Nick Fitness Answers #84 - Do contact sports teams train with contact? | Fit Futures

Hey what’s up guys? It’s Nick from Fit Futures here with yet another answer to yet another question.

Now this question doesn’t necessarily have a name attached to it. My family members asked me this particular question when we were watching the All Blacks in South Africa the other week. Enjoying a pizza and a couple of beverages, and just generally enjoying each other’s company and watching the rugby. Now, my wife is South African so the draw didn’t really help me there in terms of bragging rights in the household. But hopefully we’ll get them back when the World Cup starts in a few short weeks’ time. But the question I was asked was, my mum turned to me and she said, “this is quite a brutal game,” and I say, “well yeah, you’ve been watching rugby your whole life, ma, you grew up in this country, surely you knew prior to this particular fixture that rugby can be a fairly violent game, there’s a lot of contacts, a lot of hits, there’s rucks, there’s mauls, there’s a lot of physical contact with the opposition. And she said, “Yeah, but my question to you Mr sports scientist is, do they train this way?”

Now, yeah, they probably do, there’s probably tons of training sessions during the week where there is contact and they would be referred to as heavy days or high intensity training days. And we have high and low days, so when we design our micro-cycles. Micro-cycle is a subphase in periodisation. I’ve discussed periodisation before, click the link, check the video.

The microcycle is a subphase and that’s our training week, typically seven to ten days depending on how soon your next fixture is. Within the microcycle, we wouldn’t want to have consecutive high days, or consecutive low days. We want to incorporate, probably alternative days so it might be a light day. A light day might be something where it’s a little bit more tactical, a little bit more technical, maybe there’s a little bit of tempo running involved, and then the training content during a high day or a heavy content day, that would be the contact stuff. That would be the physical stuff, the rucks, the mauls, scrimmaging, scrum work. And from a resistance training standpoint, that is when they would be lifting heavy, maybe working on some powerbase stuff. But you would want to alternate the days, so that… remember we also spoke about the GAS principal recently. So that we were not necessarily throwing a stimulus at the individuals involved in the training sessions that can lead towards overtraining and burnout, and all that kind of stuff… and injuries and all the stuff that we don’t want.

So, I said to my mum, “well we would probably alternate training days.” But then, last week I came across a research article in the European Journal of Sports Science that actually looked into the effects of contact, physical contact, on markers of fatigue. So they looked at heart rate, they looked at session RPE, that just means how intense the individual perceived the training session to be. They looked at markers like creatine carnes, which is a physiological marker of fatigue, and they looked at neuromuscular function. They looked at training sessions that both included, and training sessions that excluded, physical contact and it was on rugby players. When you exclude physical contact during a rugby training session, they found that running intensity was increased, they found that running distance was increased, and they found that, with respects to fatigue, there was a reduction in lower body neuromuscular function.

Now you would expect that, you would anticipate that, because obviously with running, and in that training session they were running a lot, the lower body is going to be worked excessively. Now on the flipside, during the contact-heavy sessions when they included physical contact in training, so they were working on tackling and whatever else, hit-ups and what have you, they found that heart rate was increased, session RPE was increased, so they found or perceived the training session to be harder, the individuals wellbeing was also perceptually increased which means psychologically they felt like it was just a more demanding training session, and then physiologically, markers like creatine carnes was increased, and then upper body neuromuscular function was decreased. Which again makes sense considering that they’re using the upper body to tackle and to hit the ball up. So it does have an effect on fatigue which is why we don’t have those sessions back to back.

Mum I hope that answered your question. So guys, check the link if you want to follow up on periodisation and the GAS principal, we’ve had previous videos where we’ve answered questions on those. Check those out.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for more content because there’s always plenty more where that came from.

Until next time, guys, keep well and go the AB’s!