COLUMN: Strength and Conditioning - An Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my very first column for the Dundalk Democrat. I’m Jonny McGailey and this column will, I hope, help to inform all on the principles and benefits of strength and conditioning.

Hello, and welcome to my very first column for the Dundalk Democrat. I’m Jonny McGailey and this column will, I hope, help to inform all on the principles and benefits of strength and conditioning.

Over the coming weeks I will be offering my advice on various exercises, nutritional and supplementation advice and educating you the reader on all aspects of training for the modern day athlete.

Let me first tell you a bit about myself. I completed my Leaving Cert in the De La Salle in 2005 before going on to DkiT where I completed my Bsc Hons Degree in Health and Physical Activity. On finishing, I then completed a Pg Dip at Trinity College in Exercise Physiology in 2010. Just last November I obtained my Msc in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh.

To date, I am currently assisting Mike McGurn, the head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Louth Senior footballers. This current work experience has so far been invaluable as regards my development as a coach and I’m grateful to Mike and the county board for allowing me to shadow his work with the team.

I’m also working with Magheracloone GFC in Monaghan currently who are a great bunch to work with. In addition I’ve been lucky enough to have spent time working with Hearts FC Academy, Livingstone FC Academy, Leinster Rugby, Scotland Rugby Union, Galway Senior Footballers and have coached my local GAA and Soccer underage teams.

Strength and Conditioning (S&C), what is it really? You know it’s interesting, as some of my family and friends still seem to think I am a physiotherapist! That route was not for me. Still to this day I find myself explaining to friends and family what it is I do. I still find that there is an uneducated ignorance to what we do as S&C coaches. Many think it is about throwing weights at a player and telling him to lift heavy and get massive. That perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

The main role of an S&C coach is to develop athletic performance, and provide athletes with the necessary tools to compete. We coaches look to develop an athlete’s cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and power. Athletes must train to compete. Gym programmes are designed and tailored to meet the needs and demands of the sport; they are not all generic.

For example, you’re not going to draw up the same training programme for Brian O’Driscoll the same way you’re going to train Cian Healy or Paul O’Connell. Yes they will have similar strengthening exercises, but their specific position demands require positional training.

S&C coaches also optimise an athlete’s conditioning to compete all year round using key training principles of which I will speak about in the coming weeks. By increasing strength and structural integrity of an athlete’s muscle and bones you are effectively helping to guard against injury also.

Training variation is fundamental to successful training prescription and coaches must plan accordingly. Overall, the work of the S&C coach is to equip players and teams with the necessary tools to compete at the highest level in their sport.

Most of what I’ll be speaking about isn’t just for the professional athletes who compete and train for a living. It is all applicable to all sports including our local soccer, gaa and rugby players as well as those involved in athletics or swimming.

If you have any questions on any type of exercise or you’re looking for any nutritional or supplement advice please don’t hesitate to contact me via email at and I’ll print your question and my answer the following week.

Here are some training tips for the week ahead:

Have a training goal. Set yourself realistic and achievable targets and be prepared to make sacrifices

Train accordingly to reach your goals. Acquire a tailor made programme that will help you reach your goal and is specific to your needs. Speak to a qualified professional

Plan and record all your sessions to help get the most from your sessions and this will help you reach your goals. Your Training Diary is important tool of the gym, but don’t take your personal diary by mistake!!

Eat right. The perfect programme is useless without a good diet. Green Vegetables and lean protein foods such as chicken, fish and beef.