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FITNESS Training for hurling, Part 1

Nurturing
Mayo hurler David Dowling pictured during the Christy Ring Cup match against Wicklow last May.

Improve your game


Personal Trainer
Paul O'Brien


Training for Hurling – Part 1

Hurling is about pace. It’s the fastest field-ball sport in the world. At times, it can be hard to keep pace with a game when watching from the sidelines. Imagine what it must be like for those playing! So, what are the demands of the game on the athlete? How do you best train these?
As with all sports, training for hurling can be broken into two broad aspects – athletic training to ensure a player is in peak athletic conditioning; and sports specific or skill-based training that is unique to the sport itself.
Hurlers, of course, display differing levels of skill at the game. Some are naturally more talented than others. In cases where these high skill levels are complimented by high levels of athletic ability, you get a stand-out, complete hurler like Henry Shefflin.
Those less blessed with natural talent can, however, close the gap by ensuring that they focus on becoming the best athletes they can. For all young and aspiring county hurlers, this is a key message. Hard work on your athletic training can and will compliment your natural ability.
So, what should you work on to improve your game? Firstly, let’s look at athletic conditioning, Before we do, remember that your training should replicate the actions and movements you will perform during games, This is called ‘mirroring’.

Conditioning
As with all sports, aerobic (with oxygen) endurance is your bedrock. A good aerobic base allows you to work at higher levels and call upon components like speed and power whenever you need them. Without a high aerobic capacity, a player will not have the reserves to produce power plays in latter stages of games.
However, achieving a good aerobic base does not mean running five or ten miles a few times a week. Too much distance running is often a problem with players and can lead to injury and the promotion of extra slow-twitch muscle fibres in your body (fibres used for long bouts of exercise such as endurance running, cycling etc). This is counter-productive as it does not mirror what happens in your sport.
Distances of two to three miles over a measured course are sufficient until you have built a solid aerobic base. Keep the distance constant and try to improve your time week-on-week, until you are completing the distance at a pace of six minutes per mile.
Anaerobic (without oxygen) conditioning is called on when you need sudden bursts of speed over distances of five to 60 metres during a game, or required to power through a tackle or out-jump an opponent to field a ball. As stated, the higher your level of aerobic conditioning, the more reserve you will have to call upon anaerobically. Your body uses a different energy pathway to fuel anaerobic work. This pathway depletes quickly, but good aerobic conditioning allows quicker replenishment of this system also.
Anaerobic training should focus on speed work (including reaction, agility and quickness) – sprint drills over 5-50 metres between cones. Use multi-directional drills as well. A session on good technique for sprint work can be hugely beneficial for players at first. Drills on acceleration, deceleration, changing direction, running curves and speed from any position (standing, kneeling, and lying) should also be included. Coaches can use speed reactional drills with numbered cones, drills to increase speed through a single-sprint series.

NEXT WEEK Elements of training power, strength training and how the skill-related aspects of the game can be incorporated into training.