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The Principles of TrainingThe principles of training guide the coach in his planning of all fitness training. While these principles are well-established they are also constantly evolving as more scientifically supported information becomes available. The focus of all the principles of training and the efforts of all coaches and players is to effect adaptation.AdaptationThe human body has an enormous capacity to adapt to the demands made on it. For example, in terms of fitness development it is well established that frequent training sessions that include long slow distance running will improve an individual's capability to run slowly for a long time. This is effectively an adaptation to the demands placed on the body. It becomes a better long distance running machine as a result of long distance running. However, adaptation is always at a cost. The cost being that all systems are trained to support this adaptation. Thus, the long distance athlete who develops a high endurance capacity will blunt speed, power and reaction abilities. The system, the human body, puts all its efforts into enhancing the system that is primarily stressed. Training for Rugby is a challenge because of the requirement to develop several fitness components. This can be done by using a periodised approach to training so that the key components required to play the game of Rugby are equally developed.Progressive OverloadImprovements in performance will only occur when the body is stressed at a level beyond its present capacity. For example, this means that in order to get stronger you must be prepared to gradually lift more weight. Lifting the same weight week in and week out will not make you stronger. However, this does not mean that each day you should be adding more weight to the bar, far from it. Any increase in load should be applied progressively over a period of time. Overload in training the young player should be in the form of more and varied exercises and movements especially for the 11-15 year old. As the player matures overload can be effected using greater intensity of exercise (making the exercise more difficult) or by gradually increasing the number of repetitions of an exercise or activity.In training or developing any fitness component, the coach should start at and work from the present or current level of ability in his players. There are two key elements to constantly consider before each training session - overload and gradual progression. In order to over load appropriately the coach must be aware of the individual stage of development and the needs of the young player. He must then gradually increase the work that the player is capable of completing.RecoveryThis is a most undervalued principle of training. Combining work and recovery is crucial in order to achieve development. It is during the recovery period (away from training) that the player will adapt to the loads and demands of the training stimulus. For example, it is during sleep that the player's muscles and tissues will repair and adapt. If rest and sleep are compromised then the gains that can be made from training will be reduced. In addition, training sessions that are excessively intense and too frequent will inhibit speed and power development. Adequate recovery from exercise and the avoidance of too much and too intense training are thus vital elements in the development of not only Rugby fitness but also in the development of energy and enthusiasm for the game.SpecificityRugby is a total body activity that places great demands on speed, strength, power and agility. The principle of specificity states that the effects of training are confined to those systems stressed during training. As a general guideline, training is most effective when carried out in a manner that simulates the player's sport as closely as possible. However, it must also be recognised that many young players may not possess the general fitness required to develop specific game fitness. This is best illustrated by reference to the foundation of a house. It is only when the foundation has been laid that the house can be built. Likewise general fitness is similar to the foundation required to support a structure that will have to withstand the assaults of the environment. Thus it is important to start by developing the young player's general fitness and then to progress to specific fitness. This can occur through a properly designed periodised training porgramme where the player develops the general components during the early pre-season and then progresses to more game specific training as the pre-season progresses.VariationAfter a period of training the body adapts to the demands made on it. If training continues without variation then the body will cease to adapt and will in fact become stale. This is a common occurrence in sport training. When variation is non-existent then overtraining can take place. The player who becomes 'stale' loses his appetite for not only training but also the game. In practical terms, it is important therefore that throughout the year variation in fitness and squad training occurs. For example in strength training, the type of exercises, the number of reps and sets, the amount of rest between sets and the speed of movement will all be manipulated in order to apply overload and variation to continue the process of adaptation.Individual differencesThis principle of training implies that individuals react to training and adapt to it differently. In addition while all players may complete a similar training session those players who demonstrate high speed and power capabilities will require greater rest and recovery in their training compared to those players who are less endowed with natural speed qualities. Further, some players will improve their endurance fitness easier than others. Frequently, players who are naturally explosive will find it difficult to adapt to endurance type training. Their adaptation will not be as evident as the adaptation made by the more 'endurance' type player.Reversibility TrainingAdaptations can be lost if the player fails to maintain the training stimulus. In other words, the effects or adaptations associated with training are not permanent and when physical training ceases fitness drops steadily towards the pre-training level. The regression or detraining effect is usually less rapid than the initial increase in fitness. The good news is that a given level of fitness can often be retained with a reduced level of training than was required for its development. This has obvious implications for players during the off-season and especially for players who incur a serious injury during the season.InterferenceWhen strength and endurance training are carried out simultaneously it seems that the increases in strength are less than the increases that would have occurred if the strength training had been carried out on its own. This negative interaction between different forms of training is known as interference. It is of considerable importance to the Rugby coach because Rugby requires the development of several components of fitness. The principle of interference recommends that development and maintenance emphasis is given to the different fitness components. For example, during the pre-season strength, power and speed will be developed as they are the primary fitness components required to play the game. They should receive primary attention in the training programme. Endurance can be maintained while the explosive components are being developed. If endurance, however, is the component deserving of development then the explosive components should be maintained while endurance training is emphasised.The coach needs to be aware of the principles of training. These are the principles that will guide the coach in planning the players' training and playing year. This section gave a brief outline of the key principles of training as they apply to Rugby, however, it is intended to outline these in greater detail in materials and workshops over the coming months.
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