Archive for December, 2014

S&C for Rugby: a snap shot

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

 In rugby there are many different elements of physical fitness that need to be developed, and (depending on player training age) a conjugate style of training can be used effectively within season to ensure progress is achieved. The video below is a good example of a conjugate style of training.

Enjoy :-)


Speed Agility & Quickness (SAQ)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

 Strength and conditioning isn’t just about getting athletes stronger and fitter. There’s the corrective exercise element as well as the speed and agility element.

Below is a simple drill I use for rugby players to get them ready for a SAQ session. The players start a meter apart and have 10m width to negotiate. The attacking player has up to 10s to ‘go’. In that time he is trying to off balance his opponent before accelerating through a gap. If the opposing player can make contact with his elbow or higher (hand doesn’t count) then he has defended successfully. Likewise, the attacker wins if he can accelerate through a gap or only gets touched by a hand and nothing else.


The FMT Athlete Christmas Wish List Guide

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Some people can struggle for ideas when it comes to asking Santa what they would like for Christmas. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for my family, I don’t have that problem. However, that’s another story for a different day. Today I can tell you that if you’re an FMT athlete that has 80% attendance or above, you’re on the ‘nice’ list and the jolly man in the red suit will be visiting your home this year. With that in mind, here are some ideas of what to ask if you want to maximise your potential.

1.       Weightlifting Shoes
S&C isn’t going anywhere. If you’re training to be better at your sport and are supported by my training then chances are you are going to be lifting weights and going through physical preparation training for a while. When you play rugby, what do you wear on your feet? When you play football, what do you wear on your feet? So when you’re lifting weights, why are you wearing running shoes? Lifting shoes are durable and provide a solid heel which is preferable so there is no loss of energy/ force when exerting in a heavy or fast movement. Additionally, lifting shoes can give you a little more room when it comes to mobility and can bring the torso into a more upright position on the lifts. People may argue that you should be working on ankle mobility/ hip mobility to attain a more upright lifting posture; however, as a FMT athlete you’ll know that you are drilling mobility in-between the core lifts as ‘filler’ exercises, so we have that covered. Bottom line is that the shoes will last years, give you a solid surface to push off and potentially allow you to hit better positions.

 2.       Vitamin D Supplementation
If you live in Scotland, take your sport seriously and it’s winter time, you should be supplementing with Vitamin D (3). During the winter months we Scots don’t see much sunlight. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I spend more than 10mins in the Sun – bad hu? Unless you’re regularly visiting sun beds (not recommended) then chances are you’re Vitamin D deficient.  When you read the word vitamin you’ll probably think along the lines of good for the immune system, and you would be right. However, Vitamin D is also involved in protein synthesis, cellular growth and regulation of muscle. That’s why it has had a lot of attention in research over the last few years and that’s why it’s recommended (2). As with anything, the dose is the poison. So how much should you take? That depends on how much you’re deficient, however, 1000–2000 IU/day serves as a general guide with Vitamin D3 being the preferred choice (1, 4).

 3.       Under Armour
This point is a lot more digestible than the last (excuse the pun). Under Amour or any other company that offers base layers is desirable if you’re training with me in Aberdeen as our facility is great, but cold. Really cold. Get some gear that’s not going to restrict your movements while helping to keep you warm. Simple.

 4.       Consistency
Ask Santa, your partner, family or even your boss to respect that you’ve got to prepare for your sport. Don’t find the time, make the time. Being consistent is half the battle for creating favourable adaptations, with the other half being hard work. It’s that simple, turn up each week and work hard. Your club has hired me to provide you with intelligent programme design coupled with good coaching. You also have one of the best facilities in Scotland at your disposal. Don’t be daft, use this opportunity and make the most of it while you can. Give me consistency and we will work towards your genetic athletic potential.

 There you have it: four decent ideas to fill your Christmas list. Remember I’ll be running sessions right up until the 22nd of Dec. Keep in mind point 4 and I’ll see you soon!

Armas, L. A., Hollis, B.W. & Heaney, R.P. 2004.  Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 89(11): pp. 5387 – 5391.

 Cannell, J. J., Hollis, B. W., Sorenson, M. B., Taft, T. & Anderson, J. 2009. Athletic Performance and Vitamin D. Medicine and Science in sports and Exercise. 41(5): pp. 1102-1110.

 Close, G. & Morton, J. 2011. Do UK based athletes require vitamin D supplementation? The United Kingdom strength and conditioning association journal. 22: pp. 17-20

Ogan, D. & Pritchett, K. 2013. Vitamin D and the Athlete: Risks, Recommendations, and Benefits. Nutrients Jrnl, 5(6): 1856–1868

Five Must Do Movements for Rugby Players

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

It’s no secret that rugby players tend to be heavier now than they were in the amateur era (1, 2). Even watching footage from the 1990’s is enough to see that the average body mass has increased.  Strength and conditioning science can take a bow for creating an improved physiological profile of a rugby player; however, what happens to up-and-coming amateurs that lack strength & conditioning support due to lack of funding?

