This is a question I get asked a lot…and it is probably something that I dealt with before in this blog or one of the other incarnations of this blog but I’ll deal with it again because I was asked about it today and because I can’t be bothered searching to see if I have talked about it before.
I was asked specifically…’What is the best type of training I can do to make me a better rugby player?’…now feel feel to substitute Mixed Martial Artist, Tennis player, swimmer or powerlifter for rugby player and my answer will be the same.
The best thing you can do training wise is to play your sport…if you are a rugby player…the best thing you can do to be better at rugby is to play more games, if it is MMA it is to fight and spar more, if it is tennis then play more matches and if you are a swimmer you need to compete in more meets and if you are a powerlifter you need to take part in more competitions.
So for me it is a hierarchy of importance with regard to playing/competing/training.
1. Play and compete more.
2. Next you need to focus on the activities that enable you to play and compete more. Now this is where it gets tricky. For some athletes this might mean you need to prehab/rehab and regeneration work. For others it might be more endurance work and yet others more speed work. You might be too light to compete properly and so need to focus on bulking up. Yet others might be big enough but not strong enough. So after playing and competing the next thing you need to think about is realistically…’What do I need to do to allow me to play/compete more often’? The problem is that many athletes don’t answer this question realistically. The player in question that asked me this question today after we talked for a while got around to the fact that he hasn’t finished a game all season. The reason for this is simple…he’s too unfit and the dude is quite simply too fat to be fit. Yet he is in the gym 4 nights a week doing strength work along with his team training sessions. The answer to his question is simple…the best thing he could do to improve would be to NOT do 4 strength sessions a week. His time could be used much more productively.
3. After you have taken care of 1. playing and competing more and 2. working out what activities will enable you to play and compete more only then do you need to work out number 3…and that is to work out what activities will enable you to perform better when competing in your sport of choice. Now personally I know rugby players and footballers who play barely half the games in their season.I know Mixed Martial Artists who rarely fight. I know powerlifters who rarely if ever compete…yet these same athletes never miss a training session in the gym. They have failed to prioritise their training properly.
So…in short…if you want to get better at your sport…then compete or play your sport. If you want to be able to compete and play…then work out what you need to do to keep your body fit and healthy enough to be able to compete or play and then and only then….do you need to worry about the training you need to do to perform better. So I am not interested in hearing about your opinions on hill sprints, or your views on reverse band bench pressing, or how awesome you think crossfit is for rugby if it is 6 weeks since your last game and you haven’t been picked because you are too fat or too unfit to actually make it through a game.