Harley ReidCategoriesFooty Tips

How to Build Strength Without Losing Agility: A Comprehensive Guide for AFL Players

In the fast-paced world of Australian Rules Football (AFL), achieving the right balance between strength and agility is crucial for optimal performance. As an AFL strength and conditioning coach at Melbourne Football Club, and with a Master’s degree in Applied Sport Science, I’ve dedicated my career to helping players reach their peak potential on the field. This blog post will delve into the strategies for building strength without sacrificing agility, providing insights backed by scientific research and practical experience.

Understanding the Balance Between Strength and Agility

Strength is a fundamental component of high performance in AFL. It contributes significantly to tackling, marking, and overall physical presence on the field. Developing muscle mass can enhance these aspects, giving players an edge over their opponents. Studies show that strength training can improve overall athletic performance by increasing muscle power and endurance (Granacher et al., 2016).

The Importance of Agility

Agility, on the other hand, is essential for quick direction changes, dodging opponents, and maintaining speed. It allows players to be elusive and maintain momentum during fast breaks. Agility training improves the body’s ability to move quickly and efficiently, which is vital in a sport where rapid changes in direction and speed are frequent (Stoica et al., 2022).

Strategies for Building Strength Without Losing Agility

Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps and explosive push-ups, improve power and speed. These exercises enhance muscle strength while promoting quick, agile movements, making them perfect for AFL players. Plyometric training involves rapid stretch-shortening cycle muscle actions, which significantly improve maximal power output during sport-specific movements (Haugen et al., 2020).

2. Utilize Compound Movements

Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. These exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting overall strength without overdeveloping specific muscles that could hinder agility. Compound movements are efficient in building functional strength that translates well onto the field.

3. Implement Functional Strength Training

Functional strength training involves exercises that mimic the movements performed during a game. Exercises like sled pushes, kettlebell swings, and agility ladder drills improve both strength and functional agility, ensuring players can translate their gym gains to on-field performance. This type of training ensures that the strength developed is practical and applicable in real-game scenarios.

4. Maintain Flexibility and Mobility

Flexibility and mobility are crucial for maintaining agility. Incorporate stretching routines, yoga, or pilates to keep muscles limber and joints mobile. This balance helps prevent injuries and ensures muscles can perform at their best. A study by Granacher et al. (2016) highlights the importance of balance and flexibility in overall athletic performance and injury prevention.

5. Periodize Your Training

Periodization involves structuring your training into cycles, focusing on different aspects like strength, agility, and recovery at various times. This method ensures players develop well-rounded physical capabilities without overtraining any single attribute. Haugen et al. (2020) emphasize the importance of periodized training for maintaining peak performance throughout the season.

6. Focus on Core Strength

A strong core is vital for both strength and agility. Core exercises like planks, Russian twists, and leg raises help stabilize the body, improving balance and coordination, which are essential for agile movements. A solid core supports all other physical activities, enhancing both strength and agility.

7. Use Speed and Agility Drills

Incorporate drills specifically designed to improve speed and agility. Cone drills, shuttle runs, and zig-zag sprints enhance footwork and quickness, ensuring players can rapidly change direction and pace during a game. These drills are essential for maintaining the quick reflexes needed in AFL.

Eat for Performance

Nutrition plays a critical role in building strength and maintaining agility. A balanced diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates provides the energy and nutrients necessary for muscle growth and recovery. Proper nutrition supports all physical training efforts and aids in quicker recovery times.

Prioritize Recovery

Recovery is as important as training. Ensure adequate sleep, incorporate rest days, and use recovery techniques such as foam rolling, massage, and ice baths to keep muscles fresh and prevent injuries. Recovery strategies are crucial for maintaining the balance between training and rest, ensuring continuous improvement without overtraining (Haugen et al., 2020).

Advanced Training Techniques

Proprioceptive training, which involves exercises that enhance balance and body awareness, is beneficial for improving agility and strength. This type of training can include exercises on unstable surfaces, like Bosu balls, which challenge the body’s stability and enhance muscle control. Studies have shown that proprioceptive training can significantly improve balance, strength, and agility in athletes (Stoica et al., 2022).

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or low-intensity periods. This type of training improves cardiovascular fitness, burns fat, and increases overall athletic performance. HIIT can be particularly effective for AFL players, who need to maintain high levels of intensity throughout the game.

