T Nation

Beginner Pre-Season Rugby Training


#1

I'm thinking about joining a rugby team in about a month and was wondering what pre-season strength and conditioning i should do


#2

[quote]djrocks wrote:
I’m thinking about joining a rugby team in about a month and was wondering what pre-season strength and conditioning i should do[/quote]

More important question is where your strength, conditioning, and body fat is currently at.

Another vital question is if you are a month away from joining the team, when does their season start? off-season vs in-season training is radically different.


#3

If it’s in the lead up to the designated pre season that you’ll be joining, I would say to focus on hypertrophy(if you need it that it). You’ll have plenty of time to develop power and strength over the course of the preseason and into the beginning of the playing season. However it would be better to know if you’ll be doing designated lifts with the team once you join or if you’ll continue to lift on your own?

Regarding conditioning, I would suggest working on your aerobic base. Again, once preseason starts, you’ll be working more specifically on shorter bouts(depending on your position) with high intensity. Again, if you are going to miss the official preseason and just going to be conditioning on your own, as a professional the baseline test is a 1km time trial at my club. This is simply 10 lengths of the pitch, as quick as you can. You could work on 500/300 efforts with a view to working up to the 1km and battling a time. It would help to know what position you’re playing when it comes to this so I can give you some reasonable targets to hit.


#4

[quote]BigDwarf wrote:
If it’s in the lead up to the designated pre season that you’ll be joining, I would say to focus on hypertrophy(if you need it that it). [/quote]

Why would you ever train for hypertrophy for a sport like that?


#5

I’m not sure I follow…

To get bigger of course. Put it this way, I play professionally and 2 of the 6 lifts we did a week this preseason were upperbody hypertrophy sessions.

For the OP, it depends whether he feels he needs to add some size to play comfortably with and against the other players he’ll be coming across. If he needs to beef up, he needs to do some hypertrophy.


#6

[quote]BigDwarf wrote:
I’m not sure I follow…

To get bigger of course. Put it this way, I play professionally and 2 of the 6 lifts we did a week this preseason were upperbody hypertrophy sessions.

For the OP, it depends whether he feels he needs to add some size to play comfortably with and against the other players he’ll be coming across. If he needs to beef up, he needs to do some hypertrophy.[/quote]

Even if he did a program for hypertrophy for 3 months straight, it wouldn’t add enough muscle to make a significant difference and more importantly it would be less efficient and have far less carry over to the sport than training for strength or endurance or something like that.


#7

I disagree strongly with that man.

If he needs to gain 5kg to be competitive in his position and not get slapped around, he needs to focus on hypertrophy. If you’re 95kg and planning on playing in the front five, there’s no point in doing a lot of strength and power work if you’re not going to be able to handle the collisions.

It’s wrong to say that 3 months of hypertrophy isn’t enough. Or anything resembling that for that matter. I’ve seen international players put on 4kg lean in literally 4 weeks, in season(measured by DEXA scans, so pretty accurate).


#8

[quote]BigDwarf wrote:
I disagree strongly with that man.

If he needs to gain 5kg to be competitive in his position and not get slapped around, he needs to focus on hypertrophy. If you’re 95kg and planning on playing in the front five, there’s no point in doing a lot of strength and power work if you’re not going to be able to handle the collisions.

It’s wrong to say that 3 months of hypertrophy isn’t enough. Or anything resembling that for that matter. I’ve seen international players put on 4kg lean in literally 4 weeks, in season(measured by DEXA scans, so pretty accurate).[/quote]

You are talking like strength training doesn’t add mass. I did nothing but strength training during high school and college football and added tons of mass. The difference in mass between that and a hypertrophy program would have been negligible considering the difference in strength. If he needs 11 pounds to be competitive then gaining 5 pounds and being stronger will always be better than gaining 11 pounds and not being as strong. Strength is the ultimate equalizer, not a few extra pounds.

I’ll repeat it again: a short-term hypertrophy program will not benefit that kind of athlete more than a strength program will, hands down. The difference in weight won’t matter, strength will. Offensive and defensive line interaction in football is a prime example. Technique and strength over a small difference in size any day of the week.

EDIT

http://www.T-Nation.com/article/performance_training/cosgroves_five_ahha_moments

Check out #4, Cosgrove knows a thing or two.


#9

[quote]
It’s wrong to say that 3 months of hypertrophy isn’t enough. Or anything resembling that for that matter. I’ve seen international players put on 4kg lean in literally 4 weeks, in season(measured by DEXA scans, so pretty accurate).[/quote]

In a natural settting that is highly unlikely for intermediate to advanced lfiters. Nine pounds of LBM in 4 weeks? That is a HUGE amount and those rugby players would sure make a lot of bank being bodybuilding coaches.


#10

Listen man, I’m not trying to bullshit you. I’m trying to share my knowledge on the area because I’m in the fortunate position of playing this sport professionally. While it might sound ridiculous, it was measured by a DEXA scan in a hospital which I’d imagine has a very low margin for error.

