“I need to get fit”, I’m sure we’ve all uttered those words. In the world of Strength & Conditioning (S&C) that statement could mean a multitude of things; Bigger? Stronger? Faster?
For most people that statement is used to describe their aerobic / anaerobic capacity, their ability “to get round the park”, “to play 80 minutes”. For me, a person’s strength is often their limiting factor, not their aerobic capacity, but one of the most frequent questions we are asked here at Rugby Strength Academy is “How do I include aerobic / anaerobic training into my routine”? So let’s explore that question here:
USING TECHNICAL TRAINING SESSIONS:
Most, if not all, of you reading this will take part in technical training sessions probably one, if not two per week. These sessions should form the basis of your aerobic / anaerobic training. The intensity of the drills, exercises and games you participate in should be above that you would expect in a game. If this is not the case, then it needs to be, not only from an S&C point of view but more importantly a motor learning and skill acquisition focus. Can you become sub consciously competent at the basics; catch & pass, tackling, rucking etc To become more efficient and effective and not just running to a ruck thinking “F#@K me I’m tired”
The treadmill, bike or rower are fantastic tools to use but do they replicate the game? Sprinting, putting in a tackle, jumping back to your feet, contesting the ruck, having a short rest then doing it all over again, and again, and again?
Of course there will be times when it is not possible for training intensity to be at the required level; skills need to be broken down, you are running a new shape or structure so need to run through it several times at a slower pace to groove the skill, or the session is very tactically focused so a lot of time is spent in discussion or waiting for your turn in the situation.
In those scenarios can you manipulate the session to work the technical part under fatigue to enhance skill acquisition and motor learning. For example, in tonight’s session for the team I work with, teams will spend 2 minutes with me completing some form of rugby orientated speed / anaerobic conditioning before moving into a technical area to spend 2 minutes running a set pattern or attacking objective before resting and reviewing. They will do this three times, that is 12 minutes of very high quality work, in addition to the other running, moving they will complete in the rest of the session they don’t need any other aerobic / anaerobic capacity training outside of these sessions and can focus on developing muscle mass, strength & strength-speed, speed-strength.
SEPARATING YOUR WORKOUTS:
Some of you will still want to have separate workouts for strength, aerobic / anaerobic capacity and technical sessions. In that scenario I would encourage you to complete high intensity interval (HIIT) sessions, or to put it simply “SPRINTS”! I would attach these to your technical sessions to complete before or after, therefore allowing more time (training sessions) during the week to devote to strength training.
Line drills, 2468 staggered sprints, pyramid shuttles, dirty face sprints are all quick and easy drills you can complete to get the heart and lungs working hard.
For those that still feel the need to pound a treadmill in a health club with the masses then split your time on a treadmill / rower / bike into fast / medium / slow. Try 1 minute easy, 1 minute as high as a resistance as you can whilst maintaining some resemblance of speed, 1 minute as fast as you can, repeat five times.
I view rugby as a strength & power sport NOT an endurance sport. Yes the game is 80 minutes long but it is a game of high intensity intermittent work with insufficient rest. Aerobic / anaerobic capacity is important in rugby performance but in my experience at the sub elite level, strength, strength-speed and speed are the limiting factors not aerobic capacity.
Most people reading this will be of an age and training status where their VO2 Max will not change, or it will be minimal, it is their ability to work at threshold (tolerating high intensity work and recovering from it) that can be manipulated.
We play rugby because we enjoy the sport, not because we enjoy running! Your technical training should form the basis of your aerobic / anaerobic training. Reflect on your training, do you perform at an intensity required or do you just go through the motions? Can you raise your training performance 10% and see what difference that makes? Can you complete 5 – 10 minutes of speed / sprint work at the end of your sessions to increase your aerobic / anaerobic capacity?
I’m not suggesting aerobic training is not important, it is a matter of priority, and given you may have the opportunity to participate in aerobic / anaerobic training up to twice a week (technical training) your priorities outside of those times should reflect that.
Also, just a heads up: you can get our free “Get Bigger for Rugby: 30 Day Workout” here I put together for our players. It uses something called “The Double Rep” method to target and expand the cross-sectional area of individual muscle fibres. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. You can get it here:
Meet Coach Kevin
Kevin Shattock is a professional rugby strength & conditioning coach from Yorkshire, England.
He began his career as a fitness instructor in the Royal Air Force. After receiving the Queen’s Commendation award, he left military life and the United Kingdom. He spent his next years training mountain climbers in the Himalayas.
After returning home to the UK, Kevin became a strength & conditioning coach and developed High Intensity Rugby Training to assist talented players achieve elite performance.
Kevin is one of our official RugbyDump Strength Academy trainers and we’re lucky to have him aboard.