by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
As a follow up to the recent column posting regarding fitness testing and my recommendation of the 1,000 meter shuttle run as a reliable fitness test, I wanted to offer one of my more popular Interval Speed Endurance (ISE) workouts. We perform this type of training to strengthen our aerobic and anaerobic energy systems and our body’s ability to cope with the production of lactic acid. ISE sessions, such as our ”Fifty Meter Repeats” can be altered to allow recreational and elite players to train together thus improving fitness levels for entire rugby club. This ISE workout is time efficient as well, taking only a matter of minutes per set.
Conditioning is a term commonly used to encompass various forms of fitness training, including running at a steady pace. Although “going for a run” is good for someone who is trying to stay in shape, rugby athletes would be better served by performing Interval Speed Endurance training. This type of training combines running at a higher intensity level with shorter distances. The running speed in a ISE workout is less than 100%, which allows players to perform a higher number of repetitions. Most importantly, this type of training requires a high-energy output, similar to what will be called upon in high quality rugby matches.
“Fifty Meter Repeats” is the descriptive title of one of the ISE training session we use. To perform the session, mark out a 50-meter distance in a straight line on a soft and even surface. Ideally the timing device used is a sports watch with a “countdown repeat” function. The 50-meter repeats have the athletes run from point A to point B in 10 second, then recover for a 10 second interval, and run back to point A in ten seconds. The distance is designed to be long enough to tax a player, but short enough that it can be run at a high speed. Begin by trying to complete one set of 18 repetitions. Work up to being able to perform three sets of eighteen repetitions, in ten seconds, with a 10 second recovery, and two and one half minutes rest between sets of 18.
This interval component forces the players to run at a speed they are not usually accustom to running. The passive recovery (which means the athlete stay where they finished) provides the athlete just enough recovery to stop, turn around, and get set to go again. Another attractive aspect of this particular workout is that athletes are required to accelerate and decelerate during each repetition. As the player fatigues, it become critical to get a quick start and run the entire 50-meters in order to cover the distance in the allotted time.
If all three sets are performed, the participants have completed 2,700 meters of running, but at a higher speed than if you placed them on a track and asked them to run the same distance. This is why ISE training is so beneficial to rugby athletes.
To modify this ISE workout for recreational players, lengthen the time they are allowed to cover the 50-meter distance from 10 seconds to 12, and gradually increase the number of repetitions from ten to eighteen as their fitness levels improve. To challenge the elite level players, have them start each run in an altered position. Initially, start with one knee down, then on both knees, then on all fours, and eventually on their stomachs. This will increase the difficultly while making the runs more rugby match specific.
As it is with all sports, your participation on the field is based on several conditions, one of which is your own.
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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