For today’s BLOG I wanted to discuss strength and conditioning in Rugby League but from a players perspective. That player is Leeds Rhinos star and very close friend of mine Rob Burrow. Rob is currently enjoying his much deserved testimonial with the Rhinos and is currently in preparation for his testimonial game against Featherstone Rovers today.
Rob has had a great 10 years at the top with Leeds Rhinos, winning 5 Super League titles, the Harry Sunderland Award twice and representingeat Britain / England. As well as that Rob is a great role model and professional within Rugby League so hopefully you’ll all be able to pick up a few things on why strength and conditioning, recovery and lifestyle are all important for the modern day Rugby League player. Let’s see what he had to say.
Hi Rob, firstly congratulation on the new born baby Macy. How is life as a dad?
”Lifes great as a dad mate. She’s absolutely perfect, very beautiful like her mummy I’m the proudest lad alive. I’m lucky to be at a great club but nothing comes close to the day you see your child born.”
With the testimonial year in full swing, how is it going and are you looking forward to the game with Featherstone tonight?
”My Testimonial is about half way through now and the response I’ve had at my events is overwhelming. To see fans turn up to support you makes you feel very proud. I can’t wait to play Featherstone tonight. I’ve a lot of great memories from my amateur days there so it’s only fitting I play them in my benefit game.”
You have been with Leeds since the age of 13. Could you tell us some of the highs and lows of your time with the Rhinos?
”There has been many highs and lows in my time at Leeds. The lows have been losing important games and playing poorly. But I’m so fortunate to have had many highs with this special bunch of players. I currently have 5 Super League rings and 2 world club challenge winners medals. You can call me greedy but we all want more and more.”
To have had such a successful career, strength and conditioning must have had a massive importance. How important do you think your fitness and training have been to your success?
”The strength and conditioning side of training has been massive for me. With my small stature I’ve had to work extra hard to compete against the much bigger stronger players. Statistically, pound for pound I’m the strongest at the club and therefore I am able to compete in games. The club have personalised my weights training to suit me and my stature, as well as speed & agility and conditioning sessions all playing a big part. My fitness is something I take very seriously and always strive to improve.”
Obviously with your size (dis)advantage, how do you think this has helped or hindered your career and what do you feel are your best physical attributes?
”My size as in no way hindered my career. For obvious reasons I’m not out on the pitch for my power and big hits. I use my size to my advantage rather than as a detriment. I rely on speed and agility to get me through a game and make it harder for the bigger, stronger guys to catch me. Having said that I do enjoy the physical and defensive side of the game.”
How has strength and conditioning changed over the last 15 years in your opinion and how has the development of sport science changed the way you approach training?
”The best way I can describe the change in the strength and conditioning side is that our forwards are much more athletic now compared to the much heavier fatter forwards from 10 years ago. Sports science has really adapted our training to be more specific to the game especially with the increasing speed and intensity year on year. Players are now required to be a lot fitter and required to work hard for longer spells of the game. I’ve noticed conditioning is much more personalised and specific to certain individuals and position. For example wingers spend more time on speed endurance, while forwards do more anaerobic and contact based conditioning to meet the demands of the position. Sport science is improving all the time and we are fitness tested regularly and now use GPS devices which track things like how far and fast we run in training and games.”
What would a typical training week be like in the life of Rob Burrow?
”A typical week for me would consist of many different aspects of training. We obviously do skills every day of the week. We do about 3-4 weights sessions a week too. We also work hard on the little things such as prehab and flexibility to reduce injuries and look after our bodies. We do a combat session which works on all our techniques in and around the ruck, which is not the most enjoyable for me. We also like work on our hand eye coordination. We do lots of different parts of training apart from just rugby but it’s all needed and all relevant to our game.”
What other things are important in your recovery and preparation for a game?
”In preparation and recovery from games I like to be good with my nutrition. Pre match meals start a couple of days before the game. I love to load up on the carbs so I have plenty of energy for a match. After games I like to keep as healthy as possible so my body recovers better and quicker. This includes replacing the energy I have used immediately after a game or training as well as a large intake of fruit and veg to increase my vitamin and mineral intake. I also have a great belief in ice baths, I like to do them after training and games, they help get the legs flushed of all the lactic acid and start off the recovery.”
You are also involved in coaching Leeds scholarship. What would your message be to any aspiring young player about the importance of strength and conditioning for their development?
”I really enjoy coaching the scholarship and totally understand the importance in strength and conditioning. At around 15/16 years old it’s vital that players get used to all the lifts and techniques for when they get older and start to lift much heavier weights. If they have great lifting techniques they will able to get maximum gains and they will able to do this safely and without risk of injury. During this part of an aspiring players career it is vital that they listen to there conditioners as it is an an integral part of being a professional Super League player and something that you can’t reach the top level without.
Thanks for your time Rob and good luck with the testimonial game and coming season.
So there we go, Rob Burrow’s take on strength and conditioning for Rugby League, his time with the Rhinos and being a Dad. Hopefully you’ll see what a massive impact strength and conditioning and sport science has on professional sport.