Rugby is Over; what now?

Sadly, as physios for local rugby teams, the club rugby season of 2022 has come to an end. However, the off-season is just as important as in-season training. Although this is written from the perspective of rugby, the same principles apply to all winter sports. You just need to adapt the exercises to suit your own sporting needs.

We recommend taking a break from intense training, around 4 weeks once your season has finished. The off-season is the time to strengthen and condition, to build your foundation fitness. Rugby is a physically and mentally demanding sport. The amount of contact your body has to endure is huge and the psychological demands to stay focused and make quick decisions all take their toll. It is very easy to want to rest and enjoy the summer, but before you know it, the next season has rolled around.

The benefits of training in the off-season do outweigh the negatives but at the time it is hard to commit to putting the time in. You won’t need to be playing “catch up” for the first half of pre-season training and the chances are you won’t be nursing a bunch of injuries throughout the season. It makes sense that this will lead to more enjoyment playing the game and you will get much more out of your season. We also know the teams with the least injuries achieve greater results. Organised club pre-season training often starts mid- February and with about 4- 6 weeks off at the end of the previous season, that leaves about 24weeks. The start of this should be focused on getting on top of any niggly injuries and a specific plan for you to do to rehabilitate fully.

The aspects you should focus on in your off-season training are:
1. Prehab & Rehab of injuries
2. Aerobic and Anaerobic fitness
3. Initial strength
4. Building muscle & “bulk”

1. Prehab and Rehab
Now is the time to follow up with your physio who spent all season strapping you to get you through the rugby season. You are probably now feeling like your niggly shoulder or sprained ankle that bothered you all season is fine now. But it is super important to rehab your injuries completely, making sure your left and right side is equal in strength, stability, and power. At BIA, we look for movement symmetry and good muscle patterning and function to stop these niggly injuries recurring.

2. Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness
This is your endurance fitness and your sprinting capability. They use different energy systems therefore you must train them separately. Going for a long run, bike or swim will target your aerobic system. Sprinting, interval or fartlek training will target your anaerobic system. Another option at the gym is to reduce your weight, increase your reps and decrease the rest time between sets. You will definitely get a sweat on!

3. Initial Strength Training
This should include a FULL body strength and conditioning programme. This is training the “base of your pyramid” which you will then add position specific training closer to the start of the season. Neck strengthening exercises are a MUST to prevent concussion in the following season.

4. “Bulking”
Once you have developed your base line strength. Now is the time to “bulk” and build muscle (known as hypertrophy). This increase in size and bodyweight will act as a shield to protect yourself from impact of tackles. Now is the time to add those extra plates to the barbell and reduce the reps. Like with all exercise, form is more important than how much weight you lift at the gym. Make sure your nutrition is adequate (probably more than usual at this stage) and you’re taking sufficient rest. We recommend at least 48hrs rest between body parts, so no back-to-back leg days! There is no right or wrong way to begin training. But if you are stuck, come talk to one the physios here at Back in Action, Greerton. We will work with you to develop a training programme for your specific position or sport!

Enjoy the off-season! 🙂

Michelle Dykes