HIIT for GAA Pre-Season

High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for GAA Pre-Season. With many coaches up and down the country including it in their training regime. It is a short, sharp sort of exercise where you exert your full amount of energy but in a small time frame. It differs to the traditional long runs GAA teams do during pre-season. They are usually long runs where you have to conserve your energy to finish them out.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is a form of interval training over short spaces of intense anaerobic activity. The rest periods are also short and the training is done until you can do no more. High Intensity Interval Training is excellent for weight loss and general fitness. It is not the best for of exercise however for building muscle mass. Another benefit of it is you don’t need any equipment. It can be done in the comfort of your own home, so it leaves you with no excuses.


HIIT For GAA Pre-Season

HIIT is a great way to build stamina and fitness in a short amount of time. Although it is not very enjoyable and players hate it, it does have huge benefits for players and their fitness. Lots more strength and conditioning coaches are now looking to this form of training. It takes a lot less time up during training and it is more specific to the GAA. Short, sharp bursts of speed are what a gaelic or hurling match is all about these days.

HIIT Workout

There are many different variations available for this kind of workout seeing as no equipment is needed. Here is an example of a workout a GAA team would use in HIIT for GAA pre-season.

Jump Squats – 45s

Burpees – 45s

Mountain Climbers – 45s

Alternating Side Lunges – 45s

Jumping Lunges – 45s

Plank and side plank alternation- 1m (20 each side)

Each of these can be performed twice each with a 15s rest after each one in between. Again this is just one example of a workout, there are endless others that include situps, pressups and sprints.

After a few weeks of performing these exercises two or three times a week you will start to see results. The workout will become easier. This is when you can add time to lengthen it or even add in another exercise to the workout. After performing HIIT a few times a week along with the other GAA training you will be doing your fitness will improve to no end.

Nutrition for GAA Players

For many people, nutrition for GAA players is not as well highlighted as it is in other sports. It is almost just as important as the training itself. It is vital for players to get the right meals on board at the right times. This helps to maximise training and performance.

During the pre-season is when a player must get into a routine of eating healthy meals. This is when it is decided on what works best for a player. Whether its leading up to a training session or pre-season game. This is a very important step as it is easy to fall into just going with the flow and not eating properly.


One of the hardest parts for staying on track is being organised. Preparing meals on weekends is a solution to someone not having much time during the week. Whether it be work or college, when the meals are prepared then you will be able to eat the right meals at the right time. Bringing healthy snacks with you to work or college can help fight off any urges you might have throughout the day for something sweet. Some examples of healthy snacks could be a granola bar, apples, nuts and bananas.

Water- maybe the most important part of nutrition. It is vital to constantly drink water throughout the day. There are endless benefits to drinking water and staying hydrated. Some of them include; Improves Energy, Prevents Cramps and Pains, Boosts the Immune System.

GAA nutrition

Match/ Training Day Meals

A typical days meals for a GAA player leading up to a match or training have to include carbohydrates and proteins. A sample meal plan for someone playing at a high level is;

Morning of the Game/Training – Bowl of porridge with berries/ bananas, toast, orange juice.

Pre Match Meal (2-3 Hours Before) – 1) Pasta with a tomato sauce, meat, fish or beans. 2) Baked Potato with cheese tuna or baked beans. 3) Rice/Noodles with meat or fish.

Post Match Meal – Rice/Pasta with meat or fish, protein shake

Each of these meals must be accompanied by plenty of water and fluids. There are many variations available for the meals. The main sources of food that have to be taken on board leading up to a game are carbohydrates and proteins. These provide the energy and strength needed to perform at your best level.


Healthy Snacks

By having some snacks with you during the day it will stop you from falling into the trap of eating sugary foods. Some examples of handy snacks to have without you throughout the day are;

Fruit, Berries, Banana, Protein Bars, Light biscuits (jaffa cakes), Yogurt drink.

GAA Gym Programme

A good GAA gym programme should involve using all parts of the body. This will help to strengthen each muscle group which will help to prevent injuries from occurring.

Warm Up

Before starting the programme an extensive warm up should be carried out that will get the heart rate going. A player should be in the gym foam rolling and doing band work before any exercise is started.  The band work involves squats with bands around knees and ankles, hip lifts, exaggerated side to side walks and knee drives.

Some of the exercises that must be performed during the warm up are;

Squats, Hip Lifts, Jumping Jacks, Front Lunges, Side Lunges, Press Ups, Mountain Climbers and Ankle Hops.

These exercises are then followed by stretching each of the muscle groups. each muscle has to be be stretched for 10 to 15 seconds, some of these should always include;

Groins, Quads, Hip Flexors, Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes and Back.


