Run Like the Wind
Anthony Watson has become a familiar figure on the wing for England in recent times. With nine international caps to his name Watson is quickly becoming a player to watch. His speed and agility are two attributes that Anthony excels but why are these qualities important in rugby and how does Watson train for them? Maximuscle asked the England and Bath player about the finer points in cementing his place on the wing for his country.
Speed and Agility
Game GPS data shows us that wingers and full backs cover the most amount of ground in 80 minutes*. It would be wrong to assume that all of that is at a high intensity, as that is reserved for the forwards during static exertion (in scrums, rucks, mauls and tackling) but when a chance to beat the man or indeed to make that try-saving tackle, players such as Watson need to exploit their speed and agility. Speed in terms of motion; hitting a gap, creating space or chasing a kick, and agility in terms of movement; beating a man, side-stepping out of trouble or pick-ups and takes. But how has Anthony developed his speed and agility? How does he train? And how can you bring speed and agility into your training?
Did you know? Backs in rugby are reported** to have similar sprint times to that of track athletes over 15 and 35 metres, in spite of their larger statue and muscle mass.
The Need for Speed
Watson is renowned for his electric pace and acceleration on the rugby field. His talents are not limited only to speed but having speed as one of your defining features as a winger, is certainly advantageous. As an attribute, speed is a difficult one to enhance; as with any sporting attributes, speed can be trained but much of Anthony's work is to support his speed and develop agility, power and strength, so that he can exploit his speed when needed.
Here's what an average training week looks like for England's Anthony Watson:
|Lower body weights
|Upper body weights
|Kicking practice followed by a light upper body session
|Rugby attack session
|Rest and recovery
Maximuscle Training Tips
Watson's training programme is designed specifically for an elite athlete who is fully supported and monitored by a team of high performance professionals. Although well known for his speed and agility, Watson's training programme is a more rounded approach to support all aspects of his game. Anthony tells us that it's this preparation that gives him the edge. “Knowing that I have ticked every box and left no stone unturned,” says Anthony. He feels this gives him the freedom to express himself and enjoy his rugby.
Speed is often something that is genetically evident but here's some Maximuscle top tips** in training for speed and agility:
- Increasing muscle mass of the movement muscles (quads, glutes and calves) by multi-joint action movements, such as squats, dead-lifts and lunges
- Using a hypertrophy method of low repetitions, high sets and longer rests, ultimately recruiting more muscle in motion
- Hypertrophy training will increase the proportional size of the (sprint muscle fibres) fast twitch (type II) muscle fibres of the muscle
- Train specific - include uphill running to improving running efficiency whilst adding resistance (uphill)
- Speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) methods are an effective means in improving speed and agility parameters***
**Always seek the advice of an exercise professional and train within your own capability
Developing sporting attributes such as speed and agility are achieved by more than training alone, nutrition plays an important part in supporting training. As recommended by Maximuscle a product such as Promax Lean is the perfect training partner in pre-season, to support conditioning goals and support muscle development.
Speed is a sporting attribute that training alone, is no substitute for a favourable genetic makeup, however, training can not only support speed, protect against injury but training can also help to turn raw speed into something functional and England's Anthony Watson has done exactly that. Speed is one thing but being agile and quick is a real asset on the rugby pitch. Know your limits but explore your potential, someone is always quicker but speed alone will not bring success.
* Duthie, G., Pyne, D., & Hooper, S. (2003). Applied physiological and game analysis of rugby union. Sports Medicine, 33(13), 973-991.
** Dowson, M. N., Nevill, M. E., Lakomy, H. K. A., et al. (1998). Modelling the relationship between isokinetic muscle strength and sprint running performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 16, 257-265.
*** Bloomfield, J., Polman, R., O'donoghue, P., & McNaughton, L. (2007). Effective speed and agility conditioning methodology for random intermittent dynamic type sports. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(4), 1093-1100.