Stanford Collegiate 7's

UCD, 2010 Stanford Collegiate 7's Champs!

With only about two weeks introduction to the 7's game, the boys came together and put forth a tremendous effort to beat out many of the best collegiate teams in California to take home the cup.  The Ags went 2-1 in pool play, losing only to a strong St. Mary's "Blue" team (St. Mary's fielded two teams in the tourney) after only a 15 minute rest from the previous game.  In the semi-final, the boys came back to beat the St. Mary's "Red" team which looked suspiciously similar to the "Blue" team and in the final they played St. Mary's "Blue" team once again.  The keys to victory seemed to be a better understanding of the 7's game, thanks largely to the coaching of Steve Gray, former Eagle, USA 7's rep and USA 7's coach and Jon Schafer, All American at UCSB and Olympic Club standout.  The other key was conditioning; playing 5 games in one day including a final with 10 minute halves was a test of endurance.  As the day wore on the teams lacking fitness were exposed.  In the final game with the 10 minute halves St. Mary's nearly mounted a comeback but clearly lost their legs in the extra time.

Well done boys!  Skill + Fitness = Victory


Rugby Data

How Hard Do Rugby Players Work?

One of the hardest parts of training effectively for rugby is the variable nature of the sport.  In American Football, you have a fairly good idea of how long a play will last and how many plays you will have in a game.   In a game of rugby on the other hand you may have 5 seconds of high intensity play or you may have 5 minutes of high to moderate intensity.  
The best way to figure out how to train is to replicate game situations as much as possible and we now have some new data to help us with this.  Recently, Ross Tucker, an Exercise Physiologist from South Africa who writes for my all time favorite blog, Science of Sport, used GPS hardware on players in Super 14 games to find out just what's going on out there.  His full article can be found here and you should absolutely read it!  In case you don't, I'm going to repost a few of his findings and offer some insight on what they mean to you and how we can incorporate the data into our training.

From Ross Tucker's "Physiological demands of rugby"

These studies have shown the following:

- A backline player will experience about 120 ‘impacts’ per match – an impact is any involvement in a tackle, ruck/maul, or collision with the ground. Not surprisingly, forwards are involved in more impacts than backline players, with about 300 per match. Of these, 70 have a g-force greater than 8g, and the majority of impacts, somewhat surprisingly, come in the second half (65% compared to 35%).
- In terms of running, backline players can expect to cover between 7km and 7.5km a match, while forwards cover between 5km and 7km, depending on their playing position (loose forwards covering the most distance). About 70% of the match is spent standing or walking, 25% is spent jogging, and 5% running at sprinting speeds. This means that for every second spent running, players will rest or move slowly for about five seconds. 
- However, the real challenge lies in the number of times players have to change speeds, either accelerating or decelerating for short periods. The average ‘sprint’ is 20 metres long, and it happens 30 times a match, while fast jogging for 20m happens 90 times a match. In total, there are shifts in speed approximately 750 times per player per match, or once every three to four seconds. The challenge in terms of conditioning is to prepare players for this constant shifting of pace and direction.
- Forwards spend more time doing very high intensity exercise, and less time walking or standing than backline players (65% of the match for forwards, compared to 75% for backs). This is explained by the forwards having more ‘static exertion’ periods – scrums, rucking and mauling. The result is that overall, even though backs do more running during a match; they actually do less total work than forwards. For example, in an 80-minute match, a loose forward can expect to burn about 2000 kCal, compared to 1 700 kCal for backline players. This is 25% higher than what has been measured for professional soccer players. By way of comparison, a 90kg man running a half-marathon (21km) burns about the same amount of energy as a Super 14 player every weekend!
- Finally, the physiological load is actually greater in the second half of matches. Players run further in the second half, with more accelerations and short sprints, and there are twice as many impacts in the second half. More time is also spent doing high-intensity running and less time walking in the second half of matches, especially for forwards, which says that play is more continuous in the second half. It’s perhaps not surprising then that scorelines often remain tight for 50 minutes before opening up – the last 30 minutes is where the physiology begins to tell!

