Pre season Training

Pre season Training

Many of our clients are just a few days away from starting the hardest part of the season: the dreaded Pre-season Training! From Rugby, Hockey and Football, through to Cross-country Running, this is the time where you make or break your season.

As with all training, we should start with improving our basic cardiovascular training level. This includes sports-specific drills, VO2 max workouts, sprint work and long–slow duration training. For many of us, this entails long group runs, hill work and death runs (as you can tell from the name, these are not fun at all!). We need to establish a basic platform for our skill set to grow from. The key to this is to keep it varied. I suggest a plan of three workouts a week at the beginning; start with long–slow duration cardio. This is where we work for 20 minutes or more in a steady state. For example:

  • Warm-up and stretch – 10 minutes
  • Then build up to a working level of 60–65% of your maximum heart rate, or effort level 6–7/10 and hold that level for 20 minutes or more
  • Cool-down and stretch – 10 minutes

This will build your aerobic fitness levels.

For workout two, we should include some interval training. This can be alternated between sprint work and speed work. The purpose of these is to increase your sub-maximal fitness levels and sprint speed. For example:

  • Workout time – 30 minutes
  • Warm-up and stretching – 10 minutes
  • Intervals of 1 minute at 65% maximum heart rate, or effort level 7/10, then 30 seconds sprint work/ efforts level at 80% maximum
  • Heart rate – effort level 9/10 for 10 minutes
  • Cool-down and stretch – 10 minutes

Workout three is the hardest workout of the week: hill work. Find a hill or slope that takes two or three minutes to climb, then use the following pattern:

  • Warm-up and stretch – 10 minutes
  • Climb the hill with heart rate at 85% maximum heart rate, effort level 9.5/10 and walk back down
  • Repeat this 6–8 times
  • Cool-down and stretch – 10 minutes

With the cardiovascular fitness levels taken care of, we should look to implement and basic strength and conditioning programme.

I find this is best adhered to if you create a 6–9 week plan and break each segment into smaller time periods. Doing it all in one go won’t work!

I use the following plan and time periods:

Weeks 1–3

Basic movements

If we break down the movements in sport they all follow the same pattern. The all contain squatting, lunging, pulling, pushing or twisting and many of them combine two or three movements. Think about a scrum set position of a footballer jumping for a header.

Therefore in this time period I suggest basic conditioning using these patterns.

The cable machine is best for this as it ensure that you hold your body straight and uses its own strength to either pull, push or twist.

In a game of hockey or rugby there is no bench to support you, so don’t use one in your training!

I suggest 4–5 sets of 10 reps each exercise lift 75% of your 1 rep max. Rest periods from 45 seconds to 1 minute each set.

Weeks 4–7

Specific Training

We should now be feeling quite good: our cardiovascular fitness levels are improving and the basic movement training is doing its job! It’s now time to introduce sports-specific movements. Think about the movements you do in your own sport: are they in movement plane or two or three? Are the single leg or bi-leg moves? This is where you can get creative and really tailor your workout for your sport. For instance, plyometric lunges are fantastic for improving single leg jump power. Or weighted step ups to improve muscle endurance and strength within the legs.

I suggest using both muscular endurance and strength systems during this period. Endurance keep the reps high; between 15 and 20 reps per sets. Weight is at 60% of your 1 rep max. For strength keep the reps low; between 4 and 6 reps per set but weight at 85% of your 1 rep max.

Weeks 8–9


With the season just about to start, I would then focus on ensuring that you are physically and mentally fit for the upcoming season.

I incorporate Yoga and Pilates into my workout plan here. Restore the neutral length of the muscles especially in the legs to promote recovery and to stay injury free. Use recovery runs and light training sessions. All the hard work has been done so now is the time to build energy levels and mentally prepare yourself for the season ahead.

Following a plan and writing it down will make it easier for you to plan your sessions. With your club you will focus on skills and drills for the season. Remember, fitness is the component that allows you to use all your skills, flair and co-ordination to be the best you can be.

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