Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1519/JSC.

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Changes in Strength over a Two Year Period in Professional Rugby Union Players

Brendyn Applebya, Robert U. Newtonb and Prue Cormieb
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Corresponding author:

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Brendyn Appleby Rugby WA PO 146 Floreat WA 6014 Phone: (+61 8) 9387 0754 Email: brendyn.appleby@rugbywa.com.au

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Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

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Western Force, Rugby WA, Perth, Australia School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

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ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to assess the magnitude of upper and lower body strength change in highly trained professional rugby union players following two years of training. An additional purpose was to examine if the changes in strength were influenced by starting strength level, lean mass index or chronological age. This longitudinal investigation tracked maximal strength and body composition over three consecutive years in 20 professional rugby union athletes. Maximal strength in the bench press and back squat as well as body composition was assessed during preseason resistance training sessions each year. Athletes completed a very rigorous training program throughout the duration of this study consisting of numerous resistance, conditioning and skills

training sessions every week. The primary findings of this study were: (1) maximal upper and lower body strength was increased by 6.5-11.5% following two years of training (p = 0.000-0.002 for bench press; p = 0.277-0.165 for squat); (2) magnitude of the improvement was negatively associated with

maximal strength was positively related to the change in LMI (an indicator of hypertrophy; r = 0.6920.880; p ≤ 0.05); and (4) magnitude of improvement was not associated with the age of professional rugby union athletes (r = -0.068 to -0.345). It appears particularly important for training programs to

union athletes this must be achieved in the face of high volumes of aerobic and skills training if strength is to be increased.

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Key Words: resistance training, long term adaptations, diminishing returns, bench press, squat

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be designed for continued muscle hypertrophy in highly trained athletes. Even in professional rugby

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initial strength level (r = -0.569 to -0.712; p ≤ 0.05); (3) magnitude of improvement in lower body

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Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

requiring high levels of endurance.e. .e. strength. player sprint performance has been related to strength and power (4) whilst muscular strength has been frequently demonstrated to discriminate playing levels within many collision-based field sports (2. Forwards in particular have been identified as requiring high levels of strength for scrumming and contact/wrestling activities whilst backs perform a higher frequency of sprints per match compared to forwards. with a wide degree of physical situations utilising all energy systems (13). commonly 8-12 week interventions) investigations involving relatively untrained or inexperienced participants. Professional C C conditioning programs. This is a serious limitation of current knowledge as the principle of diminished returns dictates that initial improvements in muscular A function are easily invoked and further improvements are progressively harder to achieve (28). 7. 19). much of what we know about the neurological and morphological adaptations EP TE D 2 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. 18. Very few studies have examined the magnitude of changes in strength over relatively longer periods of time and even fewer have done so with very well trained athletes (3. 20. In rugby league. 5. agility and speed. 6. 21). 7. limited time for physical conditioning and the need for concurrent training) can affect maximum strength development. 21). Match analysis has detailed a highly varied and intermittent game. Whilst these findings highlight the importance of high strength development as a critical requirement for rugby union players. 14). Whilst maximising the long-term development of strength is one of the primary goals of to resistance training arise from short-term (i. changes in strength have been observed to be much smaller in highly trained athletes (5. intermittent in nature. 20. power.INTRODUCTION Rugby union is a collision based field sport. While these improvements are of similar magnitude to those observed in short-term research studies. An investigation involving incoming intercollegiate Division IA basketball athletes reported upper and lower body strength increases of 24% and 32% respectively over a four year period (22). 13. the need for development of other physical characteristics and the training structure of professional rugby (i. as well as proficiency in match related skills (1.

