Aim/purpose of the PEP

My aim is to increase my core and upper body strength. I play as a flanker in rugby which requires good upper body strength for scrummaging and very good tackling, therefore it is essential to have a strong upper body and overall core strength. This will be difficult as I will have to work my gym sessions around my rugby training/ matches. My aim is to attend and complete my exercise plan 3 times a week; Tuesday mornings before school, Thursday’s after school and Friday’s after school.

My progress and Background of the sport

I have played rugby union for 4 years and I have improved dramatically in terms of knowledge and skill. As a player I have improved a lot from not being good enough to get a starting spot in my ex-club which were very average, to getting into the county and London Irish ‘U17’ team. The 'modern game of rugby is very physical with ferocious tackles and hard impacts' (Reid, 2004), and through increased muscle bulk, this should hopefully benefit me, not only in breaking the game line, and rucks and mauls but also most importantly reduce the risk of injury.

Rugby is a sporadic game made up of generally short phases, each requiring maximal exertions (Reid, 2004). My PEP shall aim to improve my maximal exertions; I shall test this through the one rep max and a grip dynamometer tests.

Previous/current training, relevant fitness tests

At the age of 15 I started going to the gym, I have been regularly attending ever since and this has helped improve my physical state dramatically. When I attend the gym during the rugby season I often only work on my lean body mass and strength which includes:  explosive strength to improve tackling, specific strength to work on specific muscles I think need working on and static strength to help improve scrummaging and tackling. The reason for not using the cardiovascular machines when I attend the gym is because my cardiovascular training is my rugby training which I have 5 times a week including school, club and county, I usually have 2 matches a week aswell. Due to my rugby demands I can only attend the gym one a week during the season because if I do any more I will become fatigued which will effect my performance. During the off-season I attend the gym 4-5 times a week to prepare myself for the forthcoming season. During this time I use the cardiovascular machines to stay fit aswell as increasing lean body mass.

        Prior to my P.E.P I have taken part in various fitness tests in order to receive feedback on my abilities:-













These are all tests that are relevant to my P.E.P because they give me a good idea of my current abilities and where my strengths and weakness’ lie so I can construct a suitable exercise programme that will push me and that I will benefit from.

Safety considerations

Strength training/principles of training

 Strength training 'involves high resistance and low repitition which leads to the following:

 -Increased contractile protein (actin and myosin)

 -Tougher connective tissue

 -Reduced inhibitions

 -Contractile efficiency

 -Number of muscle fibres.'

(Sharkey, 2002)

According to Sharkey, strength training research has strongly suggested that both types of muscle fibres improve with strength training , but that growth of the Fast Twitch Two A has a more pronounced growth. An interesting flip side is that research also suggests though that it doesn't influence the production of the other one and vice versa.

Van Linge (1962) transplanted the tendon of a small rat into a position where it would have to assume a tremendous workload. After a period of heavy training, he studied the rat muscle and found that the transplanted muscle had doubled its weight and tripled its strength. …stimulated new muscle fibres…suggestion for satellite cells in muscle hypertrophy…theses helped in the production of new fibres (Barton-Davis, Shoturma, and Sweeney, 1999) extracts from Sharkey, B J, 2002

The benefits of resistance training are varied and great: 'Resistance training offers greater development of muscular strength… mass… maintenance of Basal Metabolic Rate… bone mineral density… glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity' (, 2000)

The two principles I intend to base my programme on are S.P.O.R.T. and F.I.T.T.

Specificity- Not only must the training undertaken be sport-specific but must also include the relevant muscle groups that you wish to improve. I shall aim to improve my one-repetition maximum by using static weights in the gym for my upper body e.g. pectoralis major, Biceps brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Pronator teres, trapezius, triceps and the abdominal muscle group. I shall also use free weights in my own home if i am unable to complete gym sessions.

Progressively Overload - Training must be monitored and moved on to prevent plateauing (FITT principle). Every two weeks I shall review my progress and increase the weights and alter the reps accordingly.

Reversibility - After periods of detraining adaptations that occurred would be lost; muscle atrophy, Sharkey, 2003- suggests if one training session was undertaken per week strength will be maintained for up to six weeks. I must maintain my work load and not allow it to drop - although with weight training it would take many weeks period before I became to experience muscle atrophy.

Tedium - if sessions become boring and tedious, the performer may not have much motivation to succeed and continue with sessions. I shall keep to the same routine but through changing intensity or having someone else training with me shall hopefully keep me motivated.

Frequency - I shall undertake my strength training programme three times per week; Tuesday mornings before school, Thursday’s after school and Friday’s after school.

Intensity - Each session I shall aim to complete three sets of 6-10 reps each cycle of the machines which I shall aim to complete three times during the whole session.

Type – The type of training is strength training

Time - A whole session shall last 1 - 2 hours, with five minutes rest between sets.

