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Old 10-31-2006, 10:05 AM   #1
joe murphy
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Default off season rugby training

just wanted to steal some insight from what is an amazing new board.

I play lock and have about 4 months to spend training for next season. my role in the game is short bouts of intense power (in the scrum); sprinting to the ball where I (hopefully) either get a touch (on offense) or a tackle (on D) or get involved in a ruck/maul situation.

at 40, my goals for the off season are to get a little stronger, a little faster, and work on injury prevention. broadly, that means a couple crossfit classes and a couple power (O-lift or supplemental strength) sessions a week.

the only thing I've read specific to rugby conditioning is the article in dan john's "get up" newsletter.

diet is more or less paleo (with alcohol)

What should I be thinking about? Any specific suggestions or referrals or resources?

Any advice is greatly appreciated. thanks for this resource, very interesting board.
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Old 10-31-2006, 11:44 AM   #2
Steve Shafley
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Here's a post I made for a young guy before his his first season:

Quote:
The only way you're going to learn the game is to play it. It will take you some time to learn it, no lie, however, that doesn't mean you won't be able to walk onto the field and be ready to play it.

Running sprints and short intervals is what's important over distance work. At 6'2" and 230, they are going to try to put you into a second row position in the pack, or maybe a flanker...depending on how big the scrum is. You might be tapped for a prop or a back, but probably second row will be where you start.

My running would always start out slow. A mile or two every day, or less if I was heavy, and I would have a break in period to condition my feet, ankles and knees to the running. Then the conditioning work would start.

Rugby is definitely an interval sprint type of sport. Like Eatit said, there are times for frequent short breaks, but also there's a lot of sprint/ruck/sprint/ruck/scrum/sprint/ruck periods that leave you seriously gassed, no matter what your level of conditioning.

What so many people neglect is training some type of sprint combined with some type of heavy push. That will kill you every time.

One of my favorite solo drills would be to have a tire in the field (or even a scrum sled or a regular sled...a Prowler from EliteFTS would be an awesome tool for rugby too). I'd kick the ball sprint towards it, fall on it and roll back up on my feet, turn around and kick the ball towards the scrum sled/tire/whatever. I'd then sprint to the implement and either flip the tire a few times or push the scrum sled for 10-20 yards.

Also reverse the order. Kick the ball, flip the tire or push the sled, then sprint to the ball and fall on it and come up and repeat. You could even do this shit with a heavy sandbag, and pick the damn thing up and carry it 10 yards or so.

If you can do that for 20-30 minutes hard, you should be approaching the level of conditioning you'll need. That's the kind of mixed modality crap that is the bread and butter of a rugby player.

Also, onfield agility is more important than linear speed.
And...don't accuse me of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Quote:
Also the Crossfit stuff lends itself nicely to rugby conditioning.
I followed it up with some discussion of his off season work:

Quote:
There are 4 major lifts for a prop that I found to be particularly valuable come game time.

The first, of course, is the squat. It can be a front squat if you prefer, but the back squat, simply because of the higher load used, is, in my mind, more preferable. The box squat is fine too. The increased loading on the posterior chain in the box squat might make it more preferable as well.

The second is the good morning. This is a very prop-specific movement, especially since when you are bound to the other prop, all of the resistance is going go be coming from your head/neck/shoulder area. A strong GM makes the initial pop after contact gratifying. Note that you really need a strong neck for this style of play. Picking up a neck harness is a good idea.

The third is the power clean. From the floor or from the hang, whichever you prefer. The guys on my team called this "the rucking drill" because it dramatically improved their rucking.

The fourth is the push press. I include this because in line-out play, I was always the lifter When I was playing, I could push press 225-235 or so, and this was sufficient enough to free up the other lifter for loose ball play and clean up. Yes, I lifted my jumper by myself. Most of the time you have two lifters. We did very fast line-outs, and having the extra man available was very helpful.

I'd train 2x weekly with the lower body stuff, maybe have it look like this:

Lower Body A:
-Squat
-Good morning

Lower Body B:
-Box Squat
-Power clean

In fact, if you wanted to go totally minimalist, I'd round out the above two sessions by adding the push press on one of the days, and a 3 board press on the other day (the 3 board press I'd use over the bench only for the higher load, improving bench press lockout is also going to help overhead lockout strength)

I'd round it out with neck work and core work and maybe with chins.

