Elite footy teams start preseason training very early, most in November. There is a reason for this. If we stop exercising we lose the benefits of this very quickly (I always feel I lose it much faster than I gain it!!). It is thought that changes in our muscles happen after only 2 weeks of not exercising. So, if players rest over the Christmas period (6-8 weeks) their muscles will lose strength, flexibility and endurance properties and their heart and lungs will also lose their fitness. Flexibility and strength are important to maintain, especially when playing explosive sports like footy (also basketball, tennis, athletics) to prevent injuries.
For most local footy players, there isn’t the support structure to keep them on track with training. It is therefore important to maintain some form of training over the summer period. It does not have to be intense initially but it needs to be intense enough so that fitness and flexibility are maintained. It is important to have some rest so that your body can recover from the previous season. If you have any niggles or injuries this is the time to address them and fix them so that you can start training injury free.
A solid footy preseason
During preseason training it is important to concentrate on core stability. That is, the muscles around the lower back and abdomen. This is the base from where all muscles work from. If your core is strong you will run faster, jump higher and it has been shown in research that it will decrease the chances of injuries especially lower back, hamstring and groin. I’ve treated many footy players over the years and they don’t like doing core work. Why? It’s slow, it’s controlled, it involves small movements. Footy players like to run, jump, big movements, but trust me, get into your core work and you will be able to do all the rest better with less chance of injury. See more for examples of exercises.
Hamstring injuries and footy
The most common injury site in Aussie rules footy is the hamstring. It results in the most games missed in a season. Therefore, there has been a lot of research in this area to improve treatment so that players can return to playing earlier and also to decrease the chance of the injury recurring. Research has shown that we can improve recovery by:
- Beginning rehabilitation, including exercising, sooner after your footy injury (Often 3-5 days post injury)
- Concentrating on particular exercises that lengthen the hamstring muscle (this is called eccentric exercises)
- Continually increasing the intensity of the exercises
- Returning to running sooner
See more – types of eccentric exercises