Jason Price brings precision and intensity to the Blues’ gym training – he spent more than a decade in the military as a physical training instructor before transferring to civilian life at Ludus Magnus. For the past three years he’s been with the Blues, helping the team increase strength out on the paddock.
Let’s start at the beginning, what does the team’s S&C schedule look like in the lead up to the season?
The team gathers together in November for pre-season, so that’s when we have the most impact on their gym work. The players usually complete 2 x S&C sessions per day and it’s characterised by a large volume of work – usually one session on the field and one session in the gym. During this phase we try to make gains in specific areas depending on the players’ needs and performance plans.
What about in-season?
In season it’s all about game day! So in a player’s week, we look at what’s going to get the best performance for that player come Saturday. For a 7-day period that would usually involve 2-3 gym sessions, 1-2 running/conditioning sessions and 3-4 rugby sessions. Once again this is totally dependent on who the player is, how much game time they have played, and how their training is going.
We’ve heard a lot about crosstraining for S&C, does the team do any?
Yeah, we do. We use cross training (Ludus, crossfit, wrestling, boxing) in the pre-season to provide variety for the players. These types of activities are great as they involve pushing, pulling, twisting and running – movements that are similar to a game of rugby.
How do you develop individualised training for each player?
We start by getting the players to perform a battery of tests:
There’s the Yoyo Test, which focuses on Aerobic/Anaerobic capacity; Strength Testing across a range of lifts; Power profile utilising a jump squat at a range of loads; Speed Testing over 10 and 30 metres; Body Composition looking at weight and sum of 8 skinfolds; and movement screening including jump and sprint mechanics.
We then look at the individual’s results across all of these tests, as well as the demands of their position, and prioritise what needs to be in each player’s program to get the biggest performance gain.
So would you say that short with high intensity or endurance with lower intensity is better?
For rugby players it’s absolutely about short, high intensity efforts. Integrated with wrestling, scrummaging, pushing, and specific skill work. The closer we can train the players to the demands of the game, the better prepared we’ll be.
Sounds like the players spend a lot of time doing strength work, do you help the boys increase suppleness and flexibility?
Over the past year we’ve found Pilates to be beneficial to our programme with the players building up a tolerance for the jumping demands that are required of them in training and games.
To assist with flexibility, we see yoga as a great tool to use as well as any foam roller/trigger point kit that helps with myofascial release or soft tissue therapy.
What about minimising the load on joints?
One of the best ways to lighten the load is to limit running and get into the pool, or sit on the bike/rower. This is in no way a substitute for running, but can be used as part of a player’s performance plan.
So, the question we’ve all been wondering: Who’s the strongest on the team? And who has the best technique?
George (Moala) and Ofa (Tu’ungafasi) are incredibly strong athletes. You can see that either in the gym or out on the paddock. Then there’s Dolph (Steven Luatua) and Patty (Tuipulotu) who are naturals in the gym – that’s testament to the staff at Auckland Rugby High Performance Academy.
Usually players with good mobility and the ones with the largest training age will be the better lifters. And we’re here to help the players get to that place.
You’ve spent a lot of time in gyms, what’s the most common mistake you see from players and regular gym-goers?
The most common issue for any gym environment, Blues or your local gym, is that people prioritise load over technique. We have players with varying training ages (the amount of time they have been lifting weights) so it’s important that they move well before loading that movement. This means they are strengthening the area that we prescribe the exercise for, as well as decreasing the chance of injury.
What about for the average gym goer – does the Blues training translate?
Definitely, you can simplify and decrease the Blues’ training loads to suit any programme. I’d say you can get a full body workout from these movements:
Push – Horizontal and/or Vertical
Pull – Horizontal and/or Vertical
Core – Flexion/Extension/Rotation