More Isn’t Better
Doing more isn’t always the answer. We have a tendency to think doing more is the best way to progress at anything we are doing. This is true up to a point but there is always a point of diminishing returns.
“Training is efficient if the highest sports result is achieved with the least expense of time and energy”
This quote is on the front cover of Thomas Kurz book Science of Sports Training and something I constantly think of when designing training programs and training sessions, whether in the gym or on the field.
Many coaches do more hoping that they eventually hit the right exercise or strategy for the team by just covering everything. I want to focus on the one thing that will give us the greatest improvement and then move on to the next.
It is like they grab a handful of darts and throw it at the dart board hoping one sticks. I want to have one dart and hit the bullseye. You have to remember that those darts all represent time and energy. If you just throw a handful at the board and one does stick, you have still wasted all that energy when you could have just prioritised and got the same result with energy to spare.
This will reduce the risk of injury and more importantly increase motivation of the athlete as they know everything they are doing at training is serving a purpose. They can train with more intensity and they will recover better because they aren’t spending pointless hours at training.
For a rugby league player, doing more than an hour in the gym or field is pointless in my opinion. The players won’t focus for any longer than this and the quality of the session drops away very quickly at this point. For me, 30-45 minutes in the gym and 60 minutes on the field in the off season for the part time league players is plenty. Then in season this drops to 20 minutes in the gym and anywhere from 30-60 minutes on the field depending on the time of season.
If you aren’t focusing on strength training, then you are missing the biggest bang for your buck.
“Strength is the mother of all physical abilities”
I heard this from Andre Benoit. It is very true. Proper strength training will improve your speed, agility, repeat ability, reduce your risk of injury, and if injured a stronger muscle will return to health much more quickly. So that 45 minutes in the gym can allow you to not do ladder drills and hurdles and all that bullshit on the field, which saves time to focus on skills and defence. Actual rugby league training.
It comes back to being able to assess and prioritise correctly. I hear of testing being done and it is a complete waste of time. Most don’t even standardise the testing. It is a joke. So, you have some players doing full arse to grass squats, some at 90 degree, some barely bending their knees, and then they are using these results to compare the squad and make up predicted numbers for them to hit in the gym. It makes no sense at all.
Or you do a fitness test and they walk out the markers. If you see that then you know the results will not be able to be compared accurately in the next test. Just don’t test at all if that is how you are going to set it up.
It is one of my biggest frustrations.
You know when a coach is going to struggle when they can’t even set up the field for their session to flow effectively.
As a coach, if I can’t explain exactly why an exercise or a drill is in my plan, then I scrap it. I don’t want one minute of pointless training in my session. I want the players in and out as quickly as possible without sacrificing any quality.
I might have a drill planned for 15 minutes, but if the players are executing really well and they have achieved what I wanted from them, then I may cut that drill short at say the 7 minute mark. I don’t care about the 15 minutes. I want them to execute a skill with precision and get enough reps of it in for it to stick and then move on to something else. Doing more will only lead to fatigue and allow bad movement patterns to creep in. An example is practising kicking. If you are striking the ball well and feel good, stop and go home. Once you know how to spell your name properly, you don’t keep practicing it.
Pick two key things to work on and focus on the details of those. Really perfect the small components to the skill. You do this by breaking the skill down into the smallest component and rebuilding it. It is simple, not easy.
You might have 5 issues that need fixing, don’t get caught up in all of them, you will get overwhelmed. Find the one that will cover multiple areas, the biggest bang for your buck, and start there. Work on this and while you are, assess where the team is heading and what the next priority is looking to be. You have to be able to shift your focus, as it is dynamic. You may address an issue and have it sorted in a week or it may take 3, at some point though there will be another key area to work on.
So, to sum up, pick the biggest issue and work on that. Keep training time to the absolute minimum required. If a session only takes 30 minutes because it was high quality, then so be it, who said all sessions had to be 60 or even 90 minutes.