Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 16:46


The Anaerobic Threshold (AT)(also called the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) is defined as that intensity of effort (speed) above which lactic acid starts piling up in the muscles and blood. This piling up is due to the fact that the removal of the lactic acid can no longer keep up with your production. This anaerobic threshold is therefore the transition from the aerobic - to the anaerobe lactic energy supply system. The later an player reaches this threshold, the better its endurance.

Work below the anaerobic threshold can be continued at a longer period of time (at least 45 minutes). Work with an intensity above the anaerobic threshold will be much shorter. With the lactate acid levels increasing, the acidity of the of the muscles and blood increases, this influences the performances negatively. Rugby is a high intensity sport, you have to develop the player's anaerobic energy supply system and the efficiency of the player's body in the lactic acids tolerance and removal. In order to do this you have to know the anaerobic - or lactate threshold. This is also know as HIT: High Intensity Training.

There are several ways to determine the anaerobic threshold based on the maximum heart frequency:

  • Maximum heart rate using heart monitors
  • 220 - age rule
  • Drop of from a 200 meter intervals

There are all kinds of fancy lab tests requiring expensive equipment. My point is that you the coach should develop a trained eye! Look for shortening stride length and knees that do not go up as high into the stride anymore to recognize lactate acid levels rising.

Running these tests below will help you develop that sense.....

1. Based on the maximum heart frequency

Maximum heart rate monitors

Based on one's maximum heart frequency one can consider 70% of the maximum heart frequency as minimum and 90% of the maximum heart frequency as maximum threshold. The maximum heart frequency is simply determined with the use of a heart rate monitor and a standardized test. When a player is carrying a heart rate monitor you can check if his work rate was below or above his anaerobic threshold.

[note: the test mentioned below is not advised for adults who had no thorough medical check and certainly not for people with a risk on carrying heart diseases. Players who are just starting a program have to be assisted by someone with experience.]

The 220 - ages rule

A lot of people use a theoretical maximum heart which is based on the formula 220 minus the age (in years). On this theoretical value the 70% and 90% are then calculated and used as minimum and maximum heart frequency. For us rugbycoaches this comes down to:

  • 20 yr. old: max heart rate = 200; HIT area = 140 - 180
  • 30 yr. old: max heart rate = 190; HIT area = 133 - 171

(You will see how difficult it is to work in this area)

This approach is perhaps useful for a very general program in the fitness center, but is not certainly accurate enough for your work with players. You want to train and progress in fitness, and better test methods are necessary.

Field test for finding the maximum heart rate

Do a low intensity warming-up of at least 10 minutes. Next, bring up the intensity for every 10 or 30 seconds. Meanwhile continues to follow the heart rate on the heart rate monitor carefully. When the players starts to dig deep and becomes heavily fatigued they should give it their last go with a final sprint.

Read the heart rate from the monitor immediately after concluding the effort. Walk or jog, do not lie down or sit after this maximum effort test.

2. The Conconi Test

Another test to determine the anaerobe threshold is developed by Conconi. He based his test on the basic rule that the heart frequency increases linearly with increasing load, to divert from this line on a certain point.

The dots on the chart below reflect the heart rate measured on the 200 meters interval on a athletics track of 400 meter. The player runs each subsequent 200 meter 2 seconds faster until exhaustion sets in (and the required speed can be no longer maintained). The point at which the heart frequency no longer increases linearly is the anaerobe threshold. Conconi also performed lactic acid tests that confirmed the method.

conconi test

This method has been questioned scientifically because several other research workers could never get the results to those Conconi presented. This method is thus not really reliable.

Related documents


Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 16:58

Every coach needs to assess the fitness level of his players, you can ofcourse look at their play, does it fall apart in the last 15 minutes, or put players to a test program. Here is an overview of fitness tests and how they relate to each other.

When subjecting your athletes to any test, take care of the following:

  • Reproducibility: do not simply pace the distance on a speed test, you can not compare an indoor result with an outdoor result. Think about calibration and standardization. For example: using calipers for skin fold measurements: let the same person do all the tests.
  • Tell your players why they are tested, what the consequences of the outcome might be. Otherwise the results of the tests will be poor.
  • Organize yourself (record keeping and so), publish the outcome of the test as quickly as possible. This motivates your players.
  • Take care in comparing results between athletes.
  • See if an experienced exercise physiologist can help you to interpret the results.

The table below gives you the pros and cons of most used tests





Body Composition or Anthropometrics

Height/weight Simple Takes no account of muscle mass
Body mass index Simple Lacks accuracy
Body fat - weight scale Quick and accurate Needs special scale - now more reliable
Body fat - calipers Quick and accurate Technique needs practice.
Interpretation of results needs care.
Endurance or Aerobic Capacity Cooper test Easy to administer Needs a track.
Pacing of run can be difficult.
YoYo test Large groups can be tested.
Pacing and warm-up no problem.
Simulates a match situation
Accuracy of measurement, and calibration of tape/tape recorder a problem.

