Recommendations For Your GAA Gym Program - StrongLife

Recommendations For Your GAA Gym Program

GAA, strong

So today I want to cover some recommendations to incorporate and take into consideration for your GAA gym program.

First of all, I want you to take a moment to reflect on the past season.

Like so many players I know, they’re just put their all into the last 10 months.

That’s a really long time of your year spent prioritising GAA, multiple training sessions a week, pushing your body to it’s limits week in, week out.

So your primary focus right now is to recover fully.

A vital component of your training should be RECOVERY. If you’re not allowing enough time to recover between training sessions then they end up being counterproductive and can lead to more serious issues like injury or illness.

You cannot possibly perform to your potential without adequate recovery.

At the end of the day, you’re an amateur athlete, you have friends, family, girlfriends/boyfriends, a job and most of all, you’ve a life to live too.

Getting injured or sick due to excessive training and insufficient recovery is not going to benefit you in any shape or form.

But for many, they’re already hitting gyms to get in some winter training to be ready for next season which is a good idea once it is managed correctly.

Now one crucial point I want to make before I get started is this:

If you want to become a better GAA player, then you MUST train your sport.

It’s a game of skill, so to become a better player you must put the work in on the pitch.

All the gym sessions in the world cannot make you a better player in your sport without training it.

But enough of me harping on, let’s talk a bit about your gym sessions.

1 – Mobility Work

Use your warm ups to spend time working on tight areas and to mobilise the primary joints to function better as a human body, let alone in a given sport.

You can also incorporate foam rolling and mobility in between sets of exercises.

Your primary areas to focus your mobility on are:

  • Ankles
  • Hips
  • Shoulders
  • Thoracic Extension

Hamstring injuries are a big issue among players and I’ve had quite a few come into me.

And having discussed this at length with many physios we’ve all concluded that majority of the issues are being caused by excessively tight/inactive glutes.

If your glutes are tight or not active then your hamstrings are getting overworked.

In the long term, they continue to be overused and abused and eventually cause issues.

So sorting out your hip and ankle mobility is essential.

I know it’s boring, but it needs to be done before you can load any weight onto the muscle groups.

For each area you’re looking to foam roll it, stretch it and then mobilise it.

Along with that, you’re then looking to stabilise each joint group through movement.

2 – The Training

So let’s not focus on anything fancy. I don’t program Olympic lifts for any of the lads and ladies I’ve programmed for.


Well the length of time it takes to make someone efficient in Oly lifts is not worth it.

There’s also a risk to reward. Oly lifts are highly technical and require quite an amount of coaching.

They carry too high of a risk for me when trying to get someone stronger and remove mobility limitations.

Instead, use this list of exercises to vary your training and develop strength and power:

  • Hip Hinge patterns (deadlift variations incl Trap Bar DL’s, Kettlebell work, Pull throughs, RDL’s incl Single Legs)
  • Squat movements (back squats, front squats, box squats, goblet squats, split squats, step ups, lunges)
  • Pullups/Chins/Inverted Rows, Dumbell Rows, Barbells Row
  • Explosive power movements (swings, jumps, clean pulls, throws etc.)
  • Sled Pushes & Drags
  • Farmers Walks, Suitcase Carries, Waiter Walks
  • Core Work (hollow holds, turkish situps, pallof presses,
  • Bench/Upper body pressing

Bench work comes last because it really has very little relevance to GAA.

Instead, focus on developing your posterior chain, strengthen any weak muscle groups and then start stacking power on top.

3 – Putting It All Together

So how do you put it all together?

Well it will depend on your goal.

Looking to build muscle – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

Develop Strength – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps

Develop Power – 3-4 sets of 1-3 reps focusing on speed of the bar

If your pre-season gym training is say, 12 weeks long, you can look at planning it like this:

  • 4 Weeks of Hypertrophy (8-12 reps)
  • 4 Weeks of Strength (3-5 reps)
  • 4 Weeks of Power (1-3 reps) while still maintaining strength work

Add in conditioning work where you feel you’re lagging behind to make sure you don’t feel like a sack of spuds come the first training session back.

A Sample Day of Training:

Foam rolling, mobility and stretching (5-10 mins)

A1 – Squat 4 x 8

A2 – Chinups 4 x max

B1 – Romanian DL 4 x 12

B2 – One Arm DB Bench Press 4 x 12 e/s

C1 – KB Swing 3 x 15

C2 – Turkish Situps 3 x 12 e/s

D1 – Farmers Walks 3 x (whatever length you can manage)

D2 – Step Ups 3 x 10 e/s

E – Inverted Rows 3 x max

You can take that layout and simply change exercises each session.

Further Recommendations:

Get Your Mobility Sorted – I cannot stress that enough.

If you start loading weight on top of a dysfunctional movement patterns then you’re asking for trouble.

Be Smart – if something feels wrong or off, stop. If Squatting with a bar causes you discomfort, then don’t squat with a bar. Instead, switch to the many variations of squats or do single leg work.

Not sure of your technique? Get someone to look at it in person and try not to rely on YouTube.

The key to your pre-season is to build up your body so it’s in a better condition for next season. Do so by training smartly, working on how your body moves and once again, recover well.

Once League and Championship kicks in, don’t down tools and forget about the gym.

Clubs should be allowing players 1 session a week to hit the gym to maintain their pre-season work.

These sessions shouldn’t be about pushing yourself. Instead it should be about maintaining and ensuring you’re keeping loose, strong and holding onto it throughout the season.

These sessions should be planned with consideration of your pitch training/matches.


Final note: The basis of hitting the gym is to bulletproof your body so you reduce injuries, improve movement and performance and to give you more confidence on the pitch.

The gym alone cannot make you a better player, however, it can help you build on certain elements that carry over to your sport once done effectively.

Use your pre-season to recover well, rehabilitate your body and add some strength and power to take into next season.


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Colm Duignan

Colm Duignan

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