Q: G’day Joe,
If you’re not familiar with AFL (Australian rules football) HERE is a highlight reel.
As you can see it is physically similar to rugby, requires the speed and endurance of a soccer player, and similar ball handling skills of a bballer.
The game last roughly 120 minutes and is broken up into quarters.
The elite midfielder’s will typically:
These guys are professional athletes.
The numbers for power and strength tests are not staggering when compared to NFL athletes, however, as you can appreciate there is a necessity to combine power and endurance. The best players have this:
The question is how do you combine the two forms of training without causing negative effects?
Thanks for the question. I’ve received quite a few emails regarding Rugby and Australian Rules football during the past couple of months. It definitely seems like there is an increased interest and demand for quality training information on the topic. This is probably due to the fact that these are two of the most brutal sports on earth…and training for them can be “confusing” due to the many biomotor capabilities that each player must possess. Because of this; I decided to provide some much-needed information regarding the training for these unique sports.
Ironically, our current intern (Alexander Brooker) happens to be a rugby player from England. He has played the sport – as well as researched it extensively – so I felt comfortable asking him to ‘tackle’ your question. I think the readers of my website will appreciate his well-researched, in-depth answer that’s provided below.
Here you go…
First of all, huge respect to you for playing Aussie Rules Footy – I consider it one of the hardest, if not the hardest sport on Earth. It requires you to be very proficient in many different biomotor capabilities, plus you need to be a bit psycho too!
You haven’t mentioned how long your preseason is, what level of athlete you are in regards to the Process of Attaining Sports Mastery, your previous training, competition calendar, how old you are, physical parameter measurements etc., so this means I cannot give you a definitive answer. However, I can give you a framework and some ideas of how to manage the training process.
I personally view ARF as an aerobic-alactic sport. There is an obvious demand for a very powerful aerobic system (15km per match, length of the game, etc.) and also a powerful alactic system is needed for the jumps, tackles, sprints etc.
Firstly, if you program the training process correctly, there will be NO NEGATIVE effects between improving the alactic and aerobic systems, and contrary to popular belief – they will actually COMPLEMENT each other.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the glycolytic (lactic) system. There is a glycolytic component, but if you have a powerful aerobic system, then you do not need to venture into glycolytic training in the training process. The lactic component has been found to be so much smaller than most intellects thought. The degree to which you can still be in an aerobic environment can reach very high heart rate intensities, so the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) can be very misleading for this reason. The nature of intermittent activity in Aussie Rules – in order for it to be lactic – would require the movement rates to be so high (with such minimal rest) that it is not seen consistently.
Studies from Douge 1982 explains how over the course of the game a player will perform 100 or more sprints, and Wadley et al 1988 describes that these high intensity efforts are normally over 20m and are present for roughly 20% of the game. The other 80% of the game is spent at low to moderate intensity, which is why the aerobic system is so valuable to replenish energy stores and remove all of the accumulated byproducts.
When you start to look at the different muscular contraction regimes that are associated with accumulating higher levels of blood lactate, this is where physical activity such as the tackle (if sustained for a long enough time) would be lactic — but it never is.
The majority of your training should definitely be either aerobic or alactic. It is important to recognize that technical/tactical coaches are going to be implementing lactic loads in the sport practice – unless you’re getting your say in regards to program management (and that you yourself correctly understand bioenergetics and programming of sports training).
So, if you know that there is enough lactic work already being done in training, then you certainly do not need to do ANY in the physical preparation. (Except for maybe the last stage of the training plan, but more on this later…)
Here are some reasons why you should keep everything either alactic or aerobic when training for ARF:
–The more powerful the aerobic system, the greater the lactate buffer system! Without even training in a glycolytic environment, you’re improving your lactic capacity because of the creatine phosphate, adenosine triphosphate biogenesis, each 3 energy systems releasing chemicals to allow contraction. The more you can keep an athlete in an aerobic environment before they go into lactic, the less stress on their body to produce the work. Why make things harder for yourself?
