IN THE September edition of Rugby World, London Irish take us through a session of Pilates. The full squad took part in one session per week during pre-season at Ten Pilates, a London-based studio, which has designed rugby-specific classes to put the boys through their paces. The boys have been split into three groups for the classes – the front five, middle five (back-row and half-backs), and back five, and work on a machine called a reformer throughout the sessions. The reformer has a moving carriage, steadied by springs of varying resistances, which you push or pull using a footbar or straps, and Ten Pilates trainer Ken Fitzmaurice says: “All of the guys have been doing some general Pilates in the classes, as well as some exercises that are specific to their on-field position.
“The front five have been working with the heavier springs to help promote sagittal plane performance, used to generate the power to move the scrum forward and break the gain line. In contrast, the middle five have been concentrating on oblique sling movements, which improve their rotation through the pelvis and hips to promote quick offloading of the ball, while the back five work with the lighter springs to aid their speed and agility.”
Front five: Single-arm push
This exercise (below), performed with a strong spring making the reformer heavy to move, is designed to improve the players’ stability. It replicates a situation on the pitch where they might be pushing away, or holding up the scrum while pushing forwards. Stand behind the reformer in a squat position, and push the box away from your body with one hand.
Middle five: Oblique plank
The back-row and half-backs are often rotating their body to offload the ball, so this group has worked hard on strengthening their obliques. The oblique plank (below) is performed in the same way as in a normal gym – make sure you keep your hips up – but the instability of the reformer makes it tougher! While your core works to keep the carriage still, you can pulse your hips up and down, or thread the needle (rotate your body to face downwards, threading your top hand under your armpit) to work harder.
Back five: Standing ice-breaker strider
Sprinting is the name of any back’s game, and this is designed to enhance speed and power. Performed on a light spring, you start with hands on the footbar, standing on your toes and knees bent, hovering above the carriage. Take one foot off the carriage, and with the other, straighten your knee to push the carriage away. As you do so, pull your opposite knee in and underneath you, to mimic a sprinting action. Work as quickly as you can – imagine you’re chasing the ball!