they put in the hard work and dedication required to hone their skills and perfect their craft. If you want to make it to the AFL, you need to prepare like a pro. This 12-week training plan will help get you on the path to success. So what are you waiting for?

AFL Athletic Development Training for the Youth
AFL Athletic Development Training for the Youth

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How many hours do AFL players train in seasonCategoriesBlog Training Program

What Footy Players Do During the Off-Season

The off-season is a crucial time for footy players. They use this time to rest and recover from the previous season, but they also continue to train and work hard to maintain their high level of fitness. Players also take this time to coach and help out with elite summer training programs for young upcoming players.

During the off-season, footy players focus on both resting and training. Rest is important for players to allow their bodies to recover from the previous season. However, players cannot rest for too long as they need to maintain their high level of fitness. As a result, players continue to train during the off-season, although at a lower intensity than during the regular season.

Players also use the off-season to coach and help out with elite summer training programs for young upcoming players. This helps them stay involved in the game and give back to the community.

The off-season is an important time for footy players. They use this time to rest, recover, and train so that they can come back even stronger for the next season. Players also take this time to coach and help out with elite summer training programs for young upcoming players.

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PLP Livechats Cover YouTube ThumbnailCategoriesBlog Elite Lifestyle Players PLP Podcast Training Program

Is Jaspa Fletcher the Next Big Thing?

There’s no doubt that Jaspa Fletcher is one of the most promising young Australian rules football players in this year’s draft. The 18-year-old has a natural talent for the sport and is looking to take the next step in his career with the 2022 AFL Draft looming on the horizon.

Showing that the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree, Fletcher is a second-generation player, being the son of Adrian Fletcher, who played 231 games for the likes of Brisbane, Geelong, Fremantle, and St Kilda. The young balanced midfielder showed off his skills in the recent NAB AFL Under-18 Championships where his Allies team finished with a 1-3 record during the carnival.

Fletcher was particularly spectacular in the Allies’ win over Western Australia at the Thebarton Oval. Showing his readiness for the next level, the talented youngster racked up 26 disposals, four tackles, and six clearances in a best-on-ground performance. He also showed uncanny leadership qualities, often being one of the first to put his hand up for a smother.

While he may not be the biggest player on the ground, Fletcher’s athleticism and determination more than make up for it. He has an impressive vertical jump and is extremely quick over short distances. His speed and agility make him hard to contain when he’s on the attack and he’s also very good at finding space in congestion.

Fletcher is set to be one of the most sought-after players in this year’s draft and it will be interesting to see where he ends up. Experts peg Fletcher to be in the 20-25 range when it comes to the final order of the draft, but with his impressive skillset and bloodline, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him snapped up sooner than that. Off the field, Fletcher has a cool demeanor and is very popular amongst his teammates, who he considers to be like family. 

“In my eyes, the best thing about the game of football is developing those close relationships with your teammates which creates that fun element of footy but also pushes you to become better. Always a great feeling running out and playing for them on gameday,” said Fletcher.

The pandemic was a crucial period for Fletcher as he took the time to stay active and work on his game. He says the documentary “The Last Dance” resonated with him and Michael Jordan’s commitment to becoming the best served as inspiration.

“I don’t have a movie off the top of my head, but the last dance with Michael Jordan had a big impact on me – especially through the quarantine period this movie was very impactful because it showed me how much time and effort goes into mastering the skills in the sport. With it being lockdown also, it inspired me to keep working hard at training so when games were to resume I knew I was ready. This period was key in my development pathway,” added Fletcher.

When he’s not training or playing, Fletcher enjoys spending time with his family and friends, as well as playing golf. He also enjoys heading over to Gippsland to visit his grandparents and enjoy the water.

“Being from Victoria, my favourite destination would have to be Lakes Entrance in Gippsland. My grandparents own a beach house down there so every Christmas my close family and I stay for about 3 weeks. The weather is always great for boating and plenty of space to use the jet-ski.”

Fletcher’s focus is firmly on making the AFL, but he says he’ll continue to enjoy his life away from the game regardless of what happens.

“I’ll just keep living life to the fullest, taking each day as it comes and see(ing) what happens. If I don’t end up playing AFL then that’s fine, I know I gave it everything I had.”

