Physical demands of professional rugby league training and competition using microtechnology

Tim Gabbett, Australian Catholic University
David G. Jenkins
Bruce Abernethy

Abstract

Objectives

To investigate the physical demands of professional rugby league match-play using microtechnology, and to compare these demands with typical training activities used to prepare players for competition.

Design

Prospective cohort study.

Methods

Thirty elite rugby league players participated in this study. Seven hundred and eighty-six. training data sets and 104 data sets from National Rugby League matches were collected over one playing season. Movement was recorded using a commercially available microtechnology unit (minimaxX, Catapult Innovations), which provided information on speeds, distances, accelerations, physical collisions and repeated high-intensity efforts.

Results

Mean distances covered during match-play by the hit-up forwards, wide-running forwards, adjustables, and outside backs were 3,569 m, 5,561 m, 6,411 m, and 6,819 m, respectively. Hit-up forwards and wide-running forwards were engaged in a greater number of moderate and heavy collisions than the adjustables and outside backs, and more repeated high-intensity effort bouts per minute of play (1 bout every 4.8–6.3 min). The physical demands of traditional conditioning, repeated high-intensity effort exercise, and skill training activities were all lower than the physical demands of competition.

Conclusions

These results demonstrate that absolute distances covered during professional rugby league matches are greater for outside backs, while the collision and repeated high-intensity effort demands are higher for hit-up forwards and wide-running forwards. The specific physical demands of competitive play, especially those demands associated with collisions and repeated high-intensity efforts, were not well matched by those observed in traditional conditioning, repeated high-intensity effort exercise, and skills training activities. Further research is required to investigate whether modifications need to be made to these training activities to better prepare players for the demands of National Rugby League competition.