It’s a move reminiscent of pre-season programs from more than a decade ago, when expensive altitude training camps were all the rage for AFL clubs, pioneered in part by former premiership coach Mick Malthouse.
Ahead of the 2006 season, the Magpies spent about $180,000 on a two-week, high-altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, which helped them climb the ladder.
Subsequently, other clubs followed suit and by 2013 it had almost become the norm with the Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Essendon, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs all having sent their playing groups to the United States, while Hawthorn went to a high-altitude facility in South Africa.
However, critics came for the effectiveness of these camps, including physiologists, who argued results were often short-lived.
Dr Ian Gillam from Exercise and Sports Science Australia said there was no scientific evidence to support the belief that altitude training enabled players to train harder on return.
“I’ve looked at a number of bits of evidence on that and I can’t find anything that’s actually documented about [players being able to train harder],” Gillam told AFL.com.au.
“It might be anecdotal but there’s certainly no scientific evidence to actually say that’s real.”
But high altitude wasn’t the only element of the Bombers’ camp and McGrath was certain there would be benefits for the players who took part.
“We know that every other club wants the same thing, so we have to push in a slightly different direction, or find little gains here and there that every club is searching for,” Andrew McGrath told News Corp earlier this month.
“If that makes one per cent difference to our season next year, it will be 100 per cent worth it.”
Players don’t have to be abroad to find new ways to improve. Collingwood’s Tom Mitchell, who recently added a premiership medal to his accolades including a Brownlow and two All-Australian blazers, used social media to share his pursuits, saying the off-season was “the perfect time to try some different techniques to try and get better”.
He took fans through a group session with the likes of Nick Daicos, Bobby Hill and Jordan De Goey, which included gymnastics, cross-training, Jiu Jitsu, gym and skills training and running.
In another, he explained some of his DNS training (dynamic neuromuscular stabilisation), which works on locomotion and movement patterns, footwork and being effective at ground level.
“Clearly, my whole footy game is based on being good at ground level, so [I have] been working with my movement coach on a number of different patterns to be efficient, to get out of trouble,” he said over footage of him moving with the ball low to the ground.
“Obviously, we know you can burst through tackles but having manoeuvres, such as pivoting, reverse pivoting, can be very effective when training ground balls.”
Despite the AFLW season only finishing earlier this month, many players are still hitting the track.
“Chucked some Nicki Minaj on the telly and then we were straight into a bit of a home workout,” Adelaide fan-favourite Jess Waterhouse said in one of their “day in the life” videos on TikTok while away on holidays.
“’Cause we don’t have much access to too much equipment we’re just trying some new movements and then also with a higher rep range as well… Then I grabbed Delilah [their dog], and we headed down to the local footy oval to get a few laps in.”
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