Personal Exercise Programme


To increase my core and upper body strength, in conjunction to the expected muscle hypertrophy of the major muscle groups I would expect my BIA reading to drop. I play in the scrum in rugby therefore it is essential to have a strong neck and back, combined with overall core strength.


Before last season I hadn’t played rugby for around two seasons. 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 training        

At the age of seventeen I started going to the gym, this was sporadic and didn’t really serve a direct purpose and involved both cardiovascular and strength exercises. I didn’t have a specific aim neither did I work specific muscle groups; this used to occur where possible twice a week. During the rugby and hockey off-season I would go for at least a forty-minute run once a week and play cricket for at least one day a week (40 over bat and bowl). During the rugby/hockey season I play matches on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s I also trained once or twice during the week. Around this I also tried to fit in at least a couple of gym sessions as mentioned and work all Sundays – which sometimes involved lifting heavy objects.

Strength training definitions and principles:        

‘The ability to exert a force against a resistance’ (, 2003)


‘Maximum force that can be developed in a muscle or group of muscles during a single maximal contraction’ (Wesson and Wiggins, 1998)


, 2003 suggests there are three classifications of strength; maximum, elastic and endurance.  My personal exercise programme focuses on maximum strength training; because of this I shall discuss this in more detail.  

Sharkey, 2003 suggests that three training sessions per week per muscle group is the minimum frequency that which causes ‘maximum gains in strength’.   Sharkey, 2003 in his reviewed notes suggests that the key to muscle hypertrophy is to place the muscle under at least two thirds it maximum strength.  


Intrinsic of the muscle, two classifications of adaptations occurs; myogenic and neurogenic.  Sharkey highlights the following adaptations that occur within the muscle:

  • number of myofibrils
  • sarcoplasmic volume
  • protein
  • supporting connective tissue (ligaments and tendons)

Galligan et al conveys these views on strength training and muscular strength:

  • A rugby player should specifically try and improve their sustained strength; ‘maintain maximal forces over repeated contractions’.  
  • Suggestion that muscle hypertrophy may be a hindrance, but that speed of strength must also be developed.  
  • Increased length of muscle increases stretch increases force generated.

Wesson and Wiggins suggests that cross-sectional area of muscle tissue and muscle fibre type is directly related to the muscle within.  Therefore I know if I direct my training programme at specifically type two a muscle fibres and notice and increase in size than in theory I should be stronger and my training programme has been a success.

Micro Target                

Weekly blocks where improvement is not necessarily significantly noticed but motivation is maintained by constantly altering stresses placed upon the performer.  To feel competent accommodating a weight at 80% my one rep, for 6 reps, with a progressive, critical view placed upon performance to monitor improvement.  

Meso Targets                

One or two month blocks, where realistic aims of muscle hypertrophy are first clearly realised.  Improve my one-repetition max by 10-20%, - muscle bulk increased and my BIA reading to have lowered.

Macro Target                

Follows a one or two year training period.  Significant muscle hypertrophy, muscle levels at an accepted level, main concern is maintaining levels reached and keeping up cardiovascular work, keep BIA reading below 28%.

Planning and research        

Strength training ‘involves high resistance and low repititions…leads to following adaptations:

  • 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 undertake the relevant component of the exercises 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 to name but a few.  I shall also use free weights in my own home to compliment the gym work where I am unable to complete gym sessions.  

Progressively Overload – Training must be monitored and moved on to prevent plateauing or staleness (see FITT principle).  Every two weeks I shall review my progress and increase the weights and alter the reps accordingly; I aim to push myself hardest on Fridays as I then have a two day rest period before my next session.

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 monotonous 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 (psychological effect of social facilitation) shall hopefully keep me motivated.

I shall now apply the principle of FITT to help me with the overload principle:

Frequency – I shall undertake my strength training programme three times per week; Monday – medium/heavy session, Wednesday – medium session, Friday – heavy session. Between these sessions I aim to do some cardiovascular work and recreational sport.

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 – each session shall involve small batches of 1 – 6 reps being optimal for neuromuscular and maximum strength to help facilitate muscle hypertrophy.  (Fleck & Kraemer, 1996)

Time - A whole session shall last 1 – 2 hours, with five minutes rest between sets, which is the maximum required for ATP to return to 50% of their pre-exercise levels.

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.  

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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 ...

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