Your Honor, if it pleases the court, I enter into the record as evidence, today’s posting of the Men’s National Australian Rugby Union team; your Qantas Australian Wallabies, training in the gym.
It may be timely for a critique of the methodologies for the preparation of the flag ship Rugby program in the nation, as the short clip informs us, the World Cup looms. Fans will no doubt appreciate a look behind the scenes and anyone with an affinity for the preparation of athletes, will be keen to see something to aspire to and emulate.
The clip begins with the disclosure of the use of ‘force plate’ technology. This disclosure comes from Haydn Masters, ‘Wallabies Head of Physical Performance’. He tells us how the vertical jump gives a ‘…… direct, distinct unique force profile for each player’, and is ‘used for the next 3-4 months to improve going into the World Cup.’
We are not shown what a ‘force plate’ looks like. Here’s one.
Before we go any further, we first have to consider the importance of the coach’s statement. Albeit this is a 2 minute quick walk around of what is going on, the claim is fairly salient. The players have their vertical jump tested on a force plate and that data contributes to the design of their 3-4 months of general training. I think I do the coach no dis-service by writing that.
Is it possible that 31 participants (at least) could be asked to jump on a force plate and get different results? Is it possible that they have all interpreted the instruction differently? Is it possible that when it IS performed homogenously however, which is surely what you want, the differences are going to be so minor and predictable (the prop coming off an injury will get a different result to the healthy winger) that extrapolating out whatever minor little differences you might find and turning that into ‘injury prevention’ may not be that important. Is it rather that the biggest factor in injury management and prevention is previous injury history? NOT jumping on a force plate.
As for programming general training for healthy athletes; is there anything here demonstrating beyond novice skills that nears the realm of what force plate data can tell us to tweak?
Whilst that thought is precipitating in your mind, and we shall return to it, let’s take a look at what some of the weight room skills are like. Are they as precise and consistent with, the effort to collect precise high-tech data? Do you think they are in line with what a professional athlete should be able to do? Is this what a professional ‘Physical Performance’ coach should be able to GET them to do?
0:37 Is this a competent front rack position? Is there a lack of external rotation in the shoulder? Is this good scapula mobility? Will the player start to burn their wrists shortly? Is this okay? Is 70kg very much weight? Does the overhead position demonstrate more poor end-range mobility? Is there evidence for possible first rib entrapment? Are you okay with all this? Maybe you’re like me, a nobody: but should any of us emulate this?
0:47 The player is performing what looks like seated Behind the Neck Presses. Is this competent shoulder mobility? Should this be loaded with weight? Could you conclude that the player cannot externally rotate, abduct and retract their scapula enough to get either their elbow or wrist under the bar? Fortunately there is only baby weight on the bar.
0:54 A player catching a Hang Power clean with load over the wrists and elbow instead of on the shoulders. Wrist integrity? Again, fortunately this is very light. Are they getting a training effect from this?
1:05 ‘100% individual‘…….. exhorts the voice over. It sounds like a case is being made for elite individual snowflake status for the players. Are they demonstrating elite general level skills in the weight room? Isn’t it more the case that they are uncoached or novice level? The ‘force plate profile‘ being individual I strenuously argue in both its accuracy and relevance to what is happening in the training of these athletes as discussed above.
Does it look like these athletes are well coached and well into a career of skills in this environment? Or are they being coached on the run? Wouldn’t they be better off back at the starting line with an evolution from applying themselves and adapting to mastering things that work for everyone, and then progressing towards things that are necessary uniquely for them as individuals?
1:07 More Behind the Neck presses whilst a gobbledygook of buzzwords talks about a ‘needs analysis’. What is the need here? Is there perhaps a need for this exercise to stop?
1:15 “31 strength and power programs”, …… we’re working off of 2 minutes of footage here, but I ask, ‘do you see competence here?’
It is apparently out of the scope of this program, the people who thought it up, oversee it, participate in it and draw an income from running it, to understand that it is not exceptional for a grown man to be able to be able to push press 100kg for reps, squat 180kg, dead lift 230kg and bench 140kg. There are no attempts at some of these skills in the footage shown but I am making a confident prediction that this program is not capable of producing these basic results. That is the output for an average man with a job and kids and better things to do with his time. A professional athlete should demonstrate excellent general level skills and performance. You need 31 programs when you ARE elite. Not when, quite obviously, everything is coached on the run and you are a novice.
1:22 “Snap…… yeah nicceeeeeeee!!!!!!” It is unclear what is snapping here, perhaps some connective tissue.
1:24 A player cannot rack the bar in the front rack position. Goes to a thumbless grip because we can guess it has been hurting their wrist. This is a common problem with the players in this program. Not a particularly difficult thing to improve for the majority of people, if you know what you’re doing…… like, if you were the ‘Physical Performance’ coach for the top Rugby program in the land and his staff.
1:33 It is important to have 3 staff bear hug you to a back extension apparatus in order to do oblique training. That way you will be convinced that you need to have the staff there to perform this task at all times. It protects jobs.
1:40 Player making a….. well describe the attempt yourself, at a roll out using a barbell. Ask yourself if it appears whether the players know how to execute this skill. They don’t need to know what its purpose is and why it is included I suppose but is this what competence looks like? Could a better training effect be achieved another way? Is this just for the camera? Is this what you would expect from professional level athletes that have been identified as the best at their sport and gone through multiple years of ‘development’ and all that a ‘professional development program’ can possibly achieve?
1:50 Mucking around with band resistance rotational exercises. Ask yourself if you really think that this is something worth doing considering the lack of skill and ability in all other competencies demonstrated so far in the clip? This is the usual distraction from a program that cannot advance an athlete beyond novice level output in general preparation.
Watch the clip again. Are they just making this shit up on the spot? The poor player, you can almost add the speech bubble. ‘Da fuq are they making me do this shit for’?
This is a good reason for us to return to the force plate. Judging by the ability here of the coaches to teach the athletes a skill, how homogenous do you think they could get the testing of jumping on a force plate? What good is the data now?
1:59 More crappy push pressing with baby weight.
2:18 Mercifully it ends.
At least three very powerful phenomena are at play here:
1) People will always resort to that which is most easily measured.
2) It is more important to appear to be an elite specialist than it is to be a competent generalist.
3) Superior genetics and technical-tactical skills in the sporting realm will always give cover to poor general preparation.
That is what is happening here, general training. There is no ball, no scrummaging, no line-outs being practiced: There is no tackling. If you are training generally then I put it to you that you do so with the most efficient practice possible. There is no ‘Rugby way’ of lifting a barbell. As soon as one hears, ‘We’re not trying to be weightlifters in here!’ the corollary we should all ask ourselves is, ‘what is the non-weightlifting way to move a barbell efficiently?’ and after all, we are trying to be efficient aren’t we? Aren’t we?
Of course we want to be efficient, no one would disagree with that. But on one hand here is an argument being employed that, ‘we don’t want to train like elite specialists‘ in regards to what many would identify as basic movement efficiency, but the next, the claim is that elite individual programming and advanced technology is being used and is necessary. Make up your mind! You can’t have it both ways, and in fact, you’re wrong twice.
If the general training of one athlete is the specific training of another then the difference will be of degree, not kind. Otherwise your plan for application to performance and injury prevention is a fugazi.
Your Honor: The prosecution rests.
The Wallabies may win the World Cup, yes, this training won’t make that much difference. Kicking, passing, tackling, ruck and maul skills, injuries, penalties will all be more important. But if you are saying that you are training for your sport, and you are using skills to complete that task, shouldn’t you be able to muster a standard that puts you above the local soccer team?