Quantification of Training and Competition Load Across a Season in an Elite Australian Football Club

Ritchie, D., Hopkins, W.G., Buchheit, M., Cordy, J., Bartlett, J.D.

Purpose:
Load monitoring in Australian Football (AF) has been widely adopted, yet team sport periodization strategies are relatively unknown. Here we have aimed to quantify training and competition load across a season in an elite AF team, using rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and GPS tracking.

Methods:
Weekly totals for RPE and GPS loads (including accelerometer data; Playerload) were obtained for 44 players across a full season for each training modality and for competition. General linear mixed models compared mean weekly load between 3x pre-season and 4x in-season blocks. Effects were assessed with inferences about magnitudes standardized with between-player SD.

Results:
Total RPE load was most likely greater during pre-season, where the majority of load was obtained via skills and conditioning. There was a large reduction in RPE load in the last pre-season block. During in-season, half the total load came from games and the remaining half from training, predominantly skills and upper-body weights. Total distance, high-intensity running, and Playerload showed large to very large reductions from pre-season to in-season, whereas changes in mean speed were trivial across all blocks. All these effects were clear at the 99% level.

Conclusions:
These data provide useful information about targeted periods of loading and unloading across different stages of a season. Our study also provides a framework for further investigation of training periodization in AF teams.

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