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Introduction
LTAD - a critique
Demands of the game
Profile of players
Functional screening
Resistance training
Speed and agility training
Integrated game conditioning
Periodisation
Content
Questions

Mesocycles

Hypertrophy mesocycle

The main goal here is to increase muscle size. An increase in size - hypertrophy - should be sought while seeking to preserve qualities such as speed, power and general mobility. The hypertrophy phase described here should include a player’s specific needs so that an individualised approach is used. Some key guidelines in devising the hypertrophy phase programme are noted here:

  • Training intensity is lower than for pure max strength training or power training.
  • Greater training volume may occur in this phase compared to when maximum strength and power is the goal.
  • Split routines will be evident for many players (that is alternating the use of upper body and lower body workouts).
  • Muscle imbalances that were identified in our functional screening and ROM tests may be addressed in this phase.
  • Body composition, strength, power and speed testing is recommended so as to monitor the effects of muscle mass changes on key components of fitness.
  • The phase may also include rugby related training but the volume of endurance should be managed so as to prioritise muscle size gains.
  • Aerobic or endurance training might be best completed using swimming, cycling and rowing – low impact activities that develop general endurance.
  • We are limiting plyometric training here so as to minimise joint impact yet note that some plyometric training is included to ensure that speed and power is not adversely affected.
  • Nutrition is as always an important component in this phase of training.
  • Good sleep patterns including sufficient duration and quality of sleep is as always an important part of this programme. Therefore, the S&C coach should provide guidelines to the player to ensure that this very important component of the programme is not compromised. Please note Table 2 below for some sleep hygiene guidelines.
Guidelines
Comment
Duration
  • Between 7 and 9 hours will be optimal for most players
Sleeping environment
  • Dark, cool, no noise and no light
Pre-sleep routine
  • Finish computer/TV viewing at least one hour prior to sleep
  • Reading is easy on the eyes and can assist a player in falling asleep
Pre-sleep nutrition
  • Consume a carbohydrate and protein based snack right before bed
  • Eating right before bed improves protein synthesis while sleeping and maintains a positive protein balance overnight

Table 2. Sleep hygiene guidelines for optimising training adaptations.

Table 3 below describes the first phase of an 8-week hypertrophy mesocycle. Note that this programme features a 4-day split routine. Days 1 and 2 alternate lower body and upper body exercises. Days 4 and 5 repeat this order but with different exercises for lower and upper body respectively. Days 6 and 7 – the weekend days are recovery days. Note the linear progression from a 3 set x 10-15RM load to a heavier loading where 4 sets x 6-10RM loads are used from week 5 to 8 inclusive.

Also, we use week 4 as an unload week when the player completes a 2 day split routine only. The training units take place on day 1 and day 4.

8-week hypertrophy phase - weeks 1-4
Lower body routine 1
Lower body routine 2
Day 1 Reps Sets Day 4 Reps Sets

Back squat

10

3

Front squat

10

3

Barbell deadlift

10

3

Forward lunge

10

3

Glute-ham raise

10

3

Romanian deadlift

10

3

Standing calf raise

10

3

Leg curl

10

3

Reverse lunge

10

3

Back extension

10

3

Hanging hip raise

10

3

Reverse crunch

10

3

Bridge variation

10

3

Individual prehab

10

3

Upper body routine 1
Upper body routine 2
Day 2 Reps Sets Day 5 Reps Sets

Bench press

10

3

Incline press

10

3

Press-ups or horizontal chin-ups

80% max reps

3

Bent over row

10

3

Shrugs

10

3

Dips

80% max reps

3

Shoulder press

10

3

Lat pull-down

10

3

Prone lateral raise

10

3

Upright row

10

3

Chest flies

10

3

Tricep extension

10

3

Seated row

10

3

Barbell bicep curls

10

3

Table 3. First phase weeks 1-4 of hypertrophy routine.

The first 4 weeks require the player to complete a high volume of work using a tempo of 2:1:2 for most exercises. The rest recovery between sets is 1 minute and 2 minutes between exercises. During week 4, the volume can be decreased as needs be to allow for recovery from accumulated fatigue that will likely occur in this early phase of training. The S&C coach may reduce the weekly load to a single lower and upper body split routine. The second phase from week 5 to 8 is described in Table 4 below.

The lower body exercises selected include back and front squat, deadlift and Romanian deadlift, forward and reverse lunge, glute-hamstring raise, back extension, hamstring curl, calf raise and a number of abdominal/oblique exercises.

Upper body exercises include the bench press, incline press, chest flies, dips for the chest, pull-ups, bent over row, seated row, lat pull-down for the back, shrugs and upright row for the upper back and shoulders as well as shoulder press and prone lateral raise. The bicep curl and tricep extension exercises focus on the arms.

Phase 2 of this mesocycle is described in Table 4 below.

8-week hypertrophy phase - weeks 5-8
Lower body routine 1
Lower body routine 2
Day 1 Reps Sets Day 4 Reps Sets

Box squat/hex bar

8

4

Front squat

8

4

Barbell deadlift

8

4

Forward lunge

8

4

Ham-glute raise

8

4

Romanian deadlift

8

4

Standing calf raise

8

4

Back extension

8

4

Nordic hamstring

10

3

Hamstring Swiss ball complex

10

3

Hanging hip raise

12

3

Abdominal roll-outs

10

3

Step up

8

3

Individual prehab

10

3

Upper body routine 1
Upper body routine 2
Day 2 Reps Sets Day 5 Reps Sets

Bench press

6

4

Bench press (dumbbells)

8

4

Pull-ups or horizontal chin-ups

8 (weighted)

4

Bent over row

8

4

Upright row - narrow grip

8

4

Dips

8 (weighted)

4

Push press

6

4

Lat pull-down

8

4

Prone lateral raise

8

4

Upright row - wide grip

6

4

Chest flies

8

4

Crunches

15

3

Seated row

8

4

Dumbbell bicep curls

8

4

Table 4. Second phase from week 5-8 of Hypertrophy routine.

During the second phase, the player now reduces the repetitions used and increases the load used. When the player completes the prescribed reps for each set, the load is increased on the next training unit. The S&C coach will want to ensure that the player now rests up to 2 minutes between sets and 3 minutes between exercises. The last two exercises of the split routine may be supersetted to allow for a greater metabolic intensity. For example, in the upper body unit on day 2, chest flies and seated row may be completed back to back with only a change over recovery between exercises. Variations of exercises used in phase 1 can also be selected, for example the Nordic hamstring exercise replaces the hamstring curl and dumbbell bicep curls are substituted for the barbell curl.