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Steve Shafley
12-15-2006, 08:19 PM
I am kind of commenting in-line as I read it more thoroughly.

In the past they just walked from scrum to scrum and existed purely to practice the black arts of the front row.

And a black art it is. Very rare in the U.S. to find a prop at the club level who knows what they are doing. A real bastard from England taught me the niceties of front row play by doing nasty things to me during games. After practicing these nasty tricks on poor unsuspecting props from other teams, I was able to bulldog him by dint of superior strength. What a nasty piece of work. He once spit a lugie into my beer when I went to take a piss. In return, I filtered his beer though a certain body cleft, and watched him drink it down, including what us Americans call "dingleberries." You'd think this might result in a fist fight, but it didn't, though we were definitely not fond of each other.

Your list of "doing things properly" is definitely spot on. I like it.

The yearly plan might or might not apply to US rugby. At least in the Midwest division, the year is divided into two seasons, a spring season and a fall season (15s), in the summer, if one wants to play 7s, then there are ample opportunities to do so. At least it was. This might not be the case anymore.

I'd revise it for US players like this:

Post-Fall season:
-Take some time off to heal up.
-When you are physically ready, start in on a strength and power routine

Pre-Spring season:
-Continue the S&P session, but begin conditioning for the spring season. This is often a major hassle since most of the Midwest states are covered in snow. If you have access to an inside track with appropriate flooring, this become less of a problem. When you are about 10-12 weeks out, depending on your situation, you really need to start amping up the conditioning.

Spring season:
12-15 weeks long. Maintain 1-2 strength sessions weekly, maintain conditioning via intensity methods, rather than volume.

Post-spring/Pre-sevens:
This is tough. Take some time off to heal up, if you are ok, you better start lifting heavily until 7s start. 7s should really work on your conditioning.
If I played 7s, then my strength would be seriously shot for the fall season. If I didn't play 7s, then my skills and my conditioning would be down for the fall season. Striking the optimal balance is hard, but should be pursued.

Pre-Fall Season:
Conditioning, skills, strength work. You are going to have to make some choices, but you better be ready to play hard.

Fall Season:
Similar to spring season. Be very wary of your overall condition.

My training ideas would parallel yours, but I am sure we wouldn't come out with precisely the same kind of thing given our different backgrounds. I would not be all that concerned with plyos, for example, though I recognize their usefulness. I am not sure I would use any XF benchmark sessions either.

Your running ideas are close enough to mine to not cause any comment. The ever increasing walk/run interval is a nice idea.

I plan on googling the "Concept2 & Rugby" to see what's going on with that. I always ran or jumped rope for my conditioning, but can see how the C2 could be a very good tool for rugby.

I don't know if I'd be concerned regarding speed for US ruggers. This is kind of a "what do you have time to do" article, and though on-field agility would be a big concern of mine, straight out linear speed would only start to become important at higher levels.

I really like your final thoughts.

To parallel this, the USA Rugby organization is, in my opinion, an absolute clusterfuck, with favoritism, cronyism, nepotism, and a feeling of entitlement by the bureaucrats running rampant. USA Rugby is what stops the Eagles from being a better team. The selection process is slanted towards who you know or play for, and the S&C, remarkably, used to be the worst in the world for any national level side, though I have been told it's getting better.

All in all, a GREAT read, and an excellent primer for rugby preparation.

Steve Shafley
12-15-2006, 08:21 PM
I'm curious, James, if you've ever read "Winning and Losing, Losing and Winning" by Ian King, which details his trials and tribulations of being the S&C coach for some of the big Australian teams.

James Evans
12-18-2006, 04:34 AM
Steve,

Forwards have some unpleasant habits don't they?

I remember when I was still playing openside flanker the opposing prop was slowing me down as I tried to break at the scrum. Obviously he should have had more on his mind than disrupting my game so I had a word with my own prop and he said he'd deal with it. Not a peep out of the other guy for the rest of the game. Afterwards I asked how the matter had been resolved and it turns out my mate had been 'gently nibbling' (read 'chomping') on the other guy's ear. Not sure I totally approve but it worked.

The article is really to give an insight into how top players prepare, peppered with my own experience. And a lot of my ideas stem from what I would now do if I was going through it all again. I have learnt more in the last two years, partly from reading stuff by Dan John (and your own stuff in Get Up), the literature surrounding CrossFit etc. than I learnt in the previous 15.

When I was at school and at University I used to work for my old man in the holidays. This involved anything from hauling buckets of concrete around a construction site, to hay baling or shifting full kegs of beer up and down the stairs of the pub we owned. I used to be too wiped out some evenings to touch the weights or get out and run.I never got particularly big but I was strong and my heart knew what it was for. It often worked to my advantage that I didn't particularly look like I'd be hard to stop on the field which was usually a huge mistake for opposition players. I've got a low centre of gravity, I stay on my feet, I run at space, not straight into contact. Oh, and I actually enjoy tackling and I will make sure you know that when I hit you.