Better use the beeptest software you can download from this site!

Shuttle run or bleep test Large groups can be tested.
Pacing and warm-up no problem.
VO2max Accurate Need equipment
Step test Submaximal Small inaccuracies in measurement of recovery heart rate give large variations in results.
Wingate test Accurate Needs study and equipment
A.R.U. fitness test Large groups can be tested
Related to rugby skills = more fun

Difficult to reproduce results
Execution of skill can become sloppy

Strength / Power

Sargent jump Basic vertical jump test Standardizing technique, needs equipment
Curl-ups / Sit-up Basic test Needs standardizing using a mat
Medicine ball throw Measures arm and upper body strength Scores influenced by technique
Multi gym measurements Measurements can be made on a variety of muscle groups. Need equipment.
Anaerobic threshold Maximum heart rate monitors Basic test empirical, not accurate. Needs equipment
220 - ages rule Quick, easy empirical
Conconi test better than above Needs track and equipment
Lab tests accurate complicated, needs lab
De-hydration urine color test Easy to do Gives only indication
Speed Hand-timed sprints Easy to administer.
Distances should be 10, 20 & 40 meters
Not accurate enough to reflect any changes in performance.
Speed and Agility Slalom Sprint & Dribble Test Easy to set-up Deviced for hockey and soccer
Flexibility Sit and reach Simple measure hamstring and lower back mobility. Need to standardize technique.
Other Measurements quite gross and influenced by other factors.

Original table compiled by John Brewer, later additions by Don de Winter and Martin Slagt

Rugby Test sets

You can combine these tests to a representative set and of course the Ozzies have sorted this out. The University of Queensland Rugby Academy's Skill and Physiological Testing programs focus on enhancing physical and core rugby skills required to perform at a higher level. A variety of tests are offered, appropriate to player age and relevance to specific rugby programs. The UQ School of Human Movement Studies can facilitate the following physiological tests for your program:

  • Speed (10, 20, & 40m)
  • Vertical Jump (Power)
  • Phosphate Decrement
  • Anthropometrics
  • Aerobic Capacity (Beep Test)

Players are given a comprehensive assessment across a number of identified core skills:

  • Catch and pass
  • Defense
  • Impact:
    Ball carrier
    Support player and support player decision making

For more advanced teams, the assessment extends to simple running lines:

  • Quality of lines run
  • Ball carrier decision making

As you can see, also rugby specific tests. Would be interesting to see all the test results they have and the opportunity to put your results against that database. Download an overview of the test on the Free Download Page.

Dutch Under21 program

While working with the Dutch National Under 21 team we used fitness testing to create awareness amongst our player of their responsibility for their physical fitness. Also we focused selected players: if they did not improve, they would have to leave the selection. This page describes the Under 21 program.

VO2max values

The VO2max tells you something about the amount of oxygen your body is using. Originally performed on a bicycle, the test has also been performed on a treadmill. Look here to compute VO2max values from Cooper test results. More info on the Cooper Test here. The Beeptest software also gives you an indication of VO2max, the value of this is still debated.

The Wingate or the bicycle/treadmill test are still the best. I do a book review on the test in the book section.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 16:45

I was visiting the Edinburgh Wanderers club last autumn and had to go (...) Edinburgh Wanderers provide the facilities for the Academy program of the S.R.U. Down at the toilets there were Urine Color charts so Academy players could check if they were de-hydrated or not.

The card is an easy tool but more importantly: the players can check their individual hydration levels themselves. I think this is an important aspect of the chart: stay in control!

I set-up a Urine Color Chart for you to download from the Free Download Page and print out.

More background information I took from the Mayoclinic.com website in the table below.

Urine color

Possible medical and dietary causes


  • Excess liquids
  • Liver disorders, such as acute viral hepatitis or cirrhosis

Bright or neon yellow

  • Vitamin supplements

Dark yellow or gold

  • Dehydration
  • Some laxatives
  • Foods or supplements containing B complex vitamins

Pink or red

  • Blood in the urine, such as due to kidney or bladder infection or cancer
  • Certain foods, such as beets and berries, and food dyes
  • Some laxatives


  • Side effect of certain medications, such as rifampin, doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Rubex), phenazopyridine (Pyridium) and warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Certain foods and food dyes
  • Dehydration
  • Some laxatives

Blue or green

  • Side effect of certain medications, such as amitriptyline and indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Certain foods, such as asparagus, and food dyes

Dark brown or tea colored

  • Liver disorders, especially if accompanied by pale stools and jaundice
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Blood in the urine
  • Certain foods and food dyes

Cloudy or murky

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

Note: I do not know any of the medicins in this table and if they are on the illegal substances list. The table is just a copy of the mayclinic.com website!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 09:15

As a National Under 21 coach back in the nineties we already video-ed our games. Players brought their own VHS tapes to get a copy a couple of weeks later. Editing and making summaries was very complicated. Statistics were done on a notepad (paper) rewinding and rewinding the tapes.

