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Tuesday Jun 28, 2016

Rugby Training Mistakes: The Weight On The Bar

This week Rugbydump Academy S&C Coach TJ Jankowski looks at two basic errors that guys make when initially getting to the gym. One being not adding weight to the bar and the other, adding so much weight that technique drops. We look at how and why these are both critical training errors the must be corrected.

If there’s one principle of training that needs to be adhered to in your training, it is that of progressive overload. This is just a fancy way of saying “do more each week”.

The Basics

Training makes you better as a result of stimulus and adaptation, you give your body a challenge and it then adapts so that challenge becomes easier next time i.e. you get stronger. But in order to keep getting stronger (or faster, bigger, more explosive etc) you need to keep making the challenge more difficult in order to keep adapting.

Overload

It sounds easy enough right? But you’d be amazed at the amount of people who muck this up. To be fair there’s a couple of ways that this can go wrong, all demonstrated by me in my first few weeks of training.

I was 16 and was given a programme by my coach. He ran me through each exercise stating why we were doing it and it all seemed simple enough so I was pretty confident in what I was doing. I took a photo of the programme on my phone so there was no need to take my coaches pack that he put together for me, I didn’t want it taking up important protein shake space in my bag!

This was mistake number one, I didn’t keep a log of the weights I was using – you think remembering weights is easy, it’s not.

“Did I use 26s last week or was it 24s?”
“Screw it, we’ll use 26s”

*completes set*

“That seemed pretty hard, maybe it was 24s, let’s go down”

*after the session checks original log*

“Oh, I was using 28s last week? That can’t be right”

This would be an all-too-regular occurrence when I first started training. Sometimes it would result in my lifting less, sometimes more, sometimes the same, but basically I never was really sure.

Then there was the rep-ranges that the coach gave in the programme – “6-8 reps” or “8-12 reps” – as I wasn’t tracking accurately sometimes I would do 8 reps, sometimes 12 and others in between.

All of this meant that I wasn’t sticking to the principle of Progressive Overload because the weight wasn’t necessarily increasing, and neither were the reps.

If you’re not using the principle of progressive overload you are simply wasting your time in the gym. The whole idea of training is to get better, so make sure you do it.

This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to add weight or reps every single week, technique improvements could be enough. Another concept I failed to grasp in my first few weeks.

Technique First Weight Second

My coach had told me that I needed to get my weights up and get stronger, so I did. Each session I was adding minimum 5kg onto everything, time to stop being a big girl’s blouse. Problem with that was I started to ignore what I was actually supposed to be doing.

Bench press looked more like a slight shrug of the chest, pull-downs would have me violently throwing my body down the yank the cable down, and my squats were so shallow I still get embarrassed thinking about them.

People would tell me that I would be better off using lighter weights and perfect the technique, but I knew better than them… it’s all about who can lift the most right? Wrong!

Those people were right tell me, just as I’m here telling you that sound technique is the most important thing when training.

It takes a bit of a hit to the ego, but using sound technique with the right range of motion is going to produce better results than just constantly upping the weight with no regard.

The most important reason why you need to use sound technique is that you want to avoid injuries.

Getting injured in rugby is costly, it’s going to cost you valuable time on the pitch, training field and in the gym. These are all incredibly important if you’re going to improve.

Good technique is going to build muscle in all the right places to ensure that you have as slim a chance as possible of getting injured on the pitch. It’s prehab 101 – perform movements properly.

Not only is bad technique giving you an extra injury risk when you play, but you have a much higher risk of injuring yourself doing that very movement! Forcing heavier weight by using poor form places extra force through joints that aren’t equipped to take that force. These joints can’t take this for very long before something gives, more time injured…

Now there may be some of you reading this thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, you’re young, or you’re Ironman and you think that there’s little chance of you getting injured. Ok, well you still must use correct technique because it is actually going to get you better results.

Correct technique will allow you to use the most amount of force on the muscle (not the joints) that will allow you to get the most amount of adaptation, AKA you get better.

Too often I see ego lifters lifting more weight and sacrificing form in order to do it. Realise that this is also sacrificing gains. It’s damaging for the ego, but one of the quickest ways I’ve helped people get stronger is by lightening the weight and performing the movements correctly.

If you squat high, or bench with the bar not coming all the way down to your chest, or row by throwing your whole body into the move, it’s possibly because you’re too weak to do the movement properly. Lighten the weight and build yourself back up.

Summary

Progressive overload is a fine balance for you to make as a lifter. With smart programming it should be simple enough, but it should always be at the forefront of your mind when training.

Adding weight to the bar is definitely very important if you want to become a better player. It is NOT more important than using the correct technique; this needs to be number one if you want to get anything out of your training.

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