Tag Archive | "Sports Training"

deadlift 2

All About Strength part 2

deadlift 2

In part one of this series, we told you what strength was and why you needed to develop yours. In this article we’ve provided you wiht a twice a week basic strength training programme

Warm up by performing 5-10 minutes of light cardio plus dynamic stretches such as leg swings, arm circles, bodyweight squats and lunges. If you are unsure about how to perform any of the exercises listed below make sure you get some expert advice to avoid the risk of injury. As the weights used are substantial, it’s very important to make sure you have an experienced “spotter” or training partner on hand in case you should fail on any particular exercise.

Because strength training requires such long rest periods between sets, it is quite acceptable to arrange your exercises into “lazy supersets”. In other words rather than sit and rest for 5 minutes between sets of squats, alternate between 1 set of squats and 1 set of bench press to make the most use of your training time. This will essentially half the time to have to spend in the gym as you’ll be making constructive use of your rest periods.

Day 1 (e.g. Monday)

Squats – front or back squats

Chin ups – body weight or weighted

Bench press – barbell or dumbbell, flat or inclined

Bicep curls – seated or standing, barbell or dumbbell

Perform 3-5 sets of 5 reps, increasing the weight set by set with the last set being the hardest

(48 – 72 hours later)

 Day 2 (e.g. Thursday)

Dead lifts – traditional or sumo style

Shoulder press – seated or standing, barbell or dumbbell

Bent over row – barbell or dumbbell

Tricep dips – bench or parallel bar version

Perform 3-5 sets of 5 reps, increasing the weight set by set with the last set being the hardest

Cool down by performing 5-10 minutes of light cardio plus static stretches held for 15 – 30 seconds per major muscle group.

So now you know how strength training can benefit you and how to implement it into your training week. All that’s left is to warm up and hit the gym! Time spent strength training, especially in the off season, will pay dividends come competition time.

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F1 car

Lewis Hamilton’s Fast Fitness

With the Grand Prix series in full swing and the British Grand Prix high on the agenda, John Shepherd finds out how Lewis Hamilton gets fit

Interview by: John Shepherd

JS: How long does your preparation work off-season last?

LH: My training comprises of about four months of strength endurance cardiovascular endurance tests, musculoskeletal tests, body scans and nutritional consultations. The programme is designed to build up physical fitness that will last throughout the year.

(Lewis explained that in a typical week he would do four strength and conditioning sessions and three CV workouts. For strength his main areas of focus are: neck, core/back/glutes, shoulders, legs. Running is the mainstay of his CV work. He’ll also do speed and agility work)

JS: Do you work within designated heart rate zone for your CV training? 

My aerobic training lasts up to three hours, targeting a heart rate between 130-150 beats per minute. I’ll also do some interval training lasting 10-30 minutes with my heart rate going above 165bpm.

JS: You work a lot on your core, why is this? 

 LH: You have to have very, very good core stability.  It’s not about having the biggest muscles, core stability is the most important to control the forces that you have going around your body…… it’s all about endurance strength so we do lots of repetitions.

For back strength my weapon of choice is the medicine ball. I do an exercise that involves lying on your back lifting your back off the ground and throwing the 10kg medicine ball with both hands as far as possible.

JS: F1 drivers have to have strong necks, how to do you develop this strength?

This is the muscle that needs to be strongest. My neck grows throughout the year and then shrinks towards the end of the year (due to the demands of training and the F1 season. Ed). The training for the neck is quite simple.  We have a helmet and we put a weight on the top – five or ten kilos.  You can then do the exercise anywhere, which is great so you don’t have to go to the gym.  You just sit on the edge of the bed, for example, just holding your head up.  I do repetitions, forwards and backwards without moving any other part of my body. I do lots and lots of repetitions so many until you can’t do them anymore (these can total 1500 in a day. Ed).

JS: Are there any other specific to driving exercises that you do?

