Conditioning in lower level rugby
The Rugby Magazine speaks to NHS Physio and amateur rugby player Luke Squire about how to ensure you are in peak condition throughout the season.
Prior to the actual club pre season beginning is the time that players need to take it upon themselves to get into a good condition, or at least one that won't embarrass them before the coach sees them!
This tends to involve plenty of strength, cardiovascular and range of movement work with a focus on gaining power, speed and agility. However, everyone seems to be obsessed with size at the moment, and this really shouldn't be the case as regular strength exercises incorporating plenty of core work can actually lead you to being more than strong enough on the rugby field.
Off & Pre Season
A long season can often result in various niggles and sometimes even serious injury. The off season is the time to really take care of these issues if they have been plaguing you through the season. It is imperative that you consult a physio (either club, NHS or private) who can help you with rehabilitation and ensuring that everything you do in the gym is tailored improve your ailment rather; rather than brazenly going into the gym and doing even more damage by lifting incorrectly.
Hopefully, when your club's pre season rolls around you will already be in good shape and able to perform well in any pre season fitness testing. Your club will have an effective regime ready to go for pre season, which will hopefully include game oriented pulse raising exercises, and preferably no static stretching - this is the time when you take everything you have done in the off-season and incorporate it into a rugby environment. This means ensuring that your key skills and decision making endure under the strain of physical activity pushing your mind and body to the limits. If you have prepared yourself well enough, your body will not reach these limits again until towards the end of the season, when months of fatigue and collisions begin to take their toll.
Throughout the season
Strangely, one area that is often neglected during the season is range of movement exercises. This involves pre and post training exercises that will lower the pulse rate and cool the body down and reduce any lactic acid build up. It is important that any injuries are reported immediately, especially if they have occurred at work or the gym for example; physios and rehab staff are there to help remember, and even injuries sustained whilst away from the field can be effectively rehabed with the right exercises. If you are suffering with an injury, if it is a debilitating injury in any way, it is important that you do not continue to play on it and potentially damage yourself more. The age old rugby adage (and you are a liar if you say you have not experienced this) is that if they 'won't let me play,' I'll just get taped up, take some strong pain killers and get on with it! There is absolutely no substitute for allowing proper rehab times to take their course. The only person you are hindering is yourself.
It is also important that coaches and club physios are kept up to date with your injury record; if a club has a full medical record for each player, even unofficially, it will only benefit the club and players in the long run. This is also true of any allergies or conditions (even family medical history) in case of emergency. If possible, the club should have a named pitch side first aider - this will normally be the club physio - and good game day and training injury protocols.