Strength & Conditioning for Rugby

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    Strength & Conditioning for Rugby
    Must Haves!

    By Ashley Jones

    After recently being let go by the Australian Rugby Union I have had time to contemplate what is important in rugby strength and conditioning, basically a must have rather than then nice to haves. So basically when I get my next position these are the non-negotiables that will be included in the program to assist players to become physically dominant.

    These then are my Must Haves!

    Speed Power Combo

    Combination Fitness

    Gym Based Circuits

    If you have the gym and field in close proximity to each other then the speed power combo is one of the best forms of anaerobic conditioning I have found. It involves performing some speed related activities on the field then immediately coming into the gym and lifting weights then returning to the field for more speed work, going back and forward like this until the session is completed in the gym with the maximal strength lifting be performed.

    Option 1

    Field: Warm up – patterns on ladders and mini hurdles combined with Dynamic Flexibility options

    Gym: Power Snatch from Blocks or Hang 8 x 3

    Field: Sled Marching 4 x 22 metres with 22m sprint from a 3 point stance in between

    Gym: Kettle Bell Swings 30 secs s/s with knees to feet jumps 6 reps x 6 sets

    Field: Harness Release 22m resist then 28 m sprint x 6

    Gym: Band Box Squats s/s with Box Jumps 8 x 3 or 2 stage step ups single leg box jumps 4 x 6

    Field: Sled sprints ladder (empty sled x 40 m, sled 20kg x 30m, sled 40kg x 20m, sled 60kg x 10m, then repeat going back up the ladder)

    Option 2

    Warm ups:
    Mobility circuit
    Full forward ladder series x 6- exercise returns i.e. skips, butt kicks

    12 x 2 Band Box Squats every 30 seconds

    · 10 x 10 metres
    Slow walk back recovery

    8 x 3 Power Snatch from Floor every 60 seconds

    · 6 x 22m parachute 28m release
    Every 3 minutes OR
    · 6 x 10m resisted harness 20m release

    6 x 4 Block Power Cleans every 60 seconds

    · 4 x 20m sled sprints
    Every 2 minutes

    4 x 6 Dead Lifts variation every 60 seconds

    Combination Fitness

    I love the use of small sided competitive games as the major form of metabolic conditioning for rugby players, players will go longer and often work harder in these games but there are a few problems not all players work as hard and human nature being what it is some may rest up at times or go missing completely. Also depending on the skill levels of players the ball may not stay in play long enough to get a conditioning benefit, so by combining this excellent mode of conditioning with a variety of others I feel we can ensure a more complete session.

    I like to include blocks of training with the conditioning games so that players are moving from one activity to another so that they do not get used to one singular mode and get comfortable. This could be any combination of the below:

    · Aerobic grid or block runs, ideally based from your aerobic running test ie; YoYo test
    · Repeated speed session of varying distance with varying recoveries from a different starting positions and performed at different speeds
    · Boxing, Wrestling and Grappling activities
    · Rugby starter players then phase play for a maximum of 3 phases with either pad opposition or semi opposed

    So a session would look like this:
    · Warm up for 10 – 15 minutes with a range of active movement drills and graduated speeds then
    · 12 minutes of Offside Touch, 2 minutes drink break/recovery
    · 2 x 4 minute VO2 grids (4 minutes work, 2 minute walk recovery)
    · 6 x starter players, 3 from lineout & 3 from scrum, alternating)
    · Wrestling for 6 minutes
    · 20 x 22 metres going every 15 seconds from different start positions (5 minutes work, then drink/rest 2 minutes)
    · Finish with 8 minutes of drop off touch
    · Recovery!

    Offside Touch

    First pass must always go back then attack to furthest try line, attacking team gets 2 touches, after 2nd touch turnover, ball can be passed after the restart pass in any direction, to ensure everyone is working all the time all the attacking team must be inside the 22m area before the try can be scored, the team that scores retains possession and defending team must push inside the attacking half way line otherwise the try is worth 2 points, another version is man on man where you can only tag your partner and vice versa, plus you can add a sweeper that can tag anyone as well.

    Drop Off Touch

    Normal touch rules apply, other than when a person makes a touch he has to sprint around his own goal posts before being eligible to be on D again, attacking team gets 6 touches, no kicking is allowed.