I first read a Donald Chu book on plyo work when I was 18 and I used to incorporate some of the ideas into my speed work but I emphasise that you should keep it simple. Chuck in some hops or skips. Don't become an athlete who just does plyo work. Plyometrics are very useful tool but they've the word has become hackneyed and if is often misleading. There's a woman who instructs kettlebells in London who describes them as being 'the working class alternative to plyometrics'. I don't even understand what that means.

I think someone who has a solid ground in training in a number of disciplines will be fairly adaptable to playing rugby. Robb has mentioned to me that he fancies giving it a go and I don't see why he couldn't slot into the backs without much problem. A solid powerlifter would cope in the forwards. The phenomenally strong Englishman Andrew Sheridan can bench over 480lbs from a background in PL. He's 6'4'' and nearly 280lbs. After various experiments with him at lock and back row, it's been decided that prop is the best place to utilize his strength. Most guys who play prop at school are no way near this level and the transition to senior rugby is very hard. Many props do not mature until their late 20s.

What you cannot be prepared for is the force of the hits. When I played all the time I didn't notice it but now, after sevens tournaments, I'm in bits. I particularly notice the soreness in my shoulders from tackling. Top players are regurlarly in such a mess after a game that they cannot train properly for at least 48 hours.
That's the thing that a fit, strong guy like Robb would have to contend with. Alongside of course, mastery of the skills.

Basically I want people to read the article, think about the ideas, the positional requirements etc. and go away and use their time wisely.

On the subject of USA Rugby, I think they've made a wise decision by employing Nigel Melville as performance director. He was boss at the my home club, Gloucester, and I have a lot of respect for him. Hopefully an outsider can bang a few heads together. I haven't read the King book but I shall look out for it.

I'm glad you like the article. I was very conscious that you would be passing your critical eye over it and respecting your opinions, that means a lot to me.

Steve Shafley
12-18-2006, 05:39 AM
It's good stuff, and a great primer on prepping for the sport. I'd like to see something coherent implemented across the levels, both for the competitive sides and just the "have-fun" club sides.

If I went back, I'd need to get down to a significantly lower bodyweight, mostly because of the running requirements, and my sore knees. I played flanker for a long time, until everyone noticed that I was stronger and better at prop than the guys playing props. Did a stint at 8, which was ok, fun, but not quite playing to my strengths.

I always felt sorry for collegiate age props when they went up against the older (think late 20s, to early 30s) props from the more senior clubs around the state. It was kind of like putting a fat, roly poly puppy in the same cage as a game bullmastiff.

The hits...oh yes, the hits. I'm much more brittle now than I was. I'd be seriously banged up after a game, not just due to my own tackling, but I was always a big proponent of the second and third phases of play while keeping the ball in the forwards.

Robb Wolf
12-18-2006, 03:28 PM
James-
Phenomenal article, thank you again. It would be nice to addopt a sport that gets me outside. OL, gymnastics, BJJ...all fun stuff but its nice to run around outside. At 35 I suspect I might be a very strong bench warmer!

James Evans
12-19-2006, 02:25 AM
I don't know Robb, you might surprise yourself. These boys were doing all right in their late 30s.

http://stats.allblacks.com/Profile.asp?ABID=758

http://stats.allblacks.com/Profile.asp?ABID=107

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waisale_Serevi

It's the guys now who are having the life smashed out of them from the age of 18 who seem unlikely to playing much beyond 30. But yes, you'll ache the next day.

Once again with regards the article, my pleasure completely.

Steve Shafley
12-19-2006, 06:01 AM
That's so true, James. I started when I was 19 and stopped when I was 31 or so.

You also get those skinny old codgers with no teeth who are tough as nails, and are playing at the age of 52 or something.

Robb Wolf
12-19-2006, 08:13 AM
That's so true, James. I started when I was 19 and stopped when I was 31 or so.

You also get those skinny old codgers with no teeth who are tough as nails, and are playing at the age of 52 or something.

Steve-
That is a "look" I'm trying to cultivate...I hope there is no malice in that statement.

Elliot Royce
12-20-2006, 12:31 PM
Pretty amazing article....made me want to run out and play rugby. I guess at 6'3" and 225lbs I could have been a contender, but didn't have the guts when I was younger and don't have the body now at 44! I'll stick to ice hockey -- after reading the article, it seems tame compared to rugby.

I do remember 20 years ago having an English employee in New York City who was about 23 years old and built like a short tank. Each Monday he would come in with some injury: broken collarbone, black eye, etc. This was a fancy investment bank so it was kind of like those scenes in Fight Club where Edward Norton comes in to work. That kind of scared me off to begin with.