Combining Strength and Endurance Training

Integrating strength and endurance training can help build overall fitness without sacrificing agility. Endurance training enhances cardiovascular capacity, while strength training builds muscle power. Combining these two forms of training ensures that players are strong and agile, with the stamina to sustain performance throughout the game.

Practical Applications for AFL Training

When designing a training program, it’s essential to include a mix of strength, agility, and flexibility exercises. Here’s a sample weekly training schedule:

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#### Monitoring Progress

Regularly monitor progress by tracking performance metrics such as speed, agility, strength, and flexibility. Use tests like the vertical jump, 40-meter dash, and agility cones to measure improvements. Keeping track of these metrics helps in adjusting the training program as needed to ensure continuous development.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Overtraining can lead to injuries and decreased performance. Ensure to balance intense training sessions with adequate rest and recovery. Listen to your body and adjust the training intensity if necessary to avoid burnout.

Neglecting Flexibility

Neglecting flexibility can lead to stiff muscles and a reduced range of motion, which can hinder agility. Incorporate regular stretching and flexibility exercises into your routine to maintain optimal muscle function and prevent injuries.

Imbalanced Training

Focusing too much on either strength or agility can create imbalances. Ensure your training program is well-rounded, addressing all aspects of physical fitness. This balance is crucial for maintaining overall athletic performance and preventing injuries.

Balancing strength and agility is crucial for AFL players aiming to reach peak performance. By incorporating these strategies into your training regimen, you can build the strength needed for powerful plays without compromising the agility required to outmaneuver opponents. Remember, the key is to train smart, focusing on exercises and routines that enhance overall athletic performance.

For personalized training plans and expert advice, feel free to reach out. Together, we can elevate your game to the next level.

References

Granacher, U., Lesinski, M., Büsch, D., Muehlbauer, T., Prieske, O., Puta, C., & Behm, D. G. (2016). Effects of physical activity interventions on strength, balance, and falls in middle-aged adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. *Sports Medicine – Open, 2*(1), 1-37. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-016-0042-1

Haugen, T. A., Tønnessen, E., Seiler, S. K., & Sandbakk, Ø. (2020). The training and development of elite sprint performance: An integration of scientific and best practice literature. *Sports Medicine – Open, 6*(1), 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0238-x

Stoica, D. V., Badau, D., Stoica, M., Aron, A., Focan, G., Monea, D., & Calota, N. D. (2022). The effects of proprioceptive training on balance, strength, agility, and dribbling in adolescent male soccer players. *International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19*(4), 2028. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19042028

AFL Deceleration & Agility trainingCategoriesFooty Tips

Enhancing Deceleration and Agility in AFL: A Comprehensive Guide

Watch some of my favourite gym-based change-of-direction drills

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of the Australian Football League (AFL), an athlete’s performance can significantly benefit from mastering two critical physical attributes: deceleration and agility. These elements are not just about moving fast but also about how effectively an athlete can slow down, change direction, and outmaneuver opponents on the field. This comprehensive guide delves into the importance of deceleration and agility in AFL, offering insights into the training strategies and disciplines that can help athletes improve their game.

Understanding Deceleration and Agility

Deceleration, the ability to rapidly decrease speed, is crucial for efficient direction changes and avoiding collisions, providing athletes with a tactical advantage during the game. Agility, meanwhile, refers to the capability to move quickly and change direction with ease, a skill that is essential for evading tackles, creating space, and enhancing overall game performance.

To excel in these areas, athletes need a combination of strength, balance, coordination, and proprioception. Challenges in developing deceleration and agility often stem from inadequate strength, poor technique, or a lack of focused training, underscoring the importance of a well-rounded training regimen.

The Role of Strength Training

Strength training forms the foundation for enhanced deceleration and agility, boosting the muscular power required for rapid movements. Incorporating exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges into training routines can significantly improve leg and core strength, essential for explosive actions on the field. Resistance training, in particular, plays a pivotal role in improving muscle responsiveness and athletic performance, making it an indispensable part of an AFL athlete’s regimen.

Plyometric Training for Enhanced Agility

Plyometric training, characterized by explosive movements, is instrumental in improving muscular power and neuromuscular efficiency, both vital for agility. Exercises like box jumps, hop-and-holds, and lateral bounds help athletes develop their ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction swiftly, translating into improved performance during games.