With the cheaper prices and quality of digital video camera's and faster home computers you can move into the video analysis world. This is not the terrain of the big teams anymore! What to do?

  • Record one of your team matches
  • Digitize the video using a special video card (or have a Mac with built in firewire to stream directly as you record)
  • Play the video and start counting your stats
  • Cut and paste those parts of the match you want and make a presentation of the selected set of video bits, like all the line-outs

Of course people have thought of writing software program around a database with video bits. Tag the individual bits and next you can select in different ways, like all the line-outs on our throw. This page takes you along my journey to video analysis and digital coaching.

What are advantages video analysis?

You can now look at those things you were training on and measure how the team performs. Of course the video feedback will help you communicating the improvement to your players. Important side effect: suddenly you are not discussing your interpretation of the match (Yes/No) but are looking and discussing what you both see on a video. You meet on neutral ground.

Because you have to define your own set of parameters you really have to think how you measure performance.

Disadvantages of video analysis?

You have to invest in PC hardware, hardware, camera and in time. Reviewing one game D.I.Y. style takes me a lot of time. In order to give a presentation the first training after a match will stress your time, it will take a whole evening of work.

Two type of analysis

There are two main catergories.

  1. The game analysis, this is looking for the tactical perspective (field position, exit strategy, etc.)
  2. Functional skills analysis, this is evaluating the technique (mechanics of movement)

You have platforms for both, some tools intermingle.

Video Analysis in more detail

How much effect does your trainingsessions have? How effective are the players in their actions? What can be learned from their performance. Advantages are:

  • Visual feedback for the player
  • By drawing and calculations the effectiveness of movement can be determined
  • Performances can be compared
  • Both technique and tactical awareness can be analyzed
  • Clips of individual actions of performances can be stored

What you do: think of a game as a sequence of Situations and Results. Look at this clip from a rugby match, let us image that it is from your team:

Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site

We see France kick the ball from a ruck won and the All Blacks counter. Right? Wrong!

  1. Situation is a won ruck, result is a pass
  2. Situation is a pass from 9 of the base of ruck, Result is a catch by 10
  3. Situation is ball caught from pass, Result is kick
  4. Situation is kick, Result is ball caught in own 22
  5. Situation is ball caught in own 22, Result is run the ball
  6. etc. .... this play game ends with a dangerous run out of defense and the famous question "Where did McCaw come from?" Look again.

After you have coded all your Situation and Results you can then make lots of interesting summaries like show me all the Situations where the opposition kicked the ball into our own 22 and we ran at them. Imagine you had made a match summary specific for you coaching session based on such a selection for your individual players. That would have been great.

Next, imagine you have all the games from the RWC2011. You enter them in your tool and Wow! Suddenly you have lots of reference material. You can compare your team's performance with that of RWC2011 teams. The differences will give you all input for a learning program.

With this new type of video analysis a hugh amount of information becomes available. Too much for the coach to handle.

Do we need more coaches?

No, we need to redefine coaching. In the classical method we educated the coach who then coaches his team to success. This model can now be changed. Players have to be involved in the defining or refining training programs. The role of the coach will become more a strategist or the Rugby Facilitator.

Players have to become responsible for their own development, access their video clips online and decide what needs to be improved.

No, we need Digital Coaches!

With European Champioships in 2013 we saw the opposition team play their quarter and semi final games on video. We prepared very specific questions and divided them over the Under 18 team. Then watched the whole match! After players were very outspoken of how effective our attacking line-outs would be, how effective our midfield defense, etc.... The team could now focus on the next game. End result: pool Winner and promotion!

An overview of video analysis tools for rugby

There are a lot of video tools available, this table will give you a good overview.