 I use a 15kg disc weight as a steering wheel and sit in a ‘V’ position. This requires the core to work and strengthens the shoulders. 

JS: Tell us a bit more about the specifics of your programme….. 

LH: Keeping my legs in good condition is easy, with all the running, (but) we also do lots of squats.  I hate squats… they kill! But with all the running, where you’re working your quads predominately, it’s important to also have good hip-flexor and glute strength.

JS: Why do you do speed work – aren’t you more concerned with endurance to last through the two hour races?

 LH: Quick reactions … need practice. I develop these through a series of speed and agility exercises. They include speed ladders, sprints and plyometric exercises such as jumping and hopping.

 JS: Do you enjoy all your training?

 LH:  I enjoy training.  I enjoy feeling fit.  If I get up in the morning and I go for a run past the lake when I come back, I feel so refreshed …. it’s like the most positive feeling for the beginning of the day.  



F1 Fitness – Lewis Hamilton

165 hours of training

More then 60 training sessions

The equivalent of training non-stop for 24-hours a day for a week

450k of running – the equivalent of running just under six laps of each of

the 17 race tracks in the 2009/10 Grand Prix season

Up to 750Kg of shoulder shrugs per sessions – 10 times his own body weight

Stats relate to Lewis’ preparatory training



Thanks to Reebok for the interview with Lewis: For more information go to: www.Reebok.com/lewishamilton

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10 things you wanted to know about triathlon but were afraid to ask…

Triathlon isn’t a straightforward sport – not only are there three disciplines to prepare for, but there’s all the kit and equipment to get to grips with, the training regime to cope with plus all the headaches which races can present. Fear not, it’s not as complex as it first seems, and with our guide you’ll soon be wondering why you ever worried. Emma-Kate Lidbury answers 10 triathlon FAQs…



1.    “I’ve done a few marathons, but have little experience of swimming or cycling, should I even be thinking about doing a triathlon?”

Of course! Lots of novices take up triathlon having little to no experience of one or more of the sports and that’s all part of the fun. You’ll be amazed at how friendly and welcoming triathletes and triathlon clubs are and there’s nothing more an experienced athlete enjoys than introducing someone new to the sport.

 The beauty of triathlon is that the challenge is between you and the clock, so it doesn’t matter what standard you are, the test is the same for everyone. The fact you have experience of marathon running will stand you in great and will give you an advantage over many people who might only have experience of doing a few laps of the pool or commuting to and from work on their bike.

  2.    “Do I have to wear a wetsuit?”

If you are taking part in an open water race in the UK, the chances are that wetsuits will be compulsory under British Triathlon guidelines. Wetsuits are only forbidden when the water is above 22 degrees Celsius and open water swims are not permitted when the water is below 12.5c degrees Celsius.

A wetsuit can be a huge bonus for weak swimmers as they are made of neoprene, which improves buoyancy as well as your swim body position. It takes time getting used to swimming in a wetsuit though, so make sure you try it out before race day.

 3. “I’m scared, I can’t touch the bottom on the swim.”

It’s perfectly natural to feel apprehensive about swimming in open water, particularly if you’re a novice swimmer. However, with some open water swimming practice and some sound advice, you will soon overcome your fears and enjoy what can be the most exhilarating part of a triathlon.

If you want more advice, go along to an open water swimming venue. Staff there can give you advice on everything from which wetsuit to use through to one-on-one coaching sessions. Or there are scores of triathlon clubs that run their own open water sessions where there will be qualified coaches and experienced triathletes on hand to help you out.

 4. “Will someone swim over me on the swim?”

The opening metres of the swim in a triathlon can be frantic, but this largely depends on the size of the race and the standard of the field. In big races where competitors start in waves of 150+ things can be hectic and it is highly possible you may find someone swimming ‘over you, under you or even across you’. This usually happens because there are a large number of people in a small space all racing to the first buoy, which can sometimes be less than 200m away from the start line. Things usually calm down after the first 100m or so as the faster swimmers race off and the field evens out.

