drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Monday, September 29, 2008

Champion Australian rugby club powered by MyoQuip strength equipment

Australia's premier rugby club, Sydney University, has completed another outstanding season in 2008. A significant factor in its success in recent years has been its use of the MyoQuip ScrumTruk and HipneeThrust to build the size and strength of its players.

Some of the Club's achievements:
  • Has won the Sydney First Grade Premiership for the past four years
  • Has defeated the Brisbane Club Premiers in both 2007 and 2008 to claim the title of Australian Club Champions
  • Has won the last five Sydney Club Championships as well as the last four Colts Club Championships
  • Has won Premierships in all three Colts Grades in both 2007 and 2008
  • Was undefeated in 24 matches in First Grade Colts in 2008

In June 2006 I wrote an article titled "Building bigger and stronger rugby players - the Sydney University experiment" drawing attention to the increasing emphasis on size and strength in modern rugby:

"Modern defensive alignments and strategies have transformed rugby matches into contests of attrition where bigger and stronger teams tend to wear down their smaller and physically weaker opponents over the course of a game. Perhaps the most notable change has been the increased importance of physical dominance in the backline.

"Responding to this, Sydney University's rugby club has been able to demonstrate that with the right combination of coach and infrastructure, it is possible to fast track the physical development of players outside a professional playing environment. In fact within a couple of seasons these players are able to achieve a body mass comparable to that of seasoned professionals together with a solid foundation of basic strength."

Current-year data confirms that this is still the case. Based on the player data listed on their websites the average body weights of the current squads for the Wallabies, Waratahs and Brumbies are 103.0, 103.3 and 102.0kg respectively. The average body weight for Sydney University's starting fifteen in this month's First Grade Grand Final was 101.5kg. It is true that this team included three Wallabies in Phil Waugh, Al Campbell and Dean Mumm, but even with these players excluded the team's average body weight was still 100.1kg. It can be seen that the young, part-time, unpaid Sydney University players weigh only a couple of kilograms less than seasoned professionals.

For the past five years the University Club has been operating an Elite Development Squad (EDS) program for its top Grade and Colts players. Utilising one of the best equipped gymnasiums in Australian rugby, players train for eleven months of the year and undertake four weights sessions per week off-season and two to three while playing.

The program's strength and conditioning components have been devised by Martin Harland and administered by him and his assistant, Tim Leahy. Harland's programs for rugby players place a high degree of emphasis on basic strength development and rugby-specific fitness. A distinguishing feature of his approach is a concentration on heavy lower body work. In the past couple of years he has decreased the amount of squatting and deadlifting and and made more intensive use of the MyoQuip ScrumTruk and HipneeThrust, apparatus that targets the large mass leg extensor muscles, specifically the gluteal and quadriceps groups.

Exposing backline players to basic strength training

Another distinctive feature of Martin Harland's rugby training regimen is his requirement that backs undertake the same rigorous basic strength routines as forwards. Many strength and conditioning coaches reserve the heavy "grunt" work for forwards, or even restrict it to the tight five.

Exposing backs to very serious weight training has produced quite significant results at Sydney University, as evidenced by the following table comparing body weights of forwards and backs for the Wallabies, two of the four Australian Super 14 franchises and Sydney University:

Comparative Bodyweight of Forwards and Backs

Squad/Team (2008)

Av Weight (kg) - Forwards

Av Weight (k) - Backs



Wallabies - Squad




NSW Waratahs - Squad




ACT Brumbies - Squad




Sydney University – Grand Final Team




Not surprisingly, the University's young forwards are outweighed by each of the professional squads. However, in the backs the situation is reversed with the University players outweighing the national and provincial squads.If we look at the column showing the difference in bodyweight between backs and forwards it can be seen that for Sydney University it averages 12.4kg, against 17.1 to 17.7kg for the professional squads, a very substantial difference.

The Sydney University experiment seems to be providing clear evidence that the bodyweight of rugby backs can be dramatically increased through serious weight training, and the results achieved by the Club in competition suggest that there has been no adverse impact on their playing performance.

The main justification for building heavier backs with superior leg drive lies in the already mentioned importance of physical dominance in the backline. With the modern emphasis on structure and coordination in defensive alignments, bigger and stronger backs are better able to continually repel opposition attacks and also over the course of a game are likely to create physical and mental fatigue in their counterparts.

Martin Harland has also regularly used both the ScrumTruk and the HipneeThrust in conditioning the University's rowers and female basketballers. The Rowing Club is currently ranked No. 1 in Australia, while the Sydney University Flames have appeared in the two most recent Grand Finals of the Australian Women's National Basketball League. The MyoQuip apparatus would appear to have strong applicability to not only these sports but also to other football codes such as American football, Australian football and rugby league.

(In recent months the Sydney University Gymnasium has replaced its ScrumTruk and HipneeThrust machines with the more advanced and compact MyoTruk and MyoThrusta models.)

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