NameTypePricingData sharing?Benefits
Dartfish Both 1.000 EUR + Collaboration possible with additional tools Hugh user base, 1 month free trial
Dartfish Easy Tag Both Free! through email.... Replaces the paper & pencil but gives you the Dartfish Tagging Panel that makes the time stamps
Dartfish Express Skill a few dollars Through Dartfish.tv; Subscription is free I use the iPad app, direct feedback on the pith!
Ubercoach Skill a few dollars No, just the App Cheap, easy to use
Utilius Team 1.100 EUR + Additional Top entry
Motionpro! Skill 150 EUR +  
Motionview!/Motionclip! Skill 150 EUR +
Sports Motion 130 EUR
Quinticcoaching 730 EUR
AMISCO Team Very expensive Turns video in real-time a magnet board
Gamebreaker Both 2.000 EUR + with additional tools From SportsCode, low entry, more features with upgrades. The upgraded set is what Timo Meinders used for his work with my National Under 18.
Statspro Team other model Yes Analysis as a Service, Pay per game


What else do you need?

  • A digital video camera, preferably with 3 CCDs, normal 25 frames per second (50 de-interlaced)
  • DV-tapes or Hard Disc
  • Tripod

The drawback of this approach it takes all the software and stuff and a lot of time. The company Statspro have solved this by doing the analysis as a pay-per-game service. And easy options to start into video analysis.

Perhaps another start?

  • Buy a HD camera, they have become relatively cheap, I think the Sony HD series are good value
  • Buy a tripod, do not save on this, smooth videocamera movement needs a good tripod
  • Get a MacBook
  • Use iMovie that comes standard with the MacBook
  • Remember that the higher up you record the match, the better.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 09:14

Dartfish and Gamebreaker were leading companies in video analysis. With the arrival of the iPad and smartphone apps video and video processing became much easier. New companies like Ubersense jumped on it and Dartfish and Gamebreaker (Sportscode) had to follow.

Dartfish has now two platforms:

  1. The Dartfish.tv platform where you can manage and share video clips made with the Dartfish Express app; Dartfish.tv is free, the app only a couple of dollars.....
  2. Dartfish Easy Tag, this replaces your notepad and pen by providing you clickable software buttons you can configure; The App registers the clicks on the different buttons AND the time they where clicked and stores them in a text file you can import in Excel.

Dartfish Express

For just a couple of Euro's you are in business (assuming you already have an iPad or iPhone...). Get the App, make video's of your athletes who are performing a functional skill and you and the athlete can instantly playback the video. Use the "flywheel" to scroll back and forth. Click to include stills where you can outline critical elements. One of the Academy coaches said this App was a mirror, a very exact description!

Distribute through your Dartfish channel.

I have a Nikon 1 where you can record a 2,5 sec movie with a staggering 400fps, this will give you a super slow motion clip you can import via your iPad camera roll to the Dartfish app. This improves the quality of the video but the import takes more time. Note: the iPad has 30fps video. 

Dartfish Easy Tag

Dartfish calls this the Tagging Panel and is just that: by clicking software buttons on a panel you enter "Tags" on a timeline. Each button you define is a different "Tag".

This is what I use it for: Continuity Analysis. Think RL: can your team "survive" five tackles? (I actually played two RL internationals with my RU Under18 selections against BARLA, but that is another story). I had a tackle button and a button for each different way to lose possesion. Then you just go <tackle> <tackle> <tackle> <knock on>.


See that EasyTag already is counting while you click, if you would use this during the game you will see the trend built. Import the .csv file EasTag creates in Excel. In Excel you can easily find the sequences and list it my example as knock-on after three tackles. Process all the clicks and split between positive and negative outcome and sort on numbers of tackles. The result is a graphical representation on how the teams continuity game in attack and in defense was. 

I could then show my National Under 18 how effective our attack was, "just keep the ball if nothing is on" and how effective our defence was, "keep repositioning in defence, we will get the ball eventually". Timo Meinders video-ed all our practise matches and I did the analyses each time. The team became very well focussed. In the semi-final of the European Championships 2013 the Ukraine made nearly a hunderd tackles but the continuity game was so good we trashed them after the fourth and fifth tackle. In defense they did not survive our four or five tackles....By the way, we also beat Croatia in the Final and had a massively successful campaign. Video a big part of the success.

Unfortunately you need to be a bit of a geek to do the excel part, the best option is ofcourse to get the full software suite of Dartfish TeamPro and import the file there. You can then link the Tags you made directly to video you have recorded. This saves you a lot of time but at the cost of a license. Another advantage is you can look-up and show the relevant clips very quickly in your video session with the team, where else you need to input specific times in VLC.....

(By the way, SportsCode has a similar set-up, and this is what I succesfully have used with Timo Meinders, but their App is not free)


Yes, video analysis is available for us Grassroots coaches now, step into it. Let me know if you have questions....

How to start?

  • Buy an iPad, get the Apps
  • Think about what you want to keep track of
  • Set up a Dartfish Easy Tag screen
  • Experiment with a game you already have on your laptop
  • Adjust the config if needed
  • Go at it for real.

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