It is highly unlikely that you will encounter problems at smaller races as the majority of UK sprint-distance races have small fields where competitors start in waves of 100 or less. Nevertheless, do prepare yourself as even a sparsely populated wave could be full of swimmers who are so pumped up on adrenaline they fail to see competitors in their path.

 5. “Do I have to ride my bike in a pair of briefs?”

Tr-_girlAlthough you could ride your bike in your swimsuit, this certainly isn’t the most comfortable option! You could change in ‘T1’ (the first transition from swim to bike Ed) from your swimwear into your bike gear, but with the clock ticking as you do this, there are far less time-consuming options available.

Investing in a tri-suit (an all-in-one suit) that can be worn for all three disciplines is advisable. If you don’t fancy the all-in-one number, there are also two-piece triathlon tops and shorts, which do the job just as well. These are worn underneath your wetsuit and are made of quick-drying material.

This means that you can peel off your wetsuit post-swim, run to your bike in transition, put on your bike helmet and shoes set off and and save lots of time.

It is worth remembering that nudity in transition will lead to instant disqualification, so wearing a tri-suit rather than attempting embarrassing changes certainly has its benefits!

British Triathlon rules also state that all competitors must ensure their upper body, especially the chest area, is clothed during the bike and run.

 6. “Will my commuting bike embarrass me?”

Definitely not. In fact, it is very common to see commuting bikes being used at triathlons, which are popular with first-timers, such as the Blenheim Triathlon or the Eton Super Sprints. It makes sense to use your own tried-and-trusted bike before splashing out on an expensive triathlon bike, which you might only use once.

There are various steps you can take to ‘upgrade’ your commuting bike to make it more suitable for a race too. One of the most important changes you can make is to the tyres. Using slick road tyres (1-1.5inches) and inner tubes pumped to 100psi+ will certainly speed you up. You could also consider using clipless pedals and cycling shoes which are far more energy efficient than toe-clip pedals and trainers. They do take a bit of getting used to though, so make sure you practice with them if you decide you want to give them a go.

 7.    “What should I do if I get a puncture?”

Don’t attempt to continue cycling as you could damage your bike. You should always carry a saddlebag containing a few essentials so that in the event of a puncture or other mechanical problems, you have the basic kit needed to get you home or through a race.

The saddlebag, which fits neatly under your saddle, should contain spare inner tubes, tyre levers and a multi-tool. It is also wise to carry a small pump, which can usually be attached to your bike frame.-

8. “What is ‘drafting’ and how can I avoid it?”

Drafting is the name given to taking shelter behind or beside another competitor while on the bike. It is illegal in age-group racing and time penalties (usually two minutes) are given to any participant seen drafting. British Triathlon rules state that the ‘draft zone is viewed as a rectangle measuring seven metres long by three metres wide which surrounds every competitor on the bike course’.

The front edge of the front wheel defines the centre of the leading three-metre edge of the rectangle. A competitor may enter the draft zone to overtake and has a maximum of 15 seconds to do this. If an overtaking manoeuvre is not completed within 15 seconds, the overtaking cyclist must drop back.

However, in races where waves of 100+ people start just a few minutes apart, it can often become congested on the bike course and it can be difficult not to find yourself in another competitor’s draft zone. This often happens on fast, flat bike courses where there are no hilly sections to spread out the field. If you find yourself caught in a large bunch of cyclists, do all that you can to get out of the pack safely. This might mean slowing up and letting the pack pass or putting in a hard effort to break away. If you don’t, you will be penalised.

Drafting is considered cheating in age-group racing and you won’t make many friends if you deliberately set out to draft.

9.    “Should I get ‘tri bars’?”

If you are new to triathlon and not sure yet whether it is for you, there is no point spending money on a set of tri bars as they are not ‘absolute essentials’ as far as kit and equipment go. However, if you are already a self-confessed tri addict and are looking to save a few seconds every mile then it is definitely worth getting some.

