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FITNESS Training for hurling – Part 2

Mayo hurler Seán Markham and Wicklow’s Ronan Keddy battle for possession during the Christy Ring Cup match in Arklow last May.

You’ve got the power

Personal Trainer
Paul O'Brien

Training for Hurling – Part 2
Last week we looked at the importance of having a solid base of aerobic endurance as a platform for peak conditioning in hurling. Once a good foundation has been laid, the athlete can then concentrate on developing power, speed and the skill-related aspects of the game.
This week, we take a further look at training to develop power and incorporating skill-related drills into training.
Power can be thought of as an adjunct to speed training and mostly, this is the way it is trained. Power refers to the ability to apply force at speed. In hurling, it is seen when launching into the air to make a catch, blasting the sliotar goal-ward, bursting through a tackle or changing position at speed.
Power training can be sub-divided into running power and static drills. Some excellent drills for developing running power are progressive sprints and hill work. With progressive sprints, a player runs over a 60m distance, with cones marking every 10m. The coach can then vary the drill – for example, run at 50 per cent to first cone, accelerate to 75 per cent to the second cone and again from 75 per cent to 95 per cent from the third cone to the last cone.
There are many variations of these drills in a coach’s tool bag. Hill training is very effective for developing leg power. However, it should not be performed until a good basis of speed and strength work has been laid down. Hill training can be varied to work on acceleration (shorter hills, shorted recovery) or strength (longer hills, longer recovery). Start with sets of three repeats, aiming to complete two to three sets in session.
Developing power in the gym can be achieved as part of your normal strength weight training. The method of training power here is quite simple. Select a weight that is about 60-85 per cent of the weight you use for strength work. At the end of your strength-training session, complete a circuit of about eight to ten prescribed exercises. As well as decreasing the weight, increase the number of repetitions to between ten to 20.
The key variable for muscle power is the speed of repetition. Each repetition must be completed at maximum speed. For this reason, it is essential to ensure correct technique, ensure the correct weight is chosen and not to introduce power work into your routine until you have four to six weeks of solid strength training completed. Having a trainer prescribe the exercises and teach correct technique is an essential first step and will greatly decrease your injury risk.
Players should not neglect flexibility training to help avoid injury and promote joint integrity. This is important because strength training will shorten muscles so stretching after weight training is essential. Again, a good range of exercises should be prescribed, focusing on the legs, shoulders and upper back and core. Core conditioning is also vital. As well as supporting the body’s extremities, a strong core also helps efficiency of power delivery from lower to upper body. An example of this would be quickly recovering from a lying position to jump and catch or strike a ball or make a tackle.
Finally, once a basis of aerobic conditioning is laid and work on strength, speed and power has been commenced, a coach should incorporate ball skill drills into training. This can be done by simply adding this dimension to existing drills or working with the hurling coach to design drills to work on specific areas for development. Examples would be adding a pick-up and solo into a speed drill or shooting/tackling drills after power work.
When training for sport, it’s important to remember to train both the player and the athlete. This leads to fitter, more rounded players who can make the difference when needed most.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exciting and challenging exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.