Conditioning GAA Athletes


This method originates from a book called Football Periodisation by Raymond Verheijen. It has been adapted slightly for use in Gaelic football. The method is a deviation from regular conditioning of players. Regular conditioning usually consists of running between 60% and 90% intensity.

Each time a player challenges for the ball we see an explosive action (speed, agility and quickness). The difference between winning and losing is often inches and those inches are won by players that can engage in an explosive action. The question is how can we train a player to complete several explosive actions in a game?

Often getting fit involves completing long slow runs and not training a player to complete more explosive actions. How does one get a player to compete several times at 100% intensity when they train fitness at 90%?


Nordic Hamstring Exercise

Growing up playing Gaelic Football, one guarantee is the common sight of players pulling up mid-sprint and falling to the floor. Similarly, the queue of players standing on the sideline during training. So, what can be done to help prevent these lower extremity injuries. Well, as part of my MSc, I am involved with a research group looking at how the hamstrings adapt to various training intervention strategies. This is important, as hamstring injuries are highly prevalent problem amongst many field sports, notably Soccer (Petersen et al. 2011) and AFL (Opar et al. 2014). Similarly, in Gaelic football, hamstring injuries were reported in a 4-year perspective study to be the most common muscular injury, accounting for 24% of all reported injuries and over 50% of muscle injuries (Murphy et al. 2012).

Figure 1. Nordic Hamstring exercise being carried out by one person holding the ankles, as the other person slowly lowers their body to the ground.

One common type of hamstring training that S&C professionals utilise is the Nordic Hamstring exercise. It is very simplistic in its design and can be simply carried out by two people (Figure 1.). This can be included as a supplementary exercise to most S&C programs, and has been shown to be beneficial when performed twice weekly, with repetition ranges varied between 1-13 reps per set (Van der Horst et al. 2015). This can be easily progressed as capability improves by adding more sets, or there are some variations of the movement out there. However, I would suggest becoming proficient at the classical movement before progressing.


Supplements: not exactly what it says on the tin

Having just completed the final lung busting sprint of training on a random Thursday night. The steam is rising of you and your fellow teammates as you enter the dressing room. Each player plants themselves on the hard-wooden bench. A common sight in many GAA club changing rooms across Ireland, that many will relate too. However, recently, most clubs have had the one person in the team who draws what looks like a cream whipper from the side pocket of their bag. “What’s that lad?”, one person will invariably say, to which the response will be “ah, this, it’s a protein shake lad, it’s for recovery”. Before long, the concept had spread amongst the crowd and ques have formed outside the local health shop.

The idea of using supplements has spread to most facets of Sport, be that elite or amateur levels. It has been reported that 75-85% of athletes consume at least one supplement, with 21% reported to be consuming at least 6 supplements (Maughan et al., 2007). Estimates place the value of the supplement industry in the United States at approximately $35 billion, with it expected to grow exponentially in the coming years (Kuszak et al., 2015). Especially given the level of exposure, these supplement companies get through social media and celebrity endorsements.


Overloading Senior and Juvenile Players

Workload spike

The club player.

Common sense is rarely practiced, therefore, I will use an analogy.

An 18-year-old starts drinking his first pint of beer at his 18th birthday party. Two pints and he is feeling tipsy and drunk, therefore, he stops knowing that any more will throw him over the edge. Two pints is not much, but he has never drunk before. The 18 year continues to drink every Friday for the next 6 months, slowly building himself up to six pints before he gets drunk. His tolerance to alcohol has improved. However, he now realises that he is drinking a little too much and decides to go cold turkey for three months. His best friend is having his birthday party later in the year, therefore, he decides that it would be rude not have a drink with his best friend on his 18th. He picks it up where he left off the last time and drinks six pints. He gets sick everywhere and has the worst hangover of his life the following morning. His tolerance to drink had gone because he hadn’t been drinking. (more…)

Linear vs Non-Linear Periodization for Team Sports

Periodization of a team’s strength and conditioning sessions over a season can be a mine field of information. How many sessions should be run in each phase? How intense should each session be? When should we move from phase to phase?  A lot of coaches use either a linear periodised programme or a non-linear, perhaps without even knowing they are. So the question becomes which of these two styles is better utilized for teams? I believe the question should not be “which?” But “when?”  Both systems have their place within a full season macrocycle it’s only at what point they are best utilized. (more…)

Youth S&C according to Science


Faigenbaum et al, (2015) provides the following benefits:

  1. Stronger younger athletes will be better prepared to learn complex movements, master sport tactics and withstand long term sports training.
  2. A development approach to physical conditioning can enhance the health of youth. Data suggests that young athletes that engage in a Strength and Conditioning program are less likely to get injured.
  3. Traditional evidence on resistance training on an immature skeleton has been replaced by evidence that resistance training may be the perfect time for the bone remodelling process to respond to the tensile and compressive forces associated with resistance training.


An insight into youth S&C in a county set up

Michael Boyhan (3rd Strength and Conditioning)

Laois Minor Hurling Backroom Team

I myself find my own current position as a challenge to say the least. I am currently involved with the Laois Minor Hurling backroom team in an S/C position and its application to those under the age of 18. Is Strength and conditioning needed at that age? Yes is clearly the answer, and sometimes the possibility is it is clearly needed at a younger age in terms of development through various type movement and technique that will aid a child’s development stage within their sport. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that strength training is an inappropriate and unsafe activity for youth. (more…)



Creatine is a protein that the body can make using three amino acids (arginine, glycine and methionine). It can be found in foods such as meat and fish, however not in high quantities. High doses can be achieved through supplementation.

How it works

The muscle stores of a protein called phosphocreatine are limited. Creatine supplementation raises these limited stores. According to Hultman et al (1996) they are raised typically by around 2%. (more…)

Our Motivation

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek.

Why are we doing this? We want to influence change in the way we treat GAA players.

The players are the most important part of the game. We must allow them to thrive in the environment they are placed in. We must bring in the new and forget the old. We feel there is a demand for information from coaches and players. There is a need for a platform that is easy to access with information that can be broken down into terms everybody can understand.

GAA Strength will provide this information. We will give the player and the coach knowledge and information as to what the rights and wrongs are. (more…)