. 21). 7. While these findings provide indirect observations about the theoretical construct of the principle of diminished returns. very limited evidence is available regarding the factors that may influence the ability to adapt to resistance training. Collectively.e. especially rugby union athletes. non-statistically significant improvements in maximal strength following one year of training (20). to date there is a paucity of research empirically testing this hypothesis (28). While extensive research has examined the magnitude of change in strength expected over short periods of time in relatively untrained subjects. Furthermore. Importantly. does a highly trained athlete need to increase lean muscle mass in order to significantly improve their strength).8% in total weight-lifting result after two years of training (21). and thus the magnitude of change in strength. Finnish national champion weightlifters were observed to show small. Furthermore. little scientific evidence exists regarding the magnitude of change in strength that can be expected over a long-term period in highly trained athletes (5. in highly trained rugby union athletes (i. Maximising the long-term strength development of team sport athletes is a primary goal for strength and conditioning coaches. there is very limited research investigating long-term strength development in highly trained professional team sport athletes. no such evidence is available for professional rugby union A athletes. a comparison of upper body strength development between elite and sub-elite rugby league athletes illustrated considerable difference in the magnitude of change over a 6 year period with increases of 6% and 24% observed respectively (3). 20. these results illustrate that highly trained athletes have a limited potential for further strength development even over long-term periods of intense training and highlight the importance of effective program design. can the older and/or very strong athletes still significantly improve their strength. Despite this. the primary purpose of this study was to assess the magnitude of upper and lower body strength change in professional rugby union players following two years of C C EP especially in highly trained athletes. Therefore. TE D 3 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. and a significant improvement of 2.rugby league athletes with at least 3 years of resistance training experience were reported to improve maximal lower body strength by 14% across a four year period (7) and maximal upper body strength by 11% across a six year period (3).

5 to 17. Subjects A Twenty professional rugby union athletes (12 forwards and 8 backs) with extensive resistance training experience fulfilled all the requirements of this investigation (Table 1). Only athletes who had a minimum of two years of full-time employment in a professional rugby union club in 2007 were eligible to participate.5 to 13. conditioning and skills training sessions every week. . professional rugby union athletes in order to examine the long- body composition was assessed using a one repetition maximum (1RM) test during pre-season resistance training sessions each year.e. All participants were highly experienced athletes from the same professional club that completed a very rigorous training program throughout the duration of this study consisting of numerous resistance. Participants completed 1RM assessments at the same time of day (i.2 years while the length of resistance training experience ranged from 4. with squat and bench press 1RM tests conducted on separate days every three to four weeks throughout the pre-season period each year.e. At the start of this investigation the participants’ length of professional employment ranged from 2. Assessment of body composition was performed at the same time of day (i.6 ± 3.5 ± 3. METHODS Approach to the Problem consecutive years in highly trained. 1st training session of the day). lean mass index or chronological age. prior to the 1st training session of the day) every two weeks throughout the pre-season period each year.8 years with an average of 6.training. An additional purpose was to examine if the changes in strength were influenced by starting strength level. Maximal strength in the bench press and back squat as well as D This longitudinal investigation tracked maximal strength and body composition over three 4 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. Nineteen athletes completed all the upper body strength assessments while 11 athletes completed all C C EP TE term adaptations to resistance training.5 years with an average of 10.3 years.

e. Participants gave their written informed consent and voluntarily completed the requirements of this investigation as part of their normal club training sessions and. The pre-competition phase was characterised by lower volume (i.insert Table 1 here - Procedures Training Program.e. the resistance training sessions were typically categorised as hypertrophy (i. conditioning and skills sessions as well as matches per week is outlined in Table 2. Specific emphasis was placed on addressing each individuals athletic performance limitations. . weaknesses and the presence of any injury. Individually designed training programs were prescribed with a C C reps) hypertrophy-strength (i.e. 15 to 20 sets of 1 to 6 reps) or power (i. 15 to 20 sets of 1 to 10 reps). 20 to 25 sets of 3 to 12 reps). The resistance training program was designed to maximise the long-term development of strength and power. athletes involved with their national representative team followed the direction of the national program. strength (i. 50 to 85% 1RM. 80 to 100% 1RM. 15 to 20 sets of 1 to 6 reps) and cycled in three week blocks with a recovery or lighter week being the last week of each cycle. During the pre-season phase.the lower body strength assessments. 20 to 25 sets of 3 to 15 reps). 80 to EP Resistance training programs were individualised based on each athlete’s physical strengths and TE D 5 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. 65 to 90% 1RM. At the completion of the season.e. Throughout the duration of the study participants completed a periodised training program consisting of between 4-12 training sessions per week.e.e. 60 to 75% 1RM. 75 to 100% 1RM) strength and power sessions while the competition phase consisted primarily of maintenance programming (i. 20 to 25 sets of 10 to 15 100% 1RM. A higher intensity (i.e. The average number of resistance. Participants not involved with representative teams completed hypertrophy or strength-based sessions aimed at maximising long-term strength development throughout the club season phase. This study was approved by the university’s human research ethics committee. .

