Complex Training with Male Rugby Players: Complex training involves the integration of strength training, plyometrics, and sport-specific movements. A single workout may involve intense strength exercises followed by a plyometric exercise to simultaneously train the nervous system and fast twitch muscle fibers. A slow, heavy strength exercise such as a squat, and a lighter fast, repetition of a sprint, plyometric jump or Olympic lift, can be combined. A heavy, slow movement is followed by a fast repetition. Alternating both plyometric and resistance training with other stretch-shortening activities in the same workout has been shown to be an effective technique.
A study by Comyns, et. al. examined the effect of various resistive loads on the biomechanics of performance of a fast stretch–shortening cycle activity to determine if an optimal resistive load exists for complex training. Twelve elite rugby players performed three drop jumps before and after three back squat resistive loads of 65%, 80%, and 93% of a single repetition maximum (1-RM) load. All drop jumps were performed on a specially constructed sledge and force platform apparatus. Flight time, ground contact time, peak ground reaction force, reactive strength index, and leg stiffness were the dependent variables. Repeated-measures analysis of variance found that all resistive loads reduced (P < 0.01) flight time, and that lifting at the 93% load resulted in an improvement (P < 0.05) in ground contact time and leg stiffness. From a training perspective, the results indicate that the heavy lifting will encourage the fast stretch–shortening cycle activity to be performed with a stiffer leg spring action, which in turn may benefit performance. However, it is unknown if these acute changes will produce any long-term adaptations to muscle function. *Coaching Application: Research suggests that complex training has an acute ergogenic effect on upper body power which also includes improved jumping performance. Improved performance may require 3-4 minute rest intervals between the weight training and plyometrics sets and the use of heavy weight training loads. Studies indicate that complex training is equally or more effective than strength training or plyometric training alone in increasing speed strength and maximum speed.
Comyns, Thomas M., Harrison, Andrew J., Hennessy, Liam, and Randal Jensen. 2007. Identifying the optimal resistive load for complex training in male rugby players. Sports Biomechanics, Vol. 6, Issue 1.