In announcing our Athlete Development Program we made the very bold claim that participants would “train like an athlete would train, you will eat, be measured, tested and coached in all the ways an athlete would be”. So we thought what better way to back that claim up than to speak directly with a professional athlete? So we spoke with James Horwill from the QLD Reds and Wallabies squad to find out exactly how he trains, eats and gets tested and measured. From what we can see, our ADP participants are certainly getting to experience the pro-athlete lifestyle, just without the pressure to perform, oh and the fame and notoriety that comes with playing for your country… (Yes, we were a little star struck)
Without further ado, the interview commences below:
Matt: When you’re in season training with the reds, what would a typical week consist of in terms of training?
James: If we’re playing, a lot of it comes down to travel. So if we have two home games in a row it tends to make life a little easier for us. But typically on a Monday we would usually do a lower body weights and recovery in the morning, but before that you do your flex and your timers, following that a massage while also trying to get some video stuff in. In the afternoon we would do a fairly light learning session, we wouldn’t spend too much time on our feet, but you want to get a bit of lactate out of your legs, not much contact on a Monday afternoon.
M: Of course, you guys can get pretty beat up out there, I imagine you would have carry-over bruising and swelling etc. to overcome?
J: Of course, most of the time. We would finish Monday up with some recovery, ice baths and things like that to get the blood flowing. Tuesday is usually our biggest day of the week and usually trigger day. We’ll have an upper body weights session in the morning followed by our unit sessions – we are split into forwards and backs – so the forwards would do scrums and line-outs which is quite a big session for us. In the afternoon we would have a field session which is where we would get some of our contact training in. This is typically the biggest field session for the week.
M: Would you do any speed work on that day?
J: It all depends on how many minutes you’d played during the previous game, so the guys who have only played 20 minutes would do some top-up fitness on a Monday however there isn’t a lot of top-end speed required from someone in my position…
M: So the second rowers don’t have to get up and rung the 100m in under 9 seconds?
J: Exactly, so the forwards wouldn’t do too much speed work on a Tuesday but the backs would do some top end stuff
M: Would you typically have Wednesdays off?
J: Yes, we will usually have two days on, one day off. It just depends on how far out you are from games and travel etc.
M: Yeah, back in the day when I used to play for the Roar, we used to have Wednesdays off. *editor’s note – nice self-plug Matty* What about Thursdays?
J: Thursdays are more of a sharper session, so there is a longer recovery between sets so you want to make sure that you’re executing really well. We will generally do a total body power (weights) sessions either before or after that. It would consist of some plyometrics, cleans and hack squats. We would usually finish with a massage after that. We don’t train Thursday afternoons. Fridays are pretty light, just a refresher really.
M: Would you get 3 weights session in a week?
J: It really depends on the 7 day turn-around – but I would try to get at least 3 done in order to keep mass on.
M: So let’s talk about strength standards. We put our guys through 1RM testing every 6 weeks, what standards would you use in Rugby Union? Would it be squats and bench press, things like that?
J: Squatting is really big for us, a lot of the work that we do is to increase power so we need to make sure we’re squatting good depth with reasonable weight, but most importantly we have to get that bar up quickly. So we would perform this with accelerometers to determine how fast we’re getting the bar up. We do a bit of leg work trying to transfer that vertical strength to horizontal power, because we’re not jumping, we’re scrumming so we would use prowlers and things like that.
M: So that our guys can compare to a bone fide pro athlete, what would your 1RM squat and bench press be?
J: I haven’t done a 1RM squat for a while, but I reckon it would probably be around 160 – 170kg
M: Not bad for a 6”6’ lad.
J: Oh yeah, you’ve got to move the bar a fair distance. Bench would be around the 150kg mark. They would be the main two that we would test, although we sometimes do a bit of chin-up testing with weight, so as much weight as you can handle for 1RM.
M: Given you’re training with the Wallabies now, what would be different? I imagine you’d all be pretty banged up from a full Super15 season. Are they putting you through a pre-season? What are you doing now until you start to get to the business end for the World Cup?
J: We are doing a mini 2 week pre-season. It’s been pretty full on. The strength and conditioning guys get more of a chance to actually make improvements for individuals. We are averaging four sessions per day. Yesterday (Monday) we did four, today we did three, tomorrow we will have off but I have to do extras then three on Thursday and four on Friday.
M: So like a little over-reaching phase?
J: Yes. We will go pretty hard this week then next week is a camp up at the Sunny Coast which will be more rugby orientated, and because we don’t have a lot of time together we will do a lot more skills training.
M: Can you tell us which sessions you look forward to and which ones give you the most anxiety?
J: The stuff you don’t look forward to is straight-line running, like 1.2km time trials – no one really looks forward to doing that. I tend to look forward to… well, you’ve got to enjoy all of it otherwise there’s no point doing what we’re doing. You’ve got to go out there and actually enjoy playing rugby and training, so I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that stands out that I hate, but you’ve got to enjoy the work. I think that’s the most important thing, regardless of if they are hard or easy sessions. When you feel like you’re getting improvements, like from last week if you struggled to get through it but you breezed through it this week you feel like you’ve made improvements toward your goal.
M: Most of our clients work full-time jobs. From executive managers to tradespeople who run pretty hectic schedules. What do you do in your down-time when you’re not training? Do you work/study/chill-out/sleep? (It’s ok to say Xbox 2 – that’s what I’d be doing mate)
J: No, nothing like that. I like to keep myself pretty busy. I don’t have a lot of down time. I have studied, but I’m not studying currently. I sit on two different sets of boards that are involved in the Reds, the QRU board and the Players Association Board, which keeps me quite busy. I am interested in the business side of things. Most days when I leave home in the morning I don’t get home until that night. But in certain phases, like what we’re doing at the moment, you try to have a break in the middle. A 30 minute power-nap can do the world of good for you.
M: Thanks so much for the chat mate, I know our clients will appreciate the insight into your training regime given how hard they work on their own.