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Conditioning for Rugby

I’ve been doing Starting Strength to get back to my old PRs. I’m approaching my old bench PR and am beating my squat, deadlift, pull-ups, and overhead press PRs.

However now I have 6 weeks to get into good cardio shape for my spring rugby season. This requires a lot of running, so I was wondering what a good way to set up my training week would be. This is what I have in mind:

Monday - weight lifting
Tuesday - interval running
Wednesday - weight lifting
Thursday - long duration running
Friday - weight lifting
Saturday - interval running
Sunday - off

My first question is what weight training program should I do? My first instinct is the Madcow 5x5 program, which is a weekly progression of about 5lbs. However, since I will be doing all the extra cardio, I thought I could bump the progression down to 2.5lbs so I can adapt with all the running involved.

Does this seem like a good program considering my goals are mainly to add some strength and retain my (rather pitiful) size while I get into cardio shape?

The interval running is based on a program I read about in a book called Periodization for Rugby. It’s supposed to increase your VO2max and critical power, which I believe really determines how quickly you get fatigued (but not necessarily speed, but I just need to not get fatigued).

I thought the long duration running is a less taxing way to increase my cardio shape that I can do before my PR day on Friday.

In terms of diet, I get three big meals a day (my college has great food), as well as two shakes I make (milk, kefir, fruit, protein powder - around 700cal) for brunch and before bed. I’ll have a workout shake with about 50g of whey and 30g of carbs as well (quickly followed by dinner).

I’m naturally lean, so I know I’ll have to eat like a pig to stay the same size. I might stock up on snacks like mixed nuts and peanut butter, but also candy and chips, which I find easier to eat massive amounts of.

Since meals change day to day, I don’t know what the exact calories are, but I can safely say each main meal is at least 800 calories (lots of meat + lots of pasta + sandwich + salad w/ olive oil + glass of 1% milk). Underestimating everything else a little bit leaves me at about 4000 calories.

I wish I could be more precise, but I would rather not look at the food schedule every day and do lots of math to get an exact number, which would change daily anyways. I just make sure I get enough protein at each meal, then stuff my face.

Does this seem like a good plan? Is there anything I can eat to take before my cardio sessions to not lose weight? I’m not interested in losing fat or anything, I just want to increase my cardio conditioning, so if eating several peanut butter cups prior to running would do the trick, I’m all for it.

I’m 5’10" 165lbs, low bodyfat (I don’t know exactly but I have visible abs and serratus). I’m squatting 215x5, deadlifting 250x5, benching 190x5, pressing 115x5, and doing 3x6 pull-ups with 12.5 lbs added.

My goals for now are primarily to increase my cardio fitness, then to increase my strength as much as possible, and retain my size.

Thanks for any advice or suggestions.

Lots to do in not much time. You didn’t state your position (which is important) though based on your size it’d be hard to imagine you are anything other than a wing.

A few suggestions:

  1. Can the distance running. Its catabolic and will only make you better at distance running. As a wing, you sprint, rest. sprint, rest. Following whatever program you have for interval training should be fine. Taking BCAAs beforehand may help retain muscle.

  2. Squatting is great, but if your goal is to increase VO2 max, you simply can’t be squatting 3x/week. This is a primarily a bodybuilding site, so people love squats and deads, but in your situation you need to prioritize sprinting and fitness.

SS and Madcow are good for early in the offseason as they will increase your strength and you can later attempt to convert that into power output. In this case, you don’t have time. If you chase two rabbits, …

You should look into this article: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/hot_wheels_in_a_hurry

[quote]bulldog24 wrote:
Lots to do in not much time. You didn’t state your position (which is important) though based on your size it’d be hard to imagine you are anything other than a wing.

A few suggestions:

  1. Can the distance running. Its catabolic and will only make you better at distance running. As a wing, you sprint, rest. sprint, rest. Following whatever program you have for interval training should be fine. Taking BCAAs beforehand may help retain muscle.

  2. Squatting is great, but if your goal is to increase VO2 max, you simply can’t be squatting 3x/week. This is a primarily a bodybuilding site, so people love squats and deads, but in your situation you need to prioritize sprinting and fitness.

