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Advanced Training for Rugby Players
The world of athletic training is a peculiar one, full of dedicated young athletes striving to be their best, as well as coaches, both young and old, who wish to make those dreams a reality. Unfortunately for the wide majority, performance enhancement is not always in proportion to the hard work invested. The chief reason for this is that preparation doesn't suit the goals of the sport. Truthfully while it is a difficult number to quantify, if I stated that ninety-nine per-cent of athletes use resistance work incorrectly, it would not be very far from the truth.

The reason for this is fairly simple; information. Through the development of the exercise media, bodybuilding methods have crept into the athletic arena. With the advent of the Internet, it is rare for athletes not to be bombarded with training notions that have absolutely nothing to do with enhancing athletic performance. Whether athletes are "training to train" or debating endlessly about their "training split", they are, for the most-part, not preparing for the field of competition. This isn't meant as a derogatory comment against bodybuilding,. However, the goals are much different and true athletes need to understand the difference.

Something emblematic of this particular situation happened only a few days ago. While traveling I went to a local gym and found myself nearing the Squat racks. A powerfully-built young man, who based on his attire appeared to play for the well-known local Rugby club, was trying to execute a Power Clean. I could see his problem immediately and asked him if he minded a few suggestions.

Through his thick brogue, he welcomed the coaching as he was working hard towards a move up to the highest ranks of the game. He had the correct build of a Prop but there were many concerns my coaching eye picked up immediately. I tend to shoot straight from the hip and after I explained the errors in his lifting mechanics, he acknowledged those are his weaknesses on the field as well. Simply put, this fine young player, who is working hard to be called-up by his nation, which is one of the best in the world, has been trained incorrectly with the use of bodybuilding protocols.

These weaknesses, common among those who follow the same path, are:
  • Insufficient flexibility and strength of the hips

  • Poor eccentric strength which in-turn relates to quickness and reaction

  • Poor acceleration / starting strength which relate to his linear acceleration and power

  • Insufficient generation of power from the posterior chain of muscles

  • Issues related to muscular balances of both unilateral and bilateral nature that reflect less than desirable movement generation

  • Insufficient core strength such that he isn't able to maintain correct body posture under physical duress.
I want to be very clear about this because most readers would be extremely impressed with his physical development. But for him, it put him in a position where he is falling short of his noble goals of representing his homeland. His dedication to training and the lack of adequate coaching expertise led him towards seeking out knowledge innocently enough in the bodybuilding world. This, unfortunately, is jeopardizing his goals. Bodybuilders' goals are completely different from those of an athlete and after the common denominator of the iron and hard-work, athletes need to understand this difference and, while respecting the work of the bodybuilder, train for success on the field of competition.

Within our training session, I first went through some standard range of motion exercises including the Overhead and Box Squat. In both situations his existing training had created an incorrect imbalance of hamstring to quadriceps strength, poor hip and shoulder capsule flexibility. Amongst the training patterns prescribed, a hearty dosage of general tumbling and hurdle mobility drills were included and from the beads of sweat and a few choice words of his regional dialect that he had no idea I understood, he was having a heck of a time. After our little warmup, we returned to iron and started back with Power Cleans (hang) but dropped the weight significantly to the fifty per-cent range of max and executed the lift properly by engaging the hamstrings and generating some serious bar-speed. Without a moment's break, I set up the pin in power racks to start with a Deadstop Squat to focus upon his starting and acceleration strength. Powering the weight up with his torso, a common fault of most lifters, was easy but after adjusting his position so he was truly under the bar he drove up the weight up with his legs properly. To his chagrin after a few of his "warmup" sets, I walked into the racks at my starting weight, which pretty much drove the point home of how an athlete trains very clearly to him. We continued through the workout with a series of unilateral movements (Bulgarian Squats, Russian Split Jumps) to target muscular imbalances and explosive characteristics.

The workout was fast, efficient and focused upon the needs of an athlete. Whether you play Rugby or any other sport, there are no secrets to training properly and you should start with part-one of the six-part "Squat-Power" series at ProSource.