The Football site launched the night of 3. 31.2009 and my inbox exploded. Two emails stick out in my head from the 2000+ emails I received, one from Daz of CrossFit Newcastle in Newcastle, Australia and the other from not so happy CrossFitter. Daz’s interest was in the programming and making tweaks to adapt it to rugby. I loved it. I had not thought about using the programming to create bigger, stronger, fitter rugby players but after we corresponded a bunch I started to understand the demands of the game and what was needed. The other email was more critical of the name, the program and who I thought I was to offer a sport-specific version of training with strength and metabolic conditioning. Crazy (I will save that for another time). When we had our first CFFB seminar, Daz made the long trip from Newcastle to Orange County with a bottle of Bundaberg Rum in hand to get a closer look; we were able to return the favor and do a seminar at his box last fall. We had an excellent experience and got to work with many of Daz’s rugby players, have drinks and eat. I am looking forward to coming back to Oz as we had fun, enjoyed the vibe and met a lot of guys and girls that want to be strong and train hard. Tough to not like the Australians.
Daz sent me a write up on his experience using CrossFit Football ideals and programming blended with what he does so well. Play rugby.
In addition to training athletes and running his own strength & conditioning facility, Daz offers a training seminar for rugby players and website offering training and playing information. The site is called Give’m Cold Steel.
Is CrossFit Football good for Rugby?
OK, so lets say I’m in a good mood.
Let’s start with Rugby. Rugby is a game played by men and women that need to be as Powerful, Strong, Fast and as agile as possible with a solid aerobic base, so they can inflict as much damage as possible to their opposition.
Now back to CFFB. CFFB is a program that develops power, strength, speed, agility and aerobic capacity. So yeah, I think it’s a good program for rugby.
Say I’m in a bad mood.
Do you even know rugby? Don’t you want to dominate your opposite player? Don’t you want to be able to smash him at the breakdown, drive his spine through his back in a tackle, make him eat dirt in a scrum, make him cower at the thought of you running through him, around him, over the top of him? Do you think you could develop and fine-tune the physical attributes to achieve those goals by picking up weights my girlfriend could press? Stopping for a ‘magic’ water break during a 2min workout? Or skipping near max rep workouts cause you don’t want to get ‘too big’ somewhere?
I say shut the fuck up and do the program. Follow it to a tee and you’ll get results.
Over last couple of years I’ve received countless questions on the relevance of CFFB to rugby, and other sports. My answers start of differently for each person but it always comes back to two things;
1. Athletes know what they need for their sport but NOT how to get it.
2. Too many athletes don’t really know their sport.
When I give the above Good guy or Bad guy answers above, I get the “but NFL is only played over 3>8sec, rugby is 80mins, it cant be good for rugby!” straight after.
This, for me, highlights their lack of experience with strength and conditioning. I then have to explain the game of rugby to them a little more;
1. Rugby is played OVER 80mins, its not ‘played’ for 80mins
2. There are a number of stoppages throughout the game to provide ample time to recovery reasonably for the next phase of play.
3. During play, forwards or backs [more for the backs] have chances to conserve energy and move at less than max speed throughout the game. The player’s level of ability and experience allows the player to exert himself at max effort or coast after ‘reading’ the state of the game.
Basically the two games NFL & Rugby, are definitely different no question, but the attributes of big, powerful, strong, fast and agile players, while position specific, are similar across both games.
Then I go on to explain strength & conditioning a little more;
1. The human body has two arms and two legs [usually]
2. Through science and best practice, smarter people than I, have gotten results time and time again making men and women stronger, faster, more powerful regardless of their sport. There are certain ways to train muscles that work.
3. Your body doesn’t know what sport you are playing; the name of the program doesn’t matter.
As I’m writing this, I think the biggest thing that people get wrong all the time is trying to be ‘sport specific’, in regards to Rugby & Rugby League here In OZ and the UK. All our strength and conditioning practices have come from coaches going over to the NFL and adopting their methods.
