To investigate strength and power development in elite rugby players during the different phases of a professional season.
Sixteen professional rugby union athletes from an English premiership team were monitored for measures of lower-body peak force, force at 50 ms, force at 100 ms (all isometric squat), and power (explosive hack squat). Athletes were assessed at the start of preseason (T1), postpreseason (T2), midway through the competitive season (T3), and at the end of the competitive season (T4). Effect-size (ES) statistics with magnitude-based inferences were calculated to interpret differences in physical performance between the different stages of the season.
Very likely beneficial increases in force at 50 ms (+16%, ES = 0.75 ± 0.4) and 100 ms (+14%, ES = 0.63 ± 0.4) were observed between T1 and T2. A likely beneficial increase in power was observed between T2 and T3 (+4%, ES = 0.31 ± 0.2). Between T3 and T4, decreases in force at 50 ms (–6%, ES = –0.39 ± 0.3) and 100 ms (–9%, ES = –0.52 ± 0.4) occurred, while peak force and power were maintained. Over the full season (T1–T4) clear beneficial increases in all measures of strength and power were identified.
Meaningful increases in strength and power can be achieved in professional English premiership rugby players over a full playing season. The greatest opportunity for strength and power development occurs during pre- to midseason phases, while these measures are maintained or decrease slightly during the latter stages of a season.
The authors are with the Dept for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK.