What should I do for pre-season training?

Why is Pre-season training so important?

During the off-season of any sport, there is natural deconditioning that occurs, simply because you’re not training your body at the same intensity or frequency as during the playing season. Pre-season is the months leading up to the playing season. Ideally 2-4 months is a good amount of time to focus on pre-season, although longer pre-season may be useful for lower fitness levels, or if there’s been a longer break from the sport.

Pre-season is an ideal time to prepare your body for your sport, through specific training programs. Sports such as netball, soccer, football, volleyball and hockey all have their own unique and specific demands on the body. Pre-season training should be adjusted to prepare for the sport you want to play.

What should I do for pre-season training?

A good pre-season training program for running-based team sports such as netball, football, hockey and soccer should include:

Address injuries from last season

Did you miss some games last season due to injury? That injury may not bother you anymore, but you’re also not challenging it during the off season. Injury rehabilitation is an important first step in pre-season, to avoid that injury re-flaring during pre-season or once the netball, hockey or soccer season starts.

Cardiovascular conditioning

Often a running program is the best choice for cardiovascular conditioning as it is most relevant to sports such as netball, football, hockey and soccer. Alternatively swimming, cycling or rowing could be great alternatives to build cardiovascular fitness. Be cautious to commence your running program at a low enough level, that it feels somewhat comfortable. Sudden spikes in training load can increase risk of sports injury, so build up slowly each week. The lower your starting fitness level, the more weeks needed to safely build up ready for the sports season

Resistance training

Resistance or strength training can help build strength in your muscles. This can help to reduce injury risk, improve speed and power when playing your sport, and improve overall performance. Initially focus on general exercises that address upper body, lower body and core strength, such as squats, lunges, pushups, planks, rows, and chest flies. As you build up your base strength, you can then incorporate exercises that are specific to your sport, such as throwing based exercises, or kicking based exercises.


It’s important to maintain mobility and flexibility through your pre-season training. You will likely notice some muscle soreness after training sessions for 1-2 days. Regular stretching after each session, and between sessions can help muscle recovery, and reduce soreness.

Agility training

As you build your cardiovascular fitness and strength, adding agility training helps to improve your speed, precision and reaction skills. These exercises should be chosen to reflect the sport you plan to play. For example, a hockey player would benefit from agility drills based on running or jumping around a set of cones, as it reflects the type of game play in hockey and conditions muscles, joints and nervous system for fast, agile reactions

Skills training

During pre-season, the initial priority is building up base fitness to be prepared for the physical demands of the sports season. Towards the middle of your pre-season, start incorporating sports specific skills training. For netball this may be throwing, catching, passing and shooting drills. For soccer, commencing simple passing, dribbling and shooting drills will start conditioning the body for these movement patterns, which is beneficial in preparation for the sports season.

Netball injury prevention
Netball skill based training

Why is pre-season training so important?

Your body adapts to whatever training you do, or don’t do. If you don’t use it, you lose it! This applies to muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility, reaction times, and sports-specific skills. Your body is excellent at adapting to training, when introduced gradually, with enough rest and recovery time between sessions to re-build and recover.

Pre-season is the time to start training your body, so it is much better prepared for the start of the season. It might also help reduce muscle soreness after those first few games, as well as reduce overall injury risk as you’ll be better conditioned.

How can Physiotherapy help pre-season preparation?

Physiotherapists can play an important role in pre-season preparation. Physios can help with:

  • Assessment and rehabilitation of injuries from last season
  • Advising on load management in your pre-season program
  • Lead education or training sessions for teams – Contact us for specific options
  • Provide a structured running program appropriate to your current level
  • Ensure you avoid acute training overload, leading to potential injury risk
  • Reduce muscle soreness through massage and recovery techniques
  • Provide skill specific training programs for individuals or teams
  • Assess new injuries in their early stages, to avoid further aggravation, and help faster recovery
  • Educate teams of recovery protocols, stretching and self-management recovery techniques

Is there a specific pre-season training program for netball?

Pre-season training really needs to be specific to the individuals completing the training. It needs to take into account recent training load, current fitness and conditioning levels, the goal fitness and conditioning levels you hope to achieve, as well as the time commitment players are willing to make.

There is not one specific training program for netball. Many of the components of pre-season training can be shared between many sports, including running programs, strength and conditioning programs, and even agility drills.

The ‘Netball Knee Program’ is a skill-specific injury prevention program, with a focus on reducing knee injuries. As part of your pre-season program, following the ‘Netball Knee Program’ is a great addition to help players develop jumping and landing skills to reduce risk of injury. You can read more about the ‘Netball Knee Program’ here

soccer pre season
soccer pre season skills

Is there a specific training program for soccer?

The ‘Football Australia Perform+’ is an injury prevention program for soccer players. It’s designed to be used as a warm-up series for each training and each game, as it helps prepare the body for the tasks required in a game or training. This program is an updated version of the previous ‘FIFA 11+’ program, and is ideal to be implemented as the ‘agility’ section of your pre-season soccer program. It helps develop strength, agility, jumping and landing skills to reduce injury risk. Read more about the ‘Football Australia Perform+’ here

Are you planning for pre-season, or have an injury that’s interrupting pre-season?

Read more about our Sports Physio Services here to find out how we can help, or book an Initial Appointment using the online booking system below