Main Programme

Then starting on the main programme there should be exercises that will use all of the muscles in the body, both upper and lower body. A sample GAA Gym Programme to build strength and fitness is as follows;

Parallel Back Squat 4×10

Bench Press 4×10

Inverted Row 4xMax

Bulgarian Squat 4×10

Single Leg RDL 4X10

Seated DB Shoulder Press 4×10

Chin Ups 4xMax

3 Way Delt Raises 4×10

There are some power techniques that can be incorporated into each gym programme also that help to increase explosiveness and acceleration, some of these include;

Squat Jumps

Single Leg Lateral Hops

Hop and Jump

Long Jump

Two of these techniques will be sufficient per session as the bulk of the work is already done in the main body of the session.

This is the main part of the programme that involves using shoulders, legs, chest and the whole body. Along with every programme it is vital to always have some core exercises involved. Core strength is definitely one of the best strengths to have for GAA as it helps with power and sprinting techniques.

Warm Down

Finally after completing this programme with 4 sets done on each it is important to get a good warm down. This involves jogging around in a circle, lightly lifting the heels and then the knees followed by some side to side jogging.

Then the group must stretch all of the muscles used during the session, this time for 15 to 20 seconds. This makes sure that the muscles will not be as sore the next day and allows them more time to recover.

Foam rolling the muscles used will also allow them to recover more quickly. Jumping into an ice bath if one is available can be another way to speed up the recovery process so you will be physically ready for your next session.

foam rolling

How to get fit for the GAA season

Getting fit for the GAA involves a number of different factors such as strength and conditioning, running and nutrition. A lot of GAA teams pre-season starts off very similar. Managers put players through their paces, meaning a lot of running and no footballs to be seen.

This is definitely a players least favorite time of the year. The weather is terrible and they are out slogging through runs on a heavy pitch. Most of the runs that teams do however, are not very beneficial. Running long distances with no time limit or goal has little or no benefit to a GAA player.

The most beneficial runs to get fit for the GAA are shuttle runs, as they are similar to what a player would be doing in a match. A player is always stopping and then going again.


Starting off at the end line and running out as far as the 21m line and back in as fast as you can would be an example of one set of shuttle runs. Some variations of this would be to sprint to the 13, 45, and 65 meter lines.

how to get fit for the GAA season

In order to gain maximum benefit from these, a realistic time limit should be set. There should also be a small rest time in between runs for example, 15 seconds to sprint to the 70m line and then 15 seconds rest until the next run. These kinds of runs are hugely beneficial to build up fitness during the pre-season.

As the weeks go by then the time limit allowed for the runs is getting smaller. The distance can also be varied in relation to the time of the year and schedule of the team. Coming close to championship time the runs are short and snappy to get the players as sharp as possible.

Another set of runs that greatly benefit GAA players are 20,40,60’s. These are performed by sprinting flat out to the 20 yard line and back in. Then straight out to the 40 and back in and then out to the 60 and back in. These should be completed twice without stopping and at full pace to get the maximum benefit from it.


Building strength for the GAA season

It is hugely important for players to build a strong base at the start of the year. This post shows athletes how to get fit for the GAA season ahead.  This allows athletes to build up areas where they are not as strong. Such as a player with weak hamstrings can use the preseason to build muscle around them in order to prevent injuries from occurring.

The first month or two of pre-season is gym-based, building the strong base needed to keep going all year. A strong base therefore stops players from pulling up early with tight hamstrings or groins in pre-season.

The first gym sessions of the year should be form-based. When someone’s form is not right it will lead directly to a pulled muscle or some sort of injury. The first couple of weeks will be focused on form and not on weight. As the weeks go on and the form is correct, then you can start to add weight to the exercises.

Explosiveness and Power

GAA gym sessions are all based around power and explosiveness now. The game is evolving and is about sharp bursts of speed. There are a number of exercises that can be performed to increase explosiveness and power. Box jumps are a very good way to increase power because they require a large amount of force from a static position.

Another exercise that is brilliant for building power is the split squat. It is also great for preventing injuries. This exercise should be in every GAA gym programme as it helps with deceleration too. It should again be performed without weight until the form is perfected. Then weight should be added each week to get the maximum benefit of the exercise.

Although many people dislike them greatly, burpees are another exercise great for increasing explosiveness. They are disliked because of their difficulty. The more you do them though, the easier they will become.

Burpees are a full body workout that will work your arms, chest, glutes, hamstrings and abs.

They are performed by getting into a squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. You then throw your feet back into a press up position and lower your body to the floor. Return your feet back to the squat position as fast as possible, then immediately jump up into the air. You won’t be long working up a sweat after performing a few of these.