D Only multi-joint exercises were used and the ratio of push-pull movements was prescribed 6 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. incline and shoulder press. 6 to 9 rating of perceived exertion [RPE] using the modified 1-10 scale) and duration (30-60 minutes). Between three to four sets of progressively increasing load were performed prior to two to three sets at maximal intensity for that session’s required load. cross-training. the number of sets ranged from 15 to 25. Individuals were prescribed between two and four conditioning sessions per week of varying intensity (i. incorporating a high conditioning running component. squats. bench pull. ranging from 15 to 20.e. depending on their individual positional requirements. conditioning A sessions were comprised predominately of running. Typical multi-joint exercises included deadlifts. using barbells or dumbbells. individually to ensure muscular balance in each athlete. depending on the individual requirements. although bike. During the pre-season phase. Recovery and off-season programs were general in prescription. step-ups. During the pre-competitive and in-season phases. flat. completed towards the later stages of the program. technical and tactical skill sessions were the predominant form of conditioning. bent- A typical lower body session commenced with one to two lower body stability or technique orientated warm-up exercises of sub-maximal intensity.methodical. between three to four sets of progressively increasing load were performed prior to two to three sets of maximal intensity at that session’s required load. Conditioning sessions involved a variety of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning training modalities during the duration of the study period. clean pulls. supplemented where necessary with small sided games. A typical upper body training session commenced with one to three shoulder warm-up exercises targeting rotator cuff and scapular stability. swimming and boxing sessions were also utilised. Additional conditioning sessions were C C EP TE over rows. In general. Typical exercises included chin-ups. The number of work sets was generally less than the upper body sessions. Similar to upper body strength training sessions. . Only multi-joint exercises were prescribed with the exception of supplementary hamstring and gluteal isolation exercises. incline leg press and power cleans. progressive overload outlook.

This protocol has been A used frequently in previous research for the assessment of maximal dynamic strength (8.prescribed on an individual player basis in accordance to their needs analysis. unit training (i.e. on the same day of the week for each exercise every year.e. The bench press and back squat 1RM were used to assess maximal upper body and lower body strength respectively. Skill sessions involved components of individual player skill development. The 1RM protocol involved participants completing a series of 3-4 warm up sets of increasing load each separated by 3 minutes of recovery. to full contact drills. 6 to 9 RPE). duration (30 to 60 minutes) and intensity (RPE of 2 to 7) of skill D number of sessions per week ranged from two to four. to pads. Only trials in which participants lowered the barbell to their chest and returned it back to full extension of the arms without bouncing the barbell off their chest or losing contact between the bench and their hips or the floor and their feet were considered successful. No more than five attempts were permitted with each attempt separated by 5 minutes of recovery. post-match recovery and travel were factors that influenced the sessions. C C EP TE frequency (between 2 and 3). In-season. A series of maximal lift attempts were then performed until a 1RM was obtained. of varying lengths (45 to 120 minutes) and . A free weights bench press rack was used to test bench press 1RM. but much shorter duration (maximum 30 minutes). The intensity (RPE of 3 to 7). full team training. simulating match play with varying levels of physical contact ranging from no contact. Regular assessments were conducted throughout the pre-season period each year with testing occurring at the same time of the day. 11) and reliability of these protocols have been established previously (24-26). A free weights squat rack was used to test squat 1RM. . Participants were required to lower the barbell to a depth equivalent to at least 90 degrees of knee flexion in order for the attempt to be considered 7 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. The in-season conditioning sessions were of a similar intensity (i.insert Table 2 here - Maximal Strength Assessment. 10. position specific specialist small team technique and tactics).