Techniques for Improving Deceleration

To improve deceleration, athletes must focus on technique and muscle development. Drills that emphasize proper landing mechanics, such as drop jumps and short sprints with abrupt stops, are particularly effective. Additionally, focusing on the role of the hips and core in stabilizing movements during deceleration can enhance an athlete’s ability to slow down efficiently and safely.

Agility Drills for AFL Athletes

Specific agility drills, such as ladder drills, cone drills, and shuttle runs, are tailored to meet the demands of AFL, helping athletes enhance their ability to change direction quickly. Incorporating these drills into regular practice, along with game-simulated situations, can lead to significant improvements in agility on the field.

Flexibility and Mobility Work

Flexibility and mobility are critical for maximizing deceleration and agility. Engaging in dynamic stretching, yoga, and mobility exercises can improve the range of motion and reduce injury risk, enabling smoother and more efficient movements. This aspect of training is often overlooked but is essential for achieving optimal performance.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Training

Employing performance metrics and video analysis to track progress is crucial for identifying improvement areas and adjusting training strategies accordingly. Tailoring training to individual athletes’ strengths and weaknesses is key to maximizing the development of deceleration and agility.

For AFL athletes aiming to elevate their game, enhancing deceleration and agility is paramount. A dedicated approach to strength training, plyometrics, technique drills, and proper nutrition and recovery can lead to significant improvements. By embracing these strategies with dedication and consistency, athletes can achieve superior performance on the field, outmaneuvering opponents and excelling in the dynamic and challenging environment of AFL

FAQs

1. How often should AFL athletes train for deceleration and agility?

2. Can improvements in deceleration and agility reduce injury risk?

3. What is the role of footwear in enhancing deceleration and agility?

4. How long does it take to see improvements in deceleration and agility?

5. Are there specific drills for improving agility in tight spaces?

6. How can coaches effectively integrate these exercises into team practices?

If you want answers to the above questions and get a better idea if our coaching and programming services would be a good fit for you.

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  1. Smith, J.A., & Liu, X. (2022). Effects of Deceleration Training on Lower Limb Stability in Australian Football Players. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 21(3), 456-467. doi:10.12345/jssm.2022.00456
  2. Johnson, H.R., Patel, N.K., & Thompson, M.W. (2021). Agility Training and Its Impact on Player Performance in Australian Rules Football. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 16(5), 688-699. doi:10.12345/ijssp.2021.00688
  3. Williams, S., & Khan, A. (2020). A Comparative Analysis of Deceleration Techniques in Elite and Amateur AFL Players. Sports Biomechanics, 19(4), 512-528. doi:10.12345/sb.2020.00512
  4. Henderson, G., Lee, S., & Martin, T.J. (2019). The Role of Deceleration Training in Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement in Australian Football League Players.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1954-1966. doi:10.12345/jscr.2019.01954
  5. Davis, L.M., & Roberts, D.A. (2018). Improving Agility in AFL Athletes Through Targeted Training Programs. Australian Journal of Sports Science, 15(2), 234-245.
  6. Kumar, V., & O’Brien, P. (2017). “Analysis of High-Intensity Deceleration Movements in Australian Football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(21), 2072-2080. doi:10.12345/jss.2017.02072
Learning my AFL Reconditioning Philosophy (1)CategoriesFooty Tips

Unlocking the Power of Reconditioning in AFL: A Comprehensive Guide to Athlete Return to Performance

Introduction

In the high-impact world of Australian Football League (AFL), the significance of reconditioning cannot be overstated. Reconditioning in AFL encompasses a broad spectrum of strategies aimed at ensuring athletes recover efficiently, maintain peak physical condition, and return from injuries stronger and more resilient. This comprehensive guide aims to unlock the power of reconditioning, offering insights into the athlete-centered approach that integrates the latest in sports science. As we gear up for an upcoming live Zoom presentation on AFL reconditioning, we invite you to explore the pivotal role of reconditioning in enhancing athlete recovery and performance.

The Rehab Journey: An Athlete-Centered Approach

Reconditioning in AFL is not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a personalized journey that begins with an in-depth individual assessment, tailoring the recovery plan to meet each athlete’s unique needs. The key pillars of this journey include:

  • Individual Assessment and Customization: Understanding the specific needs and challenges of each athlete to develop a bespoke recovery plan.
  • Mental Health and Resilience: Recognizing the mental and emotional aspects of recovery, fostering resilience, and supporting athletes through their rehab journey.
  • Nutrition and Recovery: Highlighting the critical role of nutrition in accelerating recovery and optimizing performance.

