Put in the hard work now and you’ll reap the benefits when the new season kicks off. So follow our advice and you’ll have your best pre-season ever…
Take a break
Before you get stuck into pre-season training, you need a good off-season to let your body recover. It’s crucial to give your body time to recuperate from injuries and fatigue. You may only need a week or two if you’ve played irregularly, but if you’ve started every Saturday you’ll need longer.
This is the chance to have a few beers, too, but remember that the more damage you inflict upon your body, the harder it will be to get back to full fitness.
Ease your body back into action
It’s important to do some form of exercise before the serious training starts. If you’ve had any injuries, your muscles around them can weaken, so you need to strengthen them again or you will risk further harm. Harlequins’ head of performance John Dams says: “At Quins the players have two weeks of complete rest followed by a week of active rest. The aim is to get them out and doing something.”
To stop your body de-conditioning, you can do on-feet activities like tennis and squash, which require different coordination to rugby, or off-feet, like swimming and cycling, which are good for those who have bad knees, backs and hips.
Follow a basic weights and conditioning programme in the weeks leading up to pre-season, so you don’t arrive cold on the first day. Dams gives the Quins squad two-week transition programmes, and says: “These mean the players don’t arrive having done nothing, and include very basic, generic weights and conditioning sessions. It’s just enough to give players some structure and prepare them for the weeks ahead.”
Let the hard work begin
Your body will be rusty, so reintroduce running into your programme slowly to avoid injury. Gym work is important, and can include weights, off-feet conditioning, interval-based work on the equipment, boxing and grappling, and more. In the early weeks, do some general, full-body strength training and something off-feet, and gradually build up your volume of running.
Dams explains: “Over an eight-week period, your first three could be spent with 70% of your time doing weights and 30% conditioning, then the middle two weeks split 50-50, and 30-70 in the last three weeks.
“Our heaviest week in terms of volume of running is three weeks before the first game,” Dams says. “After that the players will taper down.”
If you want to get the best out of pre-season, ask a professional trainer to put together the best programme to help you achieve your goals.
Don’t forget skills work!
This is also the time of year to get your technique up to scratch and work on set moves, so plan in plenty of skills sessions too. Play touch or seven-a-side games to work on your handling, running lines and support play.
Eat right to feel bright
You need to adjust your diet according to how hard you’re training, and a balanced diet is crucial. When you’re burning lots of calories you need to take more in so that you have plenty of energy. During the season, you may burn 3,000-4,000 calories a week, but during pre-season that figure may rise to 5,000-6,000.
Your body will be in need of nutrients after training, and supplements are an easy way to provide those – seek advice about which one, if any, is best for you.
It’s also important to stay hydrated, especially when it’s hot, so drink at least 2.5 litres of water a day.
Get match fit
Sevens can be a great way to enjoy rugby with your mates, and is also a useful conditioning tool. There is more running involved than in 15-a-side games and the matches are played at a faster pace, so it’s the perfect way to test your fitness.
Pre-season friendlies are also a good way to load players gradually and reintroduce contact. Rotating the full squad means players can start with, 20 minutes of game time, the next week they’ll play for 40, and then 60-80 the week after.
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