(15) as an indicator of fat-free mass (LMI = mass/sum of 7 skinfoldsx. Body mass was assessed using the same set of calibrated electronic scales.5 and 0.13 for forwards and 0. The strength of the effect was classified based on Cohen (9) which suggests ES of 0.8 to 8 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.).e. comparisons were made between the highest strength level achieved during the pre-season of three consecutive years in order to determine the long-term changes in strength rather than short-term fluctuations due to de-conditioning during the off-season etc.01kg (i. where x is 0. Urine specific gravity was assessed regularly to ensure a consistent level of hydration. supraspinale. 0. Mean effect sizes (ES) were also calculated to examine the practical significance of the changes in strength.e. The lean mass index (LMI) was calculated using methods described by Duthie et al. thigh and calf.successful. Kinetic Technology. having performed the assessments frequently for a minimum of 2 years prior to 2007.e.01%) respectively based on repeated measurements of 10 athletes. A Statistical Analyses A general linear model with repeated measures analysis of variance followed by Bonferoni post hoc tests was used to examine the changes in strength throughout the duration of the study. The same experienced. The between test technical error for sum of seven skinfolds and body mass was 2mm (i. International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry accredited anthropometrist performed skinfold thickness assessments in accordance with standard methods throughout the duration of this study. 3. subscapular.0%) and 0. This depth was monitored during testing using a linear position transducer (GymAware. All participants were very experienced with the bench press and squat 1RM protocols. abdomen. Australia) attached to the barbell as well as visually by the same experienced tester. biceps. The following seven sites were measured using calibrated skinfold callipers (Harpenden Skinfold Callipers) triceps. 0. Canberra. C C EP TE D . Body Composition Assessment.2.14 for backs). Assessment of 1RM occurred frequently throughout the pre-season phase each year and only the highest 1RM of the year was included in the analysis (i.

Specifically. Figure 1. r = 0. moderate and large effect respectively.49 has a moderate effect and r ≥ 0.29 has a small effect. EP 1RM and squat 1RM:BM were also observed in 2008 and 2009 but these changes did not reach TE D . maximal upper body strength percent change and 44-77% of the variance in maximal lower body strength percent change was explained by the percent change in LMI. RESULTS Statistically significant differences between 2007. bench press 1RM and bench press 1RM:BM were observed in both 2008 and 2009 (Table 3). only 0-12% of the variance in maximal strength percent change was explained by age in C C . LMI as well as age were evaluated using Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). Statistical significance for all analyses was defined by p ≤ 0. Relationships between the changes in strength and starting strength level. This data indicates that 32-51% of the variance in maximal upper body strength percent change and 41-46% of the variance in maximal lower body strength percent change was explained by starting strength level. Practically relevant improvements in squat statistical significance (Table 3).05 and results were summarized as means ± standard deviations. Figure 2 and Figure 3 here 9 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.represent a small. This data indicates that 6-10% of the variance in A 2007.30 – 0. Significant positive relationships that had a large effect were also observed between the percent change in LMI and percent change in lower body strength but not upper body strength (Figure 2). 2008 and 2009 were observed in a number of variables (Table 1). No relationship was observed between age in 2007 and the percent change in either upper body or lower body strength (Figure 3). Significant negative relationships that had a large effect were observed between strength level in 2007 and the percent change in strength in 2008 and 2009 for both the bench press and squat (Figure 1).insert Table 3. The strength of the correlation coefficient was determined based on classifications outlined by Cohen (9) where r = 0.10 – 0.5 has a large effect. Statistically significant changes in LMI.

The training is comparable to the 6. Despite the much greater work performed by professional athletes during long-term training programs. Additionally. considerable increases in strength were observed in both the upper body and lower body. The current findings provide additional evidence that highly trained athletes have a limited potential for further strength development even over long-term periods of intense training (3. Long-Term Changes in Strength. 20. 21).1% (7) improvement in upper and lower body strength previously reported for highly trained rugby league athletes. 7. These findings support those previously observed in rugby league athletes where similar training characteristics and long maintenance phases are required (5. the current observations further demonstrate the importance of effective program design involving sophisticated resistance training techniques and a C C 11. inexperienced participants (e.0% (5) and 14. (3) the magnitude of improvement in lower body maximal strength was positively related to the change in LMI (an indicator of hypertrophy). Despite the well trained nature of the athletes at the performance in rugby union athletes. the adaptations observed are A of a considerably smaller magnitude than those reported by many short-term research investigations involving relatively untrained.8% increase in maximal upper and lower body strength observed over two years of EP commencement of the two year training block and the concurrent training essential for improving TE D 10 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. 7).g. (2) the magnitude of the improvement was negatively associated with initial strength level (this study provides some of the first data and the strongest evidence to date supporting the theoretical construct of the principle of diminished returns).DISCUSSION This investigation is the first to document the long-term adaptations to resistance training in professional rugby union players.5-11. 5. The primary findings of this study were: (1) maximal upper and lower body strength was increased by 6.5% following two years of training.5% and 10. 28% increase in squat 1RM following 10 weeks of resistance training (12)). . and (4) the magnitude of improvement was not associated with the age of professional rugby union athletes.

