A Captain's Strength
Leading from the front. Showing how it's done. Being first. These are all common phases used to describe a successful leader. The captain's job is to take charge, to inspire, to motivate and to support their team. England's captain, Chris Robshaw does exactly that. His personal performances are always solid. His strength, both mentally and physically is a key attribute that he brings to the game. Physical strength is present all over the rugby field but Robshaw is the spearhead of strength. RFU partner and nutrition sponsor Maximuscle spoke to captain Robshaw about the importance of strength in rugby.
Science of Strength
Scientifically, strength is the ability to apply force against resistance. In rugby this is translated into functional strength; strength in tackling, in scrummaging, rucking & mauling. Strength is right up there on the scale of important attributes for rugby. An openside flanker, Robshaw needs to be able to perform in the scrum - for that, strength is a key factor. In the last RBS Six Nations championships the average pack weight (the combined weight of the forwards) was 882 kg. Robshaw's job is to help push against that enormous weight - equal to that of a rhino - in the scrum.
Training for Strength
Put simply, training for strength is all about lifting weights but a rugby player needs to be more than just strong. The physiology behind weight lifting is to increase the force generating capacity of the muscle fibres. With the correct stimulus, this can also encourage them to increase in size (something referred to as hypertrophy). Robshaw and his forwards need to be strong but they also need to increase the speed at which they can exert that force - this means they need 'power.' At the same time, they need to keep increasing their muscle mass because the heavier the pack, the more work the opposing team have to do to move it. They therefore take the basics of strength training but adapt it into functional strength for rugby.
Here's what an average training week looks like for England's captain:
|MONDAY||AM||Lower body and back weights|
|PM||Speed and endurance|
|TUESDAY||AM||Scrum and lineout|
|PM||Upper body weights|
|WEDNESDAY||AM||Running / conditioning|
|SUNDAY||Rest and recovery|
Maximuscle Training Tips
Chris Robshaw's training programme is designed specifically for an elite athlete who is fully supported and monitored by a team of by high performance professionals. For most people, who are not professional athletes, training 3-5 times per week is more achievable when balancing it with work, lifestyle and recovery. This is also more than enough time to go beyond maintenance, develop strength and build muscle.
Maximuscle top tips* in training for Strength:
- Start with big, multi-joint action movements like such as dead-lifts, squats and bench press. Like Robshaw, add in variety like battle ropes from time to time to keep things interesting
- Lift heavy but concentrate on technique. Focus on low repetitions (reps) with a high weight. For example, 1-6 reps x 3-5 sets
- Vary your exercises between free weights and fixed machines. Always lift safely and where possible train with a partner
- Build in sport specific exercises and be creative with your training programme
*Always seek the advice of an exercise professional and train within your own capability
Training is all well and good but what keeps Robshaw motivated and focused? “I'm always striving to beat my best and my opponents' score,” says the England captain. “I never give up.”
As a starter check out Maximuscle's 3 Day Strength + Power Training Plan to give you some ideas for training.
To fully support any training goal your nutrition plan should be structured with equal importance. Looking to build size and increase strength? Getting your base daily diet right is the key but Maximuscle is here to help fill in any gaps and support your plan with convenience. Putting on weight is about finding the balance between a greater energy input than calorie output which is easy with high calorie, high fat foods. But the real balance is about finding the right calorie intake to enhance muscle growth while also limiting fat storage.
The product of choice is Maximuscle Progain, a powdered shake for gainers who want protein and calories in a convenient format.
For Chris Robshaw and the England team, strength is only a fraction of their entire armoury but in rugby it is certainly a key factor. Training for strength can be conducted in lots of ways but for Robshaw the focus is on functional strength and being appropriately strong for his sport. If your goal is increasing strength, think beyond just weight lifting. Think about supporting those movements, focus on conditioning first before lifting heavy and think about how your nutrition plan will support muscle growth and development.