Triathletes talk about ‘getting aero’, that’s riding in the most aerodynamic position possible and tri bars can help you create this time-saving position. The more upright you are, the more wind resistance and drag you create, which slows you down. Tri bars, if positioned correctly, will allow you to ride in a narrower, flatter and therefore more aerodynamic position, enabling you to ride faster for the same effort. Seek expert advice when fitting them and get used to them in training before attempting to race with them.

 10. “I’m pretty disorganised, how can I get through each transition successfully?”

The answer is simple: you have to be organised. Transition – the so-called ‘fourth sport’ – can make or break your race. You need to make sure you have everything set out simply and in the order in which you will need it. Remember: when you come into transition for the first time you’ll have just swum 400m/750m/1500m (depending on race distance) and will appreciate all the help possible in finding your kit.

When setting out your equipment look for landmarks or guides which will lead you back to your bike in T1. Although it might seem easy to find before the race, once the adrenaline is pumping and you are mid-race, things will be very different.

Set out your helmet, sunglasses and bike shoes. Alongside them put your run shoes and visor/hat if you are using one. Ensure your water bottle is on your bike, and anything you may want for the run is next to your run kit (energy drink or gels, for example).

Once you are happy that all of your equipment is ready, it is often useful to familiarise yourself with the layout of the transition: where will you be coming in to after the swim? Where is the bike exit? Where is the run exit? At large races, such as the Mazda London Triathlon there can often be hundreds of people in transition at any one time, so it pays to know where you are going.

John Shepherd.

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Sun Salutation Yoga Warm Up

The sun salutation s a great way to warm up the body.

This article appeared in issue 19-6.



Page 4


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Fancy a spin before a spring marathon?

Paced event is perfect warm up for the London Marathon

There’s still time for competitors in this year’s London Marathon to take part in the perfect pre-race build up; the 13.1 mile Lucozade Sport Race Your Pace event at Dorney Lake, near Windsor, on Sunday 28 March 2010, but entries are closing very soon.


Liz Yelling will pace you

Liz Yelling will pace you

Led by double Olympian, Liz Yelling, this unique Human Race event, supporting the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, enables runners to try the pace they’d like to run over the longer Marathon distance on a flat, accurate, four-lap course led by a team of ‘pacers’.

To help put this into practice, Race Your Pace will split competitors into two groups of runners setting off at different times. The first start, ‘Performers’, at 10am is for those who have run between one hour five minutes and one hour forty five for a half marathon while ‘Improvers’ is for those who have run a half marathon in over one hour forty five minutes.  Improvers will leave at 12.30pm.

Within each of these groups a variety of pacers will set the pace. So, for example, Performers will have pacers running at 7, 7.5, 8 and 8.5 minute mile pace while Improvers can choose from 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5 or 12 minute mile pace.

After the race Yelling, who has a marathon personal best of 2hrs 30 minutes, will be holding a series of 20-minute seminars on how to Improve Your Performance.  Yelling says the reason for the seminars is to help runners set and reach their goals.

‘I want to help people to achieve their own personal marathon or half marathon goals and knowing how to pace effort helps runners to feel in control of their race,’ says Yelling.  ‘They feel good as they run, stay relaxed, motivated and on track and it gives them the confidence to achieve their targets,’ she adds.

The Lucozade Sport Race Your Pace event takes place on Sunday March 28 and is aimed at runners of all abilities and speeds and there’s still time to be part of it. Entries are £25 or £30 to include the seminar.

For details and online entry visit www.humanrace.co.uk.

Entries close Monday 22 March 2010.


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Understanding Plyometric Training

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CrossFit – Warning it could kill you

“If you feel the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don’t want you in our ranks,” says Greg Glassman the founder of CrossFit. Hmm, this guy doesn’t mince his words and nor does his workouts which are followed around the world with fiendishness enthusiasm by thousands. But be warned they could kill you.

