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Upgrader diary: rugby – part 3

Niall Moody
(Image credit: Unknown)

The #Upgrader – Niall Moody

Two weeks ago my training hit a road bump – literally. I was on holiday in Chamonix. I went white water rafting, took a ride in a helicopter, got loads of miles in the legs cycling and mountain biking up and down the mountain. But then disaster struck.

When riding on my bike I swerved to avoid crashing into someone coming the other way and dropped off the side of the road, tumbled down the mountainside and landed flat on my back on the road below.

At first I was just winded but later my back went into spasm and come out in dark bruises. As soon as I got home I saw a chiropractor. Thankfully he’s given me the all clear. So after a potentially catastrophic setback – I’m honestly not exaggerating for melodramatics – and with a lot of good fortune, I’m back training again just in time for my club’s preseason to kick off.

So far I’ve done a bit of touch rugby so far and with all the mobility work I’ve done with my #Upgrader coach Andy Edwards of Saracens rugby club I feel good when putting in sharp changes of direction and pace. At the very least, nothing has popped yet.

Typically in the second week our club always has a dreaded bleep test to welcome us back. Usually I’d avoid it at all costs but with all the work I’ve already put in I’m going into it with confidence. When full contact sessions start that might be a different story – but you could say I started contact work early in Chamonix.  

The fall in Chamonix wasn’t the only injury I’ve had to overcome. My physio has worked wonders on an ankle problem that has stopped me running as much as I’d like. I’m getting lots of regular massage and manipulation to get it moving and reduce inflammation and I’ve been doing exercises on the stairs, lifting my ankle to stretch out my tight calf muscles that have been exasperating the problem. 

The special attention has helped and now I’ve started mixing things up in training. I got my bench up to 115kg and squatted 160kg. There’s still room for improvement but it felt good. Taking a pre-workout shake has certainly helped. It’s a godsend. I don’t know what I ever did without it.

On top of the gym sessions and park runs I’ve been doing lots of circuits, sprints and shoulder mobility work. I recently headed to the park with a friend to do a full body strength workout. We did circuits of overhead press, Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows and high pulls, with short sprints between each of the five rounds to simulate the demands of the game. 

In terms of my diet lately, I’ve had a lot on my plate. My calorie requirements are high to help rebuild me with all the training I’m doing. Initially I approached this welcome challenge by simply stuffing my face with packets of chicken breasts, but now I’ve started varying my diet, adding in plenty of grilled mackerel and tuna. Of course, if I could afford to eat steak all day, everyday I would.

The biggest challenge is food prep but tasty strawberry flavoured whey protein shakes make it easier to hit my macro targets. I’m having as many as three a day with water, and adding creatine to the one after training. To keep it interesting I’m adding whey to my breakfast porridge and mixing it up in my nutribullet with plenty of fruit that’s high in antioxidants to mop up free radicals caused by training.

Next up we’re due to start introducing more explosive movements and lifts into my training. I’m excited to see how having mobility issues addressed and a solid base of strength helps with this part of my game. And there’s always the rocket fuel pre-workout to give me an added boost.  

THE COACH – ANDY EDWARDS

‘Despite Niall’s hairy moment in Chamonix, Niall has been progressing really well,’ says Saracens rugby strength and conditioning coach Andy Edwards. ‘When we working together he had fallen out of love with training but now with a clear direction and routine to follow, both in the gym, on the field and with his diet, he’s enjoying what he’s doing. He needs to stay on top of his diet to improve the balance of fat mass to lean mass for performance and while we’re still in preseason he can focus on keeping things heavy to increase strength and take plenty of time to rest and recovery. Taking a pre-workout supplement is essential before sessions to make the most of each workout, as is re-fueling with high quality whey protein afterwards and first thing in the morning.’

THE WORKOUT: POWER AND SPEED

‘Niall’s programme will shift to more power and speed work, including jumping exercises but keeping a focus on mobility, glute activation and hamstring strength to reduce any risk of injury.’

1 CONCENTRIC SQUAT

SETS 4 REPS 3 REST 2-3MIN

Focus on the concentric, lifting part of a squat to build power. Set a barbell up in the squat rack so the supports take the weight when you’re in the bottom of a squat. With the bar on the supports, squat down under it and position yourself so the weight rests across the back of your shoulders. Keep your knees wide apart, your back flat, core tight and chest upright, and drive up powerfully. Focus on thrusting your hips forwards to initiate the move. Use a weight around 60% of your bodyweight.

2 LOADED SQUAT JUMP

SETS 4 REPS 3 REST 2-3MIN

Return the supports to the top of the squat position so you take the barbell out of the rack standing. From here, lower into a half squat, keeping your core tight and chest up, and drive straight up powerfully to jump off the floor. Land with bent knees to soften your landing. Use a relatively light weight and focus on moving as quickly as you can.

3 SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

SETS 4 REPS 5 EACH SIDE REST 2-3MIN

Hold a barbell in front of your hips with your arms straight. Hinge forwards from your hips, not your waist, simultaneously raising one straight leg up behind you, and lower the bar until you feel a moderate stretch in the hamstrings of your standing leg. Reverse the move to the start. Keep your standing leg straight throughout.

4 HEAVY PROWLER PUSH

SETS 4 DISTANCE 20M REST 2-3MIN

If you don’t have access to a prowler you can replace this with a soft plyo box loaded with weight plates. Keep your arms straight, shoulders braced, back flat and bum low as you drive powerfully with your legs to push the prowler or plyo box forwards. Keep pumping your legs as the lactic acid floods your thighs, then keep walking during your rest period to help clear it. 

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