Welcome to AFL New Zealand Youth Strength and Conditioning Programme.

It is exciting to have you on board as we begin our journey in the long-term development of future AFL players in New Zealand. Our aim is to support the needs and ambitions of young athletes by providing a weekly program that will support athletic development and injury prevention.

Youth Athletes

“You cannot train young athletes like adults.” This quote echoes across the world in sport science circles and is really important in ensuring proper physical development and not burning young athletes out. A pre-teen or a teenager has a different body to adults in its size, its strength and its changes due to growth. Add on top of that the social, emotional and mental changes that are occurring and we have to be very careful and strict in our development of young athletes.

Therefore, we have created AFLNZ Youth Strength and Conditioning programme. Below you will find research, explanations and advice on how to implement, work through and adjust to your needs the AFLNZ Youth Strength and Conditioning Programme.

What is physically required?

AFL is a very physically demanding game with players at the elite level covering approximately 15000m per game. Not only is this a large distance to cover in the time given but this is done with constant changing between speeds. Add in the key components of remaining agile, balanced and strong whilst challenging for possession, the development of muscular fitness and effective movement patterns serve as the foundation for achieving optimal and sustainable performance.

Why now?

During this age group athletes experience the greatest opportunity for growth. Termed as Peak Height Velocity (PHV), bones grow rapidly and can place increased stress on surrounding muscles and joints. This can make the athletes vulnerable to injury so it is vital to focus on exercises that emphasis flexibility, posture and exercise technique. Attaining a holistic approach to sport by embracing its multi-dimensional nature will reduce overloading, dropout and unrealised potential for young athletes.

How can we help?                       

Each week the AFLNZ Youth Boys and AFLNZ Youth Girls will directed to a weekly programme with conditioning sessions they can run during the week. Below is advice around overloading, injury prevention and progression. Prior to commencing the programme please take the time to understand these concepts if you have any questions please discuss with your AFL New Zealand who will be able to provide further detail and explanation regarding the programme.

To ensure programme is conducted with good technique and form we have provided images and directions to all exercises and strength and conditioning terminology explained.


The principle of overloading applies that your body needs to be placed under increased stress in order for physical adaptions to occur. This refers to the strain your muscles are placed under when being physically active, specifically, resistance training. This can also include aerobic, fartlek and interval training. If you place your body under too much stress then your chances of injury are greater.

We have therefore added areas of adaptability to our programme to ensure you continue to improve as players and get to enjoy the best part of sport, playing!

With summer seasons starting the majority of you will be doing multiple sports and have a lot of trainings per week. If you are only doing AFL Trainings then complete each session, Aerobic, Speed and Interval once a week with a 1-day break in between. If you are training for another sport then complete Speed session once a week and Interval training once a week. Skipping out the Aerobic session which should be developed with your team training session. Be smart don’t over train.

According to research it has been suggested to be playing 1-2 sports at this age group can be beneficial in helping to develop your skill sets and movement patterns i.e. agility, sprinting and jumping, which can easily be transferred between different codes.

The total time around training suggests 12hrs. These include

  • 4-7 sessions of physical training
  • 3-5 sessions sport specific

It is important to remember that every player is an individual and must be treated as one. Some people may be able to train for 12hrs but others for only 8hrs. However, this can change over time as your body becomes fitter and can adapt to different loads of training i.e. how many times a week and whether those sessions are hard or easy.

Injury prevention

Injuries are all too common in sport and whilst playing can provide you with the best memories of your life an injury can quickly change your perspective. What we want to try and achieve is a platform to allow you to continue to play and be involved in the game and it all starts with the little things. Whilst they may seem pointless it cannot be stressed enough to be balanced in your ability to train stretch and recover.

The exercises provided in this programme target an improvement in strengthening weak muscles and increasing range of flexibility in tight muscles.


Throughout the programme it may occur that the programme becomes too easy or in some cases to difficult. If this is the case we recommend you move onto the next week or remain in the current week until you feel as though you can progress. Remember it is always important to push yourself but be conscious of how much your body can handle.

Getting in touch

If you are unsure how much individual training is too much, have any current injuries that we should know about, want to push yourself to the next level or have any other questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with our AFL Staff who can’t wait to help you become a smarter and better educated athlete.

Strength and Conditioning terminology
  • Fartlek training: A form of training method that incorporates fast running intermixed with periods of slower running
  • Aerobic training: Also known as cardio is a period of sustained exercise at a low to high intensity for a relatively long distance
  • Functional movement: Are exercises that use the essential muscles and joints replicable in sport movements i.e. the squat and contesting a mark in AFL
  • Overloading: Is the result of athletes putting their body’s under too much stress which ultimately results in long-term injury.  
Engaging your core
  • Pull your belly button to your spine
Neutral spine
  • No arch in your back
  • Keep spine, head and neck aligned
Breathing technique
  • Breathing out during the effort phase of an exercise