Two decades ago former gymnast Glassman –simply known as ‘coach’ to his thousands of followers, began developing his exercise system. He put it together after studying the training routine of elite athletes and adding what he describes as, “ …. a willingness, if not eagerness, to experiment, coupled with a total disregard for conventional wisdom.” Disregard for conventional wisdom, that’s a statement that will either bury you or turn you into a messiah. And it seems that Glassman and CrossFit has converted many to become its disciples – men and women who want to push hard and enter into territory (that should really be territories – due to the myriad of exercises involved in the concept) that few other fitness enthusiasts would.

CrossFit was designed to be an adjunct to other training, but it can also be a sport. “Our programmes deliver a fitness that is by design broad, general and inclusive. Our speciality is not specialising. Combat, survival, many sports and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average punish the specialist,” explains Glassman.

Its followers believe that CrossFit gets their bodies into the shape they could have only dreamt about. Although CrossFit is a fusion of numerous training modalities as indicated, such as weight training and gymnastics, for example, the key underpinning factor is intensity. This is no ‘relaxing, restorative, energising exercise system’. In fact the adjectives used would suit a disaster movie. CrossFIT could destroy you. World-wide, CrossFitters log onto the organisations website www.cross-fit.com for their daily ‘W.O.D’ or workout of the day – is a unique calling card for Glassman’s system. There are stories of people ending up in hospital after tackling some of these. As the hyperbolic Glassman says, by way of warning, “It can kill you, I’ve always been completely honest about that.” But Cross-fitters seem to revel in the pain and the potential danger. Their unofficial mascot is called ‘Pukey’. A look at cross-fit.com showed just how tough the workouts can be. Here’s the workout that thousands would be tackling that day:

Row 500m

Bench body weight x 30

Row 1000m

Bench body weight x 20

Row 2000m

Bench body weight x 10

Rest, there’s no rest – you just go for it. Once completed you post your time on the site.

Interestingly the W.O.D the day before was ‘Dianne’. Key W.O.D’s are named after women.  Dianne consists of 21-15-9 repetitions performed non-stop of 225lb dead-lifts and handstand push-ups. The workout (and all other W.O.D’s) are supposed to be able to completed by all abilities, but they should obviously not be performed by ‘everyone’. To be fair CrossFit does explains that the workouts can be adjusted to reflect individual fitness levels.

Despite the controversy (or maybe ‘because’ of the controversy) CrossFit has become addictive for the many who follow it. CrossFit is designed to keep you on your toes – so that you are ‘fit for everything’. Weight lifting is integral and the lifts are dynamic, such as the clean and jerk, snatch and the push-press. No easy lifts to learn safely. Kettlebells form a key CrossFit element. Exercises include the Turkish get-up and the Farmer’s walk – moves that will test your entire body and all its energy systems. Handling your body weight is also key – standard exercises such as, squats, pull-ups and push-ups, are joined by the less standard, such as the ‘straight arm pull to inverted hang’.

Although it’s not officially endorsed by the military and the uniformed services, CrossFit has become very popular within them. Poignantly the US CrossFit website has a number of ‘hero’ workouts named after servicemen and servicewomen who have died in the line of duty. Incidentally it’s estimated that the site gets over 25000 unique visitors a week.

A specific diet is integral to the CrossFit philosophy. Protein consumption is emphasised over the other macronutrients – carbohydrate and fat. You’ll be advised to consume 30% of your daily diet from this source (as opposed to the 10-15% that is generally recommended). Slow energy releasing carbohydrates  form 40% and predominantly monounsaturated (healthy) fats the other 30%. Delving deeper into the CrossFit, it becomes apparent that their approach to eating is the ‘sensible brother’ to its slightly wilder exercise sibling. Healthy, natural foods are recommended with highly processed and sugary (high-glycaemic) ones avoided. As it says on their website site, “In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That’s about as simple as we can get.”

