Inside the Training Ground: A Conversation with Ganesh Acharya, Strength and Conditioning coach at Pullela Gopichand Academy

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In the dynamic world of badminton, victories are often forged in the crucible of unwavering dedication, strategic training, and unparalleled physical conditioning. At the forefront of sculpting champions and transforming raw potential into athletic brilliance is Ganesh Acharya, the esteemed Strength and Conditioning Coach at Pullela Gopichand Academy.

As we delve into the intricacies of elite sports preparation, this exclusive interview opens the door to Ganesh Acharya’s world — a realm where the balance of power, agility, and mental resilience is meticulously crafted. With a career marked by innovation and a relentless pursuit of excellence, Ganesh Acharya has become a linchpin in the success story of the Indian Badminton Team.

Join us in this illuminating conversation as we explore Ganesh Acharya’s unique approach to conditioning, his insights into the physical demands of high-level badminton, and the behind-the-scenes efforts that contribute to the team’s stellar performances. Discover the man behind the training regimens, as Ganesh Acharya shares his experiences, philosophies, and the secrets to nurturing world-class athletes.

Can you share a bit about your journey and how you decided to become a coach?

So my journey began when I was in 7th or 8th standard where I came across some bodybuilders who inspired me alot to pursue my career in the weightlifting domain. Given this I started training in a small gym and discontinued my school for four years. After gaining substantial experience I realized the need to complete my studies in order to move ahead with my career, owing to which I completed my schooling and thereafter did a Bachelor of Business Management program. Moving ahead, I got an opportunity to work as a trainee at SAI Bangalore. Though I couldn’t train well due to lack of financial resources as I come from an economically disadvantaged background. Weightlifting is a career which requires one to maintain their diet and nutrition along with training which requires one to invest a substantial amount of funds. Also, earlier sports were undervalued previously which also played its role.

 Due to these constraints, my body became injury prone and while I gave my best and trained for 12-13 years, I couldn’t bag a medal in the National Games. In light of these my coaches also suggested that I reflect on my choices and work more hard. Thus, I started working as a Marketing Executive in Bangalore while also working as a Fitness Trainer in Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. I worked there for around 2 years and thereafter in 2015 I connected with one of my associations who was working in Pullela Gopichand Academy who offered me to work there. I joined and started working with kids while slowly escalating my way up to juniors, PV Sindhu, Prannoy, and more. I worked here till 2017 after which I left the academy and resumed my studies by pursuing a Diploma in Sports Coaching program in National Institute of Patiala to get back to weightlifting again as that has been my true passion. 

After completing my studies I again got a call from Pullela Gopichand Academy and decided to resume. I decided to make the most of this opportunity as it seemed logical at the moment and have been ever since working there as Gopi Sr has been a great motivation. Presently I am a member of the Indian National Badminton Team affiliated with SAI. 

How do you tailor weightlifting programs to balance strength gains and injury prevention for athletes at Pullela Gopichand Academy?

In my wide range of expertise I have faced a great amount of injuries, given to which I am well aware of how much weight can cause what kind of injury and also depending upon the body type of the athlete. So I believe I curate weightlifting programs of the athletes under my guidance based on my past experiences while also strategizing by analyzing the performance of an athlete. Firstly we help them develop skills after which we do the adaptation which helps them enhance their performance eventually. 

As per your expertise, what should be the ideal workout routine for a badminton player who is starting his career in this arena?

The basic workout routine for any player starts with the warm up and is set as per the body type which includes agility training, fast feet, grip changes, core training, aerobics, and more. There is no particular method to define an ideal workout for a badminton player or any athlete as it depends from athlete to athlete as everybody is different. Moreover, we believe in starting step by step and then gaining the momentum eventually. 

Behind the Scenes: Conditioning Guru Ganesh Acharya with Badminton Sensation Chirag Shetty

How long are the hours of training in the academy?

Normally on-course one sessions lasts for around 2 to 2.5 hours for elite players whereas physical training lasts for 1 -1.5 hours generally. Mornings are for on-court sessions whereas evenings are for physical training which involves physical agility, running, cardio, and so on. 

