Q & A with British and Irish Lion

Posted: August 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Question & Answer with Former British & Irish Lion and England international Andy Titterrall


Q. As a professional rugby player what was it that made you want to get into the Strength and Conditioning business?

A. From turning professional at a young age I always prided myself on my fitness standards and I had to work hard in the gym to gain any size. I wanted to be the best player I could be so I through myself into every aspect of the game. My obsession with Strength and Conditioning grew from there.

Q. How your current Pre-season training going?

A. Pre season is the best part of the season for me!! This season I started a couple of weeks later than some of the other squad members but I’m in a good place, my strength has continued to improve and I feel well conditioned at the moment.

Q. What does a typical training day involve during pre season?

A. Pre seasons differ from club to club but my current week would be 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 2 days off. A typical day at the moment would consist of upper body weights in the morning followed by a unit workshop with lower body weights in the afternoon. The following day we would do another upper body session in the morning with a rugby/conditioning session in the afternoon.

Q. Club aspirations for the year ahead?

A. I’d like to think that the club is aiming for promotion back into The Premiership.

Q. Who is your greatest inspiration to you as a player and an S&C coach?

A. I have been privileged to work with some top s&c coaches and players throughout my time in professional rugby. 2 fantastic coaches have mentored and continue to mentor me as an s&c coach. Jason Davidson, the Lead Performance Director at Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie has been brilliant with my development, as has Ben Serpell. Ben currently works with ACT Brumbies and helped me when I first started out as a coach. There are many other guys that Im thankful to because of the input they have had throughout my career path. Mark Bitcom (Wigan RL & England RL) Darren Roberts (Head of Performance Red Bull) to name just two.

A player who has been an inspiration to me is Gareth Delve. I’ve known Delvey for about 7 years and in my eyes is everything you want in a player. He has overcome some career ending injuries and always battled back. Uncompromising, driven, honest and tough are just some of the words I would use to describe him. Without doubt the best Captain I have played with and against.

Q. What are your current training methods and philosophies, and do they differ from what you do at your club?

A. My philosophy as an s&c coach is simple. Strength first. Rugby is built around strength and power but if you don’t have a good platform to work off of then you will struggle. When I was Head Academy Conditioner at Leeds Carnegie I had levels of performance I wanted my athletes to achieve first before they began the next stage. This was all part of their LTD and I soon had them moving well and also shifting some tin. As a coach there’s nothing better when you can see your players becoming durable and strong.

I think most clubs have the same approach but I do see and hear some spend a lot of time running during early parts of pre seasons.

Q. So, what fitness elements does the modern rugby player require to reach an optimum condition?

A. Rugby will combine plenty of fitness elements in order for the player to play at his/her optimum. Strength, speed, power, aerobic and anaerobic endurance, agility and mobility will play a huge part. Body composition has come into play more recently and I believe players shouldn’t get too hung up on these statistics. If your too lean you can be subject to increased risk of injury and muscle loss but at the same time you don’t want to be carrying around excess body fat. This is where a top nutritionist will liaise with the s&c coach to implement protocols so that the athletes are given every opportunity to make those right choices.

Q. Should players focus more on long runs in my there training plans?

A. All areas of fitness are covered during pre season and also competition. There may be less volume during the season because of the demand of the games and preparation whilst on the rugby field but athletes will still go through top up sessions depending on game time, fitness levels, returning from injury etc. If you train one system to much you will become accustomed to it and suffer from the others. There is a lot of anaerobic work involved in rugby along with speed endurance so these are areas I tend to concentrate more on, as the ‘rugby training’ will take care of itself.

Q. Should Rugby players lift weights during In-season?

A. Without doubt players need to lift during the season. Depending on the structure of the week and when the games are, it may determine how many sessions they do but it’s important to continue to lift so that strength can be maintained. Because of the physical demands of the sport, sessions may have to be adapted but in general a plan of phases would have been thought through from looking at the season and when best to implement strength, max strength, power, regeneration etc.

Q. What is the most frequent mistake you see in the weight room by athletes?

A. I see a couple of frequent mistakes in the gym. 1) Technique needs to be coached continuously. If someone is lifting a heavy load they will need queues throughout the lift to remind them, this may be 1 or 2, as you don’t want to bombard them with lots of points. Wait until the lift is over to give feedback. If the weight isn’t that heavy and they are warming up then I’d give more points if necessary. I don’t like compromising technique over weight lifted. There are other variables that can be adapted. 2) Tempo/Speed of lift. I agree that within rugby sometimes you have to lift a heavy load quickly (but safely) but when focusing on main lifts in the gym the players can forget about both the concentric and eccentric phase, (it can end up looking like 1-0-1-0) For me time under tension is key, but its more about controlling the movement and setting other muscle groups in order to lift. Breathing also plays a massive part in the lift but in my experience is overlooked.

Q.What do you believe is the most important attribute for an athlete to possess?

A.Dedication! I’ve played with and coached athletes that have had this in abundance and nothing is ever too much trouble. Preparation, recovery, nutrition, skill training, and sacrifice. They search for that 1% and if they find it they’ll look for another. I’ve seen plenty of naturally skilled players that are exceptional but they aren’t dedicated to the game. It’s just not on the field where you have to be professional!

Q. Favourite pre match meal?

A. I don’t have any favourite pre match meal. I follow a diet that has been specifically tailored to me and I’ll eat whatever is on my menu for that day. If I’m away from my kitchen and cant prepare it the night before because of a stay in a hotel then I will eat as close to what I’m supposed to eat.

Q. Current supplement stack?

A. My current supplement stack is pretty simple. I use cold pressed whey, fish oils, l-glutamine, BCAA’s, flaxseed oil, coffee and a greens drink.

Q. 3 tips for players to get faster?

A. A couple of tips for a player to get faster are to get stronger, focus on posterior chain exercises. Running mechanics is very important and you see a few teams now employing sprint athletes to help coach this area and finally keep your muscle subtle, soft tissue work, foam roll and mobility. Sprinting is about staying relaxed!

Q. If you could only use one piece of gym equipment for the rest of your career, what would it be?

A. I’ve often been asked this question and I’ll always choose a BB. So many different variations you can use with it. If it came with Olympic plates as well even better.

Q. If you had to pick one exercise to perform what would it be?

A. Squat. I love a deadlift as well, but after my knee reconstruction I struggled to get my squat back in terms of depth and control. I worked hard to gain confidence under the bar again and I’m happy to have the squat back in my program.

Q. Finally some advice for young Rugby players?

A. As a player you can be bombarded with advice. Rugby like most professional sport only has a short career so train hard and play hard. Play each game like it’s your last!

Thanks to Andy for the brilliant insight into his daily life, training advice and career. Andy will be coming over in the near future for a workshop/seminar on training for rugby.

Andy Titterrell 

Head Conditioner 

NW Crusaders RL
Strength & Conditioning

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