Fitness Coach Craig Hubbard explains how being able to accurately measure the players’ exertions in pre-season will help ensure that they reach optimum condition for the big kick-off.
The squad reported back to the Club’s Durham training base on Wednesday morning, at which point one of the busiest periods of Hubbard’s calendar clicked in to gear.
Each player was given an individual training plan to adhere to during the summer break which should mean they return at a good level of fitness – but it’s only the base from which Hubbard and his team will work.
“The first couple of weeks back are all about aiming to build the players’ fitness levels back up,” he told us.
“During the off-season the players were all instructed to take two to three weeks of complete rest, followed by three to four weeks of work, gradually increasing in intensity.
“In this time off their lactate threshold (which the point where lactate accumulates in blood quicker than it can be removed) and their VO2 max (the maximum volume of oxygen the body can deliver to the muscles per minute) lowers.
“This means that although they have rested both physically and mentally, their fitness levels have dropped so that’s what we need to work on.”
As well as closely monitoring each players’ height, weight and body fat, Hubbard is now also able to keep an eye on more revealing statistics to make sure every member of the squad is being prepared properly for the long season ahead.
State-of-the-art technology is once again being used by the players during pre-season which provides the medical staff with an insight in to how each individual is performing during exercises.
“We are currently using the Catapult GPS system, which is a monitoring tool which is used in each and every session.
“This gives us feedback on distance covered and, importantly, how much of it was covered at high intensity. We can see each acceleration and deceleration, as well as how much time each player spends in the ‘red zone’ which represents 85% of maximum effort or above.
“We need to push the players hard but without breaking them so the use of the GPS systems gives us the information we need to highlight any players who may be doing too much.”
The players began Wednesday’s work with a Yoyo Intermittent Level 2 Recovery Test which allowed staff to get a handle on each players’ fitness levels, and study their maximum heart-rates and VO2 max.
However, boss Craig Hignett has a hands-on approach when it comes to the sports science and fitness side of preparations and has been keen to involve as much work with footballs as possible in the pre-season schedule.
“The type of training the gaffer and Curtis have got planned all involves football, even from Day One,” explained Hubbard.
“This shows how pre-season has evolved from the days of long, plodding runs around the track or through a forest which seemed the gold standard until a few years ago.
“It’s important that we remember that we are training footballers here, not marathon runners, so the training does need to be specific for their needs so the approach we’re taking makes sense and will hopefully deliver them in to the opening weekend of the season in excellent condition.”