17. These results provide some of the first data and certainly the . It is unknown if this can be achieved through sophisticated program design or if the time necessary to devote to a greater rate of improvement in these athletes limits the ability for development in other important performance areas and increases the risk of overtraining. Significant negative relationships were observed between initial strength level and the magnitude of change in both upper and lower body strength following two years of training (r = -0.712 i. a larger window of adaptation). only 6-10% of the variance in upper body strength change was explained by the change in LMI). 23).692-0. The current study reflects these results in an applied setting with significant correlations observed between the magnitude of lower body strength gain and the change in LMI (r = 0.880 i. Influence of Lean Mass on Long-Term Changes in Strength.e. 29). Influence of Initial Strength Level on Long-Term Changes in Strength.314 i.clear understanding of the multitude of factors that affect adaptation in professional team sport athletes. the stronger participants may require a greater stimulus due to the smaller window of adaptation for strength improvement these athletes have as a result of their highly developed neuromuscular system.244-0. the relatively weaker athletes had a greater capacity for adaptation within the neuromuscular system (i. C C EP TE diminished returns which dictates that initial improvements in muscular function are easily invoked D explained by starting strength level). If similar rates of improvements are to be achieved. It is theorised that despite all participants being exposed to a similar volume of resistance training.e. the magnitude of potential for training-induced improvement decreases as strength and training experience of the athlete increases) (7. 44-77% of the variance in lower body strength change was explained by the change in LMI). No significant relationship was observed between the magnitude of upper body strength gain and changes in LMI (r = 0. 32-51% and 41-46% of the variance in maximal upper and lower body strength change respectively was strongest evidence to date for elite athletes supporting the theoretical construct of the principle of and further improvements are progressively harder to achieve (i.e.569 to -0. It has been well documented A that increases in muscle cross-sectional area are strongly associated with increased strength (16. This is theorised to be a reflection of the greater potential for hypertrophy of 11 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.e.e.

7. observations suggest that the higher initial upper body strength level of older athletes may have a strong confounding impact on the correlations observed between age and change in strength. The significant 2.313 to -0.068 to -0. there were no statistically significant relationships observed between the athlete’s age at the start of the investigation and the magnitude of change in maximal strength following two years of training.e. p = 0.the lower body compared to upper body musculature. Specifically. 10-12% of the variance in upper body strength change was explained by initial age).100) and no relationship observed between age and lower body strength level (r = -0. .388). These A strength.655-0. This is an encouraging finding for strength and conditioning coaches as it demonstrates that older athletes are still able to considerably improve C C EP TE Influence of Age on Long-Term Changes in Strength.842. the results indicate that older athletes were still able to increase strength. Despite this. p = 0. p = 0. 27).289. p = 0. 0-2% of the variance in lower body strength change was explained by initial age). i. the current study was higher than other long-term studies involving highly trained athletes (5. The average age of participants in D 12 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.345.152. in 2007 there was a trend towards a positive relationship between age and upper body strength level (r = 0.8% increase in LMI observed in the current investigation illustrates that muscle hypertrophy is still achievable under these circumstances. Nevertheless. changes in lower body strength showed no association with initial age (r = -0. Although there were non-significant trends towards a negative relationship between initial age and upper body strength gain (r = -0. The significant relationship between strength and LMI gain demonstrates the importance of hypertrophy to enhancing lower body maximal strength in professional rugby union players. the LMI can be considered an indicator of muscle hypertrophy.191. Although not a direct measure of muscle mass or cross-sectional area. Interestingly.148-0. if further improvements in strength are to be achieved in such highly trained athletes.e. Therefore. i. training programs need to be designed for continued muscle hypertrophy and this can be achieved despite high volumes of aerobic and skills training. it is clear that changes in lean muscle and an athlete’s initial strength level are more important factors to consider than chronological age when designing training programs that maximise the development of strength in highly trained athletes.389.