Put it all together:

Session A:
Squat
Good Morning
3 Board Press
Chins
neck and ab work

Session B:
Box Squat
Power Clean + Push Press (combine them as long as you can, then split them out if there gets to be a dramatic difference between the two)
Chins
neck and ab work

3x a week, alternating the workouts would be a damn good start.

Exercises can be moved in and out and substitutions should be made with these thoughts in mind:

1. Posterior chain work is essential. Not only for scrummaging and rucking, but also to help with speed development

2. Neck and shoulder health/prehab need to be prioritized. Being in the scrum is rough on both.

3. If you aren't a lifter, then you can probably de-emphasize the heavy over head stuff, but still should include some.

On conditioning:

I really suggest your conditioning looks like how the game is played. LSD stuff is ok, up to a point, and then it's just fucking worthless and eats into your training time. Interval training, especially interval training with some kind of heavy implement work is going to be your best friend and the most cost-effective way to get the proper kind of conditioning for rugby. Instead of jogging for 40 minutes, work up to doing some kind of hard interval training for 25-30 minutes. It's going to be much better for your game.
I found this bit posted by a South African to be very interesting and worth reading about benchmarking your rugby fitness:

Quote:
Great! I subject I know something about.

I'm South African, and rugby is all we live for down here. Let me know if there's any training advice or links I can give. I played competitively until about three years ago, so I still know most of the things you'll need.

Firstly, find out what position you'll play. It is really important, as fitness, body fat and strength requirements differ vastly from one position to the next.

We've pretty much established that you'll play in the pack. If you're going to play second row, drop your long-distance plans now! For a second row the game goes: fast, slow, fast, stop, slow, fast, slow, stop, fast, in average distances of about 15 metres, for 80 minutes, with a shitload of pushing and shoving and jumping and lifting in between. Clearly being able to jog 10 miles is not going to be of any help.


Fitness: If you're starting from scratch, the best way to shock your system into gear would be 150m sprints. See how many you can get in on your running days for the first two weeks.

After that, here's how you test. You'll see that a rugby field has three main lines running parrallel to the goal lines. The two on the sides are the 22s and in the middle is halfway. Your test is called a 90, and must mostly be done after training. Start on the goal-line, sprint to the 22 and jog back, then sprint to halfway and jog back, sprint to the far 22 jog back and finally sprint to the far goal-line. This should paced so that it is done in just under 90 seconds. If you can do five with a minutes rest between two sets, you're fine for a match. No extra fitness work is required.

For a forward strength program, you'll get away with only focussing on the following. Squat, calf raises, deadlift, bench, military press, and whatever cable row you prefer. If in doubt, imagine two lines extending from the ground, touching the sides of calves and all the way up. If you're training anything outside those two lines, you're wasting your time. 99% of all strength requirements on a rugby field falls inside them.

As a lock, you'll also need to do whatever you can to improve your vertical jump.

Other than that, your first season will be about skills and getting to know what contact sports are about. The most important advice: get a good mouthguard and a dental plan.
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Old 10-31-2006, 12:24 PM   #3
Robb Wolf
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Hey Joe!
Thanks for the kudos and great question. Steve's answer is about as thorough as can be so all I'd add is a "nice" way to structure the above might be a ME-Black Box schedule.
Day-1-ME work-hang power clean or push press, or squat. Following the progression Rut detailed in the second installment.

Day-2-Metcon-emphasis on sprints, sandbag push press...obviously running (sprinting) is of paramount importance and I Know Nick Massman down at San Louis Obispo structured ALL his rugby conditioning as CF-style session that included sprints of various lengths. D-balls, KB's and sandbags seem natural to include here in moves like P-press/jerk, slams, front squats etc.
Day 3 off-Every 3rd WO cut volume by ˝. Every 4 weeks cut volume by ˝. Every 12 weeks take a week off and just “be active” Keep an eye out for overdoing it.