Tests and protocols:

Wesson and Wiggins suggest that strength is best measured using dynamometers, these give an objective measure of the forces generated for the specific muscle group targeted. The easiest test to undertake is the hand grip dynamometer, which is achieved by the following technique:

Hold in hand with straight-arm at 90 degrees to your body, begin squeeze and bring arm down towards body, breathing out during process. Record maximum readings from three attempts for left and right hands.

See appendix A for suggested grip normals.

I shall undertake my strength training programme primarily in my local gym (HRSFC). This does in part limit me to using variable resistance machines (VRM), there is much debate as to the benefits and draw backs of machines but unfortunately in the restricted environment upon which I am faced I shall have to make do with what's available. At home I have some free weights; 25kg dumb bells, for consistency I shall try and just use the VRM at the gym but if the need arises for me to complete my programme via free weights when the gym isn't available then I shall have to adapt to the given situation.

Reverse biceps curl: Sit upright, grasp weight with palms facing towards the front of your body. Contract your abdominal muscles, thus stabilizing trunk and spine. Keep your upper arms perpendicular to the floor. Slowly raise the weight by means of flexion at the elbows, keeping upper arms stationary. Raise the weight to the limit of your natural motion, comfortable. Slowly return to the starting position.

N.b. Do not arch your back. Keep your body still and straight. Control the weight throughout movement.

Pec Dec/ flies: Sit upright, with back flat against rest and bum firmly positioned in the seat. Place forearms against pads, ensuring right angle is formed with upper arm; this is best produced by lowering the seat. Keep your palms facing forwards, produce circumflexion of your chest with both arms keeping constant tension throughout movement. Slowly in a controlled manner move arms, together ensuring hands don't touch.

Vertical Bench-Press:

Adjust the seat height so the bar is gripped at low- to mid-chest level. Keep firmly seated and that back is firmly against the vertical back pad. During movement keep elbows perpendicular to the line of your body, contract abdominal muscles, and maintain posture as whilst remaining as still as possible. Push bar forward, almost to complete lockout. As the weight is lowered elevate and push out your chest slightly.

Shoulder press: Once comfortable, push back, bum and legs into seat and support, when pushing with weight make sure even force is exerted from both arms, hold momentarily at each point and return to start.

Sit upright with the back of the bench against your back, and your feet comfortably on the floor.

Hold the weights slightly more than shoulder width apart, and lift above the head, with straight arms. Lower the weight either to the front or rear, if using a barbell. Avoid arching of the back, and hitting the neck if taking to the weight to the rear.

Technique for lifting

According to , 1999 you shouldn't 'hold your breath when you lift heavy weights. You may faint and lose control of the weights. Breathe out when you lift… Don't exercise any set of muscles more than 3 times a week', these are very important and I must consider when lifting to not cause injury. , 2003 reiterates the point of breathing when using weights as an important safety issue, it states that it can help you 'avoid raising your blood pressure to a dangerous level, and keep you from developing headaches, dizziness or even fainting'. , 2003 also suggests that if correct breathing technique is implemented that you might even be able to lift heavier weights than previously, exhale on weight, inhale on easy part of the repetition.

Pros and cons of variable resistance machines (VRM):

 suggests that VRM are particularly effective at working muscle groups in isolation, whereas free weights allow you to target surrounding muscle groups along with the particular one to assist the movement. It does appear that there are more positive comments about using free weights but a solid foundation from which to base your programme needs to be established before maximum benefits can be achieved via a free weights training programme. Once the surrounding muscles have been conditioned the weight lifted can be increased accordingly, these muscles also help to stabilise your body, support limbs and maintain posture. There is also suggestion that neuromuscular pathways and connecting tissues benefits from all forms of weight training. A study by Stone et al was undertaken investigating benefits of free weights against resistance machines, the free weights group was deemed to show significantly better improvements then the other, this was attributed to many factors. The most important factor that I believe I must consider for my programme was that it was deemed that free weights mimic sporting movements more effectively and this is the application to which I am completing my programme for. Unfortunately I do not have large quantities of free weights available to me; therefore I shall just have to complete the programme to the best of my ability and facilities around me. I shall have to consider this factor when discussing the effectiveness of my fitness programme and its application in a sporting environment.

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Warm ups, cool downs and stretches:

Warm ups have both psychological and somatic benefits.

  • Psychologically benefits: it shall help you mentally prepare for the activity ahead; visualise success, fulfil goals etc.
  • Somatic benefits: Release of adrenaline, shall increase heart rate which in turn dilates capillaries; increasing the potential speed that oxygen can be delivered to the working muscles. Increased body temperature leads too… muscles being more pliable and decreased viscosity within muscles. Enabling greater extensibility and elasticity of muscle fibres which in turn facilitates greater contractions creating more power in your muscles. Basal metabolic rate increase leads ...

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