Not only was he an advanced lifter, he’s actually 35 and has been playing pro for 15 years. And believe it or not, he added this mass doing only two, circuit based upperbody sessions a week as he was spending like an hour and a half a day on lower body rehab for a hamstring injury.

These are facts - I stand to gain absolutely nothing by lying to you here. In my case, because I was probably eating too clean over the summer, I only managed to gain 1kg of lean mass over 6 weeks of preseason, doing 6 lifts a week. And I dropped a whopping 30g of fat!(lol). Again, this was measured by a DEXA. Individuals obviously react differently based on where they’re at and what they’re doing.


#11

I missed your first reply earlier, sorry.

I’ll put it to you this way - If I could be 8kg heavier and have my strength levels even at 75% of what they are now, I’d take it. My strength levels are quite good, but I’m afraid in rugby, the equaliser is all too often size. Particularly in my position.

Once you get to a certain level of strength in rugby, any more gains are somewhat irrelevant. The person who squats 220kg isn’t going to dominate the person that squats 160kg. In fact, if the person that squats 160kg has a significant size advantage, he will likely come out on top.

Again, this is based on the fact that I do this for a living, and see all shapes and sizes of people and how they operate on the field. Once you reach a certain level, size trumps strength.


#12

[quote]BigDwarf wrote:
Once you reach a certain level, size trumps strength.[/quote]

Rugby’s most similar sport is football, and the exact opposite is true. I just find it extremely hard to believe that someone would rather be 11 pounds heavier with the same or slightly less strength than 5-6 pounds heavier and stronger. Again, you are also discounting the fact that strength training does add size as well. If you are playing at the professional level, then how are these guys not already advanced lifters with size? You say a big difference in squatting would not matter, but how is that even possible when you play a sport where leg drive is so crucial?

All parts being equal, the stronger athlete will always beat the weaker athlete whose only advantage is a small difference in weight. Take Aaron Donald of the St. Louis Rams who is arguably the best defensive tackle in all of football. He typically goes against guys up to 6"+ taller and 50+ pounds heavier and he absolutely dominates. Yes, his talent besides his strength is elite, but if what you said is true, “Once you reach a certain level, size trumps strength”, then he wouldn’t even stand a chance.

Strength coaches the world over (including the ones on this very site) prescribe strength training for athletes, not hypertrophy programs. Empirical evidence (like what I listed above) backs this up too. I’m sorry, but “I’m a professional rugby player and I say so” isn’t a valid argument.


#13

[quote]daltron wrote:

Rugby’s most similar sport is football, and the exact opposite is true.[/quote]

[quote]daltron wrote:
All parts being equal, the stronger athlete will always beat the weaker athlete whose only advantage is a small difference in weight. Take Aaron Donald of the St. Louis Rams who is arguably the best defensive tackle in all of football.[/quote]

Although they are similar, I would say a big difference between rugby and american football is that in rugby you don’t get the chance to set up your position - you have to react to situations on the fly - so players are likely to be less efficient than in football.

Also, given that you’re playing pretty non-stop for the period of time that you’re on the pitch (rather than having the breaks that football players get) it’s unlikely that you’re gonna be at full strength as it were at any point of contact.

Both those points go to mean that having some weight over your opposition is going to be more advantageous in rugby than football.

That said, unless the OP is already strong I agree with you that strength training would probably be a better route to take, given there’s only a month before he joins the team.


#14

Actually, OP, if you are brand new to the sport then the best thing you can do is get used to handling the ball: passing, catching, running with it etc are all gonna make you a much better/more useful player than you are now, and is much easier to achieve than adding any significant size/strength in the time you have.


#15

BigDwarf has a good point. While extra strength is always good, size will have a more noticeable effect if a player is already reasonably strong. Obviously technique and skill are massively important, as is speed (especially - but not exclusively - for backs). Regardless, any training programs would be based on the individual, so more information is needed.

By the way, why are people talking about “strength” and “hypertrophy” programs as totally separate things? And surely, if a “strength program” (say, 5x5 or 5/3/1) is also supposed to build muscle, it is also a “hypertrophy program”? Just drop the vague labels and talk about specific methods - it’s not like they are going to be entirely different anyway.


#16

Rugby’s most familiar sport is not football. Rugby is essentially an endurance sport in this day and age because baseline aerobic conditioning levels are so high.

Regarding the football player you mentioned, there will always be outliers. My ‘size trumps strength’ argument was solely referring to rugby. I don’t know anything about football so won’t comment the type of conditioning that’s required.

However, AS a professional player who regularly plays with and against the better players in world rugby, I can tell you that for the vast majority of positions on the pitch, people would rather be 5% bigger than 5% stronger.

Your analysis would suit your situation if I’m being honest. I’m a hooker that plays at about 101kg. I’ve previously played at as heavy as 108kg but found that the extra weight didn’t do anything for me, as the strengths of my game were footwork and speed.

But we’re talking about things generally here for the sake of the OP.

Also, reference to one defensive tackle doesn’t constitute empirical evidence.


#17

[quote]halcj wrote:
By the way, why are people talking about “strength” and “hypertrophy” programs as totally separate things?[/quote]

That’s a very good point!