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Strength Training for Young AFL Players

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Strength Training for Young AFL Players

The physical demands during an AFL game encompass a vast array of qualities that will change depending upon the young athlete's height and weight and the position they play. However, the common qualities seen across all the successful AFL athletes include aerobic endurance, repeat sprint ability, explosiveness, mobility, absolute strength, core strength, agility and change of direction, high levels of muscle mass, and movement/motor control. These movements all range from very bilateral, sagittal, up and down to multi-directional, multi-planar and rotational movements. Therefore, their training should reflect the unpredictable 360-degree nature of their sport.

Traditionally, training for AFL has focused too much on muscle hypertrophy and trying to do as much volume as possible to get the young athletes as jacked as they can. There has been a lacking emphasis on power and speed development as well as preparing the athletes for the constant change of direction and stop start movements they'll encounter throughout the match.

If you want your young athlete to become more explosive and be able to break away from their opponents and stoppages, then you have to train explosively in the gym. There is only so much progress you can make from just doing isolation work.

In order to make your young athlete more explosive, they have to be able to produce as much force as they can in as little time as possible, and so the first step to achieving this is by building their strength. If you want to produce large amounts of force, you first need large amounts of strength, and so by focusing on mastering the basic movement patterns of a horizontal push and pull, vertical push and pull, a hinge and a squat you are setting the athlete up to produce force in any direction that may be required.

After a base has been established, a shift towards expressing this strength should be the main focus. Easy ways to begin this is by incorporating plyometrics, jumping, landing and medicine ball work into the program, which will get the athlete moving explosively with little coaching required.

The lacking emphasis on short distance and high speed spring efforts in training has become more and more evident, as the amount of hamstring strains and tears that occur each season continues to increase. This has been the topic of conversation recently with some high-profile athletes having to change their sprinting technique in the middle of their careers due to constant hamstring injuries.

If technique and quality rep work is made a priority from a young age, the injury rates would be significantly lower. Speed is a quality that need to be trained with high frequency, and so by micro dosing high effort acceleration and speed work at the start of strength sessions you minimise the amount of fatigue accumulated as well as exposing the hamstrings to game-like contractions with volume accumulated over the week.

With appropriate progression during the pre-season and loading during the season, your young athlete can see dramatic increases and consistency in their speed. These increases over time will see them being able to get to the ball first more often, maintain their speed to get away from opponents, and always finding space to be on the receiving end of passes.

To find out more about improving your young athlete's football performance, get in touch with us today.

Matt Hucul
Junior Strength Coach
Inner Athlete (AUS)

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