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New to Rugby(league); training - any tips?!?! need help with new routine

Hey guys, im not sure if league is played state side - so this may be more directed to the UK guys? I have just started playing rugby league for my university. Im currently 230lbs and up till october I was on the renegade trainign programme for football. I need an in-season routine to aid my position as felt i was a little off last game. Im a forward(either 2nd row or loose forward), I need explosive speed, a great deal of power, and high cardiovascular abilities due to the fast paced nature of the game. I play an 80 minute game every weds, and have a 2 hour cardio and skills session on a monday. I have access to a running track, a commercial(but with good free weights/rack) gym, a pull-up & dipping station and a 80lb adjustable dumbbell in my uni/dorm room.

I need to maintain, or perhaps increase my size but the cardiovascular and power/explosive elements are what needs to be addressed most. I am currently traing on a 2 days a weight routine consisting of 4*5 of bench, power clean, bent row, squat, push press and calf raise - thats it. Any help would be greatly, and I mean that, appreciated.

Cheers - Dannyboy

Can I assume you mean lock when you say loose forward?

Anyway, I suggest you check out Scrum.com. They are a Union site, but have a League sister site

Dannyboy…rugby league eh? That’s a tough game, but a true test of physical and mental toughness. I train union players (in canada) but I think some of the things I’ve thought of may help you out…

1. I'm guessing that you probably need to switch up your set/rep pattern and intensity (%1RM) to develop your power more. As you probably know, explosive power often involves lower % of max, but a lot more velocity. I would train one day "heavier" (about 70 to 85%1RM) and one day lighter (about 40 to 50%1RM), with 4 to 6 sets of 4 to 6 on the heavy day, and a higher number of sets (6 to 8) on the lighter day with reps in the 3 to 5 range (this is very similar to the Westside method). Obviously, you want to try to accelerate the bar as much as possible on both days, and I usually use bar speed as the determinant of how many sets/reps to do (i.e. if the bar begins to slow noticeably, it's time to terminate that set or move on to the next exercise).

2. Maybe include some jump squats and snatches on the lighter day instead of power cleans and regular squats. This will also help in the transfer from strength into speed (power). You can keep the bench press (and perform with a lot of velocity at the lower %1RM) or utilize drills such as plyo pushups, medicine ball drops/throws, or drop pushups (where you basicall fall and try to stop yourself hitting the ground - lots of motivation!).

3. Neck work and ab work. I'm guessing that you do this anyway, but didn't list it in your post. Neck work has obvious carryover into general safety when playing in contact sports and should not be overlooked. Ab work builds a solid foundation for utilizing the power that you develop and can have a profound effect on your speed and explosiveness.

4. You'd want to include some plyo's (lower body) and sprint training somewhere...I was thinking on Friday (in the AM...Then you could train the weights heavy in the PM). Good drills could include: bounding (from one leg to the next, going for height and distance over a 20m. length), one leg lateral drops + rebounds (drop down sideways from a low step and rebound up using the quick explosive strength of the outside leg)...great for sidesteps, and tuck jumps (tucking knees to chest while jumping for height with minimal ground contact time). I usually stay with reps in the 3 to 5 range to maintain top-end power in these drills. As far as sprints, obviously acceleration is key, so doing uphill and resisted short sprints would be useful. For other drills, try to incorporate changes in direction with changes in speed, or team up with another player who will give you verbal/visual cues for direction/speed changes.

5. Do the other weights session on Sunday or perhaps Monday AM (if you can handle the weights and the fitness/skills session on the same day). That would leave Saturday open for some interval sprints which would give you more specific game-fitness. Sometimes I like to train the day before a game, so on Tuesday you could incorporate some light power movements (snatch, clean and jerk, push press) that co-ordinate whole body power and get you geared up for the match on Wednesday.

Hope that helps out a bit - changing from "standard" training to CAT and power movements with lighter weights is probably the best thing I have done in recent times with my own preparation for sport. Remember - If you want to excel, you must be prepared (i.e. organized) to work harder, smarter, and more intensely than the next guy.

Cam Birtwell

PS...run someone over for me, okay?

Cam, are you by chance related to Ian birtwell?

Cam, long time no speak - hows tricks? Thanks for the input. I gotta say that was some outstanding post, just the kinda thing i was looking for. Ive read through your post, cobbled togeather this - can you run your eye over and let me know what you think?

Friday am - mix of 50, 25 and 10 meter sprint work(this is the zone most of my tackles take place). Do these from lying/prone start to give game carryover. Plyometric work as you noted, along with renegade style cone drills.

Friday PM - Heavy day - Squats, Bench, Push press, power clean; 4/6 sets of 4/6 reps @ 80%. Ab, calf and neck work

Saturday - (from Thibaudeau article in t-mag)15 sets of 400m

Sunday - Light/power day - jump squat, power snatch, speed bench; 8 sets of 3 reps @ 50%. Ab, calf and neck work

Monday - 2 hr rugby training session

Tuesday - off

Wednesday - game

Thursday - off

This would should give me plenty of r&r for the game. Plus no doubt i’ll be in some pain weds/thurs from the sheer brutality of it all - living the dream!. NOw some other q’s if you could answer I would be grateful;

1 - back(lat) work - I rely alot on ‘pulling’ larger players down, and bent rows/dumbell rows have really helped - would it be advantageous to put these in? If so how best to incorporate them?

2 - Specific arm work(forgive me, started of doing bb!) - necessary?

3 - set rep scheme for abs, calf and neck exercises. Currently do 5*5 for all three.