    Gym Based Circuits

    Whilst most of the gym programs I write are based on a strength training bias I believe that we are missing the point of specific conditioning for the game if we do not include some circuit style training in the program. That is not to say we disregard strength and go entirely circuit based, dare I say Crossfit, that would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Before you crossfit disciples howl your protest I am not denigrating the mode of training, it is just that strength underpins everything in my book so take the time to get strong and learn correct technique before embarking on high rep sessions with complex motor skill exercises. As Louie Simmons has said “everything works, but nothing works for ever”.

    Here are my favourite circuits:

    Warm up: KB Swings/Skipping/Sledgehammer Tyre Hits/Rope wave (30 seconds of each x 5)

    1: Kettle Bell Circuit
    KB Cleans/See SawKB Press/Alt. KB Upright Rows/ KB Snatches/Alt. KB Floor Press/MMA KB Row/KB Squat Jumps/KB 2 hand Swing

    30 seconds on each, rest 90 seconds at end of circuit and repeat for a total of 6 sets or
    do 8 reps on each the Extermin8 or Termin8 circuit

    2: Steel Log GPP Circuit
    Clean and push press /Front squat/Bent over Rows/Romanian Dead lift
    8 reps on each and then go again for 8 total sets.

    3: Body Weight GPP Circuit (info on these can be found in Combat Conditioning by Matt Furey)
    15 reps on each non-stop circuit: Grasshoppers/Hindu Push Ups/Knees to Feet Jumps/Scorpions/Mountain Climbers/Alternate Lunges/Rock & Rolls/Push Ups/Prisoner Jump Squats/Sit Ups

    4: Beastly Circuits
    (6 sets x 6 reps then 3 minutes hard cardio – bike/box/row/versa/rope pull/treadmill incline run/grinder)
    Option 1: Dead Lift/Power Clean from Hang/Front Squat/Push Press/ Bent Over Row / Romanian Dead Lift
    Option 2: Power Clean from floor/Split jerk/Front Squat/Hang Clean/Lunge/Bent Row
    Option 3: Power Snatch from floor/Push Press/Back Squat/Hang Clean/Split Jerk/Romanian Dead Lift
    Option 4: 3 position Clean/Push Press/Jump Squat/Hang Snatch/Split Jerk behind Neck/Good Morning
    Option 5: Power Snatch from floor/Overhead Squat/Push Jerk behind Head/Combo Good Morning/Jump Squat/Power Clean from Hang

    5: Power Fitness
    Power Clean or Pulls or Dead Lift 70% 5-4-3-2-1 (15 seconds between sets) then 3 minutes hard bike or versa climber, rest 90 seconds repeat x 6

    6: Power Circuit (5 x 5 500 metres row after each circuit)
    Power Snatch – Clean Push Press from Blocks – Jammer – Power Tackler – Band Box Squat

    Ab Circuits after each of the Training Options Alternate Weighted & Unweighted
    Weighted Abs 5 exercises for 5 sets x 5 reps in circuit:
    ½ Turkish Get Up/ Lateral Side bend & Pick up(windmill)/Zercher pick up/Suit Case Dead Lift/Combat Twist Unweighted Abs 5 exercises for 3 sets x 15 reps in a circuit:
    Hanging Leg Raises/Rollouts/Cyclone Ball/Sprinters Sit ups/1 minute Bridge

    7: Borreginne Super Circuit (shared with me by Haydn Masters, it is designed by the greatest weightlifting coach Australia has produced, a man I am proud to call friend)
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    [TD=”colspan: 2″]10 x Squat Jumps (Bar)[/TD]
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    [TD=”colspan: 2″]10 x Hang Cleans (40kg)[/TD]
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    [TD=”colspan: 2″]10 x Bent Over Row (40kg)[/TD]
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    [TD=”colspan: 2″]20 x Med Ball Crunches (6kg)[/TD]
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    [TD=”colspan: 2″]4 x Shuttle Runs (20m)[/TD]
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    [/TABLE]

    8. Strongman Circuits

    Strongman training differs form traditional weight training in that the objects that are pushed, pulled, lifted, dragged or carried are not uniform in size or shape or weight, nor are the players that we come across on a rugby field. I primarily use strongman training as a strength endurance circuit where players are paired off and one player works for one minute whilst the other rests and motivates and encourages his partner, when both players have worked for one minute they move onto the next exercise. We usually have about 10 exercises, but depending on the size of your squad and the availability of equipment the choice is endless. Always be on the lookout for equipment that you maybe able to use, check out the local dump and see what others have thrown out, truck tyres, odd shaped blocks and the such like are gold to people like us looking for something a little out there.

