by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Most sportsmen and women would agree that rugby is a very demanding sport. The physical demands of sprinting, tackling, and changing directions at a moments notice is taxing on several energy systems of the body. To successfully prepare an athlete for a competitive rugby season, best practice states that there must be a well-designed approach as to what training stimulus is used, and when. Because competitive rugby requires both a strong aerobic base and the need to be physically strong and powerful, there is a requirement to diligently train multiple energy systems simultaneously. This process is referred to as concurrent training.
Research has shown that there are very specific physiological responses to the type of training stimulus used, and that one training stimulus can diminish the effects of another. This has significant implications on whether or not an athlete will reach their potential on the field. For example, let’s consider the slight built center that has a good feel for the game, but isn’t very strong in contact. If this center is placed in a high performance environment, he would not play train for and play sevens over the summer. Instead, this center would be engaged in a significant strength-building program and would have limited aerobic requirements placed on him. Concurrent training research tells us that if a player is running several days per week to be sevens fit, they are doing so at the determent of their strength training gains.
This exercise science research reinforces the need for a seasonal training plan (Seasonality - discussed in this column on May 31, 2007). In best practice high performance environments there is a clearly stated goal for each season in the athletic calendar. At this time of the year, the off season, I would contend that the focus for high school and university players should be to make as measurable gains in their strength development as safely possible. In a sound overall seasonal plan, this period is followed by a preseason where the strength gains are converted into explosive power and rugby specific skills are taught and repeated over a series of weeks/months.
This then places the rugby athlete in the best position possible to reach their potential when the competitive season begins, when the game of rugby itself becomes the predominant training vehicle.
Concurrent training research reinforces what we here at Cal have believed to be the best approach in helping our young rugby players fully develop and reach their potential for that is at the core of what we coaches do.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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