2008 – 51. These improvements can be expected regardless of the athlete’s age C C 0.5% and 10.) but the primary driver was theorised to be associated with differences in the training sessions involving the bench press remained relatively similar from 2007 (17. ES = 0. 2008-2009).3 ± 6.307).8 ± 26. There are many factors that may have contributed to these observations (i. ES = 0. less effective program design.021).7 ± 25. While this data doesn’t capture all exercise that target the A prime movers in the bench press and squat. These differences in the volume of resistance training performed were due to injury and/or a shift in training emphasis for individual players. increases of only 4. the number of resistance training sessions involving the squat showed a trend towards increasing from 2007 (10.275) and was significantly lower in 2009 (6.244. p = 0. it provides a strong indication of the changes in upper and lower body resistance training volume throughout the duration of the study.4% (p = 0. p = 0.0% (p = 0.197) and the squat (2007 – 40. ES = 0. increased quantity of match time leading to more match related soreness (27).5. In contrast. especially with lower body strength.018).6) to 2008 (13.6 ± 15.4 ± 25.0.3% (p = 0.02) in bench press and squat 1RM were observed during the second year of training (i. leading to improvements of 11.5.5-11. p = 0.6 ± 8.2.0 ± 6.Time Course of Long-Term Changes in Strength.857.e.1 ± 7.4. The number of resistance training TE D 13 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.9 ± 6.5% in both the bench press and squat following 1-2 years of training. ES = 0.3 ± 4.38) and 0. Increases of 7.001. increased prevalence of injury.099.3 ± 23.50) in bench press and squat 1RM strength respectively were observed during the first year of training (i. Similar results were observed in EP load performed between the first and second year of training.6% (p = 0.627) and 2009 (14. p = 0.2.e. 2009 – 21. shift in program emphasis.4. 2007-2008).e. p = 0.198. . These figures quite clearly demonstrate a far more pronounced yearly increase in strength during the first year of the training period observed. Conclusions.8% across the two years of training (i.7) to 2008 (16.981. Professional rugby union athletes with extensive resistance training experience can expect to see strength gains of approximately 6. 2007-2009). 2008 – 51. However.e. p = the number of work sets performed of the bench press (2007 – 51.4. Another interesting observation worthy of discussion is the timing of improvements over the two year training period.6 ± 30. p = 0.4.4. 2009 – 40. p = 0.66) and 10. player motivation etc.

C C EP strength. Strength and conditioning coaches should be mindful to include a level of hypertrophy training in resistance training programs for highly trained athletes requiring increases in • The magnitude of strength improvement is related to initial strength level with greater improvements observed in relatively weaker athletes. A ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS No sources of funding were provided for this investigation. Strength and conditioning professionals should be aware of the greater programming detail required for continued development of strength in highly trained athletes compared to relatively weaker athletes even within the same professional organisation. • Age does not appear to limit the potential to adapt to strength training within a group of highly trained professional rugby union athletes. TE D 14 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. the degree of strength improvement is related to initial strength level with larger improvements observed in athletes with relatively lower levels of strength regardless of age. . Even in elite level rugby union athletes this must be achieved in the face of high volumes of aerobic and skills training. The authors would like to thank the players and coaching staff at the Emirates Western Force for their participation in the study. Furthermore. Given the strong relationship between increases in lean mass index and increases in strength it appears particularly important for training programs to be designed for continued muscle hypertrophy.and are associated with an increase in lean mass (squat only). PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS • Improvement in strength is highly related to increased lean muscle mass in highly trained athletes.

