Starting Strength with David Hare

Men taking part in strength training

GAA teams are taking more and more of a professional approach in their preparation, and many club teams are beginning to mimic inter-county set-ups.

David Hare will later this year release a booked called ‘Strength and Conditioning for Gaelic Games’, inside of which he’ll explain how a player can push on to the next level.

The current Offaly football S&C coach, who has previously worked with Longford, Ballymun Kickhams, and with the Dublin-based Monaghan footballers, has designed a general introductory routine for our readers — featuring images of Niall McNamee and Joey O’Connor of Offaly, along with Colin Walshe of Monaghan performing the exercises.

Hare focuses on how the majority of modern players are no longer out on the farm or working in a mine, for example, and how being at a desk all day can force muscles to switch off.

But with a chin-up bar and a dumbbell, along with push-ups, lunges and planking, he says “you can get seriously strong, because you don’t need anything else until the basics are covered.”

From there you can move onto plyometrics, box-jumping for example, to become more explosive and springy. Why not try Hare’s workout and let us know what you think…

A Basic Strength and Conditioning workout for Gaelic Games, by David Hare

If you are a serious footballer or hurler you should be doing some form of S&C work. Done correctly it will help you run faster, jump higher and be less injured. Every serious set up will have a S&C coach in place and a decent programme.

But where do you start?

You can do some top class work with very little equipment and very little time.

We can get the body working extremely well in as little as 20 minutes. In fact some of the best workouts you’ll ever do will be short, sharp and smart. Try and arrive to training early and get this workout done.

What equipment do I need?

All you need is a chin up bar for some pulling work, a set of dumbbells, a medicine ball, a gym mat and a swiss ball. Master these moves and we can get fancier later.


The warm-up

I hate the term warm-up as it conjures up imagery of boring treadmill or bike work on an easy setting. What we mean here is to get you preparing the body with a light load so it can perform at its optimum later on. Here is one of my favourite warm-up methods, all you need is a 3kg med ball, if you don’t have a med ball you can use a light dumbbell.

We will get you to do three exercises warm-up in a circuit format and I recommend doing 2-3 sets.

The Med Ball Chop

This move will fire up the hips, perfect after a long car journey to training.

David Hare

- Get into the position shown, chest up and back flat

- In one smooth movement swing the ball until it’s overhead

- At the top of the movement squeeze your glutes and hold for a second, don’t arch your back at the top of the movement.

- Repeat for the desired reps in smooth swing like action.

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The Side Lunge

This move is also great after a long car journey or a day of sitting in the office. It will fire up the hips and get you used to doing some lateral movements, often neglected with GAA players.

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The Walkout

The walkout is a great upper body and core stretch and activator, so simple to do but it’s great for our needs.

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- Get in a push-up position

- Walk your hands out as far as you can without dropping or sagging in your lower back

- When you are in the position in figure 5, walk you hands back towards your feet

- Be sure to keep your feet in the same position throughout your reps

- Do the required reps

For the above exercise circuit do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. For the side lunge this will mean doing 5 each leg. Add in any stretches you like or foam rolling at the start. Just get it done.


Power Exercise

Now that we are warm and ready for action, it’s time to do some exercises that will make us more explosive. I like the box jump as it saves the joints from getting a pounding. Picking a modest box height is crucial here, forget the internet videos of really high boxes and dangerous stunts. Pick a box height where you can land in the same fashion as you took off. If you don’t have a box simply do some explosive squat jumps. You’ll be surprised how effective the simple power drills are.

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(Note for the purpose of this article we have used a really easy box height)

- Stand beside the box you will jump on

- Powerfully set yourself up like figure 6, a rapid hip back and arms back movement

- Jump onto the box and land like figure 7

- Step down off the box and be sure not to jump down

- Repeat for the required reps

Strength Circuit

This is maybe a tad over simplistic but you want to make sure when you lift weights that you pull something, push something and do something for your legs. We can get fancier later but this simple point is quite powerful. When you think of it on these terms, you can look at old programmes and quickly realise you did far too many “push” movements.

The circuit I’m going to give you shouldn’t take long to do and will hit all the major areas we need.

Exercise 1: Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is great for your glutes, quads, hamstrings and overall leg strength. You don’t need fancy equipment either; simply grab a dumbbell and you are ready.

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- Stand straight holding the dumbbell across your chest

- Step backwards as shown in figure 8

-Keep the front foot pressing solid into the ground and that back knee just hovering off the ground like figure 8

-Drive from the front foot back into standing position

-Alternate the legs

- Repeat for the desired reps

Exercise 2: The Med Ball push-up

The med ball push-up is great for your chest and arm muscles, but it also works the core tremendously well. I have seen athletes with huge bench press totals struggle with this simple exercise due to a lack of core strength.

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- Start in the position shown in figure 9, be sure to keep your core tight and back flat

- Place your left hand on the floor but your right hand still on the ball and perform a push-up

- Walking your hands across the ball – now do the other side

- Repeat for the desired reps

- If you want an extra challenge do a push-up when both hands are on the ball

Exercise 3: The 1 Leg Deadlift

Consider this, GAA is mostly performed one leg at a time, It’s imperative we include some lift that will have us on one leg. The one leg deadlift is a great exercise that will do that for us but also get those weak glutes firing. Here’s how to do it.

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- Place your foot by gently stomping your foot on to the ground. Have all 5 toes on your stabilizing leg and your heel firmly planted on to the floor

- Slowly hinge your hips back while also bending your knee until you have a very flat back

- The moving leg should be straight out behind you with minimal knee bend to keep your spine aligned properly be careful to never letyour chest drop lower than your hips

- As you hinge back and sit deep into the single deadlift position as shown in the pictures, feel for the dumbbell that is placed right outside your stabilising foot.Try to keep your gaze slightly up

- Firmly grip the dumbbell, make sure your shoulder is pulled back

- Hinge your hip forward while bringing the dumbbells with you. Lock out your stabilising leg and squeeze your glute at the top. Repeat for desired reps

Exercise 4: The Chin-Up
The chin up is one of the kings of the “pull” exercises. But it can be tricky to do for some people. With the advent of exercise bands that you can tie onto the bar and put your feet into the chin up is now in most progressive S&C programmes. Here is how to do it.

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- Hang from the bar as shown in figure 13

- Pull yourself up keeping your core tight and minimise any rocking

- Make sure your chin goes past the bar (hence the term chin-up)

- At the top pinch the shoulder blades together

- Drop back down in a smooth controlled manner

- If you need help tie a band to the bar and wrap it under one foot as shown like in the image below. Do the required reps.

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Putting it all together

So our GAA specific workout will look like this:

Warm-up Circuit

Chops with the med ball 3 sets X 10 reps

Side Lunge with the med ball 3 set X 5 each leg (10)

Walkouts 3 sets X 8 reps


Box Jump 3 sets X 8 reps – tempo is not to be too rushed.

Be sure to land properly on the box


Reverse Lunges holding a dumbbell, 3 sets of 5 on each leg

Push-ups on a med ball, 3 sets of 8

1 Leg Deadlifts, 3 sets of 4 on each leg

Chin-ups 3 sets of 8 reps

You will do this simple but effective workout in a traditional circuit fashion, meaning you do the reverse lunges first, then the push-ups and so on – and repeat for 3 sets or 3 times around.

Pick weights you are comfortable with and if you’re not confident just use body weight to start with. When you’re finished this workout, wash down a chocolate milk to get some solid post workout nutrition.

Best of luck,

David Hare