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Pre-season | Week 2: Getting serious
Use this session to focus on position-specific skills. Then challenge all levels of fitness by splitting up fit, quite fit and unfit players.
Now the players will be getting back into the swing of things, and so will you. After the first session you will have a good idea of how fit (or unfit!) your players are.
In this session you will split the players up into groups, first based on rough playing positions and then on their fitness levels. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all fitness session, so try to meet the needs of the individuals in this work out.
Approach for this session
Again, start with warm-up games, but split them into forwards and backs. It doesn’t matter too much if some players play both. You can swap them around after five minutes. You will play the same game but in different sized areas.
After the warm-up, you move into position‑specific work. For example, the tight five forwards (props and locks) will be doing more physical work, while the wingers and full backs will do more sprinting.
Finish the session with pure fitness runs and relays. Here you can have the fittest groups and the remedial groups doing different levels of fitness. No point in bringing down the best to a lower level, or completely over-exerting the weakest.
Session time plan
Session time 75 mins (including breaks for feedback and water)
15 mins Warm-up touch games
30 mins Position‑specific work
20 mins Handicap relay races
10 mins Touch rugby
The warm-up touch games will reflect the positions of the players. Best to try out “no-mistake” touch with no more than 5v5.
Play in different width areas (say 20m x 20m for the forwards, 30m x 30m for the backs).
The team in possession have unlimited touches but lose possession if they make a mistake OR they do not carry out certain skills. For instance, there must be two passes away from the touch, or the second pass must be to a player running onto the ball.
Position-specific work with a fitness element reflects the actions performed by players. For forwards, you could do 1v1 rucks, wrestling, lineout jumping (lifting), short bursts of running followed by physical work. For backs you can have running at pace, passing at pace, swerves and side steps, 2v1s.
You could work in thirds, when the backs spend two-thirds of their time on their position specific work and one third on forwards’ work and vice versa.
Position specific work out example
Handicap relay races
The relays can be set up with various “handicaps”. For running, the fitter players can start further back, later, or from a compromised position (such as on the ground). For physical work, the fitter players can push heavy items or do more repetitions.
Finish the session with another game of touch rugby, but now mix up the positions.
• Don’t let touch rugby become an excuse to be lazy. Make sure there is a referee for each game and that the referee is tough on indiscretions from the start. You know when it matters when the players’ argue with tight decisions. You know when it is working when they then accept the decisions and don’t make the same mistake next time.
Where is the stretching?
You might think there should be time for stretching in your sessions. However, there is little evidence to suggest that stretching reduces injury, though it will help flexibility. With the games of touch rugby starting at low levels of intensity, this should easily be enough to prepare players for the rigours of training later in the session.
If a player turns up who is particularly stiff, perhaps from his previous training session, then he should be allowed time to stretch off. However, since players will have different stretching needs at different times, there is little benefit in group stretching.
Lungs or muscles?
In basic terms, fitness and conditioning is about building up the ability to run and play for the length of the game (lungs) and the speed and strength to play well (muscles). All your sessions should have elements of both. Don’t get too hung up on the exact science, just balance the two in preparation for the season.