There’s no doubt that Jaspa Fletcher has what it takes to be a star at the AFL level and he will no doubt be one of the most exciting players to watch in the years to come. If he can continue to develop his game and reach his potential, there’s no reason why he can’t be one of the best players in the league. Only time will tell if Jaspa Fletcher is the next big thing, but he’s certainly off to a good start.

If you’re an AFL player who wants to take your game to the next level, be sure to check out Prepare Like A Pro. You can find more information on our services page via our website or follow us on social media.

 

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How many hours do AFL players train in seasonCategoriesBlog Training Program

How many hours do AFL players train during the season? | Prepare Like a Pro

Ever wondered what it takes to be at the top of your game in Australian Rules Football? AFL players are renowned for their incredible fitness levels and relentless training. But have you ever wondered how many hours they actually put in? Or what exactly goes on during their training sessions? Well, get ready to dive into the inner workings of AFL player preparation!

AFL players leave no stone unturned when it comes to training. During the season, they dedicate a minimum of 25 hours per week to honing their skills and conditioning their bodies. So, what does this rigorous schedule entail? Let’s break it down:

Physical, Skill-Based, and Tactical Training:

AFL players follow a comprehensive training schedule that encompasses three key components: physical, skill-based, and tactical training. Each aspect is crucial in preparing them for the challenges they’ll face on game day.

Physical Training: AFL players undergo rigorous strength and conditioning workouts to ensure they maintain peak fitness levels. These sessions focus on building strength, endurance, and overall physical resilience.

Skill-Based Training: Mastering the intricacies of the game is a vital part of AFL player development. They spend time practicing handpasses, kicks, marks, and tackles to sharpen their technique and improve their game performance.

Tactical Training: AFL is a strategic sport, and players need to be tactically astute. They engage in training sessions that focus on team strategies, positioning, and decision-making in various game situations.

The Weekly Training Routine:

Let’s take a closer look at how AFL players structure their training throughout the week:

Monday: After a couple of recovery days, players kick off the week with a light run-around session to get their bodies moving again. This is followed by skill-based training, which could involve drills like kicking circuits or handball games to fine-tune their technique.

Tuesday: Position-specific training takes center stage on Tuesdays. Players within the forward, midfield, and defensive lines work together to focus on specific aspects of their game, such as goal kicking or one-on-one contests.

Wednesday: Hump day means intense training. Players push their limits during skill and match practice sessions to fine-tune their abilities ahead of the upcoming game. Lower body strength and power training also take place to enhance performance on the field.

Thursday: Rest and recovery are key on Thursdays. Players take a day off to relax, engage in alternative activities, and rejuvenate their bodies for the challenges ahead.

Friday: The pre-game session, known as the captain’s run, is all about sharpening skills and maintaining intensity. Players focus on ball movement and kicking to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the game.

Saturday: Game day rituals come into play. Some players engage in light exercise or mindfulness activities to get in the right mindset before the match. Proper nutrition is also crucial for optimal performance on the field.

Sunday: Recovery mode is in full swing. Players take charge of their own recovery, utilizing techniques like Pilates, yoga, massage, and ice baths to promote healing and relaxation.

The Road to AFL Excellence:

AFL players are relentless in their pursuit of excellence. They understand that their bodies are their most valuable assets, and they invest countless hours in training and conditioning to reach their peak. Whether it’s lifting weights, fine-tuning skills, or focusing on tactical prowess, every aspect of their training is geared towards becoming the best in the sport.

So, if you’re an aspiring AFL player, take inspiration from their dedication and commitment. Embrace a comprehensive training program that covers physical fitness, skill development, and tactical awareness. Remember, the path to AFL success begins with a relentless work ethic and a burning desire to excel. Are you ready to take the first step? Contact us today to embark on your journey towards becoming

If you’re looking to improve your AFL running performance, then check out our Online AFL Training Program. Our program is designed to help you increase your speed, endurance, and running efficiency. Contact us today to learn more!

How many hours do AFL players train in season

If you’re looking to improve your AFL running performance, then check out our Online AFL Training Program. Our program is designed to help you increase your speed, endurance, and running efficiency. Contact us today to learn more!

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to improve your AFL running performance, then check out our Online AFL Training Program. Our program is designed to help you increase your speed, endurance, and running efficiency. Contact us today to learn more!