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Rugby league is a collision sport that rewards size and strength. Elite teenage players should aim for a gain in lean mass of 6-10kg a year from ages 14-19, including a gain of at least 2kg during the season. This section provides resources to assist a weight training programme, based on 2 or 3 gym sessions per week.
Most athletes measure their weight frequently. We are interested in height and weight four times a year, and, if we can get them, skin fold measurements once or twice a year. In New Zealand and Australia the league season runs from April through to September. We aim for results like this
As you can see from the table, in our programme the off season is the time to hit the gym, rest up, eat up, and get into the supplements. We recommend three or four gym sessions a week during the off-season, three during the pre-season, and two or three during the season. The sessions have slightly different goals during the year. In the off season, they aim to increase size (lean mass) and strength. During the pre-season they aim to maintain lean mass (at a time when many coaches are trying to run the Christmas pudding and pies off, but athletes lose muscle as well as fat if they aren't careful) and during the season they aim to maintain strength.
Tip : Taller, heavier guys are more likely to be selected for game one of the season. Size (lean mass) and strength are more important than fitness, so long as you are fit enough for the grade you are playing. Big and fit is better than small and fitter.
We don't recommend work with free weights for boys under 14 years old who weigh less than 50kg.
The professional clubs protect the fitness data of their players. But something is known about the Newcastle Knights ( see the article here)
3RM Benchpress, the players were able to benchpress 1.3 times their body weight three times in a row.
3RM Squat, the players were able to squat 1.7 or 1.8 times their body weight three times in a row.
Elite rugby league players are strong! The 1RM (the maximum weight that can be lifted with good technique once) is about 10% higher than the 3RM. So, it's not uncommon for a 100kg NRL player to bench 150kg and squat 200kg. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, captain of the NZ Warriors (and a back and less than 100kg) benches 170kg.
On the other hand, strength at age 16, 17, or 18 does not predict whether or not a player will play professional rugby league.
The following list covers a number of important things. Follow the link to the page.
The aim of an off season weights program is to increase muscle bulk. The key to this is regular sessions lifting heavy weights slowly, in 4-8 rep sets where sets two and three result in muscle failure. The lift should be slow. This program will not make you look more toned. Toning requires a reduction in body fat so the muscle outline is visible beneath the skin. That's for the pre-season. In this off-season work the weight you lift should increase every ten days or so. On any day in the pre-season, you should be able to lift a heavier weight 4 to 6 times before muscle failure than you could two weeks earlier. In the off-season aim for four weight sessions a week, perhaps legs, chest, biceps, forearms on Monday and Thursday and back, shoulders, triceps on Tuesday and Friday.
In pre-season you will be flogged in order to be fitter than the opposing team in game one. However, you should still be increasing in strength during pre-season, although the amount you lift will increase more slowly. The number of weight sessions will reduce in pre-season (as fitness training builds up), to perhaps three per week. In these sessions the lift should be as fast as possible - power is about delivering maximum force in minimum time.
During the season the battle is to maintain your strength while preventing injuries. Two weight sessions per week to maintain strength and power.
When muscles are worked to failure - when you can't lift the weight one more time - they tear ever so slightly (microtears). If it is given 24-28 hours to heal, muscle heals a little big bigger than it was before. The rest, including sleep, is as important as the overwork.
Adjacent muscle groups are worked in one gym session, then not again for two days or so, to allow this healing to take place. That is why we talk about back and neck, leg, core, chest, arm and shoulder workouts. Neck workouts are important not only because young men like bulging traps but also because a strong neck reduces the effects of concussion (as the neck slows the movement of the head).
A weights session should last 40-90 minutes. Stretch, warm up, a minute between reps, a couple of minutes between sets, and a couple of minutes between exercises, warm down.
You will benefit greatly if you have a daily exercise routine. This should take about twenty minutes to complete, and might be your warm up routine on gym days.
The exercises in this routine will be 'own body weight' ones such as press-ups and chin-ups. You might also complete two or three two minute trounds against a punching bag with one minute rest between rounds.
Skipping for ten minutes is of great benefit as is bounding - jumping onto a platform and off it.
This is the time to do your prehab or rehab exercises.