THE most important muscle for any athlete is the one pumping away in their chest.

And when it comes to heart, Sydney Swans ball magnet Josh Kennedy has one of the biggest in the AFL.

Josh is one of those rare athletes who, just when you think they have nothing more to give, can dig deep, push through the pain barrier and shift into another new gear.

It’s one of the reasons Josh was able to achieve a record-­breaking 30 or more possessions in 11 games straight last season.

“I really pride myself on being able to get the best out of myself when I step onto the field,” he said.

“Endurance is obviously a big part of the game for an AFL footballer — you’re out there for 120 minutes running at pretty high ­intensity, so you have to train ­accordingly.”

Josh keeps his motor running at maximum capacity by doing lots of 400-800m, high-intensity sprints in the pre-season.

“It’s the worst type of training for lactic acid burn. You really have to push past the pain and over the exhaustion threshold, and that takes mental toughness,” he said.

Swans high performance coach Rob Spurrs said: “Josh is able to consistently perform at the highest level due to his ongoing ability to prepare and train at the highest intensity.”

While Josh undoubtedly has plenty of fight in him, teamwork is a huge part of his game and he says the support and encouragement of his teammates can make all the difference when things get tough.

“I’m fortunate that I play a team sport. You’ve always got your teammates there to push you along when you’re fatigued and pick you up when you think you’ve got nothing left in the tank,” he said.


Getting the balance right

AS A top-flight footballer and new dad to son Emilio, Josh has a busy schedule.

He says, like most parents, time management is essential for getting the balance right and keeping fit, whether you want to be a freak on the footy field or just keep up with your kids.

And you also have to make sure to include some fun along the way.

‘He’s (son Emilio) a bundle of fun at the moment, and being a parent certainly makes you have to be organised and get that work-life balance right, which is critical. You need to make time to be with family and friends, and to get out there and do the things you enjoy.

“You’ve just got to do it.

“The hardest part is putting the runners on and getting going, but once you do that it gets easier, and in the long term it becomes a healthy habit.”

Take the Man Challenge

THE secret behind Josh’s rock solid performance on the field is a rock solid core.

“Core strength is essential for any sport where you need to run, both for injury prevention and simple biomechanics, so you don’t waste energy trying to stabilise yourself while you run,” he said.

Josh builds his core strength and running technique by doing these plank mountain climbers, a really clever out-of-the-box exercise that works your core, key running muscles and lungs all at the same time. He powered through an incredible 31 plank mountain climbers in one minute.

Take him on and see if you can measure up.

Interview with Josh Kennedy

Lean, green & mean

LIKE a lot of guys, Josh likes to start his day with a quick, easy meal he can have on the run.

“We train pretty early and I don’t like going with a full stomach, so a smoothie is a great way to get in all the energy and nutrients I need prior to training,” he said.

“I make the same concoction most mornings. I don’t have to think about it and it’s packed with vegies, vitamins and minerals.”

Josh chucks kale, celery, spinach, Kiwi fruit, pepitas, lemon and chia seeds into a blender with good old H2O and whizzes it up into a mean, green smoothie.

“I’ll admit I was worried it was going to make me feel a bit green, but I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. There’s no excuse for not eating your veggies when you can make something this tasty in seconds,” he said.

Even better, you can easily turn this into a man-sized breakfast that’ll keep you going all morning by chucking in a couple of scoops of protein powder and a banana.