Preseason Fitness Without the Running

You may well feel that you only just finished last season a couple of weeks ago but for many athletes up and down the UK preseason training will begin to happen in the next couple of weeks. Just the words “preseason fitness” for anyone who has been through it conjures up memories of long, endless, slow paced runs; hours jogging up, down and round your sports pitch or sports ground, as well as soreness for days after – promising yourself you’ll never let yourself get that unfit again.

All these elements coupled with the fact that many amateur athletes do little to no exercise between the final whistle of last season and their first session back at pre season. It is very important to build a base of muscular endurance, which is exactly what the point of preseason is. These long runs teach you body how to efficiently transport oxygen to your working muscles, leading to a better rate of recovery. In terms of sporting performance, this means that would be able to recover quicker after making lung bursting runs from one end of the field to the other, or sprinting to case after an opponent.

So if having a strong muscular endurance base is of the upmost importance, as well as being extremely beneficial then what is my problem with it?

  1. It is REALLY boring! Would you rather jog up, down, round and round the same bit of grass for 90 minutes or circuit train at high intensity for 45 minutes? Both will get you to where you need to be with regard to fitness. However, only one you can make very specific to your sport, incinerate any fat still there from your all-inclusive holiday during the off season as well as build functional muscle.
  2. There is SMARTER ways of doing things: The last time you played football, or rugby, or whatever sport you play did you just jog round for 90 minutes at the same pace? I wouldn’t have thought so. I’d have though you went through bursts of sprinting, running, jogging, walking, changes of direction, level changes. Sport is a competitive environment and is played at a high intensity, as an athlete you should train as you play! If you train at high intensity, moving through a range of movements specifically targeting the muscles you use for performance, then this is going to have a greater skill transfer and be more functional than jogging for an hour or so.

So what’s the answer to the problem? We need to strike a balance between what is going to be functional, as well as traditional tried and tested methods of producing results. Your training will need to have some elements of specificity to your sport but key compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts and bench press haven’t been around for centuries because they look awesome. On the other hand however you must always remember what your goal is in the weights room – Do you want a 200 Kg Deadlift and 100 Kg bench press for reps or do you want to play 100% injury free every weekend from the first to last whistle? Every athlete I work with would chose the latter.

So finally, below is a “one size fits all” version of a pre-season programme I have rugby, hockey and footballers working through at the moment. It targets all the major muscle groups of the body, aiding performance, produce functional muscle, burning fat as well as building that all important endurance base.


CIRCUIT 1 – 15 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible – You have 15minutes to get through this circuit as many times as you can. You can rest as much as you want but you only have 15 minutes remember! Count the amount of rounds you score, 1 time through the circuit below is 1 round. Push every week to beat your score from the previous week.)

1A) Incline DB chest press x 5 reps
1B) Pull Up (Wide Grip) x 5 reps
1C) Alternate DB Standing Shoulder Press x5 reps

CIRCUIT 2 – 15 minute AMRAP (As above)

2A) DB Jump Squats with total 30% of your bodyweight (Eg. If you weigh 100kg use 30kg total, 15kg each side)  x 10 reps
2B) Single Arm DB Snatch  x 15 reps each side
2C) DB Bent Over Row x 15 reps

CIRCUIT 3 – 10 minute AMRAP (Only bodyweight so work fast and hard)

3A) Vertical Jump x 10 reps
3B) Lateral Jump over Bench  x 10 reps (5 each Side)
3C) Plyometric Press Up x 10 reps


6 Rounds for Time (Start a stopwatch and complete the following circuit 6 times as quickly as possible, try to improve your time every week)

1A) Barbell Power Clean x 6 reps
1B) Box Jump/Tuck Jump x 6 reps
1C) Press Up x 6 reps
1D) Chin Ups x 6 reps

3 Rounds for Time:

1A) DB Press ups x 10 reps
1B) Hanging Knee Raises x Max Reps
1C) Weighted Tricep Dips x 10 reps

***Rest 1 minute between your 3 rounds, record your time for each round and try and better it every round***


Barbell Complex. 6 Rounds of 10 reps (work through each movement for 10 reps then move onto the next with no rest). Every time you put the bar down during a round you are charged a 5 burpee penalty, any penalties must be paid once a round is complete. Rest 2-3 Minutes between rounds. You will only need 30-40 Kg weight for this, if that!

  • Speed Deadlift
  • Power Clean
  • Front loaded lunges (10 each side)
  • Bent over row
  • Military Press
  • Front Squat

Core Superset Finisher

1A) Rollouts x 10 reps
1B) Plank x 1 minute

Complete 3 sets, take a 1-1.5 minute break in between each set.

Do this for 4 weeks, ensuring that you always take a rest day following one of these sessions. Complete all 3 a week. Please take into account that I screen, fitness test and complete a movement analysis on each of my athletes that I work with and so their programmes will likely get changed and individualised. This programme is also based on equipment that I currently have available to me, if you cannot get access to some of this kit then please contact me at and I will modify it for you for FREE.