OK, good stuff, this data tells us a lot about how to train for our matches.  It tells us how many tackles or hits we will make in a game, how far we will run, what kind of running we will do, how often we change direction and the difference between forwards and backs (also proves that soccer players are pussies). 

One of the first things to take away from this is the type of running rugby players require.  We see that 70% of the time we're standing around, 30% of the time we're jogging and 5% of the time we're at a full out sprint.  On average, we see that 30 times a match we are sprinting for 20m and 90 times a match we are "fast jogging" for 20m.  We can then look at the changes of speed or direction, roughly 750 times per match.

Based just on these numbers, lets look at what a 10 minute section of a match would include on average in terms of just running: 3.74 sprints of 20m, 11.25 fast jogs of 20m, 93.75 changes of speed or direction and about 7 minutes of staying in one place.  Of course, this varies by position with the forwards running more and probably sprinting a bit less and the backs running less overall but probably with a greater number and length of sprints.

Next, lets take a look at "Impacts" per match; about 120 for backs and nearly 300 amongst the forwards.  Again, the discrepancy between the positions is no surprise but it does give us a pretty good idea of how to block out a training program for each.  In our 10 minute training block we'll have 15 "impacts" or high intensity bursts for the backs and about  37.5 for the forwards.  Using this data, lets make up a backs and a forwards work out.

Backs: We're going to have these guys focus mainly on sprints, change of direction and some max intensity efforts.  I'm going to go with a series of 1 -1 work to rest periods of 90 seconds, that is 90 seconds of work followed by 90 seconds of rest.  During the work period we're going to have a measurable amount of work so we know when to stop the workout, I want my guys to maintain at least 90% of their fresh work capacity so they'll do as many sets as they can while maintaining that intensity.
The 90 sec work period will be done on the pitch.  Starting on the goal line, the player will fast jog to the 22m line, do three bupees, fast jog back to the goal line, perform 2 power snatches at 60kg (more or less depending on strength but around 75% 1RM) then sprint as hard as possible through the 22m into a slow jog out to the 50m.  Turn around at the 50, on the way back, have cones set up in a random zig-zag pattern, cones should be spaced every 10-20m.  At each cone alternate between a sprint and fast jog.  When you get back to the goal line repeat the whole sequence as many times as possible in the 90 sec period.  If it's only one time, that's ok as long as it was a max effort.  Rest 90 seconds and repeat until you fall more than 10% off your first effort.

Now, this workout seems a bit convoluted and it is because I tried to fit every element into one.  You don't need to do this, focus on just one or two elements per workout and on occasion get crazy like the one above.  Don't just stick to one time domain, mix it up but try to keep it somewhat applicable to the sport you're playing.

Lets do a forwards workout now.  For the forwards I want more of a grinding workout so we'll do a 10 minute AMRAP session (AMRAP means As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible).  Again, starting on the goal line we'll use our 60kg barbell (about 135#).  Start with a barbell complex, power clean-front squat-thruster then bear crawl out to the 22m, then fast jog back to the goal line.  Repeat this 4 times and the 5th time when your bear crawl reaches the 22m, get up and sprint to the 50m line and then fast jog back and restart then entire sequence.


Parasympathetic Recovery

Parasympathetic Recovery

The website Elite FTS is one of the best strength and conditioning sites on the web because they have a great store where they sell things like the Prowler and they post cool articles pretty much every day.  Every once in a while, they have a really good article that can benefit anyone.  Today, Charlie Cates submitted a fantastic article on parasympathetic recovery.  You may be wondering "what is parasympathetic recovery and why should I care?"  Well, the article explains the finer points but generally, it has to do with a specific part of your nervous system which regulates body functions.  When you get your nervous system out of whack you can have a hard time recovering from exercise (physical or mental btw although the article only goes into training recovery, it's true for over worked individuals as well).  Being able to recognize the signs of an imbalance between your sympathetic nervous system and your parasympathetic nervous system is important; it allows you to address the problem and get back to performing at 100%.

