How to get the most out of pre-season training

After a summer of holidays, overeating, beer and the occasional BBQ, attention begins to turn to the dreaded pre-season training. The initial thoughts of pre-season are usually ‘shit, need to get fit, lets go for a long plodding run’. But why is this seen as the norm? Lets take a step back for a minute and compare the game of rugby to this type of training that we do. What are the similarities? None, bar the run we do to the changing rooms or when being substituted, so why do we continue to use this type of training when it resembles what a marathon runner does, when a rugby player needs to be big, strong, powerful and fast? It makes no sense and doesn’t offer the required stimulus or overload situations, which are fundamental principles of training. With the development of sports science, GPS monitors and readily available literature, there is no reason that specific training cannot be implemented by amateur players as well as the professionals.

Because of the new development of GPS monitors we are able to see the distance that players run and the intensities in which they complete it, in a sport specific format. This is important as all sports have different distance covered, intensities and physical demands. Therefore their training needs are different and should be tailored that way. Before we discuss what type of training is needed it is important to select a venue. Rugby is played on a grass pitch, so why do people often do their runs on roads or even worse a treadmill? Reports have suggested that although the surface that you run on does not have a significant impact upon fitness levels, they do not cater for the unpredictable nature of changing directions and speeds. If you are on a treadmill you will only be able to run forwards and changing speed takes too long and will not provide adequate stimulus for maximizing fitness levels. Road running will enable you to change speed, but not change direction, as you will likely get run over! Therefore use a grass pitch! This will not only provide a realistic playing environment but also act as a motivational factor and break your boots back in after being in the cupboard covered in mud all summer!

Now we know the venue, we can now look at the types of training we can do. A study by Sykes et al (2013) developed a match simulated rugby league protocol-training plan. Before we go any further I’d like to point out that studies have found that rugby league and rugby union players have almost identical physiological demands! They used pervious data and GPS monitors to assess the player’s demands during a game. They found that players completed an average distance of between 8,132m and 8,800m a game through a mixture of running, walking, jogging and sprinting. Interestingly players completed around 500m of very high intensity/sprinting and 1622m of high intensity running (what we called 75% speed). Only 4.2% of the game however involved collisions or tackle. Following this they were able to design an appropriate training protocol which has been praised for its ability to replicate the demands of a real life elite game, the fact that it is easy to use and replicate and can be used as an effective training tool for non-elite level players.

The protocol comprises of walking, jogging, high intensity running, sprinting and simulated contact which is laying down on the floor face down and getting back up as quickly as possible (this have been shown to have the same physiological demands as completing a tackle). The training takes as long as a normal game would with a 10-minute rest halfway through to replicate half time. The system is split into two parts. Part A replicates the game when the ball is in play, with part B replicating when the ball is out of play. Each section takes 2mins 10seconds to complete and will be repeated a total of 40 times (each section compromises of completing part A twice and part B once).

Part A

10.5m jog- yellow to red cone, followed by a 180 turn.

10.5m walk- red to yellow cone, followed by a 180 turn.

20.5m sprint- yellow to blue cone.

8m deceleration to white cone, followed by simulate contact (down and up off the ground).

13m jog- white to green cone.

15.5m walk- green to yellow cone

Repeat this twice before completing part B.

Part B

10.5m walk- yellow to red cone, followed by a 180 turn.

10.5m walk- red to yellow cone, followed by a 180 turn.

6 second rest at yellow cone.

15.5m jog- yellow to green cone, followed by a 180 turn.

15.5m walk- green to yellow cone.

5 seconds rest at yellow cone.

Repeat for 20 circuits or to 40 minutes, before taking 10 minutes rest then repeat again to complete a total of 40 circuits or 80 minutes.

The instructions may look hard to follow but after running the first two circuits they will become engrained into your brain! This sort of training will is intermittent and Intermittent is preferred to steady state running as it better replicates the real life game and uses the anaerobic system, different muscle fiber types and energy production, will provide you will unbelievable fitness results and should be completed two times a week for the best results.

After doing this training during pre-season, next seasons fitness levels will be much better than this year and you will able to focus upon developing more important things, like strength and power. Enjoy!


[alert type=”blue”]Author: Scott Freeman[/alert]


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