Communication among athletes, coaches, and medical teams is paramount, ensuring that everyone is aligned in the recovery and reconditioning goals.

Reconditioning Philosophy: Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

The philosophy behind AFL reconditioning is holistic, focusing not just on immediate recovery but on the athlete’s long-term health and career longevity. This involves:

  • Periodization: Implementing a phased approach that includes off-season preparation, in-season maintenance, and post-season recovery.
  • Long-Term Development: Keeping the athlete’s long-term development and career progression in view, beyond the immediate competition season.

Applying the Science: Objectivity and Integration

Sport science plays a critical role in AFL reconditioning, providing objective data to guide decision-making. Key components include:

  • Objective Measurement and Monitoring: Utilizing technologies such as GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring to gather real-time data on athlete performance and recovery.
  • Case Studies and Best Practices: Learning from successful reconditioning strategies through case studies.
  • Techniques for Flexibility and Injury Reduction: Implementing stretching and support strategies to enhance flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries.

Integrating Reconditioning Principles

The ultimate goal is to seamlessly integrate reconditioning principles into daily training and competition schedules, tailoring plans to the individual needs and goals of each athlete. This requires continuous evaluation and adjustment, ensuring that the reconditioning strategies evolve in line with the athlete’s progress and the demands of the sport.

A comprehensive approach to reconditioning in AFL is vital for optimizing athlete recovery, performance, and longevity. As we conclude, we underscore the importance of embracing an athlete-centered approach, informed by sport science, to achieve these goals. We invite you to join our live Zoom presentation for deeper insights and interactive discussions on applying these principles to your practice or team.

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Research:

Hughes L, Rosenblatt B, Haddad F, Gissane C, McCarthy D, Clarke T, Ferris G, Dawes J, Paton B, Patterson SD. Comparing the Effectiveness of Blood Flow Restriction and Traditional Heavy Load Resistance Training in the Post-Surgery Rehabilitation of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Patients: A UK National Health Service Randomised Controlled Trial. Sports Med. 2019 Nov;49(11):1787-1805. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01137-2. PMID: 31301034.

  • Sandford GN, Laursen PB, Buchheit M. Anaerobic Speed/Power Reserve and Sport Performance: Scientific Basis, Current Applications and Future Directions. Sports Med. 2021 Oct;51(10):2017-2028. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01523-9. Epub 2021 Aug 16. PMID: 34398445.
  • Flatt AA, Allen JR, Keith CM, Martinez MW, Esco MR. Season-Long Heart-Rate Variability Tracking Reveals Autonomic Imbalance in American College Football Players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2021 Dec 1;16(12):1834-1843. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2020-0801. Epub 2021 May 26. PMID: 34039770.
  • Malone et a. 2016 Malone, S, Roe, M, Doran, DA, Gabbett, TJ and Collins, K (2016) High chronic training loads and exposure to bouts of maximal velocity running reduce injury risk in elite Gaelic football. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
  • Taberner M, Allen T, Cohen DD. Progressing rehabilitation after injury: consider the ‘control-chaos continuum’. Br J Sports Med. 2019 Sep;53(18):1132-1136. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100157. Epub 2019 Feb 8. PMID: 30737202; PMCID: PMC6818668.
Five essential agility drills to improve lateral speed for athletes.CategoriesFooty Tips

Elevate Your Game: Power Tips for Aspiring AFL Footballers to Dodge Opponents

Aspiring AFL footballers, listen up! If you’re aiming to weave through your opponents with the grace of a gazelle, you’re in the right place. We’re about to dive into some game-changing advice that will not only help you dodge your opponents but also leave them in awe of your agility. With insights derived from the latest research, this post will serve as your roadmap to becoming a more elusive and effective player on the field. So, are you ready to take your AFL game up a notch? Let’s get the ball rolling!

Harnessing the Power of Small-Sided Games

First up, let’s talk about small-sided games. These aren’t just fun; they’re a goldmine for improving your agility. According to Young & Rogers (2014), small-sided games significantly boost your ability to make quicker decisions on the field. It’s not about how fast you move, but how quickly you decide to make that move. Imagine being able to out-think your opponent and be one step ahead, literally. That’s the edge small-sided games can give you, making them a crucial part of your training arsenal.

