Strength and energetics of elite rugby union players

  • A.J.J. Lombard


Comprehensive assessments of the various physical and physiological demands of a rugby union match, can contribute towards scientific based conditioning to enhance performance. The study compared physical and physiological differences between elite and non-elite South African Rugby Union players. A comparison was made between the strength (body composition and muscle strength) and energetic (aerobic and anaerobic capacities) performance determinants in elite (n=13) and non-elite (n=12) rugby union players. Results indicated that body mass of elite backs (83 ± 10.8kg) and forwards (101.9 ± 9.3kg) were greater (p < 0.05) than their non-elite counterparts (71.8 ± 4.8 kg and 83 ± 10.7 kg respectively). No significant difference was found in the percentage body fat between elite (15.4 ± 1.6%) and non-elite forwards (16.8 ± 5.4%). The greater absolute strength spectrum (p < 0.05) measured on an isokinetic dynamometer for quadriceps and hamstring muscles of elite backs and forwards, confirmed the acquisition of strength for elite performance. The elite backs and forwards did not possess greater quadriceps and hamstring endurance (p < 0.05) than their non-elite counterparts. A greater (p < 0.05) lactate threshold was recorded in the elite (76.6 ± 7.4% VO2 max) compared to non-elite forwards (63.2 ± 12.0% VO2 max) and a greater (p < 0.05) VO2 max in non-elite (53.1 ± 6.2 ml compared to elite forwards (48.3 ± 3.5 ml Peak power of elite backs (819 ± 150.1 Watts) and forwards (1283 ± 250.4 Watts) on the Wingate Test was greater (p < 0.05) than that of the non-elite counterparts (610 ± 120.7 Watts and 957 ± 286.4 Watts) respectively. The sustainable power throughout the Wingate Test was greater (p < 0.05) in elite (580.8 ± 60.9 Watts) than in non-elite backs (452.7 ± 97.7 Watts).
Key words: Intermittent exercise, aerobic capacity, anaerobic power, isokinetic dynamometry, rugby union.

(Af. J. Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance: 2003 Special Edition: 89-99)

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