Fitness demands of rugby...
In the space of an 80-minute game, an international flanker may make 25 tackles, hit 46 rucks, push during 22 scrums, and lift during 24 lineouts. Players typically cover distances of six to eight kilometers at varying running speeds separated into over 200 intervals of varying distances. This requires strength, power, speed, agility, and an ability to repeat and recover from movements for the duration of the game. Each position has its own particular demands on the player but the generic requirement is to produce high energy, high intensity movements during ball in play time.
The nature of the sport has changed during recent years, particularly with the onset of professionalism and this has lead to the growing importance of total rugby fitness. Consider the following variables:
· The game is getting faster with more 'ball in play' time
· Rule changes are encouraging fast open play
· Professionals have more opportunity to train
· Modern players need to be multi-skilled
· Scientific research is improving fitness training methods
What is ‘rugby fitness’?
Total rugby fitness is a collection of fitness elements and training principles. Please select a section from below for further information….
Players require varying degrees of strength and power depending on the demands of their playing position and the movements being performed. A common feature is the desire to apply strength quickly, such as accelerating, making a big tackle, or jumping in a lineout.
It is the application of speed that translates strength into power.
The development of strength and power relies on resistance training and involves exercising at various loads, modes, speeds, angles and frequencies. The combination of these variables dictates the outcome of the resistance programme.
It is vital that players develop a foundation of core stability (see Feature Article) before progressing to heavy resistance training. Bodyweight, medicine ball and swiss ball drills should be emphasised at the start of a strength training programme, irrespective of age or playing ability.
Resistance training may be manipulated to develop size, maximum strength, endurance, stability, power, or a mix of outcomes. The resistance used during training may also be classified as:
* Light - e.g. jumping wearing a Weighted Vest, some bodyweight exercises e.g. press-ups, all weight training technique drills or at loads less than 12 RM (repetition maximum)load
* Medium -e.g. a barbell exercise that can be performed for more than 6 repetitions, and no more than 12 RM.
* Heavy - e.g. a barbell exercise that can be performed for no more than 6 repetitions or a static resistance such as a scrummage machine
Whatever the level of resistance, the aim is to move quickly with control and correct technique.
SPEED & AGILITY
An essential element of successful rugby performance is to accelerate, change direction quickly and deceive the opposition. This requires development of speed and agility.
In rugby, the ability to accelerate, decelerate and change direction is more important than simply achieving high speed
How can speed and agility improve my performance?
Speed and agility training is an integral part of training for all top players, and can help you successfully perform the following rugby movements…
* Evading tacklers
* Catching attackers
* Retreating to referees commands
* Avoiding injury
* Lineout movements
* Catching passes and much more…
Agility has 3 fundamental elements - foot speed, balance, and reaction. These elements may be trained in isolation using various equipment like foot speed ladders, swiss balls, and balance boards.
FUEL MIX FITNESS
Rugby is not a continuous steady state sport - it requires frequent changes in speed and intensity of effort and is therefore a predominantly anaerobic sport when ball is in play.
Fuel mix fitness is the capacity to generate energy and resist fatigue, so players can perform effectively for the duration of the game. Rugby is a high intensity sport involving multiple sprints and various strength and power movements, and these activities require a rapid production of energy. This energy is produced by the anaerobic and aerobic systems, either exclusively or at the same time, hence the term fuel mix.
The energy systems do not work in isolation - more often than not players will rely on a fuel mix of anaerobic and aerobic energy.
The intensity and the duration of activity determine the extent to which each energy system is used. Match analysis tells us that at elite level, ball in play activities last on average 18 seconds, with a range of 5 - 63 seconds, and are performed with high intensity effort.
With multiple-sprint, strength, and power activities dominating, our preferred mode of conditioning for rugby is fuel mix training e.g. interval running mixed with wrestling, passing and tackle bag drills.
PLANNING & NUTRITION
Plan your programme, manage your fluid and food intake and adhere to proven recovery strategies.
A dedicated approach to Planning and Nutrition provides a holistic approach to optimising fitness status for competitive rugby, by considering aspects other than the obvious elements of fitness. This area of preparation for rugby includes aspects such as:-
* Body composition management
* fluid and nutrition plans
* sports supplements
* recovery strategies
Nutrition for rugby
It is well accepted that nutrition plays a vital role in rugby performance, and that a player's requirements are different to that of non rugby players.
A Nutrition Plan does more than just optimise energy levels for training and competition.
Similar to weight training or speed training, a Nutrition Plan is based upon aims and objectives such as muscle mass gain or fat loss.
Carbohydrate is the most readily available source of energy for rugby players, and should form the bulk of your calorie intake e.g. pasta, bread, potatoes and rice.
Considering the influence of different types of carbohydrate foods is fundamental in your Nutrition Plan.
Coaches and players are now recognising the importance of the lycaemic Index. The Glycaemic Index provides a guideline for measuring the speed of energy release into the blood stream. Certain foods are rated with a high Glycaemic Index while others are low, and most fall in between.
Focus on foods with a low glycaemic index prior to training and games e.g. porridge, and high glycaemic foods immediately post match e.g. bananas, honey, sandwich.
A vital factor to consider is the mental training that parallels your physical training. You must create planned mental skill workouts to develop a level where you are able to maximise training sessions and achieve peak performances consistently in competition.
You will never get to the top without developing your mental toughness
Achieving consistency and performing to your limit is heavily reliant on your mental state, which, like physical skills, can be developed through training.
Consider what percentage of rugby performance is mental. Now consider what percentage of your training time is dedicated to mental skills training. You'll probably find a big discrepancy!
Four components of mental toughness:
* Commitment - Possessing the desire to achieve is a trait that characterises elite players, who understand what they are trying to develop and do so without constant supervision or persuasion
* Confidence - Self-confidence helps players and coaches feel good, be innovative, and overcome set-backs
* Control - Controlling the potentially disruptive emotions of stress and anxiety will have a positive effect on your playing or coaching performance
* Concentration - “It is hard to imagine a variable more central to performance than the ability to direct and control one's concentration" Nideffer, 1976
Reaching the ideal performance state - physically and mentally, is your ultimate goal.