“I’m curious about how you train for rugby in regards to balancing strength, endurance, and rest… but mostly because I wonder how it would relate to roller derby.”
Alright. So let’s look at training for rugby in three phases: off-, pre-, and in-season. With each phase we see a different focus in the priority of training.
During the off-season for rugby we can focus on athletes working for hypertrophy or gains in maximal strength. We can utilize programs that would create far too much strain in the athletes if used during any other phase because they’re not also attending organized team activities, conditioning, and skill training sessions. You pick a weakness and work to make sure that, come pre-season, it’s less of a liability. This is the time to get better
Use the off-season phase to pack on size and strength, or if conditioning is a major issue, take some time to run a solid conditioning program.
In the pre-season phase we dial back the intensity/volume/frequency of our training from the off-season in exchange for the inclusion of team conditioning and skills-related training (passing, kicking, scrummaging, or other position-specific skills). Gains can still be made here, but training receives a more generalized focus (this is a shift in focus somewhat from strength/power to endurance) in order to prepare for match situations and conditions.
In rugby we may place a focus on training the glycolytic energy pathway during the pre-season as that energy system gets a large portion of the work during matches due to the quick changes of pace mixed with ongoing work during phase play (this system is even more critical for forwards, but should be trained by forwards and backs alike). Training this pathway consists of interval training, lifting complexes, timed circuits, and other drills or exercises which use the glycolytic pathway as the primary source of energy.
In-season training is all about maintenance. In the case of rugby, most training is focused on technical skills. The priority in the gym becomes maintenance of strength, peak power, glycolytic and aerobic endurance along with injury prevention. Lifting is probably happening two days a week at most; we’d see a full-body strength workout early in the week and a lighter, full-body power session towards the end, a day before the week’s captain’s run. Aerobic work at a light to moderate level is feasible multiple days a week as that energy system has the ability to recovery quick enough, but this work may come from practices and conditioning sessions rather than occurring outside of team activities.
The body needs more time for rest and recovery during the season as playing matches week in and week out will begin to take its toll as the season rolls on, so training for any major gains in-season would apply too great of a strain to the athletes. The goal is to be fresh by the next match, and spending too much time on physical training can impede the attainment of this goal.
To be honest, I don’t know the first thing about roller derby. However, if it’s like most other hybrid sports (drawing on both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems) in terms of demands on the body, then I see no reason why a similar training cycle cannot be used with roller derby. If it isn’t as similar as I envision it being, you could still use these cycles, but adjust the content of them to meet your needs.