James Evans
12-22-2006, 03:40 AM
I was playing sevens a year or so ago and I put my head in the wrong place in a tackle. Got up, put my hand to my head to "rub away the Tom & Gerry stars" and felt the wet indication of quite a lot of blood. I'd split my eye open and had six stitches put in by 11am. Good way to start a Sunday.

I work in the City of London and the black eye I was sporting for well over a week certainly got a lot of looks from the pin striped suits. And yeah, I could tell everyone thought I'd been fighting in some back alley.

Steve Shafley
12-22-2006, 05:43 AM
It happens just like that too. The conk. The rub. The blood. The stitches.

Or the ref tells you "You have to go off?"

And you say "Bullshit! That was a legal hit! Why are you throwing me off?"

And he says "You're bleeding, asshole."

Mark Madonna
01-05-2007, 12:55 PM
I have been eating Paleo mostly and I have read Paleo for Athletes.
My question related to this article, I want to perform the best I can in rugby for 80 minutes on Saturday. How should I eat? Paleo, Zone? I have been hearing talk that the low carbohydate diets<30% do not have high enough carbohydrates for demands of Rugby. I do not know where a source is for this, but if you want me to experiment this rugby season with paleo, I would give it a shot.

so to reiterate the question: How should I eat to perform the best I can in rugby?

Robb Wolf
01-08-2007, 05:18 PM
Mark-
I think you will certainly some some glycogen in the muscles for those matches. I think Steve has mentioned using the anabolic diet during rugby but was typically carbed up for the games. Carb depletion can lead to a rebound increase in glycogen storage. This is likely what was in action.

I have been eating ~ Zone parameters of carbs but taking those in post workout and only after a glycogen depleting workout. If I am just doing some ring work on a given day I'm pretty much meats and veggies. This has been going well but I am doing nothing as demanding as 80 min of rugby.

Bottom line IMO is you need adequate glycogen on game (possibly practice?) day to optimize performance.

James Evans
01-09-2007, 02:30 AM
I will happily put my hands up and admit that nutrition is not my strong point. There are people here (Robb, obviously) who will have far better advice so I'm not going to go down that path.

Couple of observations though:

I read something by the Welsh Rugby Union recently that dismissed the value of high protein/low carb diets like Atkins and the Zone. I don't have the piece to hand but that is pretty close to their gist.

This does not make this gospel.

Until a few years ago post match nutrition was a lamb vindaloo ("Yes sir, the vindaloo is indeed f*****g hot" - cod Indian accent) and 20 pints of lager. Obviously if you were French you favoured wine. And primitive sanitation. Professionalism brought in changes but aspects of change have been slow. You may get a guy who takes the skin off his chicken but still has ten pints on a Saturday night. At the other extreme you get someone like Neil Back who said he would have one beer a year and that was at Christmas. I read an interview with a guy last week and he said his flatmate Sean Perry (England scrum half) initially didn't have a clue about eating. Perry only turned professional at the age of 26/27 having worked as a welder. When it came to his turn to cook he would nip out for a Chinese takeaway. This is indicative of the fact that two thirds of the British population (conservative estimate) eat nothing but utter shit and know little about nutrition. But hey, we can alway laugh at America.

High carb diets (particularly pasta) are very prevalent. What the professional guys found was they couldn't physically eat enough pasta and protein so supplements are extremely common and companies like Maximuscle are very proud of their affiliation with various clubs and individual players.

In the UK 'Fatkins' is usually derided although still quite popular. I put this down mostly to misunderstanding. People buy the books and don't read them properly. I've heard of people believing they could eat as many cream cakes as they liked. Dismissal of this kind of diet is as likely to be down to ignorance as to scientific evidence.

I think you should have a good idea of what fires your engine. There are a hell of a lot of top level performers in this community who will rely on Paleo or Zone style diets and it is working for them. The WRU is suggesting that younger players should eat a sensible, traditional European style diet (I'm being deliberately vague) but I suggest you experiment with the information you have available here. The resources at your disposal are invaluable and you have contemporaries who are already involved in a long term experiment.

I will dig out a few rugby nutrional pieces when I have a moment just to give you a contrast.

Mark Madonna
01-09-2007, 09:07 AM
James, Robb
Thanks

Robb, upping the glycogen I will do 24-48 hours before games, and I will read paleo for athletes again because I can't remember it from the first time.

I am hoping to be a little sluggish in practice from my body trying to burn fat at a higher rate than switching from glycogen to fat at practice. And then once my fat burning is up, I want to eat a lot of good carbs to fill up the glycogen stores 1-2 days before the game, then I would be better at burning fat and have full glycogen stores.

Are there any holes in my logic?

Robb Wolf
01-10-2007, 02:24 PM
Sounds pretty solid to me. Folks want to train every day like it's "game day" and they start carb loading all the time. I think this is where the health problems occur. It is an interesting way to minimize intensity running on a lower carb training week. Keep us posted on the results! Make sure to get plenty of veggies during the week to shore up any potential problems with potassium/magnesium loss.