I do recall in the 80’s [I learned about it later], there was a massive shift in player physique in Rugby League after Jack Gibson returned from a develop tour of the NFL in the states and saw the need for bigger, stronger players. It not only helps with dominating the opposition but protects against injury, which is a massive plus when the demands of your body are physical combat.
For rugby players out there interested in following CFFB, do it!
If you are curious about physical attributes and your training with a coach/gym that isn’t familiar with rugby think mostly the defensive team.
1. Rugby tight 5, MLB
2. Rugby back row, MLB & Running backs
3. Rugby backs, Safety, CB, special teams
Follow the program. Follow the nutrition guidelines. Get results. Simple.
Well said Dazler! The player develops his strength and conditioning from the program everything else from the specific sport and skill training.
I’ve been using the CFFB main site for over a year now, and now I’m bigger, faster, stronger and most important mentally tough than ever.. There was never any doubt this was gonna help me as a rugby league player.. This style of training is the shit.. Johnny Welbourn you are the fucking MAN..
Hey mate, looking forward to catching up in a few weeks time and lock in the next Cert (hopefully around Schoolies!!!!)
This is a very cool article, man. I’ve seen some stuff online about different training ideas for the various rugby positions, but never thought about translating it to the game of football. One thought- why do football players retire when they stop playing football? I play rugby with 50 and 60 year olds … Never stop playing, man. It keeps you young.
There are some glaring differences in FB, Rugby Union and Rugby League. FB has the play clock and the huddle. Rugby Union has neither. In a 40 minute half the clock is moving almost continuously and the stoppages only really occur when the ball is out of bounds before a lineout, even then you are jogging over to your designated position. Other stoppages occur during rucks (for players not involved in it), mauls (same) and the half. You are right in saying that there are stoppages, but they are not consistent and you could feasibly go for longer than 3 minutes before a stoppage in the game occurs, that isn’t the case in FB.
League is a different animal. League is close to American FB in some ways so training can mimic that. I never played League, as League isn’t big in America. I did; however, play D1 and superleague Rugby so I have a good idea as to what worked for me there.
As to this statement: “During play, forwards or backs [more for the backs] have chances to conserve energy and move at less than max speed throughout the game. The player’s level of ability and experience allows the player to exert himself at max effort or coast after ‘reading’ the state of the game.”
Yes that is true, but the thing is that unlike FB, where you really are resting for the time alloted in the huddle, in rugby you are always moving. If you are playing the positions from 1-12, you should be always moving. Wings and Fullbacks have that nice advantage in that they are not always expected to be involved in almost every play. As a tight 5 player, etc, our job was to be around almost every play, rucking, mauling and lifting during lineouts. Rugby is cruel that way where the biggest guys on the team do the most work.
So while I do agree that using CFFB workouts could be beneficial in many ways to a Rugby player, it shouldn’t be the total program. I found my best success on the field corresponded with how I cycled my training off of it.
If I was to coach a team for rugby I would breakdown the off-season work like this in each phase:
1. Rehab work/active recovery
2. Strength/aerobic capacity
3. Strength/explosive/anaerobic capacity
4. Maintenance for lifting/sport specific skills
The length of these phases are, of course, not set in stone and based upon your needs.
Of course that is just a general idea, but I think the CFFB program will fit very well in the anaerobic capacity phase because that is when a metcon can be used effectively. Using the aerobic phase to build up a nice little endurance base, and that can be by doing tempo runs, sprint intervals, LSD running occasionally and even pushing the sled with minimal rest and minimal weight. Stuff that will help you on the field without burning you out. I don’t mean heading out and doing 5 mile runs, I mean using the above to help build up speed-endurance.
What do you think, John?
Jay ~ seems like you are stretching your legs here. I never played a sport that last longer than a few seconds so i have no personal place to speak from with doing some that last 80 non-stop minutes. I usually defer the rugby questions to Daz, Rookie or Jesse Gray. Daz and Rookie have been great for feedback for the program as they are pros from Australia. From my understanding the level of play overseas is pretty high. Their desire to make faster, stronger, larger players has brought them to an NFL style of training. And Jesse who works with me daily, played pro in NZ out of high school and coached UC Davis rugby.
