Training for Rugby
By: Ryan Carleton
Rugby was first introduced to me while completing my internship at Athletic Performance Fresno in Clovis, California. A recent college graduate and football player from Western Illinois University, it would have been my first year in over a decade that I didn’t participate in a sport. Luckily a handful of the local men's rugby club members trained where I was interning, and eventually sold me on giving rugby a try. I figured that if anything it would give me a better idea on exercises to utilize when I trained them.
I immediately fell in love with the game. It was somewhat like football, only better! You never stop going. There's constant action, and even when you're not directly apart of it, you've better be moving to keep with your teams pattern. After my first sevens match I remember thinking, "Shit, this game makes football seem like nothing."
Now I obviously don't mean that football is easy in comparison to rugby. They're both great sports, but a competitor can't expect to train specifically for football and see the same results in rugby. They're different beasts. I had the explosiveness that’s crucial in football and has it's benefits with rugby, but the constant movement of the match was something I had never experienced. I didn't have the time to stand there and recover between plays like I was use to, and by the time the 2nd half hit so did that feeling like I was going to puke.
That's when I knew I had to change up my methods of training. I had to keep my explosiveness, but needed to improve my active recovery ability. Being that rugby is such a diverse sport with likeness to popular American sports such as football, basketball, soccer and wrestling; there was plenty of training methods to pull from. I continued to use popular powerlifting speed techniques twice a week to maintain and improve explosiveness and added German volume training to help maintain my size which suffered slightly with the addition of my cardio training.
My cardio training wasn't a typical cardio routine such as a 5 mile run or jumping on the elliptical. I took pointers from my friend and pro boxer Joe Louie Lopez who is a cardio machine. He did/does a ton of cross training activities. (Not Crossfit) Doing biomechanically safe movements that would exhaust both the muscles and the lungs. This worked wonders for my physical ability in the matches. I would come out explosive and with the time put in at the gym, I'd be able to stay explosive well into the 2nd half. When the fifteens season started, my preparedness in the gym created the opportunity for me to win the first 5 man of the match awards that season.
I like to think that training for rugby is a lot like training for a power lifting competition and triathlon at the same time. You have to be strong, explosive and fast with the ability to maintain that level for an entire 80 minute match. A task that becomes easier, the harder and smarter you train.
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