Newcastle-based fitness experts and Falcons player sponsors Storm Fitness give their advice on strength training for would-be rugby players.
The performance department at Storm Fitness is made up of ex-professional rugby players Spencer Davey and Lome Fa-atau, both of whom are in an excellent position to provide fitness and conditioning advice for budding rugby players. Spencer recently asked us to share his advice on strength training:
When we first discover strength training we all want to train the muscles we can see in the mirror. As a kid, for me the most “valuable” exercises were the machine chest press and the leg extension. I would usually finish sessions with as many sit-ups as I could do, rest, then another two sets of as many sit-ups as I can do.
Sounds good right? Err no!
Sit-ups, in my humble opinion, are a recipe for back pain and movement issues. To make them effective in building strength or hypertrophy (getting bigger), we need to perform such high reps that it becomes an endurance exercise, neither building strength nor muscle. Hi-repetition sit-ups create the wrong curvature of the spine and scar tissue on the lower ribs; also, by performing huge amounts of sit-ups, we tighten the psoas (or hip flexor) which needs a degree of flexibility for sports performance. Looking at the body from a joint by joint perspective, the core needs to be stable or “stiff”. Therefore I believe that training for sport should be largely about stopping the core moving against a force rather than about creating movement through it. Generally if we have too much movement in our lower back we will experience tightness between our shoulder blades neck and or hips.
Would you thank yourself for the way you are training now in five years? How about ten? I’m not encouraging you to plan your retirement, but we do have to live with the consequences of today’s actions tomorrow, so please, take my advice! Here are a few ideas; Single arm farmers walk and single arm kettle bell carry This is good for anti-sagittal flexion which will help when trying to maintain forward momentum whilst a tackler attempts to bring you down!
Rotational strength training Next up is my personal favorite for making people aware they have an iliacus (one of the key muscles in your hip) and for making you WAY stronger against rotational forces. Rotational strength is often neglected in programing for team sports athletes however get strong in these movements and you will quickly see your performance transform!
Pavlov press And finally, here is the anti-extension version; I think some would call it the Pavlov press. This involves a lot of interaction between what we would generally term the “core” muscles, the lats and the triceps; perfect for those who want to be strong in the air like lineout jumpers and full backs!
Lome and Spencer played top level rugby for over ten years before becoming accomplished strength coaches.