drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nick Tatalias on explosive strength training for rugby

[Summary: Nick Tatalias suggests that forwards who are exhausted after scrums and mauls may need greater strength and better anaerobic rather than aerobic conditioning. He argues that changes to the Laws of Rugby have increased the proportion of explosive actions in a game and consequently the need for explosive strength training.]

I have just come across a very interesting post by Nick Tatalias in the IRB Forums from March last year. This was a contribution to a long thread addressing the issue of why South African teams had been so unsuccessful in Super 12 competitions.

Nick Tatalias suggested that when conditioning coaches observe some of their forwards standing with hands on knees trying to catch their breath, they conclude that the players need more aerobic type conditioning; but he maintains that this "further exacerbates the problem. When in truth the issue is that greater levels of strength are needed, better anaerobic conditioning and lastly sprint endurance."

Tatalias's view is that the players are tired because they have to recruit a relatively high percentage of their muscular strength in each encounter. He contrasts a forward who can squat 120kg with another whose squat is 200kg. The first player may have to use all his strength to push the opposition while the other might be using only 60% of his strength.

The player with strength reserve will be stronger at the end of the game and still have energy to exert on physically over powering the opposition as well as energy to marshal troops maintain discipline and minimise mental errors.

He suggests that out-of-season there is a need for "multiple high intensity low volume work outs to improve muscular hypertrophy and strength gains," while in-season training should be "high intensity (90% of one rep max) low volume 45 minute heavy work-outs." He advocates the use of modified Olympic lifts for explosive workouts both in and out of season.

And when I say explosive, I don't believe that moving light weights fast is explosive, it needs to be heavy weight explosively. ... Gym work-outs are there to make you strong and explosive, they are not there to duplicate how you feel after a rugby game.

In another post to the Supertraining group today, Tatalias drew attention to the effect of changes in the laws of rugby over the past decade. He maintained that while the number of scrums in a game had decreased dramatically, lineouts had become increasingly important with an emphasis on "good vertical jump for the catcher and excellent explosive lifting strength for the lifters (props and flanks)."

He also asserts that "the number of very fast explosive actions such as cleaning out opponents around the ruck have increased as well the emphasis on much more explosive tackling (to prevent the runner crossing the gain line)"; which he compares to run blocking by fullbacks and linebacker type hit tackling in American football. Finally he suggests that rolling mauls now allow for more obstruction and thus can last for more than 60 seconds.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I find Nick Tatalias's arguments quite compelling and further evidence of a groundswell that is slowly but inexorably moving rugby toward an emphasis on serious strength development, particularly in the direction of explosiveness.


1 comment:

Nick said...

Over the last few months I have started to experement with high volume high intensity powerlifting routines taken from some of the Russian powerlifting programmes by Boris Sheiko. The short off season for top level players would allow only one or two four to eight week training programmes. In our club one trainee increased his 1RM (paused at the bottom)from 140kg to 150kg (at 95kg bodyweight)in a 4 week bench pressing programme and is in the middle of an 8 week squat programme. These intense phases can be used to increase strength and add muscle mass. The training should also contain explosve moves like snatches, drop snatches and overhead squats to develop good "core" strength and exersizes that train train the posterior chain, high pulls, cleans, romanian dead lifts. The scrum truck may also be usefull in this area, although I am new to its use. As a challenge to rugby players I suggest that they should be able to overhead squat their own body weight for at least ten reps (one off test). As the presseason training starts to ramp up the players should start to train the low volume high intetnsity strength training pushing 1RM to personal bests. Explosive lifts should also go to low volume max intensity reps and the introduction of shock training or so called plyometrics to begin to begin to convert the gains in power and strength and weight to explosive rugby pace. Defensive training practice should start to incorporate heavy bag hitting with a hit lift and throw the bag over the shoulder style to begin to create the groove for defensive hitting and impact in scrums, whilst still developing the posterior chain, whichis responsible for the explosion and speed of players. Offensive training should start to include wrestling type sumo drills trying to push each other out of a square to develop strength endurance and then three on three sumo drills to start to develop team play and team co-ordination. This then allows the conversion of strength and weight to be converted to rugby related strength. As player increase there weight a period of adjustment is neccesary to develop agility and control of the additional muscle mass and strength, early season agility drills and mental agility and skills training thus needs to be focused and scientifically designed to optimise the player rugby ability. The use bounding training over bags and drop jumps and short sprints are examples of plyometric type drills, chopping drills and the like.

Nick Tatalias