Saturday Jun 4, 2016

Rugby Training Mistakes: Specificity - Not Doing YOU

Last week Rugbydump Academy trainer TJ spoke about how each position has different demands, and that we as rugby players should adapt our training to meet them. Today he looks at focussing your training on your own specific needs.

Perhaps once you read it (you have read it, right? Ok cool), you may have begun to think “Well if I’m arranging my training to suit my position, what else do I need to consider that might alter my programme?”.

Actually, I’m not sure many of you at all are thinking that, but you should be.

You see, as easy as it is to just use someone else’s training plan, it might not be effective. What works for one person, might not work for you. If it did, someone would’ve figured out the most effect routine and we’d all be doing it!

You may have heard the analogy before that a training programme is like a car – it’s the vehicle that you use to get towards YOUR goals (or destination). Well how about we look at the car we are and consider whether it’s going to work to get to our goals.

1. YOUR Goals

Remember your goal is specific to you, a specific place, only you need to get to this place so why would you use the same method of transport as someone else?

I touched on this last week, but it’s not only position that dictates what you need to do in the gym. Your individual goal is also important, some players need to be building a base, some need to do some movement work to prevent injury from happening, some may just need to get stronger.

Basically there’s endless possibilities at what is going to make up the goal that you want to achieve.

Arbitrarily following someone else’s programme doesn’t consider your goal and won’t help you achieve it.

2. Training Age

I guess you can look at it like this – you are now the car. If you’ve been driving the car for a long time and still continue to rag it and drive it like a numpty, it will break down. The older a car is, the more often you’ll need to take it in for a service. You younger guys can have a bit more fun and get away with it because your car is new, older guys have to be smarter about how to drive.

That’s about as far as I can take this analogy. Training age essentially refers to how long you’ve been training, you need to organize your training in order to maximize your results, not just for now – but for the years to come.

Young guys should have the priority of building a base, this means establishing good technique and basic strength in the basic lifts. Because you’re new to all of this, your body is going to respond tremendously – your strength will go up and this will help you perform better on the pitch.

General work is fantastic for your first few years of training. Rarely is there a need to push the boat out, so if you’re new to lifting, listen up – don’t be tempted by all of the “advanced training plans” that you see, pick a smart, basic programme and stick with it.

As you get older a few things come into play. Firstly, what worked really well when you were a newb no longer cuts it. The older you are (in training years) the more you need to be specific to your goals on the pitch.

This means if you want to get faster, you can’t just do a few squats, you’ll need to do some specific power work, maybe some resisted sprints. This is ok though, because you have the base already built from when you were younger, so that only needs to be topped up every so often (in the off-season).

The other issue that comes about as you age is your fatigue management.

An older athlete will have to deload and take lighter days more often than their younger counterparts. This is simply because the older you are the harder it is for your body to handle the fatigue that training causes. Another reason why your training has to be more rugby (and goal) specific.

3. Genetics

I don’t want to rub this point into your face, I just need you to be aware of it. Again, you are the car, you can’t set a pace in Bugatti Veyron and expect a Fiat Picanto to keep up.

I remember when I was in my early days of lifting, I saw Jay Cutler’s training programme in a magazine and thought I’d try it. Suffice to say I still haven’t stepped on the Mr Olympia stage.

Some people can tolerate an obscene amount of training volume and keep improving, others can get amazing progress from a few sets a week. Just because this happens for these people, it doesn’t mean it will apply to you.

How your body responds should be greatly indicative of how you should train.

Going back to the cars, this is not to say that the Fiat cannot reach the destination if it plans it’s journey well, but if it tries to keep up with the Bugatti it may risk crashing.

4. Time Of Your Season

Training during the season is like needing your car to make a huge trip, but also be able to partake in a brutal race every week. Your priority here is to be performing at race-best every Saturday (or whenever your game is).

This means if you go for a spin the day before and max it out, you’re probably not going to get the best out of your car come game time. You also will need to spend a lot of the week maintaining the car rather than pushing it to your destination.

The good thing about being in-season is that you get to play rugby every week. The bad thing (in terms of training) is that you’ll spend much of your time recovering from your last game and preparing for the next one.

This is not to say you can’t progress during the season (especially newbs) BUT you must manage your fatigue and training volume to allow for that to happen.

More low-intensity sessions is a good idea here, another one is to utilise shorter high-intensity sessions – basically cut your working sets to around half, you can gradually work back up if you find yourself feeling fine.

Off-season (where most Northern Hemisphere people are now) is where you can push the training. You can have a bit of fatigue and still train because you have no game to be at your best for, so take advantage of that.

5. Time Available

One final thing you can need to consider is the fact that you’ll have different time constraints to others. Again, this can affect your training in a number of ways.

The obvious one is the time you have available to train. If you only can get to the gym 3 times a week, there’s no use in imitating someone’s plan who is in the gym 6 days a week. I think whilst that one seems obvious, what isn’t so obvious is your time away from training.

This is another part of fatigue management. If you are not a professional player, you have to work – this work, no matter what it is, is going to interfere a little with your recovery capabilities.

On top of work we have family obligations and basically any other things you do day-to-day that might stress you out. Stress is the killer of gains, so stage one here is to just try to not be stressed. Aside from that you’ll have to consider lowering the volume the more you have going on, and being ok with that.

Again, like the other points, this is not to say that if you don’t have lots of time available that you won’t get to your destination. It just might take more planning and perhaps a bit longer.

It’s become a very popular thing now with social media to share workouts and training plans. This is great for you to either get insight, or just some inspiration. But always remember that your plan is YOUR plan.

Try and consider the above points when planning what you’re going to do. Let us know what your goals are, what you need to consider in the comments below. I’d love to give you some help… Then get after it!

About TJ Jankowski

TJ Jankowski is a former international rugby player for Poland rugby, who achieved their highest world ranking of 23 whilst he was part of the team.
Never the most talented player, he attributes the majority of his success to the hard work he put in at the gym, kitchen and training paddock. 

It was this reward from hard work that led him to become a coach and help other achieve greater success than he could. He prides himself on coaching and creating plans for people in the real world, not with robots.

TJ has worked with international rugby players from 4 different continents and we are thrilled to announce that he can help you as part of the Rugbydump Academy


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