The off season is a crucial training period in a rugby player’s calendar: do it correctly and you'll be fitter, faster and more powerful than the competition. Do it incorrectly and you could find yourself in a world of hurt come the first few weeks of the season.
Once you have recovered physically and mentally from the rigors of the competitive season you will have a new energy for training. You also have a break from playing and technical/tactical training and this frees up time and energy to focus on your strength and conditioning work.
Here are 7 all to common mistakes I see happening in off-season rugby training.
1. Being Too Specific
You train because you want to improve rugby performance right? So you try and work on all of your rugby specific weaknesses. Although your intentions are commendable, its not the right approach in the off season. It's the attritional nature of rugby training that you need a break from.
The offseason is the ideal time to work on general fitness qualities. The beauty of the offseason is that you have the energy reserves to adapt better to your physical training, as there are no conflicting demands from rugby specific work.
2. Training Like a Bodybuilder
Now don't get me wrong. The offseason is the perfect time to improve body composition; you should aim to decrease body fat and increase muscle mass. But that doesn't mean you should follow a program out of your favorite muscle magazine! You should focus on increasing the volume of your compound strength work. Squat, Deadlift, Press and Row. Plus add some additional higher rep work. But don't let me catch you doing cable crossovers or tricep kickbacks whilst looking in the mirror!
3. Not Rehabbing Injuries
If you’ve played rugby for any length of time you will know how common injuries are. You will no doubt be used to playing through some sort of nagging injury too. Well, the offseason is the time you put those things behind you and work on injury proofing yourself!
- If you’ve had tendonitis, work on eccentrics and isometrics to remedy the problem.
- If you have been prone to a sprained ankle, work on your stability and proprioception.
- If you’ve had shoulder issues work on your upper back and rotator cuff.
- If you’re lucky enough not to have had an injury, work on your mobility and flexibility.
Make yourself a promise at the start of the offseason that you will start preseason pain free and more injury resilient.
4. Starting Too Hard
This is happens often. You come back from a break and are desperate to get back into training and improve performance. You start by trying to do everything and at maximum intensity. Chances are you will burn out early, lose interest or worst case, get injured.
Easing yourself back in a slow progression is what you want.
5. Not Working Backwards
No I don't mean working on your back pedal technique! Plan your training (or follow a program) so you are ready to hit the ground running when preseason starts with your club. Having a sudden spike in training load is a massive injury risk; so make sure you plan accordingly. Look at what you are likely to do in preseason, fitness testing, conditioning games etc., and work backwards from there to come up with a training plan. Make sure you have a progression building up to those types of activities. That way you will be physically prepared for them and won’t risk injury.
6. Not Setting Goals
Goal setting is an important part of the training process. It should be used year round and even in the offseason. Set some challenging but achievable goals to complete before preseason starts. Base it around general fitness training that you will be doing and go for it! Good examples could be; put 10kg on your squat/deadlift, knock 5s off your 2km row, decrease your body fat by 3% etc, increase your sit and reach by 4cm etc.
7. Not Resting
It is the “OFF” season after all! Have a holiday, take a break from training, quit your job (just kidding!). It will help both mentally and physically. Now, you don’t have to stop training completely. Just perform a few light weights and mobility sessions and cross training sessions. Give your joints a break from the running and contact sessions and your brain a break from the stress of competition. Plan to have a minimum of two weeks off before getting back into training properly.
I hope you can see how important a good offseason can be for your rugby career. Avoid these common mistakes and you are sure to have a productive offseason and come back a stronger, fitter more injury resilient player.