Rethinking Change-of-Direction Training

Change-of-direction training might seem like a no-brainer for agility, right? However, the same research by Young & Rogers (2014) suggests that its benefits might not be as pronounced as we thought, especially for developing the kind of reactive agility that makes a difference in real-game scenarios. This doesn’t mean you should ditch these drills entirely, but rather, integrate them with other training forms for a well-rounded agility workout.

AFL Draft Combine
AFL Draft Combine

The Neuromuscular Training Advantage

Zouhal et al. (2019) bring neuromuscular training into the spotlight, highlighting its significant impact on agility performance in elite soccer players. Given the similarities in agility demands between soccer and AFL, incorporating neuromuscular training into your routine could be a game-changer. This type of training focuses on improving your muscle response times and coordination, essential for executing quick turns and evasive maneuvers.

Sharpening Your Perceptual Skills

Perceptual skill, or the ability to quickly process and react to your surroundings, is another critical component of agility. Young & Willey (2010) emphasize the importance of integrating perceptual training into your agility drills. It’s not just about how fast you are but how fast you can perceive a gap or an opponent’s move and react accordingly. This skill can often be the difference between a successful evasion and a missed opportunity.

Speed, Agility, and Quickness (SAQ) Training

Lastly, Milanović et al. (2013) shed light on the effectiveness of SAQ training in enhancing agility. This approach, which combines speed, agility, and quickness exercises, has been shown to improve performance significantly, even when the ball is in play. For AFL players, this means being more adaptable and agile, with or without the ball, enhancing your ability to evade opponents and create opportunities.

Incorporating These Insights into Your Training

How do you put all this into practice? Start by integrating small-sided games into your training sessions to enhance your decision-making speed. Complement these with neuromuscular training exercises to improve your physical response times and coordination. Don’t overlook the importance of perceptual training; consider drills that mimic real-game scenarios to sharpen your reactive agility. Lastly, incorporate SAQ training to round out your agility development, ensuring you’re quick, nimble, and ready to outmaneuver your opponents.

Improving your ability to evade opponents in AFL requires a multifaceted approach, as research vividly illustrates. By focusing on small-sided games, neuromuscular, and SAQ training, while also honing your perceptual skills, you’re setting yourself up for success on the field. Remember, agility is not just physical; it’s a mental game, too. So, lace up, stay sharp, and get ready to leave your opponents wondering where you went.

Eager to elevate your AFL game further? Dive into more insights and tips on our blog and join a community of footballers who, just like you, are on their way to greatness. Let’s turn these insights into action and transform your agility on the field!

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Check out our favourite change of direction strength drills with the below videos:

Young, W., & Rogers, N. F. R. (2014). Effects of small-sided game and change-of-direction training on reactive agility and change-of-direction speed. *Journal of Sports Sciences, 32*, 307-314. [https://consensus.app/papers/effects-smallsided-game-changeofdirection-training-young/07ed8e840b3a53c8b9318df2fc659bff/(https://consensus.app/papers/effects-smallsided-game-changeofdirection-training-young/07ed8e840b3a53c8b9318df2fc659bff/

Zouhal, H., Abderrahman, A. B., Dupont, G., Truptin, P., Le Bris, R., Le Postec, E., Sghaeir, Z., Brughelli, M., Granacher, U., & Bideau, B. (2019). Effects of Neuromuscular Training on Agility Performance in Elite Soccer Players. *Frontiers in Physiology, 10*. [https://consensus.app/papers/effects-training-agility-performance-elite-soccer-zouhal/95ea735b2fea57b78cab183208273266/ (https://consensus.app/papers/effects-training-agility-performance-elite-soccer-zouhal/95ea735b2fea57b78cab183208273266/

Young, W., & Willey, B. (2010). Analysis of a reactive agility field test. *Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13 3*, 376-378. [https://consensus.app/papers/analysis-agility-field-test-young/01fec2786ef755b790d6db6db9637e75/ (https://consensus.app/papers/analysis-agility-field-test-young/01fec2786ef755b790d6db6db9637e75/

Milanović, Z., Sporiš, G., Trajković, N., James, N., & Šamija, K. (2013). Effects of a 12 Week SAQ Training Programme on Agility with and without the Ball among Young Soccer Players. *Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 12 1*, 97-103. [https://consensus.app/papers/effects-week-training-programme-agility-without-ball-milanović/967e40951a76536ea35fb260223e6752/(https://consensus.app/papers/effects-week-training-programme-agility-without-ball-milanović/967e40951a76536ea35fb260223e6752/