As the squad start returning to voluntary training, we caught up with Head of Physical Performance, Simon Church for an inside look into training:
How have you adapted the sessions to adhere to the regulations?
“Whilst we’re in this block of voluntary fitness, we’ve stuck to having 10 players in the gym. Everyone has worked incredibly hard to relocate our facilities to St Helen's from Llandarcy from Morganstone Ltd, Fews Marquees and RNA.
"Each player have their own equipment, own squat rack, barbells, bumper plates and benches so the gym was restricted. Each station had its own cleaning products to disinfect everything down between sessions and it was the same out on the field. The gym was professionally deep cleaned every day to prepare the facilities ready for the next day. We mitigated the risk as much as possible in the environment whilst still being able drive our performance programme, train and abide to the social- distancing guidelines.”
As an S&C group how do you manage the sessions as a team?
“We have one strength and conditioning coach at a time in the gym working with a group of 10. Coaches wear masks and gloves for the full session. When we’re able to move forward into phase two, where we will move to a larger group up to 20, we will move to 2/3 coaches on the gym floor, still wearing PPE.
“We all programme for individual groups, Liam takes care of the front-rowers, I look after the second and back-row, Alex the half-backs and Josh the outside backs. I’ll then oversee all the on-field programming with the coaches.”
How are the boys finding training in smaller groups?
“All the boys are relieved to be able to come back in, they’re excited to be back in a new environment and new facilities with a new coaching team. They’re used to training as a group of 50 and being together all the time so it was tough being in small groups of 10 at first because they all just want to see each other.”
“However, working in groups of 10 has been a huge positive for our skills sessions. The boys are able to get a lot more touches on the ball more than they would in a normal session because they’re in a smaller group. This also means the coaches can spend more time improving individual skill sets. The groups will expand when we go into phase 2 so they’ll see more of each other around the environment but still be sticking to the guidelines in place."
How do you manage each individual’s workload and potential injuries?
“We’re working as we normally would in regard to load monitoring. GPS* is used extensively in our planning and it’s critical that we’re sensible in our progression through workloads especially during this time. We monitor how each individual is adapting to training, using not only the GPS but RPE*s, performance markers and wellness monitoring."
GPS - Global positioning System - Allows coaches to detect fatigue and fitness on a deeper level, revealing the training load of each individual including distance run, intensity of sprints, and the overall workload on each player.
RPEs - Rate of Perceived Exertion - measures how hard a person feels like they're working during physical activity.
"All monitoring tools are hugely useful for creating a picture of our training, but it is the collaboration between coaches, performance and medical staff, utilising individual departments skill sets and experience to set the detail of training and drive our philosophy. It’s essential that the programme not only makes us battle ready for the coming fixtures, but also sets a foundation for a long term performance goals of next season”
What have you as a strength and conditioning team been working on?
“The squad have come back in good condition. We all knew there was a possibility that we’d be back playing in August so we recognised an opportunity during the lockdown to utilise the time as much as possible. We have used that time and set a foundation of conditioning under our belts, so now are back we can focus on the rugby and drive our conditioning within all our on -field sessions."
As well as juggling home-schooling, walking the dog, launching their own businesses and taking a break to rest their bodies, the squad kept up their fitness by training remotely at home.
“Before the lockdown we provided players with a training pack which included individual GPS data for each conditioning session. They also took home equipment packs including barbells, benches and additional gym equipment so they could train from home safely. With those blocks under their belts it means now we’re back in, we haven’t had to over stretch too early. We’re utilising the rugby so we can set our themes and structure on how we want to play and gradually increase the intensity and volume over the weeks. We’re happy where we are as a squad on the strength and conditioning front. All players will have individual needs, which will be addressed on highlighted days which will ensure we work smartly to prepare for not only these two games in August but when the season starts in October.”
How do you monitor nutrition?
“We’ve separated the boys into different groups depending on their individual needs. So there was some who needed to increase their lean body mass, guys who need to drop body fat and the hybrid guys who we essentially want to maintain. We have an excellent relationship with PAS, John Williams and Chris Edwards we reach out to and utilise their resources and expertise. They spoke to individuals during the lockdown regarding their goals and prepared meal plans to help them achieve that”
“We can’t monitor body composition like we used to because of social-distancing but we do keep an eye in areas where we can. PAS provide a great service to all our players including with special cases and our injured boys, they work with them during that rehab process to ensure when they come back in they’re in an optimal position to train first and then play.”