Having worked with several semi-professional rugby squads I know from experience that there are numerous players in a position where they are on the fringes of professional rugby, yet don’t have the support to maximise their athletic potential and dominate at a higher level. To combat this problem players take it upon themselves and get to work in the gym. That sounds good and is admirable as well as highly desirable; however, there are ways to train for rugby, and ways not to train for rugby. Rugby is a contact sport and what wins contact? The force. Now before you think I’m getting all Master Yoda on you and you try to start moving spaceships with your mind, remember that lesson you learned at school physics where force = mass x acceleration?

In rugby, that’s what we want. A mass that is moving quickly – think Jonah Lomu. I would argue when Jonah arrived on the scene there was a shift in the rugby paradigm which made people realise that it’s possible (and favourable) to be BIG and QUICK, hence why modern professionals are generally heavier than their counterparts of the amateur era. Due to the fact that rugby demands speed, strength and size to win in the contact, it’s important that the staple exercises in a rugby programme reflect that.

In a past post I highlighted why rugby players shouldn’t train like bodybuilders, in this post my aim is to provide five exercises which should form the staple of a healthy rugby player’s strength and conditioning programme regardless of position.

BN Push Press
A push press encourages hypertrophy as greater loads can be used when utilising the whole of the kinetic chain compared to a strict (no leg movement) press. Pushing from the BN neck position forces players into an open (chest stretched position) and promotes a drive through the mid-part of the foot (where maximal force can be applied). Additionally, holding a heavy weight above head will promote shoulder stability and trunk strength. Furthermore a push press, done correctly, allows a player to have ‘controlled contact’ as the whole body should absorb the impact of the barbell on the descent.

Back Squat
Back squats are a widely accepted exercise for just about every sport. Again, trunk strength is developed indirectly whist training the lower body and thoracic musculature (if engaged properly). The back squat lends itself well to strength training; however, variations can be used to encourage whatever adaptation is required. In the back squat we are looking for the axis of the hip to drop below the axis of the knee, provided proper technique can be maintained. This style of squat encourages mobility as well as strength and carries over to sport as all the musculature of the lower body is involved. It’s very feasible to aim to squat 1.5 x bodyweight after 18months of training (without injury to that area). I give that statistic as an easily obtainable goal (provided you’re actually training) even considering an increase in mass (lean muscle mass gain due to training).

Clean Variation
The clean and its variations fall under the ‘strength-speed’ of the strength continuum and are great for rugby players to develop power because it is a velocity dependant movement (and F=ma remember). Similar to BN Push Press, this exercise also offers hypertrophy adaptations if the frequency is high enough and the load is varied. Again, cleans as provide a controlled and predicable movement for the body to absorb impact – shoulders first.  There are arguments that say the clean is a technical move and that it’s pointless for athletes to learn unless they’re weightlifters. Here’s the thing though: the clean offers an easily quantifiable and linear method to developing power. My opinion is that the variations of a clean are essential if you’re planning on training athleticism for more than just one year. Oh, and the movement isn’t too technical if you have a good coach that can show you how :-) .

Pull Up/ Chin Up
It makes sense that if you’re pressing heavy above head you should stay balanced and be able to pull a decent weight starting with your hand above your head, right? The reality is that pull ups assist in keeping shoulders healthy and from a performance aspect, strong elbow flexors and a strong upper back makes it easier to rip and steal ball when the time comes. The pull up is a relative strength exercise and loosely correlates to sprint speed. Here is the minimum I would be happy with from a bodyweight pull up test…
Front 5: 5reps +        Back Row: 10reps +             Inside Backs: 12 reps +       Outside Backs: 10reps+

Rollout Variation
It’s no secret a strong core is essential to transfer the force generated through the lower body into the upper extremities, allowing for a big collision in optimal posture. The reason I value rollout variations is due to it being an anti flexion and anti extension drill. Like a srum, you must keep braced and maintain a neutral spine. Similarly, if someone barges into you and you’ve trained rollouts it should allow you to maintain your core integrity and deal with the collision as a whole body movement – as oppose to crumpling like a deck of cards. If coached correctly the rollout can offer some shoulder health benefits as a posterior scapular tilt will require the serratus anterior and rhomboids to work in synergy while the arms move in and out.

While it is out with the scope of this article to discuss every aspect of physical rugby preparation, it is important to keep in mind the concept that force wins contact and a modern day rugby player needs to develop both elements (acceleration and mass) therefore can’t be stuck in a body part training split. If you are one of the good guys and are proactive in going to the gym, make sure you seek out a coach who can teach you the above moves, and get good at them. The exercises are selected because they have high mileage, be progressive. Get strong and fast.



1) Olds, T. The evolution of physique in male rugby union players in the twentieth century. J Sports Science 19: 253  -262, 2001
2) Sedeaud, A., Marc, A., Schipman, J., Tafflet, M., Hager, J. P., and Toussaint, J., How they won a Rugby World Cup through height, mass and collective experience. British Journal of Sports Medicine 46: 580 – 584, 2012