It’s not so simple when it comes to CrossFit as a sport. Imagine Usain Bolt turning up at the OLympics and not knowing which sport, let alone event he’d be competing in let alone which sprint. The ‘unknown’ is integral to CrossFit sport. The events are only made public at the last minute. In 2008 the events there were competitions for men and women and for teams and the events were:

Day 1:

5 dead-lifts – 275lbs for men and 185lbs for women

10 burpees x 5 for time

Thrusters 95lbs men 65lbs women (this is a front squat, push press combo)

Pull-ups 21,15,9 reps for time

750m steep trail run

Day 2:

30 squat, clean and jerks for time (155lbs men and 65lbs women)

The overall winners are decided on time – the fastest is the winner.

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Rugby Training

How to get your rugby training right with the help of the Sale Sharks and Scotland captain Jason White

Rugby Union training

With the 6-nations looming elite players will be looking to maintain and even improve their match readiness, however whatever your level of play it’s a balancing act between over-training, getting injured and being match sharp at this time of the year as the season begins to take its toll

The Game

Rugby Union is uncompromising – it’s been described as a ‘collision sport’. With minor strains, bruises and injuries an inevitable consequence (as well as serious ones), players need to follow a carefully structured pre-season and in-season training programme. Matches last 80 minutes and constant changes in the rules have meant the ball is in play for a much greater period of time than at any time in the game’s history. At the top level, one to two matches a week are played.

Rugby is what the sports scientists call a ‘high intensity intermittent sport’. Sprints, tackles, grappling, jumps and sprints, for example, last a matter of seconds. Research actually indicates that players spend about 47% of the match walking and jogging, 6% running and sprinting, 9% tackling or competing for the ball and 38% standing. Rugby therefore relies primarily on anaerobic fitness with a reasonable level of underpinning aerobic ability.

Even more specifically further research indicates that backs perform more longer sprints in a game than forwards and have to produce these efforts from a moving (jogging) base, whilst forwards do more close quarters skirmishing over 10m, often from a standing start. This type of activity tests different aspects of the anaerobic energy system (see box out).


Anaerobic energy systems

The immediate anaerobic energy system provides energy for up to 10 seconds and has no reliance on oxygen as a fuel source; instead it relies on the body’s stored high-energy compounds, notably creatine phosphate. Rugby forwards may need to emphasise this system slightly more in training than backs due to their playing requirements.

The short-term anaerobic system provides energy for up to 90 seconds. It has an ever-increasing reliance on oxygen consumption as the one and a half minute mark is reached; otherwise it relies on energy producing compounds again, such as creatine phosphate and glycogen (stored muscle carbohydrate). Backs may need to spend slightly more time in training emphasising this energy system.


Note to designer panel

The Player

Jason White (30) has played over 50 times for Scotland and has captained the si team. He’s been at Guinness Premiership side the Sale Sharks for the last five seasons. At the time of interview – the XX Kg 1m .. lose forward was side-lined with a broken finger.

JS: How important is rugby conditioning in the modern game?

JW: I think it’s absolutely critical … if you’re not physically strong then you are not going to survive at the top level.

JS: How do you stay in shape over the course of a long season?

JW: After pre-season (which lasts about 8-week Ed) you end up really strong, but during the season it’s more difficult (to stay in peak condition), you get knocks and it’s about trying to pick up fitness when you can

(Jason went onto explain that he had been ‘out’ for four weeks due to his injury and that this had allowed him to build up his strength and fitness)

JS: Do players train specifically for their position?

JW: With Scotland we did a lot of resistance band work to try to simulate the scrum engage with the forwards. And the front rowers also did a lot of heavy squats. For me as a lose forward I have to be strong over the ball, so I do drills to develop the required crouch position

JS: How intense is playing?

JW: Our Premiership season is non-stop. Then you have the November tests, when we play the southern hemisphere teams who are at the top of their game, then back to out clubs and into the 6-Nations and then (this year) the Lions tour if you are lucky enough to be picked. Physically, undoubtedly it is tough, it is about working with your conditioner, trying to maintain a good level of fitness and then maybe trimming back a little and then hitting hard again as the end of season as the tours approach.

