Before becoming the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach with the San Francisco 49ers, Coach Barnes used to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of California.
While there, he oversaw the strength and conditioning of their renowned rugby team. Here is the pre-season conditioning program that he had set up for them during his tenure at UC Berkeley.
The physical demands of rugby vary depending on the control of play, the athlete's position, environmental conditions and other unforeseen variables. Therefore, taking a methodical and scientific approach to conditioning is vital.
At the University of California at Berkeley the training program is a joint effort between the rugby team coaching staff and the strength and conditioning staff that has resulted in a comprehensive model for year-round training. The 9-week, pre-season training program that was implemented before the in-season spring semester is described below.
The training program is based on the concept of periodization, which manipulates frequency, duration, intensity, volume and specificity.
Definitions of terms are as follows:
Frequency: Number of training sessions per week.
Duration: Length of an individual training session.
Intensity: Relates to the amount of weight lifted as compared to a single repetition max (i.e. 85 percent, 90 percent), the rest interval between repetitions in the conditioning program (i.e. 30 seconds rest between sprints) and the percentage of maximal sprinting speed.
Volume: Number of repetitions performed during a specific time period.
- Biomechanical performing exercises involving movements similar to those used in the sport (speed of movement, joint angle, forces incurred).
- Bioenergetic - training the same energy systems (aerobic, anaerobic) specific to the objective.
Periodization can be used both to peak and to avoid overtraining.
The 9-week pre-season training program can be divided into three sections: weight training, plyometrics and conditioning. The objective was to design a program that combines these three components and improve the total athleticism of the team.
The benefits of weight training have been documented repeatedly. Some of these benefits include increased joint stability/injury prevention, enhanced speed, coordination, power and improved self-confidence. The primary emphasis of weight training for the upper extremities (shoulders, chest, back and arms) is protection from injury by increasing strength and size.
The emphasis on the torso increases strength and spine stability.
For the legs and hips, the goal is to develop explosive strength for the hip flexors and extensors, and maintain or acquire balance between the quadricep and hamstring muscle groups.
The weight training routine was adjusted to elicit a five to ten percent increase in strength, although greater gains can be achieved. The core exercises are executed on a percentage scale to avoid overtraining and prevent staleness. Athletes did not use percentages for the clean and snatch exercises because most of them were learning the exercises for the first time.
The percentages depicted on the weight training routine are based on testing prior to the nine weeks. It should also be noted that the sets and reps are only the work sets.
A logical warm-up progression should be completed before attempting any heavy work sets. The weight training routine is detailed in Table 1, which is broken down for the two rugby positions, forwards and backs.
Plyometrics are defined as exercises that are characterized by powerful muscular contractions in response to rapid, dynamic loading or stretching of the involved muscles.
Examples of plyometric movements are jumping for a rebound in basketball, a tumbling pass in gymnastics and a springboard dive.
Plyometrics can be done for the upper body as well as the torso. The degree of sprinting at maximal speeds can be defined as a plyometric exercise in Rugby, which is a game of speed, power and explosion.
The approach to the conditioning segment of the training is threefold:
- Sprint training
- Run specific training for rugby
- Long and slow distance running. The conditioning segments of the routine are to be done three days per week, preferably day one on Monday, day two on Thursday, and day three on either Saturday or Sunday.
Justification for each of the conditioning days is as follows:
Sprint training. Specifically conditions the anaerobic pathway. Also included on this day is stadium running which is used as a speed enhancement exercise because of the exaggerated hip flexion. The stadium had 50 steps, each 18 inches high. A rugby match may last for 90 minutes and include many short bursts of high intensity. Therefore, conditioning for these intervals is essential for developing sprint-speed endurance.
Run specific training for rugby. This day is used to simulate rugby play. As previously stated, there is continuous running with short burst of high intensity sprinting in rugby.
Therefore, this day of continuous running with sprint intervals is specific to a game situation.
At the University of California at Berkeley athletes were conditioned on the football field for convenience. The sprints are to be done at 95 to 100 percent maximal speed, and jogging at 50 to 60 percent maximal speed.
Long distance running. The conditioning focuses on building aerobic endurance. Athletes are encouraged to make the run as enjoyable as possible, using trails and cross-country runs through hills and wooded terrain. This is ideal for variation in a training routine. Running on uneven surfaces (trails, dirt roads, grass) is excellent for strengthening the ankles and surrounding muscles.
Weight Training Program For Rugby
The University of California rugby team will continue to be in peak physical condition at the beginning of each competitive season. It is vital to keep open the lines of communication between the coach, the strength and conditioning staff, the team medical staff and the athletes. Keep in mind that there are different circumstances for each setting and it is up to the coaches to utilize the available sources.