drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is Jerry Yanuyanutawa the most powerful prop in world rugby?

This video shows Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Fijian-born Sydney University front rower, box-squatting 260kg for 6 reps at the University gym in September 2008.

Prior to 2007, Jerry had been a back rower, but changed to the front row under the tutelage of Trevor Woodman, England World Cup winning front rower and Sydney University scrum coach. For most of that season Jerry played Third Grade but was elevated to the Firsts by Woodman for the Sydney Premiership Grand Final won by University 34-11.

In 2008 he was the only non- Super 14 contracted player to make the Australia A squad for the Pacific Nations Cup. Also, during the Club Premiership season he scored 12 tries including one in the Grand Final again won by University 45-20. A highlight of that game was the dominance of the University front row comprising Yanuyanutawa, Nathan Charles and Laurie Weeks.

The video was shot during the week after that Grand Final, clear evidence that max strength work can be continued throughout the playing season.

So where does Jerry Yanuyanutawa rate among the strong men of rugby?

When the most powerful props in the world are discussed two names that invariably crop up are England’s Andrew Sheridan and New Zealand’s Carl Hayman. Both are credited with a 275kg squat, presumably for one rep. More recently Ben and Owen Franks, Crusaders and All Blacks props, have been mentioned as contenders for the title of world’s strongest rugby player. The All Blacks web site quotes scrum guru Mike Cron saying, “I was told yesterday they were doing about a 240kg squat.” But all of this is anecdotal with no actual evidence.

However, on July 8, 2007, a video titled “NZAllblacks in the Weight-room” was posted on YouTube. The description read: “Pushing Tin: Join the All Blacks in a gym workout and watch big Carl Hayman squat a personal best 220kg.” Hayman is shown box-squatting 220kg for three reps spotted by strength coach Ashley Jones.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Coefficients used to determine 1RM, a squat set involving 3 reps at 220 equates to a single rep of 249kg.

By the same measure Jerry Yanuyanutawa’s 6 reps with 260 equates to a single rep of 323kg! This means that Yanayanatawa's squat set would rate 30% heavier than Hayman's effort, although of course relative box heights need to be taken into account.

Tim Leahy, Jerry's strength coach at Sydney University, had long recognised that his player had freakish physical capacities. "It was just a matter of getting him to apply himself and stay focussed."

Fortunately throughout 2008 he responded to the challenge with Tim Leahy spending many hours one-on-one with his young charge; "The key to getting the best out of Jerry was to constantly vary his training tasks and to continually challenge him.”

“Jerry is a very gifted guy athletically with great genetics and an abundance of fast twitch fibre. Along with the then SUFC forwards coach and former English World Cup winning front rower Trevor Woodman the major focus we had for Jerry was to build a base of strength and power that would be a benchmark for front rowers worldwide.”

Significantly Yanuyanutawa’s max strength program involved quite limited actual squatting, with greater focus being placed on the Romanian deadlift and MyoTruk and MyoThrusta apparatus.

Making full use of his Melanesian genetic endowment Jerry Yanuyanutawa was able to record some outstanding speed and power numbers to match up with his prodigious efforts under the squat bar. As Tim Leahy notes, “During the actual playing season he was able to post best times of 1.71s and 5.38s for the 10 and 40 metres, as well as a vertical jump of 76cm. With a peak power output of nearly 9000 Watts, there is a lot of power that can be used at scrum time and during the collision.”

Jerry became something of a cult figure in Sydney club rugby with his barnstorming runs producing most of his 12 tries in 2008. As he says, “I like to get the ball in my hands and run. If there’s an opportunity to score a 20-metre try then I’ll back myself. Fijians are known for throwing the ball around a bit and I like that too. But I’m also learning the technical side with scrummaging and lifting [in lineouts] and learning to play within that team structure, but when I get out there I like to unleash and show what I’ve got.

“I do thrive in loose play and love to get my hands on the ball and run with it.” However, front rowers are never permitted to get too far away from their basic craft. “Trevor Woodman said to me none of that counts if you can’t scrummage or lift.”

Jerry’s first two seasons with the CA Brumbies were disrupted by injuries, but he is focussed on cementing a run-on spot for next year’s Super 15 season.

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