Last Updated on Saturday, 12 February 2011 14:08
How do we define strength or power?
Strength gives rugby players the opportunity to increase their performance. Is there a difference between strength and power? Yes, I think there is. We can define strength training as something that is just that: training to become stronger. Power training relates more to our needs: develop the players ability to explode from the scrum, hit the tackle or accelerate into a gap.
For top teams or Elite level weight training is a must, lifting weights in the gym is now an integral part of a professional rugby career.
We develop power with a range of exercises. The plyometric form, agility training and the pulling and pushing exercises.
General Strength and Conditioning Exercises
These include many of the conventional weight-training exercises. Aim is to make your body fitter / stronger so it can handle the stress of the training and competition. Remember that I coach an Under 16 team that only trains two times a week? To improve the overall fitness of my team we do a fitness circuit on the pitch of 20 minutes twice a week. The core stability exercises are also part of this. Yes, I believe this is so important that it takes up 20% of my training time!
For a weight training program to be succesful the players need to work three times a week. This means that your team needs to work outside the normal club training - a big step forward.
The program is developed by John Kenbeek. He is the Strength Conditioning Advisor of the Dutch rugby union (NRB). We also use the program as a strength introduction training at our Talent Development Program. You can use it from 10 years upwards. Download it from the Free Dowload Section.
Specific Strength Training
Specific means developing your body not only from a muscle strength perspective but also improving the "drive": coordination and muscles as a group. These exercises should mimic actual play in a closed / controlled environment. People in Australia developed a squat machine where you are in scrum position. This is a good example.
Reactive or Speed-Strength Training
This is about developing your muscles to contract faster, delivering the power more quickly. The plyometrics are a good example of this. The SAQ program includes a lot of this type of work. So, follow the SAQ program and you are okay.
Preventive Gymnastics Exercises
This is training in the old classical sense. Jump over stuff, climb ropes, circuits, etc. All in order to improve overall strength. Used in rehab training. The goal of this type of training is to build strength in order to prevent an injury to reoccur.
Of course you already knew: stronger muscles reduce the chance to get injuries.
What is the basis of the programs ?
The starting points when developing weight training programs for rugby are:
- Overcome resistance doing the normal movement under a force
- Normal movement require coordination of more than one muscle group
- Deliver static power (scrum)
- Bulking up (gaining muscle mass)
- Integrate plyometrics in your regular field programs.
- Use the players body weight as the basis for the programs.
- Use bar- and dumbbells above machines: train in a more play related movement.
- Know when to do what into the season.
Most of the machines are not capable of following the speed in the exercise we need. They were developed with a different purpose: to create a save environment in a gym where lost of people can train unattended.
This is why SAQ and those plyometric exercises are so interesting for any rugby training.
In the warm-up we can already include Reactive Training elements. The SAQ program has fantastic warm-up programs. They call this Dynamic Flex. I have a separate Warming-Up page.
With these exercises you will develop the muscle for fast contractions. It works on the principle that a contracted muscle can deliver more strength than when first lengthened.
Think about a coiled spring: immense levels of energy are released in a split second as the spring recoils. Plyometric exercises develop this recoil. Muscle fibre stores more elastic energy and transfers more quickly and powerfully from the eccentric to the concentric phase.
I combine the plyometric exercises with the speed and agility training I do in several stages.
- start with developing the plyometric drills using exercises which are easy to do
- use plyometrics right after warming-up, when players still have good coordination
- gradually increase difficulty and intensity (simply count the number of jumps)
You can imagine that I was very pleased when I found out about SAQ......
How to set up a strength training program
Integrating plyometric exercises into your regular training sessions is relatively easy to do. Buy some background material, think about the role in the speed & mobility work. Create a nice mix and everybody can be involved.
If you have players who want to do real extra power work you have to think of the following.
The trick is to translate these issues to something that works for your players. These are steps I have followed:
- Read up on the topic, you do not need to be expert on the topic but the essentials should be clear. I have found the book Strength Training for Football by Bruno Pauletto a good source of information. It is from 1996, the programs are a bit outdated now - get something more up to date.
- Talk with your players, starting a weight training program is a long term thing.
- Find a gym that suits your needs (lots of free weights, good staff, etc.). That is the easy option....
- Define the different periods in your season (off-season, pre-season, in-season).
- Determine the individual strength of your players and define the players programs.
How to use the standard program
- Download the free weight training program from the free download page.
- Adapt to personal preference.
- Incorporate in regular schedule.
- Test and adjust.