With the Six Nations underway, there is much talk about the fitness levels of the squads and the condition they are in. Naturally, the players cut aspirational figures, so how do they stay in shape and what exercises are they doing?
The drill for strength training is traditional − squats, bench presses, etc − but also incorporates more modern exercise such as plyometrics and medicine balls. Technique is key to maximising effectiveness and reducing injury, so make sure yours is right.
The oldies are not always the best
These days, upper arm strength is coming from multi-joint movements such as chin-ups rather than countless bicep curls. This is a far more efficient way of adding volume to muscle.
Similarly, sit-ups are out for abs and replaced by isometric exercises, where a position – such as the plank or bridge − is held for 30 seconds.
Look to the east
Rugby is about more than brute strength. Stamina is important, as are movement and being able to use the full range of motion. This is where yoga comes in for many professional sportsmen, helping to build flexibility, increase mobility and speed up recovery.
Timing is everything
On the field and in the gym, timing is key. Building power and muscle is caused by stressing the muscle without going as far as damaging it, so look to vary the tempo of exercises to stimulate muscle growth and mass. Where you might usually lower from a bench press in one second, try one at one second and the next at four.
On the field
Fitness training is important, but ultimately it is what happens on the field that counts; therefore, tailored drills are vital, helping to practice teamwork and the fundamental skills of kicking, passing and throwing, alongside set piece. Look out for specific drills from sites such as http://www.sportplan.net/ and tips and advice for both on- and off-field training from sites such as Premiership Rugby Coaching.
Whatever combination of exercises and drills you choose, there is no escaping the fact that to be the best needs practice and commitment. Diet will also play a big part, so lay off the alcohol and the Friday night takeaway for a few weeks − if you are not out training, there are some great international games to watch on the TV!