The goal for CFFB is trying to make a bigger stronger athlete that has good capacity with the majority of the conditioning coming from the sport specific training for the sport.
I never got in shape playing football in the weight room or running in the off-season. No matter how much running and training I did i still was grasping for breath during the first few weeks of training camp. My focus in the off-season was strength, speed and the capacity to play. After the 07 season, I had this idea if I could get in better shape it would translate to the field. So in 08 I wanted to get in the best shape of my life. The problem was I had focused too much on conditioning, got overtrained and had neglected my speed. I guess sub maximal efforts do not translate to a max effort sport like football.
I think where people get too fancy is making strength training ultra sport specific. However, there are places for it…I would not train a swimmer the same as a land based athlete. I would focus on a baseball player’s rotation and reaction before worrying at a vertical jump like I would for a receiver or DB.
I just want to make athletes strong, fast and explosive with good capacity; make sure their tools are sharp so when asked to perform in practice/game they have all the skills need to be successful. You stated “…it should not be the whole program…”, or course not. They need to practice and play to condition for their sport and most importantly learn the game.
When I was 21 years old my 65 year old uncle asked me to play racquetball. I figured I would kill this old man. Little did I know he had played racquetball for 30 years in a competitive league and had played pro hockey in Canada in his teens and twenties. He killed me. i was dying, sweating, diving all over the court. The old man didn’t move more than a few steps. He knew how to play the game.
The longer I played, the more I learned the game. I would imagine guys like Daz and Rookie know the game as they have played it their whole lives. They know what they need and how to play and that is only learned on the pitch after playing thousands of hours.
Anyone who thinks themselves a strength coach believes they have a secret recipe to perform at (place name of sport here). I have never thought of myself as a coach, as coaches were guys in polyester pants with a whistle who liked to yell. I am an athlete who likes to lift weights, train and write programming. If you come to me and ask to increase your speed, jump higher or have better capacity I am going to throw you into the group and see what happens. What makes Louie Simmons awesome is the old man fights it out daily with guys 1/4 his age. He reminds me of Pete Rose as the last playing manager. WSB trains, coaches and competes as a group. I have alway respected coaches that walk the walk. Raphael Ruiz is stronger, fast and more explosive than just about every athlete he trains. He is the best athlete/coach I have ever seen.
*On a personal note, they should let Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame. So what if he gambled on his own games. He only bet on his team to win. I think that speaks volumes of confidence not dishonesty. He was one of the best and should be remembered at such.
Jay, I hope I didn’t stretch my legs too much.
I think you and I agree on the basic premise of it all, we just both worded it differently and I may take a different approach to training people.
While I didn’t play at the level Daz, etc played at – Australia Rugby is a different animal alltogether – I did play and can speak from experience as to what helped me grow from a D3 backup to a Superleague starter. And for the record, even the best Superleague team would have gotten stomped by most Australian club teams.
There isn’t any secret recipe, I am always looking for better ways to train myself and my own athletes. I experiment on myself and I am always tweaking to adjust what doesn’t work. My ego is non-existent with this, I only replied for the sake of debate. 🙂
You are dead right about coming to camp though. Every time rugby season would start, I would be out of gas quickly until my body adjusted to the demands of practice and the movements. No matter how in condition you are, you still have to adjust to new stimulus and there isn’t any way to really do that in training unless you “practice” year round. So, you are right, the best thing to do is get them faster, more powerful and stronger and in condition and they will adapt quicker.
I agree with Pete Rose 100% by the way.
And its all good on the leg stretching, I am home with the flu and had some free time to spare.
Thanks for for thoughts.
Is CFFB good for Rugby? the answer is a easy yes.
Are there tweaks to be made? ofcourse, but these are minor, and depending on what level of competition you are playing in can be extremely minor.
The secret in programming is not making it to specific in nature. Remember the law of accommodation. Thats the reason the whole Cross-Training idea in the late 80s early 90s starting hitting the mainstream population.
