Ideas for Off Season Training – Ashley Jones

Author Ashley Jones

After 15 off seasons in preparing players for the rigours of professional team sports competition, I would like to suggest a few ideas that may spark ideas for you to optimize the quality and quantity of your program for you and the players entrusted to you.

I think that you need to be specific in your creative programming, I would divide the players into three (3) groups, based on there major priority for the upcoming training period:

Neural Mechanical Metabolic

From there you can framework the off season around achieving significant improvements in the primary area with the other areas becoming secondary and tertiary goals, this is irrespective of the position on the field that they play.

So key areas for each would be:

Neural – speed, power, Olympic lifting focus, plyometrics

Mechanical – size, strength, technique, power lifting/bodybuilding focus

Metabolic – aerobic, anaerobic, run/cross training focus, GPP

For neural I would reverse periodise and work short to long, whereas in metabolic I would classic periodise and work long to short but also use some concurrent training, and mechanical I would use a modified classic Westside protocol, the series of articles entitled “Westside for Skinny Bastards” on or www.t-nation.comis a great starting point.

Along with your specific groupings you may have groups of players who because of their respective training ages need to have a reduced training load, two groups which we have created is a 75% of total training time group which is less than or equal to 2 years of professional training and a greater than or equal to 8 years of professional training, for the second group the specific program is generated through one on one chats, as I feel they know how to get their body in the condition you need them to be to play the game you want from them. The rest of the squad will fall into the major training groupings.

I would try and limit each session to a 30 or 60 or 90 minute time frame, since we need to add sessions such as stretching, yoga, pilates, prehab/rehab to the overall plan as well.

Time allocation is critical and should reflect your main focus, I also like adding an activities plan to the off season for two reasons;

i) Firstly, the development of a broad focus of physical skills from a variety of sports to supplement the specific skills they get from the main sport, a very much former Soviet approach where athletes are exposed to as many sports as possible in the developmental phases of their training; and secondly
ii) Exposure to a variety of activities will introduce players to possibilities for post career that they may wish to take up that otherwise they may have never had an opportunity or interest in.

Some of these activities maybe boxing, wrestling, karate, kick boxing, kayaking, water polo, mountain biking, yoga, basketball, netball, korfball, volleyball, Gaelic football, handball, Australian Rules, football. All these sports/activities add to the physical development plan by challenging players both mentally and physically. I would select maybe 5 or 10 (if you want them to have a choice between activities) and schedule them for the last session on each day of training.

So depending on the priority of your program, the number of sessions for each type of specific training will be as follows:

Neural – Intensity and recovery are the key, again with Olympic lifting you may go as high as 10 sessions per week but these may only be one or two exercises per session, speed sessions 3 – 5 per week.

Mechanical – Depending on your preference could be 4 sessions per week or up to 8 if you move to a more double day body building split style.

Metabolic – 5 sessions per week, cross training (indoor rowing, versa climber, Grappler, bike, grinder, swim), anaerobic (fitness) games, hill repeats, repeated speed, cross country running, General Physical Preparedness (GPP) following weight training sessions, strongman circuits, weight training complexes and circuits, of course they will also gain in this area from the activities training they do as well.

I also like to keep off season training from Monday to Friday only and not take any time on the weekend since we take most weekends during the season, leave that for recovery and family time.

Our current program is attached to give you an idea how we put things together, enjoy, it is great fun putting all the pieces together and watching the plan come together.

Cheers, Ashley


Hello Ash, based on your off season programs (5 days of weight training) ,I would like to know if they could also be used by centres-winger? By the programing that I read in the crusaders off season, you only have “finishers” do a 3 day weight training program. I do not really need to put more then 2-5 Kg`s top, my real goal is to improve my conditioning.

My other question is, how do you set the “ideal playing weight”? I am 1.81 mts tall and weight 90 KG (my body fat is 10%) and I play centre, I would like to be at 93-95 but I don`t know if that would be good for me In season.

Cheers, Nico.


Hi Nico, the reason the outsides only do 3 weights workouts is because they do a lot more speed training and I see this as more important, you could do the 5 days per week weights but I think it would impact on your ability to recover and do the speed work at maximum intensity to ensure gains. I do not think there is a perfect weight for any player in any position and feel that the weight you are talking about sounds just right although some centres are over 100kg, so perfect is what is right for you and that is just a trial and error situation I had a player once who like to be closer to 90kg during Super 14 since it was a lot faster game and more expansive but wanted to be closer to 95kg for test match rugby, hope that helps, ash


Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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