Here’s a good example using the 400m:
–Very big aerobic component, as well as lactic and alactic
–Those who stay in aerobic longest are putting out the required work at the required intensity level at less stress to their body
–It only makes sense even if sport has substantial lactic component (which ARF does), to have the strongest aerobic system possible because of less stress to the body
–Creation of creatine phosphate, creation of adenosine triphosphate is less “expensive” to the organism with aerobic than alactic
Obviously there is no possible way to improve speed and power qualities without the alactic mechanism.
Here’s something to keep in mind while trying to improve your skill levels:
|AM||Field Based Session, low intensity working on technical precision||Field Based Session, low intensity working on technical precision||Field Based Session, low intensity working on technical precision|
|Intensive MB Throws||Extensive MB Work||Intensive Jumps||Auxiliary Resistance Exercises||Intensive MB Throws||Extensive MB Work|
|Resistance Exercises||Resistance Exercises||Resistance Exercises|
|Therapeutic Massage (any low intensity massage)||Hydrotherapy||Deep Tissue Massage||Hydrotherapy||Hydrotherapy||Deep Tissue Massage|
-SAC: This stands for Speed, Agility or Conditioning. It will be performed at >75% maximal locomotion
-MB: Medicine Ball
Some people consider tempo work as a mere recovery method. However, it is so much more than that. Tempo’s are submaximal linear or multi-directional locomotion performed at <75% of your maximum velocity. They will help to improve your speed by increasing capillary density – the vascular network (there is miles of it in your body) – you can generate more heat by the motor neurons. It is well known that the more heat you can put around the motor neurons, the less the electrical resistance. This means the fiber starts to take on the characteristic of a white fiber because the only difference is in the innervation. Also, a very good aerobic network allows you to maintain a warm up so that you can have longer breaks between your runs. This guarantees that the following repetition will be at a better quality/intensity. Sprint mechanics can be easily improved while running at submaximal speeds, and obviously a better sprint form will improve your maximal velocity. The increased capillary density slows blood flow through the tissue, allowing more time for nutrient transfer and waste removal. (Charlie Francis)
It’s very important to know what is going on at field sessions because its very easy to overload yourself if you do not account for what is already done – or what will be done – in practice (which is out of your control). For example, it’s best to do skill work before weight work. You only have a given capacity for each day. After a training session, you must subtract from what you have planned for that day – so you are not over volumised. This is known as Charlie Francis’ “Fill the Glass” concept.
You could be at the end of your capacity (the glass) after your speed work. This would indicate you to not perform the remaining training means. The goal is to train for as long as possible with minimal risk of injury. The athlete who trains for 4 years consistently, beats the guy who trains hard for a year, gets injured, trains hard for 2 years then gets injured again etc.
If your technical session ends up being more intensive than you planned then you must readjust all of your other training means for that day, otherwise you will go over your capacity for that day (overflow).
I hope this serves you some use, as well as some things to think about. I feel that I have answered your question the best I can with the limited information you have given. I would like to end on this great quote:
“Let it be known that the training process is a living thing. No training model or program is ever set in stone. So long as the human being is composed of biological units, the application of training means and methods must remain as adaptive as the very infrastructure of our organism.” – James ‘The Thinker’ Smith
Questions, comments, concerns – feel free to email Alex at Brooker@freakstrength.com or drop him a comment and start a discussion below!
REFERENCES & SPECIAL THANKS TO:
-Joe DeFranco for allowing me to write on his site, cheers mate!
–James “The Thinker” Smith (www.powerdevelopmentinc.com) – all of the information on his site, our consultations and his specific publications: High Low Sequences of Programming and Organizing Training 2005, Maximal Outputs vs Operational Outputs DVD.
-Charlie Francis – all of the material he has available. (Printed with permission from Angela Coon for one time use. www.CharlieFrancis.com)
–Supertraining (2009 edition)
–www.freakstrength.com – all of the information
–Douge B (1982) – Testing in Australian rules football. Sports Coach 6:29-34.
–Wadley G and Le Rossignol P (1998) – The relationship between repeated sprint ability and the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 1:100-110