Do we programme differently depending on seasons? sure we do, but I wouldn’t recommend what you have listed before [assuming it was grouped that why and prioritised].
If you look at a game, make sure its live not on tv so you actually see whats going on not just whats on ball. You’ll see plenty of opportunities for breaks etc in super 14, but conceded not so much in the tri nations, but plenty still in the 6nations still [due to the weather determining tactics].
In training its always important to mimic what the Champions a doing. Just because your competition might be perceived a lower level to another it doesn’t matter or change the physiology of your body. There are certain ways to make the biggest strongest fastest athletes, the sport doesn’t matter!
Alos, never has John’s Programme or Mine have we said this is all you need for NFL/rugby. This is the weight room, where each athlete takes it upon themselves to prepare for First; the demands of the training ground Second; The demands of the game. You get the ‘sport specific” work/skills done there, not the gym.
I would be very interested in an e-mail exchange with you about this topic, as I would love to hear your experiences with training rugby players and we can compare methods.
I am always up for learning more and if I see a better way to do it, by all means I will do it.
I tend to take an approach that the closer you get to a season the more specialized you make the training, which is why I structure it as I do. No athlete trains balls to the wall year round, you and I both know that. You also can’t work on every area of sport skill equally (speed, strength, explosiveness, stamina, skill) year round, you have to prioritize certain tasks/goals at certain times to get the training effect you want. There are many ways to do this, but I am curious to see how you would do this.
I know the level I played at is nothing like the level in the Southern Hemisphere, even being the top division in the states, but its relative really. I was a decent college FB player and became an excellent rugby player after. Excellent in the states and that would mean below average anywhere else. 🙂
Shoot me an email and let’s discuss this more. I would like to hear your methods and what I mentioned. jay.ashman at gmail.com
Actual time in play 80 min senior rugby.
International test <60 mins
Super 15's 50-60 mins
-Park rugby 25 mins
Remembering televised rugby has extended breaks and injury time with the clock stopped.
Hamstring cramp anyone?
Plenty of time for R&R.
I am an excellent rugby player in the States.
I play Flanker and generally can switch off at #6 or #7 depending on the game. This season was the first one in which my pre-season training was almost 100% CFFB. I came in stronger, fitter, and more mentally prepared than I ever have been. I had to get my aerobic capacity up a bit to get ready for the season (as most do early in the season), but other than that the CFFB style training was fantastic for rugby.
In general terms I’d say a rugby player could do very well for himself doing CFFB, speed/sprint work, and longer sprints such as 200-400m runs. In season, the fitness should be taken care of in training so hit the CFFB up, work on sprint speed, and TAKE CARE OF THE BODY. I’ve found hydrotherapy and a foam roller to be a few of the best cures for aches and pains during the season.
[…] Is CFFB good for rugby? […]
I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I have played and trained for rugby most of my life and this is what I have learned.
1. Being bigger, stronger and faster than the other guy is always a good thing. Train to be big, strong and fast. That’s as specific as you need to be.
2. Don’t waste all your training time running. You will do plenty of that in practice and in games.
3. Don’t get drunk until after the match.
Dangertown – Thank you Dangertown for being Dangertown and doing God’s work.
CFFB is a a great strength and conditioning program. It has everything that is needed for rugby. The strength work helps develop the explosiveness and the met cons develop the ability to repeat output at a high capacity over the course of a game. I started using CF and CFFB two seasons ago and am an undersized prop at 5’8″ & 95kg, yet I have had no problem dealing manipulating scrums and beating not only my direct opponents but opposition flankers around the field.
On a different note, I would caution rugby players to be careful to throw around numbers about how much go there is in a game between breaks. I have been involved playing, analyzing and coaching rugby in Australia and America and everywhere in the world during the average game there is plenty of time for recovery between set pieces and in general play. The addition that I make is I train to run rugby specifically. I practice running up and back pedaling, getting off the ground sprinting and hitting a pad. This helps me transfer my general strength and conditioning to the field.
Thanks for the post, the site and all the advice. It is a great tool.