JS: Is the conditioning at international level different to that at the clubs?

JW: They were different especially for the last World Cup, where we tried to peak at certain times. We also had a high level of competition going on between groups of guys playing in the same position and looking to make the squad. We were trying to push each other to see who was the best.

JS: Has the emphasis of conditioning changed since you have been playing the professional game?

JW: Yes, for example, you don’t go to Scotland camp and get ‘flogged’.  I think that used to be more the case in the past. For example, with Scotland we might just do 1 set of heavy weight reps or 2 sets of 2. We aim to lift heavy weights explosively. (this emphasis on allowing the body to recover was emphasised by Sale conditioner Scott Pearson – see panel).

JS: What’s the most unusual fitness task that you have had to perform?

SP: Initially, but not now it was doing the core stability stuff, where you were lying on your back and ‘setting your pelvic floor’ …… initially I was thinking, ‘what are we doing here?’ Apart from that there was an army camp where I had to run around carrying a log on my shoulder, which I didn’t really see the rugby benefit, but I did from the benefit of team building and team morale.

JS: Who’s the fittest player and the fittest team you have ever faced?

JW: Probably Richie McCaw of New Zealand, he just has this ability to keep going right to the end … to be able to sprint flat out. And similarly team wise, probably New Zealand. My take on this is the way they play the game. They play at a very high intensity with the ball in hand week in week out, so I think they are conditioned to play at a fast pace.

JS: What fitness tips do you have for a good standard player?

JW: Get good advice, do your core exercises, like the bench press and the squat, chins and dips – everybody should be able to do them. Be able to handle your body weight and when you can on pull-ups, for example add a weighted belt and work against this.

Nutrition is also very important, get advice to ensure you get the right blend of carbohydrates and protein. Supplements (Jason is sponsored by EAS as are the Sale Sharks) are also important.  I know that before the last World Cup when I was taking creatine and ‘Muscle Armour’ – I was in the best shape of my life.


The Theory

Undulating periodisation

Periodisation is the name given to training planning that uses specifically designed training phases, with one building on the other. The Soviet conditioning expert Leonid Matveyev applied the term and developed much training planning terminology and methodology in the nineteen sixties. His initial ideas often focussed on sports with clearly designated peaks, such as swimming and track and field. These peaks made it relatively easy to build a training plan that would get the athlete into peak condition when it mattered. Rugby players might have 30 plus ‘peaks’ (matches) in a season, this makes it impossible to specifically peak. So, in order to plan the training framework, rugby conditioning coaches, such as Scot Pearson (see panel) will often use a version of periodisation known as ‘undulating periodisation’ (or concurrent training). This allows for the ebb and flow of the playing season. The conditioning coach basically mixes all the key training ingredients – for rugby, weight training, speed endurance, sprint work, agility, power, circuits, weight training and recovery into a specifically blended cocktail that keeps the players in optimum playing condition. He also needs to assess the contribution to fitness that matches and rugby training is having. Pearson explained, for example, that very little contact work was actually done in-season to minimise injury and reduce over-training.


The Conditioner

Scot Pearson

Scott has been the conditioning coach at the Sale Sharks for 6 seasons. He is part of a three man conditioning team that works closely with the rugby coaches to ensure the players reach matches in peak condition

JS: How many training sessions a day do the players do?

SP: Usually about two, we tend to combine sessions, for example we might do a short weights session and then go straight onto the pitch to do some speed work, or the forwards will follow their strength work with live scrums

JS: What’s the rational for that?

SP: We use scrums from a conditioning point of view, the players have to push bodies – that’s a heavy weight. We pre-load them with the weights and fatigue them a little and then they go out and do the rest of their conditioning on the field.

JS: Do you use undulating periodisation (see box out)?

