The Kenyan Sevens team warming up in Las Vegas

Sevens is a great way to stay rugby-fit over the summer, writes Brett Davison, England Sevens physio and strength & conditioning coach. A more specialised sort of fitness is required to play this version of the game, but it’s different, great fun to play with your friends, and will keep you in peak condition.

After the end of the 15s season, it’s a good idea to have one to two weeks off completely, to rest your body and sort out any knocks or injuries you might have picked up over the course of the season.

It’s also a good time to sort out your diet – you don’t want to be carrying any extra weight when you’re playing a fast sport like sevens. Then, put in at least four weeks’ training before you play your first tournament.

You need to increase your running aerobic base, and the way to do that is with low-impact interval work. Do 12 to 16 minutes on the treadmill, starting with a short warm-up and then sprinting at speeds of between 85% and maximum speed.

Start with ten-second sprints and increase it gradually to 30 seconds, with about a minute’s rest in between. The idea is to mimic what you’ll be doing in the game, so don’t rest for too long as there’s no time to stop for breath on game day!

The bike won’t overload your joints but it’s good for your cardiovascular fitness and your anaerobic energy system. You can do slightly longer sessions on a bike than on the treadmill but use the same principles.

Do flat-out sprints at intervals and work up to sprinting while standing up. This is incredibly tough on your legs without putting any impact on them, and will get your muscles used to what’s needed to play sevens.

Swimming is good for base fitness. It’s great for your breathing, and can also be used as a conditioning exercise for your CV. It also provides a change of environment, and the water pressure flushes out your legs the day after a tournament.

If you’re doing weights sessions in the gym, ensure they’re not too heavy – you want your work to be light and fast, and body pump is a good class to join if you can. Otherwise, a good sevens circuit will consist of five different exercises. For example, squats, pull-ups, bench-presses, upright rows or shrugs for your shoulders, and skipping, abs or shuttle runs.

When you finally play a tournament, you must manage yourself carefully throughout the day as you can play up to seven or eight games over a long period of time.

Hydration is key but you also have to maintain your blood-sugar levels. Some sports drinks will contain slow-release carbohydrates, and recovery drinks can be good. Take in some low-GI carbs, such as bananas, or jam or peanut butter on wholewheat bread.

Lastly, you may want to use surgical spirit to toughen the skin on your feet, to help prevent blisters. The ground is often hard in summer, and our boys have shock-absorbing inner soles inside their boots.

This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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