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%?

For example, complete 3 x 12 minute blocks in a game situation. During this 12 minutes, players must complete as many explosive actions as possible. The emphasis on training should be that nobody competes for a ball at 80%. Everybody should be competing at 100%. A period of three minutes should be allowed between each block to allow for recovery and allow players to compete at 100% in the next block.

The following week one can train the players by completing a 3 x 13 minute block. Each week you will see an increase. To periodise and ensure maximum fitness gains, one can decrease the number of players per small sided game each week. The lower number of players, the fewer chances players have to hide.


  1. Players will be able to work at a high intensity and be able to complete many explosive actions. If a player can complete more explosive actions than their opponent, they will win the ball more.
  2. Players achieve their fitness through playing. The more players play together the better their communication and understanding of each other.
  3. A coach can include rules in the game, i.e. kick passes only, hand passes only or one solo only to help improve different aspects of the team.


  1. How can we be sure every player is giving 100% and isn’t hiding?


Practical Handout – Click Here For PDF


3 x 12 minute blocks for 15v15/11v11, 3-minute rest between blocks. Advance by doing 3 x 13 minutes and so on. 

  • Similarly, 3 x 12 minute blocks for 8v8/5v5. Advance by doing 3 x 13 minutes and so on.
  • 6 x 1 minute blocks for 4v4/3v3, 3-minute rest between blocks. This takes a total of 24 minutes. Complete this a second time after an extended period of rest. Progress by decreasing rest time by 30 seconds each week. 

Max Aerobic Speed Running

Key Explanations

Aerobic base = the speed that we can maintain for long periods.

Anaerobic base = A higher speed that we cannot sustain for a long period.

Background: Developing an Aerobic base is a method that has been around for years and there are many ways to increase this aerobic base. One method that is common with many strength and conditioning coaches in GAA is a method that Dan Baker has simplified. It consists of increasing your aerobic base, thus, allowing you to work at a higher general intensity throughout a game.

Maximum Aerobic Speed running is a method used to increase ones’ aerobic and anaerobic base.

In a game situation, a player that can maintain a pace of 13km/h will not be able to compete at as high a level as one that can maintain a pace of 14km/h. Pushing the boundaries of our aerobic base means that we can increase the pace that we can maintain for a long period of time. A GAA game usually lasts 60 minutes, therefore, we will spend the majority of our time in an aerobic zone. Expanding this zone allows us to work at a greater intensity throughout the game.

Analogy: The more you run the further you get every time. Similarly, the more you work at an intensity just above the barrier between your aerobic and anaerobic zone, the higher your aerobic base will be.

The question is; How to do we determine individually where this barrier is?  The answer is; a one-kilometre time trial. When one runs for longer than three minutes we can get a somewhat accurate estimation of their aerobic base. Using the calculations below one can estimate their max aerobic speed from the one-kilometre time trial and implement a series of runs to push this boundary to enhance that aerobic base. The method suggested below means that players will be giving 20% more than their maximum aerobic speed and this has shown to give maximal improvements in increasing their aerobic speed but also increase their anaerobic base.


  • One can measure the exact pace they should be running at to improve their aerobic base.
  • One can retest every 4 weeks to see their improvements and then work at a higher pace based on their new results.
  • One can visibly see the difference in their fitness
  • One can blend this type of training with small sided games to maximise both conditioning methods.


  • This running does not mimic a game situation, one does not have a ball in hand and is not competing against someone else.
  • Too much focus on building an aerobic base when the majority of ball related activity is in a high-intensity anaerobic zone
  • What about the anaerobic base??

Practical Handout – Click Here For PDF


  1. 1000 metre time trial for each player.
  2. The distance in metres is divided by the time in seconds.
  3. This will give a score. Multiply this score by 120%.
  4. Multiply by 15 to get the distance one runs in 15 seconds.


  1. Sean ran 1000 metres in 227 seconds
  2. 1000/227 = 4.4 m/s
  3. 4 x 120% = 5.28 m/s
  4. 28 x 15 = 79.2 m

Grouping players: Once you calculate the distance each player should run, put the players with similar times into groups. As you can see below the people that are not very fit will run a lesser distance than players that are fit.


Start line                   Marker cones for different groups

*————————————- 68m

*—————————————– 72m

*———————————————- 76m

*————————————————– 79m

*——————————————————- 83m

Volume: The athletes should begin with a three-minute block of 15 seconds of running, 15 seconds of resting. A rest period of two minutes will be given or a ball drill will take place until another block of 3 minutes will take place. The volume can be increased each week as shown in the table below.

One can argue that fitness and football are becoming separated and they are right. Football and fitness are one during a game, they are intertwined, therefore, why should a coach not replicate a game situation to get their players fit?

Final thoughts: There are a million ways to get fit and these are not the only methods one can use. I believe that the second method includes a lot of scientific jargon that can make it difficult for a regular coach to implement.

However, there are pros and cons to everything. Personally, I like how one can individualise the distance every player needs to run. Everybody is different after all.

Both methods will provide results and have a place in training players. To say one is better than the other is impossible to say, I think it depends on what you believe in and what works best for you as a coach.

For an entire understanding of both methods one can read Football Periodisation by Raymond Verheijen and attached in the references is a thorough account of Maximal Aerobic Speed by Dan Baker.

Written by Conor Bolton, Sport Scientist and co-founder of

Questions and answers video next week on Facebook. Private message us your questions and we will endeavour to give quality answers.


Baker, D., 2011. Recent trends in high-intensity aerobic training for field sports. Professional Strength & Conditioning, 22, pp.3-8.

Dupont, G., Blondel, N., Lensel, G. and Berthoin, S., 2002. Critical velocity and time spent at a high level of for short intermittent runs at supramaximal velocities. Canadian journal of applied physiology, 27(2), pp.103-115.

Verheijen, R., 2014. The original guide to football periodisation: Always play with your strongest team (Part 1). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: World Football Academy BV.