darren dawidiuk

Name: Darren Dawidiuk

Age: 29

Position: Hooker

Club: Gloucester

When and how did you get started with rugby?

I started rugby at the age of 11. I went to watch my older brother Dan play, and just wanted to copy him like most younger brothers do. That week my brother took me down the park to practice passing and tackling, then on the weekend my Dad took me to Truro rugby club. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What keeps you motivated?

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Playing for my family and playing for Gloucester and what the club means to the community. I’m also hungry to keep on improving and learning, this keeps me motivated as well as being in competition within the training squad and players going for the same position.

What’s your training routine?

Monday: Lower body weight, rugby field session, recovery
Tuesday: Upper body weights, forwards units session, team session, recovery
Wednesday: Recovery, swim, light upper body weight session (optional)
Thursday: Plyometrics / Olympic lifting, rugby session
Friday: Team run
Saturday: Game day
Sunday: Rest and Recovery

Bonus: Get your FREE rugby specific strength training program to improve on-field performance. Click here to download. 

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If you had to choose one exercise per body part, what would they be and why?

Upper Body: Chin Ups

It’s the best exercise to work the back muscles, it works more muscle groups than using machines, great for grip strength and forces you to handle your own body weight. Also builds muscle mass for biceps haha.

Lower Body: Squats

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Personally, I feel squats are the best exercise that transfers onto the rugby pitch, it doesn’t just strengthen your legs, it works pretty much the whole body. It’s great for your core and mobility at the hip, knee and ankle.

How do you balance adding muscle and strength in a way that it doesn’t hinder your on-field performance? Many amateur players are packing on size but it doesn’t convert well to on-field performance. Thoughts on this?

On this point, I think it’s important to know when it’s right to hit gym sessions hard and when to taper off. Ideally, you want to do your hypertrophy sessions on a Monday and the strength session on a Tuesday or Wednesday. If you’re not playing or on the bench on the weekend, you can always fit in an extra pump session on a Thursday. Muscle mass is good but let’s be real, rugby matches are not won in the gym. If you feel you’re doing too much in the week and it’s affecting your rugby on the weekend, definitely don’t hit the gym 3 days before game day. Rest and freshness is key to going 100% come game day.

What’s your typical daily diet like? Does it change in the pre-season compared to in-season?

Morning: Scrambled eggs, avocado, salmon and bagel
Snack: fruit, nuts, seeds or smoothie
Lunch: chicken breast, sweet potato fries, veggies
Dinner: Chicken breast or steamed salmon, broccoli, avocado, rice and peas
Pre-bed: Smoothie

Diet doesn’t change much from pre-season to in season. The only thing that would change is portion size, all depending on intensity of training and rest days.

Do you use supplements? If so, what and why?

Before the gym I usually use BCAAs, creatine and beta alanine. Post gym I like to have whey protein in my smoothies.

Favourite supplement?

Strawberry whey protein is my favourite supplement. It goes really nice with pancakes and smoothies.

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What’s your pre-match music?

Red hot chilli peppers (fave band)

What’s your preparation like before a game?

I just make sure I have a good night’s sleep and get the right fuel in so I know I’ll be 100% ready in body and mind.

Best moment in your rugby career?

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My first start for Gloucester in the prem against Leicester Tigers and playing my 100th game for Gloucester. Won both games

Most challenging match you have played in?

There have been a fair few challenging games in my career but one game that stands out was my first start in the Heineken cup playing away against Toulouse. It was one of the most hostile grounds I’ve ever played at and their pack was full of meatheads and international rugby players.

Have you had any low points in your career? If so, how did you overcome it/them?

The low points have definitely been the injuries I’ve picked up. No one likes being on the sidelines for a number of months but I’ve been lucky to have some of the best physios and S&C coaches that can put you back together and get you fully fit and playing again.

Rugby players seem to get bigger each season. Do you believe bigger is better on the field?

Everyone seems to be taller than me so it’s normal for me to play against bigger players, but over the past few years it does seem like players are getting bigger, fitter and stronger. Young up and coming players seem to be following strict training and nutrition plans and it’s crazy to see what some 18 year old kids are lifting in the gym these days. But, this doesn’t mean it will translate onto the pitch, I truly believe that skill and mentality plays a bigger role. All you have to do is look at George Ford, he’s one of the best but smallest players in the world.

Any final tips and advice?

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Always keep learning and developing your skills as a rugby player. At 29 I’m always learning something new that can better me as a player. Train smart in the gym, listen to your body. For gym tips and programs check out my Instagram @dukeboxgym

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