As an aside I'd include LOADS of kipped pull-ups (in WOD's) and muscle snatches (perhaps in warm-ups) to immunize the shoulders against dislocation and impact injury. Throw an old bicycle inner tube around something immovable at head height and start working all ranges of movement with your neck, both static and dynamic.

Keep us posted on your progress! Kick some ASS!
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Old 11-01-2006, 08:25 AM   #4
James Evans
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First of all, good to see a question about rugby on a forum getting some responses!

Both Steve and Robb have given excellent advice but I would just like to add a couple of my own ideas if you can be bothered to read them.

Rugby since it turned professional over a decade ago has changed dramatically in terms of the approach to training. For example it is no longer acceptable to devote hours to grinding out long endurance runs like a zoned out marathoner. That used to be GPP for many players. We also now see what could be considered almost an over utilization of weight training. If you want to know why I think that's a bad thing then I'll answer in another thread. I'm even hearing about the use of...kettlebells. All these things filter down to the amateur game although admittedly often observed through the bottom of a beer glass.

Consider the following:

1. A study originated within the New Zealand camp in the early 1990's looked at how long the ball was actually in play during a game. The figure they came up with, as I recall, was around 23 minutes. In Rugby League it was 60 minutes but that is due to the more simplistic nature of the game. That's just over a quarter of an 80 minute game. For 23 minutes you are running, tackling, pushing, jumping, being smashed to the ground. The remainder of the game you are stood around with your hands on your hips listening to a lecture from the referee, waiting for a player to receive medical treatment, watching someone climb over a fence to get the ball back after it's been kicked from the field of play. At the top level of the game this figure will now be higher, particularly in something like the Southern Hemisphere Super 14 but it won't have changed much in the amateur game. Steve uses the idea of 30 minutes and I agree, you are training for 30 minutes of actual power based bursts of activity interspersed with jogging/walking/standing breaks.

2. I got this next idea from a Rugby League coaching manual by Phil Larder. Larder has coached at the top end in both sports (backroom staff when England won the World Cup in 2003) and I think it applies to both Codes.

A rugby pitch is 100 metres long goal to goal maximum. Imagine a fullback/wing counterattacks from his own tryline. He covers 100 metres of the pitch (assume he just breaks the line and heads up field, more allowing for dummying/swerving/sidestepping/changes of angle). Just before scoring a stunning try he is tackled and stripped of the ball, his opponent immediately launching an attack in the opposite direction. Grimly our player gets to his feet and tracks back in defence at top speed.
In total he covers 200 metres. This is very rarely going to happen, certainly not for a front five forward. Even a 100 metre all out sprint is going to be unusual. The ability to run multiple 5, 10, 20, 30 metre sprints though, often involving a collision, is going to be necessary.

4 months is a really good length of time to get some pre-season work. Despite my comments regarding training distances I do think a couple of weeks building a stamina base would be useful. Just do a few long runs, go out and stretch your legs. As I assume you are quite big and with respect, you're 40, maybe get on a bike for this, we don't want you grinding your joints. I'm sure Robb or someone can step in and tell me I'm wrong on this but I'm advocating starting slowly before the more intense stuff not training for The World Ironman title.

An excellent drill, particularly for forwards, is 40 x 10 metre sprints. Sprint, walk back, repeat. Really concentrate on technique, driving your arms when you run. These are short enough for you to maintain good form and have carryover to the ball carrying work a lock will perform.

I have always found sprint training mindnumbing but every player can be faster. Just focus on the shorter distances and work hard on them.

I think a lot of Ross Enamait's ideas have relevance to rugby, particularly this:

Quality Over Quantity

Perform 12 Burpees
Immediately sprint 100 meters
Perform 10 Plyometric Pushups (Handclap Pushups)
Jog back to the starting line
Repeat 6-10 times

Reduce the sprint distance though.

Dan John's Litvi sprints are useful too. They're along the same lines as Steve's exercise with the tire. Get outside with a weight like a dumb bell, a kettlebell or a sandbag. Perform reps of an exercise, drop the weight and immediately sprint 15, 20 metres. Vary the direction, set a ball on the floor that you have to pick up before sprinting. Dive on the ball and get back to your feet. Enjoy odd looks from passers by. As Steve says, reverse the direction, sprint then clean the sandbag.