SS and Madcow are good for early in the offseason as they will increase your strength and you can later attempt to convert that into power output. In this case, you don’t have time. If you chase two rabbits, …[/quote]

Sorry for not mentioning my position. I didn’t expect anybody would know much about rugby. We actually have a pretty small team, so I’m a flanker.

  1. What would you suggest instead of distance running? Just more of the VO2max training?

  2. Should I cut the weight training days down to 2 full body days?

How does this look:

Monday - weight training
Tuesday - VO2 max training
Wednesday - sprinting
Thursday - weight training
Friday - VO2 max training
Saturday - off
Sunday - off

Monday Workout
Back Squat
Bench Press
Barbell Row

Thursday Workout
Deadlift
Barbell Press
Pull-Ups

All work up to a top set of 5 reps.

VO2 max Training

Intervals of 2-3 minutes, with 4-5 minutes of rest (jogging) in between. 8 intervals.

Sprinting

8 50m sprints with 2 minutes of rest. I might do heavy ab work this day as well.

If you haven’t read this, you should.
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/rugby-training.html

Your strength workout looks ok, but I’d sub hang cleans for barbell rows if you know how. If not, don’t worry about it, but make it a priority next offseason to teach yourself. If it were me, I am not at my best the day after heavy squats or deadlifts and the thought of doing 400-800m intervals is not pleasant.

You could get around that by scheduling the lifting days prior to off days. Off days don’t need to be truly off. Can do foam rolling, flexibility and low intensity cardio like walking or elliptical. Make sure you’re eating enough that you’re not losing weight.

A possible schedule is:
Interval/Aerobic Fitness
Sprints/Anaerobic Fitness
Lift
Off
Interval/Aerobic Fitness
Lift
Off

Thanks for the article, it was informative. I’m going to send it to my teammates.

I’ve tried hang cleans before, but definitely don’t have them down.

So here it is:

Monday - workout A
Tuesday - off
Wednesday - interval training
Thursday - workout B
Friday - off
Saturday - interval training
Sunday - sprinting

Workouts are what I posted before. On Thursday I’ll add weighted sit-ups and cable woodchops for abs.

Intervals are 2 minutes with 3 minutes of jogging in between. 8 sets for a total of 40 minutes.

Sprinting is 10 200m runs with 60 seconds of rest.

I stretch after each workout, and I’ll get into the habit of stretching on off days as well.

I’ll have a protein shake before and after each workout (I tend to drink my shake during weight training sessions rather than before them).

And no staying out late drinking on weekends… There’ll be enough of that during the season though.

I have a program saved on my computer at home (i’m at work now) for a really good pre-season rugby specific training plan. If you PM me your email address i’ll send it to you asap.

It was written for the Sussex U19 tour to NZ and then we used it for summer conditioning for University Rugby last year, as out fitness levels led us to mid-table. currently the lads are second in the league. I say the lads, because i’m out with a neck injury.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. Good luck with your training and season

I was waiting for an article like this. Good shit guys. All of the information is really helpful.

You could try involving complexes. If your satisfied with what your doing now don’t bother because it could just tire you out. But complexes are good for muscle endurance and maintaining the strength you already have. I’m an inside center and I know how by the end of the game its sometimes the endurance which is gunna help you make those clean tackles that your able to do at the start of the game. If you do include a complexes it may be hard to perform regular cardio though, because it a way, it already is a cardio workout.

Complexes sound like a great idea. Right now I don’t really have much time to fit them in, but at the beginning of my next off-season, it would probably be a good idea to have a day of complexes.

I like the sprinting/jogging/wrestling with a partner idea they give in bulldog24’s article. But instead of wrestling with a partner, you could do a complex.

50m sprint
front squat x5
hang clean x5
military press x8
rest 45-90 seconds

repeat 3-5 times

Just an idea.

exactly. complexes are sometimes good for warm ups too if you use a light weight. But you are completely right in that you shouldn’t try and squeeze them in if your workout is already full. Because in doing too much you will not be making yourself any more fit, just more tired.