4 - volume - my sucess so far has been soley down to my size(230lbs), not massive, but not too fat so am hard to bring down. Will the increase in volume + less weight based work affect this?

Cam - really grateful for your input, thsi routine looks perfect to fir round my classes too. I must say the explosiveness really does seem to have an impact. Small give I play with, no more than 180/185 brings down absolute beasts - he hits them so damn hard its painful. Oh and your last comment - my highlights so far is having 5 members of the opposing team hanging(2 legs, 2 front torso, and one back) and still standing, and some little s.o.b. punched me in the balls, fortunately I got the ball passed to me at full tilt and hits him with ym shoulder square in the chest. Kept going for another 25 yrds before I was brought down; looked back after the tackle and he was out cold. Turned out he flew back so fast he nutted the floor. Ha, these crazy kids, they’ll soon learn…

Cheers for your help bud - Dannyboy

Hey Alex…yeah, he’s my dad - and my claim to fame when discussing rugby matters!

Dannyboy…sounds like a good schedule to me - it’s always a plus when you can train around classes versus training instead of school!! I’ll get right to it with this post, and I’ll try to answer the questions you had for me:

1. As for the rows, definitely include them. I didn't mean to imply that the rows weren't useful in my previous post. Usually I would add chinups to one day, and rows to the other. Since you're doing heavy powercleans on Friday, why not add some weighted chins to that workout (same set/rep scheme) and do some rows (barbell,dumbbell) on the power day. A good exercise for pulling speed/power is the reverse rack row. Basically, you set up the pins in a power rack at about waist height. Place a barbell across the pins, then position your body underneath the bar so you're hanging down from it (picture an incline barbell press without the bench). Your body should be straight and tight. From there, pull your chest rapidly up to the bar. I like to actually let go of the bar and catch it again on the way down before rapidly propelling myself back up again, but this takes a bit of practice. Just visualize an upside-down plyo pushup, take a deep breath, and go for it! If doing the plyo version of the reverse rack row, stick to the set/rep scheme for the power day.

2. Ahhhh...arm work! I have to admit that I'm never too sure about this one. Part of me would like to believe that all of the heavy/power compound work would be all that you need to develop some good arm size, but the bb'er in me just doesn't like that idea! I will say this - I have not noticed any decrease in arm strength and only a minimal difference in arm size/shape when I've cut out specific arm work. Bottom line - if you want to do the arm work, and you have the energy/recovery capacity to do so, then go ahead. However, stick to the basics - heavy Closegrip bench and extensions for tri's and barbell curls or reverse/hammer curls for bi's. Sets and reps at your discretion.

3. Sets and reps for abs, calves, and neck. Neck I generally train the same most of the time - sets of between 6 and 10 reps for all movements. Since the main idea with the neck training is functional safety, then mostly heavier strength work with some slightly higher reps is probably best (and will result in good size gains as well - who doesn't want a rugged looking neck?). Abs and calves are a bit different. I generally like to train them with varying set/rep patterns. For example, on one training day, I may look to train for strength/power, and hit lower reps such as 5 to 10, whereas on the other day, I may work more on endurance and go for reps in the 12 to 20 range. Both muscle groups have to respond powerfully for short periods and less strongly for longer periods of time, so a mix would seem to be most logical.

4. Lastly, the volume of the workout will probably not put size onto your frame. The program I laid out will maintain muscular mass while training the nervous system to act more efficiently to create power. You may find that you are losing weight, but I would be surprised if it was muscle weight. In addition, the benefits you'll get in terms of increased power and mobility around the field may be worth the cost of 5 pounds. That being said, if you need to keep every last pound, increase the cal's in your diet or perhaps look into doing a three-day split with a bit more volume (I can help with this as well, but I'd like you to try the other program first to see how you go).

That 15x400 sounds rough - I'll have to check out that article by Chris T. Good idea about doing the sprints from prone...you could also try rolls of various types as well (forwards, backwards, side...) to pick up some agility at the same time. Lastly, sounds like you're playing hard so far - keep it up! Glad I could help out a bit, and let me know how it goes!

Cam Birtwell

Cam, excellent advice as usual. Am waiting anxiously to rip it up - been catching myself grunting for no aparent reason! Ha, somones gonna get hurt! Great idea about the rows, had been wondering about an explosive element to that. Some other ideas Ive had(been scouting around here and renegade site);

1 - on heavy day for shoulders do push press, on power/speed day - overhead squats; great shoulder bias and will help with hip flexibilty due to lower weight/more control?

2 - arms - cant not have them, heavy day 3/4 sets of 6, power/speed - 3/4 sets 12- Barbell curl and CG bench the way forward

3 - grip work - any necessary? I recently broke 2 knuckles during a game. i need excellent grip as you can expect, plate holds, bar holds, bar hangs?

4 - strength; currently have a 400lb squat, 480 dead, 240+ power clean(i know I wont set the world alight) - but my bench, basically my bench sucks. Badly. NOw a guy on my team who weighs about 190/195 has an excellent bench at this level, and hes lighter than my but serious fends players off with either a forarm shove or extended arm with a short push. Now I seriously have to get my bench up to the 300 or so mark to make this impact i believe. I had considered the routine by don alessi - 60lbs in 8 weeks, how a bony white boy from buffalo…etc). Your thoughts? Im looking to add at least this amount.

Thanks again for all your help, celebrated the festive season with that new pr(above) in the squat! Live the dream, cheers bud


Festive bump!

Hey dannyboy…got your most recent post…I’ll have to reply when I have more time. Happy holidays!!