SP: Yes, we’ve got all these training boxes that we need to tick tactically and technically through the week and some times you need to be a little inventive about how you go about achieving these things.

JS: How do you maintain player fitness in-season?

SP: It can be difficult, due the standard of play in the league and the cup, you can’t really say there is an easy game where you can rest a few guys – and we don’t really have a squad big enough to do that, so it’s about keeping the guys fresh. We do the majority of our conditioning during the pre-season and then as the season goes on it’s purely about keeping the guys fresh and ready to play at the weekend.

JS: How do you test and monitor the players?

SP: One thing we have done this season is to simplify our testing procedure. If you were looking at them from a scientific point of view you could probably pick holes in them, but they are easy to do and we can do them in a training week. They allow us to get a handle on how the guys are doing. We do 6 tests: a 10m and 30m sprint, a couple of anaerobic endurance tests, an aerobic test and a strength test.

JS: Are your weight training programmes designed to beef players up?

SP: Not really….what we are trying to overcome with players and coaches is the preconceived idea that you need to be big….. for a lot of players we have actually reduced their weights, for example England back Mark Cueto, he’s lost about 4-5Kg from this time last year. And you can see how his injury problems have been reduced, his speed has gone up and he could return to the England squad for the 6-Nations after last playing in the World Cup final (about two days after returning from Manchester Cueto was actually named in the England squad Ed).

JS: How difficult is fitting in your work with the rugby coaches?

SP: It’s not difficult….generally in rugby strength and conditioning is quite well thought of and most coaches regard it highly …. so most will let you do pretty much what you want, as long as the players are in shape to play at the weekends.


Fit for sport in-season rugby training – the workouts

Power maintaining sessions – power combination training

When time is short one of the quickest and most effective ways of maintaining power and muscle size is to combine weight and plyometric (jumping exercises) into the same workout, or as they do at the Sale Sharks weights with specific rugby training, such as scrummaging. These workouts trigger a heightened neural response in fast twitch (speed and power producing muscle fibres). To achieve this response you need to perform sets of exercises that broadly work the same muscle groups, for example the jump squat and the squat and the bench press and the plyometric (jump) press up, or the squat and scrum practice. The weights used should be in excess of 80% of 1RM to get the greatest transfer and reps should be between 6-8 – perform a similar number of jumps if relevant. When doing this training make sure your mind is in gear if you want to power up – don’t go through the motions.


A note on recovery and remaining mentally fresh

Players should be carefully monitored where practical in-season to ensure that they do not run the risk of becoming over-trained (The Sale Sharks staff work closely with the physio staff at the club). As has been indicated training must be kept fresh in order to maintain sharpness and match readiness and optimum recovery must also be high on the agenda. A change of environment, the introduction of a new coach, to take a specific conditioning session or the odd X-training session, such as volleyball at this time of the year may be just what is needed.

Likewise as Jason and Scott pointed out nutrition must be carefully monitored and maintained. Players may burn upward of 5000 calories a day on match and training days. Protein and carbohydrate levels need particular attention, to maintain muscle mass, size and energy. As a guide players should aim for 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight and 6-8g of carbohydrate. The refuelling process should begin straight after training.

Restorative treatments

Alternate hot and cold treatments and ice baths after training are often used at the elite level. If bumps and bruises and strains can be minimised in terms of their affects on training and playing then they are well worth utilising. Unfortunately the jury is out on whether ice baths, for example, actually work and there is some variation as to what is the most restorative protocol. However, if the player ‘believes’ (or is told!) that they work, then it is certainly well worth trying. For the club player (who probably thanks his lucky starts that his club does not have an ice bath) try alternating hot to cold water in the shower to a ratio of 1:2 (hot to cold).


Typical in-season week’s rugby training programme for a good club standard Union player

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat
Rest or restorative training/ Treatment Power combination training   Team training Weights Speed session Team training     Match


This schedule requires that players do their own training away from the two (Tues and Thurs) scheduled team workouts


Thanks also to EAS

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