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The Best Strength Training for AFL Players – Week 2


CrossFit Furnace strength training

The Deadlift is an essential component to strength training programs.

Last week we discussed the many benefits of the Barbell Back Squat for AFL Players. These included not only strength and power development, but also hamstring injury prevention.

This week we will focus on the Deadlift and just why you should be including it in your strength and conditioning program.


If the Back Squat is the king of all exercises, then the Deadlift takes up the role of the king of all mass builders. Deadlifts are also incredibly useful for AFL players as they increase the ability to accelerate explosively, are a key attribute in the development of a higher vertical jump and greatly increase kicking power.

The Deadlift is another compound movement that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. The muscle groups that do the bulk of the work are the Quadriceps and Adductors, the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, and Calves (posterior chain), and muscles of the upper and lower back. The trunk and muscles of the shoulders and arms provide support during the movement as well.

The Quadriceps is a four headed muscle, all four parts ultimately insert into the Tibial Tuberosity of the Tibia (the start of the knee). This is via the Patella, where the Quadriceps tendon becomes the Patellar Ligament. The principle action of the Quadriceps is the extension of the knee, the muscles of the posterior chain support this extension. Strong knee extension is vital when it comes to kicking and jumping ability.

In a recent study conducted at Texas Tech University (1) , 54 university aged men and women took part in a 10 week Deadlift training intervention that consisted of 5 sets of 5 repetitions, twice a week. The study found that 10 weeks of Deadlift training resulted in enhanced explosive strength characteristics for the knee extensor and flexor muscle groups. Furthermore, the changes in explosive strength induced by training were related to increased vertical jump height.

In another study conducted in the UK (2), 20 university aged Rugby players performed a maximal vertical jump test, in which the vertical displacement was measured from maximum standing reach height to maximal height attained from a countermovement jump. The study found moderately strong correlations between knee extension strength and vertical jump height, There was also a significant correlation between maximum knee extension speed and vertical jump height. These results suggest that focusing on strength/power training of the knee extensors at a high speed may result in improved vertical jump performance.

Deadlifts also strengthen the posterior chain, and the key driver of this group, the glutes. Stronger glutes will mean an increased ability to perform a powerful hip extension and a larger range of motion on the back swing phase when kicking (3). This, in addition to stronger Quad muscles will increase the power a player can generate whilst kicking the ball.


Deadlift heavy, working in the 1 – 5 rep range and in varying sets, just like the Back Squat, 5 sets of 5 reps is a good place to start. The Deadlift should be included in your routine at least once a week, preferably not on the same day that you Squat.


Deadlift start position

The start position for Deadlift

Deadlift below knee position

Below Knee deadlift position

Deadlift , mid lift position

Above Knee deadlift position

finish position for deadlift

Finish position for Deadlift






  • Your stance for the setup should be between hip and shoulder width (ideally in a position that you would jump from).
  • Keep your weight in your heels, while keeping your back straight (neutral spine position).
  • The bar should be in contact with your shins, with your arms locked straight and shoulders in front of the bar. Your grip should be symmetrical, outside the knees, just wide enough to not interfere with the knees.
  • To carry out the Deadlift, remove any slack from the system and brace your trunk, drive through your heels, extending your legs while your hips and shoulders raise at the same rate.
  • Once the bar passes the knees, the hip opens all the way up, keeping the bar in contact with the legs the entire time.
  • Your head should be in a neutral position throughout the entirety of the lift.
  • On return to the floor, push your hips back and shoulders forward slightly and delay the knee bend.
  • Once the bar descends below the knees and the torso angle is set, return the bar down to the setup position. (4)

*Always work at a weight that you are able to achieve the set number of reps in a set, and most importantly, that you are able to complete the lift with good form.

In conclusion, the Deadlift has been proven to increase not only muscle size and strength, but also increase your jump height and kicking distance, two vital skills for any AFL player.


How are you going to stand out this season?



  1. Thompson, Brennan J.; Stock, Matt S.; Shields, JoCarol E.; Luera, Micheal J.; Munayer, Ibrahim K.; Mota, Jacob A.; Carrillo, Elias C.; Olinghouse, Kendra D. (2015) Barbell Deadlift Training Increases the Rate of Torque Development and Vertical Jump Performance in Novices” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29 (1) 1-10
  1. Benjamin Harrison, Will Firth, Sean Rogers, Joshua Tipple, Jon Marsden, Jennifer A. Freeman, Alan D. Hough and Gary L.K. Shum (2013) “The relationship between isokinetic performance of hip and knee and jump performance in university rugby players” Isokinetic and Exercise Science Journal 21 (2) 175-180
  1. John Orchard, Sharon Walt, Andrew McIntosh, David Garlick (1999) “Muscle activity during the Drop Punt Kick” Journal of Sports Science 17(10) 837-838
  1. CrossFit Training Guide
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