A. 2007. and Kraemer. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1: 2-13. Cohen J.V.J. 14. Pyne DB. ed. 7. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research 5: 126-138. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.M. Cormie P.G.REFERENCES 1. 13. McGuigian. and Newton. Power. Baker D. W.G. Hakkinen K. and Williams. McGuigan MR. Speed. and O'Toole. 9. Gill. 2010. 11. A. Folland JP. 1988. and Hooper SL. European Journal of Applied Physiology 56: 419-427. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 42: 1582-1598.C. Changes in Strength. Baker D. Hopkins. 2006. 17. Komi. N. Garstecki MA. Fry AC.morphological and neurological contributions to increase strength.. and Nance. 1991. S. Br J Sports Med 40: 202-207. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 15: 30-35. R. 2009. N. 19. Comparison of Lower Body Strength. Baker D. M. Argus CK. Fry. 2010. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning 16: 3-10. Med Sci Sports Exerc 42: 1582-1598. Livingstone S. R. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20: 541-546.J.. 15. 2001. The Role of Training Intensity in Resistance Exercise Overtraining and Overreaching. and Newton. ed. M. C. RB Krieder. 8. in: Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences J Cohen. Hopkins WG.L. pp 87-105. 12. Anthropometry profiles of elite rugby players: quantifying changes in lean mass.U. R. Adaptations in Athletic Performance after Ballistic Power versus Strength Training. Comparison of Selected Physical Fitness and Performance Variables Between NCAA Division I and II Football Players.M. Cormie P. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22: 153-158. and Rehrer. The concepts of power analysis. Deutsch MU. Physical Performance Characteristics of American Collegiate Football Players. Influence of strength on magnitude and mechanisms of adaptation to power training. The load that maximizes the average mechanical power output during explosive bench press throws in highly trained athletes. Kearney . H. Journal of Sports Sciences 25: 461-472. 4.. A C C EP TE D 15 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. Adaptations in athletic performance after ballistic power versus strength training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 13: 230-235. Nance S. and Beaven. Six-Year Changes in Upper-Body Maximum Strength and Power in Experienced Strength-Power Athletes. Latin. M. Hillsdale. Muscle Fibre and Force Production Characteristics During a 1 Year Training Period in Elite Weight-lifters. and Cuppett. EMG. 2006. pp 1-18. in: Overtraining in Sport. Keogh. 1987. 2010. W. Med Sci Sports Exerc 42: 1566-1581. 6. Cormie P.W.R. R. and Kauhanen. Time-motion analysis of professional rugby union players during match-play. Adaptations to Strength Training . Baker D. 2. Baker D. . R. A Framework for the Physical Development of Elite Rugby Union Players. 2007. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19: 292-297. Baker D. J Strength Cond Res 15: 20-24. 2006. Baker D. Agility and Sprint Momentum to Describe Playing Rank Among Professional Rugby League Players. and Newton RU. 2008. 1999. 10. Adaptations in Upper-Body Maximal Strength and Power Output Resulting from Long-Term Resistance Training in Experienced Strength-Power Athletes. 2006. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23: 1583-1592. McGuigan MR. P. Power. and Newton RU. and Newton. Aleu. 16. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Fry A. 3. M. 2008. 1998. 20. 2004. and Newton. 5. The Relation Between Running Speed and Measures of Strength and Power in Professional Rugby League Players. Sports Medicine 37: 145-168. Duthie GM. Observation of 4-Year Adaptations in Lower Body Maximal Strength and Power Output in Professional Rugby League Players. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning 16: 4-10. Comparison of Upper-Body Strength and Power Between Professional and CollegeAged Rugby League Players. Acceleration. and Steroid Hormones During a Professional Rugby Union Competition. J.G. Duthie GM.A. 18. 2001. and Moore M..

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The magnitude of effect is indicated by the effect size with 0.FIGURE LEGENDS TABLES Table 1. * Significant (p ≤ 0. Percent change in body composition and strength from 2007.05) correlation.05) correlation.05) different than 2007. Relationship between maximal strength level in 2007 and the percent change in maximal strength in 2008 (A – bench press and C . Relationship between age in 2007 and the percent change in maximal strength in 2008 (A – bench press and C . * Significantly (p ≤ 0.squat) and 2009 (B – bench press and D . Relationship between percent change in maximal strength and percent change in lean mass index between 2007-2008 (A – bench press and C .20 representing the smallest worthwhile change. FIGURES Figure 3. D 17 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.05) change from 2007. TE Table 3. A C C Figure 2. Participant characteristics throughout the duration of the study. EP Figure 1. The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs.squat). Average duration and number of resistance training. . The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs.squat). Table 2. conditioning and skills sessions as well as the number of matches per week during each of the phases of the year. The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs.squat) and 2007-2009 (B – bench press and D squat). * Significant (p ≤ 0. * Significant (p ≤ 0.squat) and 2009 (B – bench press and D .