The Parasympathetic Secret

Published: May 10, 2010

You wake up after a restful night’s sleep to hit up the gym before the sun comes up. The last few training days have been pretty taxing on you, but surprisingly, you were able to hop out of bed with very little soreness. But that was gone three minutes into your warm up. Today is your deadlift day, and even though your legs, back, and arms feel strong, the weight feel heavy. Way too heavy. Why is this? Why do you feel so weak and unmotivated to lift heavy and strong? Because while your muscular system may have recovered from your previous workouts, your nervous system hasn’t.
If you’ve ever felt this way in the gym, odds are that it can be attributed to your nervous system being in a sympathetic state. To understand how to fix the problem, you must first understand the problem, so a brief physiology lesson is due. The nervous system is broken down into two main components—the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord while the PNS is broken down into subdivisions—the sensory-somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls much of what goes on internally in the human body to make sure that it functions normally, such as breathing when we aren’t thinking about it, stimulating the release of bile from the gallbladder, and controlling our heart rate.
The ANS is once again divided into two categories—the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. These two systems serve opposite roles in the body, with the parasympathetic nervous system signaling for the body to be in a more relaxed state while the sympathetic nervous system signals the body to be in a more aggressive or alert state. This is important to know because when you spend prolonged periods of time in a sympathetic state (i.e. when you work out), metabolites begin to build up in the bloodstream. As these metabolites continue to collect, your average heart rate will begin to rise with everything you do. And there, my friends, lies one of the best indicators as to whether or not you have truly recovered from your workout.
One of the best ways to go about monitoring the state of your nervous system is to check your resting heart rate (RHR) upon waking every morning. This is a habit that I’ve gotten into and it has paid off tremendously. I know that when I’m fresh, my RHR is around 44 beats per minute (bpm). However, by the end of every week, my RHR starts to creep up around 60 bpm. That’s when I know it’s time to head to the gym for a recovery session, which always brings me back down into the 40s by the next morning. Not only will someone’s RHR increase, but their heart rate during other activities will be higher than normal as well. This is why many professional and collegiate athletes are being required to wear heart rate monitors during their workouts, so coaches can watch their heart rate that day during specific drills and compare that to what it has been on other days. This is also to make sure that their heart rate doesn’t get too high or too low during their training session, so they can get the most out of the athletes both on that day and in future training sessions.
Many people think that it’s best to take a day off from the gym when they start to feel groggy and unmotivated. While not seeing the gym for a day may be good for their mindset, what their body more than likely needs is a light training session, working basic movement patterns, easy cardio, or a brief skill session, depending on whether or not this person is a competitive athlete. Regardless of which activity the subject chooses, the most important thing is that his or her heart rate is kept between 120 and 130 bpm. I can’t stress this enough. When doing recovery work, you must monitor your heart rate and make sure that it stays between 120 and 130 beats per minute. If you own a heart rate monitor that gives you constant feedback, your possibilities for recovery work are endless. If not, you will be confined to using some sort of cardio equipment that has a heart rate monitor on it. These activities should be performed for 20 to 45 minutes on a day when no other training is scheduled. For athletes, I recommend doing something that is low impact on the joints, such as biking, using the elliptical, or wearing a heart rate monitor in the pool.
So what is so special about the 120 to 130 bpm range? The secret is that within this range is where the body makes a switch from the parasympathetic to the sympathetic nervous system. Below 120 bpm, the parasympathetic nervous system still sends signals to the body while above 130 bpm the sympathetic nervous system is completely in charge. Within this heart rate range, the body is best able to flush out the metabolites of previous workouts. Therefore, it allows your body to optimally recover and sends your nervous system from a sympathetic state back to a parasympathetic state.
So the next time your legs are fresh but your head is in a fog, try some nervous system recovery work to get back to “beast mode.” Get big or die trying.
Charlie Cates is the owner and operator of Self Made and selfmadefitness.com. He is CPT- and PES-certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He has worked with athletes of all ages and ability levels, from nine-year old kids to NFL MVPs.