Coach Rut's stuff is excellent too. I think it can be more accessible than stuff from HQ but that doesn't make it easier.

I think basically, with a mixture of Crossfit and some pure strength work you're right on track. Get your sprints in too. I assume you will have preseason sessions with your club as well. Keep it simple. It's very easy to get bored and uninspired. Plyo stuff comes up in a Crossfit workout so you don't need to be planning individual bounding sessions alongside sprint endurance work/lactic soak drill blah blah blah. I have taken part in suggested weight routines for rugby players that have taken 90 minutes with the appropriate rests. Utter rubbish. Cleans, squats, thrusters all good. Concept 2, very good. Much more than 30 minutes of it, waste of time. If it starts to fry your head, you won't do it.

Finally, get your hands on a rugby ball as often as you can. Just pass it between your hands, spin it, play with it. Weird in a grown man but very useful. I hope this helps.
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Old 11-01-2006, 01:13 PM   #5
Steve Shafley
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Good stuff James.

The only reason I'd recommend any LSD kind of work is to condition the feet, ankles, knees and hips to running, and that's only if you are completely deconditioned (i.e. new to the game and not previously athletic, or coming back to the game after several years of not playing)

23 minutes? Wow. I had heard much higher numbers last time I heard that discussed.
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Old 11-01-2006, 01:52 PM   #6
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James-
That is a damn nice first post! Welcome and thank you.
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Old 11-01-2006, 03:07 PM   #7
joe murphy
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what great responses. thanks a lot. more than I hoped for, actually.

I'm going to study all this and put as much into effect as I can. I've got 4 months before pre-season training begins, and I want to be far ahead of the youngsters I play with by then.

23 minutes seems a little low to me, but maybe that's wishful thinking on my part. I mean, it feels like I'm running for 80 minutes.

I've done some of those dan john sprints with a kettlebell and a sled. not nearly as much fun as he made them sound.

"Finally, get your hands on a rugby ball as often as you can. Just pass it between your hands, spin it, play with it. Weird in a grown man but very useful. I hope this helps."

not so weird! I've got a gilbert XT500 right here in my office ...
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Old 11-02-2006, 07:50 AM   #8
James Evans
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Default Off season Rugby training

Steve,

I was being vague by using the word 'stamina' (and therefore lazy). I too advocate LSD work to prepare the body for more intense running activity and I think this has greater relevance for forwards. I know it's a generalisation but backs are backs because they can run and forwards aren't because the can't.

Saying that I went to school with a guy who was a fantastically fit flanker, amazing coverage of the field. We went to a boarding school and Jes spent a lot of time as a teenager in trouble and therefore being sent on punishment runs up into the hills above the school. As he got older (and more behaved), he kept doing the runs daily before breakfast. We were all pretty damn fit at school but he was one of the guys who still stands out in my mind.

I find LSD easy and as a human I favour what I find easy when I should be doing what I don't like (probably something I'm not good at).

But I'm only suggesting Joe does a few long, slow sesssions to ease in to preseason work. Sprints and intervals and Concept 2 work is the way forward.

As for the 23 mins, I'll check my source on that. As I said, I doubt this is the case on a hard South African pitch as Auckland visit the Western Stormers but on a wet, muddy pitch in the middle of freezing January in the back end of the West of England in the North Devon & Somerset League III I reckon that total stands.

Robb, your welcome. Great site, looking forward to the forum information building up and glad to see Steve and Dan John adding their knowledge. I trust I adequately referenced Dan in my mention of Litvi sprints...

Joe, couple of questions:

1. I assume you are not new to the sport by a long shot - when did your season end?
2. How tall/heavy are you?
3. What do you think are your strengths?
4. What do you think are your weaknesses?
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Old 11-02-2006, 09:10 AM   #9
Mark Joseph Limbaga
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For strength I'd suggest the Bill Starr 5x5.

Litvi sprints, Tabata intervals, complexes and an occasional benchmark WOD is what I'd put you on.

This is the time where you wanna get bigger, stronger and faster while training just to keep you sharp.
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Old 11-02-2006, 01:43 PM   #10
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James-
I'm not sure if there is such a thing as adequate attribution these days
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