How do you plan schedules to avoid injuries among players and what is the best way to recover?

Once an athlete is injured and goes through surgery or other treatments they come to strength and conditioning to recover as it’s the best way to help their body heal quickly while maintaining balance. We emphasize on the part which is injured to help in regaining the strength and thereafter cardio, endurance, muscular hypertrophy, slow jerk, then agility, and so on. On court also we go for one movement, then two movements, moving ahead slowly. 

So do you follow the same format for every player or have any template?

We follow a template which consists of strategies depending on player-to-player and injury-to-injury. For instance facial knee injury takes one a minimum 6 to 8 months to recover. For five months rehab, physiotherapy goes on along with which we focus on strength and conditioning in such cases. 

What are your thoughts on the infrastructure of the sports industry, where are we reaching now and the future of it?

While India is doing quite well I believe we still need to enhance more in order to become at par with other countries. The key is to keep upgrading ourselves and our infrastructure to evolve as one of the best countries with top infrastructure such that athletes have the right facilities to grow which helps in substantial rise in the sports industry of our country. 

For an S & C coach like you, what kind of knowledge and background is required?

Some of the basic requirements would be Diploma in Sports Coaching, Sports Science, Nutrition, Sports Biomechanics, Physiology and all are some of the basic knowledge one requires. While these courses provide substantial knowledge, rest is one to keep staying updated with the latest trends and technologies in order to evolve in this sphere. The skillsets of a person also plays a great role here. Everyone knows the basic knowledge but how to use it for the advantage of athletes is what we learn through these courses. 

Are you also aiming for a masters in S&C in the near future?

Right now I am focussing on acquiring a CSCS degree (Certified Strength and Conditioning Certification) from National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA (NSCA).  It is a worldwide accepted certificate which provides a holistic knowledge of the key areas of the strength and conditioning arena which will help me evolve as a better trainer. 

Do you get any kind of help from the association for upgrading your skills?

Yes we do get such help for coaches but for S&C there are no such programs as of now. Though the associations are working on it and we hope to soon be part of such development programs and make the most of such opportunities. 

How do you plan a player’s progress and monitor it?

We plan the player’s progress with the coach as per their game style. In tournaments we maintain a balance such that all activities should be explored while maintaining core stability such that players can perform well. Balancing strength is imperative as otherwise it can affect their performance. 

Having been working with so many players, who is the most unprofessional one?

I believe elite players are very disciplined with their training and nutrition as they have put in a lot of effort to reach the level they are now and hence they emphasize on maintaining it and giving it their best. Moreover I believe the game teaches them discipline and dedication. 

Ganesh Acharya fuels the fire of champions: Indian Badminton Team at Hong Kong Masters 2023

Satwik Rankireddy recently made a world record of fastest smash. What role do coaches like you play in it?

The coaching and S&C all goes hand-in-hand in such performances. As making such records is a result of helping the athlete strengthen their arms and their back so I believe it is all properly strategized to help these athletes. 

FUN QUESTIONS:

How would you describe the Chirag and Satwik duo in one word? 

Smashwik or Brothers of Destruction

If you could switch roles with one player for a day, who would it be?

Krishna Prasad

If you weren’t a coach, what career would you choose?

Athletics or Kabaddi

What’s the one word that captures P.V. Sindhu’s dedication to training?

Diligent 

How is Sindhu’s training different to other players?

She is one of the most dedicated players who keeps pushing and never says so for anything which has helped her evolve so much.

Describe the energy on the court during a pivotal match with the Rohan-Sikki pair?

Both are extremely good but Sikki is more experienced though they need to work more hard. Though Rohan needs to work more hard as in Mixed doubles, men need to be more strong. So 70% should be Rohan and 30% Sikki. 

What’s the most amusing pre-match ritual you’ve seen Gayatri and Treesa perform?

Some physical activity or warm ups 

Who is your role model?

Sachin Tendulkar 

Cynergysports wishes Ganesh Acharya, a safe health & a great 2023. We thank him for his time & the support to the community.

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