    Please do not get me wrong this type of training is excellent for strength endurance and also strengthening those support muscles that are not easily targeted, but they do not replace the fact that maximal strength and strength-speed type training is best developed using weights in the gym.

    Some of my favourites for training rugby players in this style of training are:

    Fingals Finger – where you have to lift a post off the ground and then with your hands above your head walk it forward until it is vertical.

    Conan’s Wheel – where you zercher lift a bar, which is connected to a load, in the crook of your elbows and proceed to walk in a circular path until you can no longer continue.

    Farmers Walk – where you pick up two implements, one in each hand, and walk till the implements fall from your hands as your grip gives out.

    Tyre Flip – position yourself in a good dead lift position and lift the edge of the tyre off the ground and continue lifting and pushing with your knee until it flips over, continue for time and/or distance.

    Chain Drag – simply grab hold of a length of anchor chain and walk backwards as you drag the chain, ours weighs 150kg, and we picked it up at a fishing fleet store shed.

    Yoke Walk – Take a squat bar out of the rack or have a yoke make specifically for the purpose and walk for as far as you can, a real challenge.

    Keg or stone or buoy or any heavy odd shaped object Lift and carry – pick the object up and take it for a walk, the more awkward the better as this will challenge your stabilizer muscles.

    Same as the above but instead of carrying for distance you press it above your head, a great use for the swiss ball is to fill it with sand or water to the desired weight and then proceed to push this “live” weight overhead a real challenge.

    Steel Log – clean and press for reps or time, the log being quite a wide diameter makes it awkward to lift and also puts extra emphasis on lower back stabilization, which is a bonus.

    Sled Drag – use a sprint sled and load it up and proceed to walk towing this behind you, again for time and/or distance.

    Conclusion

    But as I am a strength coach first and foremost it would be remiss of me to finish this article without giving you what I consider to be my most productive strength training tips.

    3-week strength training cycle

    I have used this in many times with different levels of players and always with success either as an off season training system incorporating wave loading which I consider to be the best overloading method ever:

    Week 1: 2 x (6/5/4)
    Week 2: 2 x (5/4/3)
    Week 3: 2 x (4/3/2)

    Or in season when time is of the essence:

    Week 1: 6/5/4/4
    Week 2: 5/4/3/3
    Week 3: 4/3/2/2

    Both styles ensure that you are hitting above 95% of maximal load every 3 weeks and that you do not drop below the strength threshold of 80%, every 3 weeks a la Westside you should change the program in some way, a simple exercise change or variation is enough to ensure continued gains.

    For the more advanced the system know as complexes has also worked very well in my training programs, to be used with major compound movements:

    Week 1: 4 x 6 straight sets plateau load 80%

    Week 2: 4 x 3/3 complex with 15 – 20 seconds intra set and 2 – 3 minutes inter set rest

    Week 3: 4 x 2/2/2 complex with 15 – 20 seconds intra set and 2 – 3 minutes inter set rest

    Week 4: 4 x 1/1/1/1/1/1 or 4 x 3/2/1 complex with 15 – 20 seconds intra set and 2 – 3 minutes inter set rest
    Finally The Rule of 24 that I have written extensively about has provided great gains in size, strength and power for all those that have tried it. Check back through the Get Strength article files to see them all.

    Also in the New Year I will be compiling a lot of my material into an ebook form, which will look in detail to all my training programs for strength and conditioning.

    So, there you have it. I hope that I have added to your “training toolbox” and that you can glean what necessary information you require to aid in the development of your productive program. Remember as Louie says, “If all you have is a hammer than everything else becomes a nail”.

    Train Hard and Make a Difference in Someone’s Life. Merry Christmas 2012 and may 2013 bring you all Happiness. Cheers, Ashley Jones

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