8 ± 11.4 103.7 ± 8.0 1.8 ± 4.5* 1.4 ± 3.6 ± 12.0 ± 8.67 ± 0.39 ± 0.5 ± 14.3 TE 2008 25.14* 179.1 C C EP 132.13* 1.2 65.22 178.3 ± 4.6 71.7 1.13 164.4* 104.3* 141. Age (years) Body Mass (kg) Sum of 7 Skinfolds (mm) Lean Mass Index Bench Press 1RM (kg) Bench Press 1RM:BM Squat 1RM (kg) Squat 1RM:BM 2007 24.6* 1.4 ± 3. * Significantly (p ≤ 0.Table 1.4 ± 3.4* 68.24 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.1* 59.6 ± 31.3* 146.55 ± 0.36 ± 0.0 ± 16.68 ± 0. Participant characteristics throughout the duration of the study.9 58.4 60.4* 106. A D 2009 26.7 ± 4.5 1.05) different than 2007.28 ± 0.6 ± 26.19 .7 ± 16.1 ± 26.8 ± 7.1 ± 16.

A C C EP 1-2 5 weeks 1-2 14 weeks 1-2 0 1-3 weeks 13-16 weeks 2-4 weeks 1-2 1 . Phase of Year Pre-Season Christmas Break Pre-Competition Super 14 Competition Recovery International or Club Season Off-Season Average Duration 8-10 weeks 2 weeks Resistance Sessions Upper Body 4 TE 4 3-4 2 2 1-2 0 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 0 1-2 1 Lower Body Conditioning Sessions D Skills Sessions 4 0 2-3 2-3 0 2 0 Matches 0 0 0-1 1 0 1 0 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. Average duration and number of resistance training.Table 2. conditioning and skills sessions as well as the number of matches per week during each of the phases of the year.

7* 1.206 0.9 ± 1.05) change from 2007.20 representing the smallest worthwhile change.9* 7.005 0.37 1.28 -0.002 0.4 Effect Size 0.5 ± 10.19 0.586 0.000 0.2* 11.0* 9.04 0.0* 10.33 D 2009 Pvalue 0.6 -7.6* 0.2* P-value 0.3 ± 7.52 0.4* -3.5 ± 14.1 ± 2.277 Effect Size 0.5 2.6 9.003 0.8 ± 17.2 ± 16.81 0.8 ± 2.25 0.6 ± 17.53 Small Trivial Small Large Large Moderat e Moderat e Trivial Small Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.2 ± 9. 2008 % Change Body Mass Sum of 7 Skinfolds Lean Mass Index Bench Press 1RM Bench Press 1RM:BM Squat 1RM Squat 1RM:BM 0.8 ± 1. * Significant (p ≤ 0.50 0.9 ± 12.147 0.6 0.001 0. Percent change in body composition and strength from 2007. The magnitude of effect is indicated by the effect size with 0.56 10.000 0.59 Moderat e Moderat e Moderat e Moderat e .198 0. A C C EP 0.2 ± 10.66 Small 6.165 0.Table 3.11 0.0 9.5 ± 7.028 TE % Change 2.001 0.

Relationship between maximal strength level in 2007 and the percent change in maximal strength in 2008 (A – bench press and C .05) correlation. * Significant (p ≤ 0.squat). The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs. A C C EP TE D .squat) and 2009 (B – bench press and D . Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.Figure 1.

A C C EP TE D . The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs.squat) and 2007-2009 (B – bench press and D . Relationship between percent change in maximal strength and percent change in lean mass index between 2007-2008 ( A – bench press and C .squat).Figure 2. * Significant (p ≤ 0.05) correlation. Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Figure 3. A C C EP TE D .squat) and 2009 ( B – bench press and D . The correlation coefficient (r) is indicated for each of the graphs. Relationship between age in 2007 and the percent change in maximal strength in 2008 (A – bench press and C .squat). Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

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