Gillingham Football Club’s first-team and academy squads returned to training today to kick-off their gruelling pre-season schedule.

Justin Edinburgh’s team are using the facilities at University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Science for the first couple of days of pre-season, before heading to the training ground on Friday for some cardio, ball work and 2,400m runs. 

Each of the players have a detailed routine for the next few days, planned out by the Gills’ Head of Sports Science and Medicine, Adam Roche, and John Dickinson at the University of Kent. 

Roche said: “Today we have been looking at body fat and body composition. Every player has a body fat percentage target to hit, and anyone above this will be given a strict training programme and diet to try and get them to below the target.”

Another example of the tests the team will be having is respiratory testing, looking at whether any of the boys have asthma. It’s quite common in sport for elite athletes to have asthma, but not all of them know that they have it. 

“It can affect the player’s performance and endurance,” said Roche. “If we can identify players that are at risk then we can give them interventions that help them breathe properly and hopefully have a positive effect on their performance.”

The players are also taking immune testing, which will be monitored on a weekly basis. This tests how likely a player is to pick up an illness, and If players are ill throughout the season, Roche and the management staff can adjust the training programme or give them a couple of days off to help recovery.

“This is the first time the club has used in depth testing at facilities like these, and hopefully, with use throughout the season, we can keep the squad fit,” said Roche. 

“We were excellent last season with soft -tissue injuries and injury prevention, but we’d like to have even less this year. We were way above the average for training and match incidents for soft-tissue injuries, but It was the traumatic injuries that caught us out a bit. These cannot be avoided, however, and occur through collisions and tackles when playing sport. “

New signings Mark Byrne and Billy Knott met up with the team for the first time after their summer moves from Newport County and Bradford City, respectively. 

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