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Train Like The All Blacks

Nic Gill is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the New Zealand All Blacks, the most successful rugby side in history. Nic has been working with the All Blacks for 8 years now so he has been through two successful World Cup campaigns, the first nation ever to win back-to-back World Cups!

Nic's philosophy can be described using the “Big Rocks” analogy. Basically, If you put big rocks in a glass first there is still room for sand. But if you put the sand in first you can’t get as many rocks in. This means that you need to focus on the most important things first then the minor details later.

The Big Rocks for Nic working with the All Blacks:

  • Injury Prevention
  • Relationship with athlete/coach
  • Simple things well – strength and fitness (it’s not rocket science!)
  • Constantly review and evaluate what you’re doing.

Unlike England at Pennyhill and Wales at The Vale Resort, the All Blacks don’t have their own training base, so every week their training environment is different. But this doesn’t stop them from performing. Some might look at that as a negative but they see at as a positive because they can ensure quality nutrition 24hrs a day, adequate sleep and no outside stress from family etc… Anyone who has kids can appreciate the sleep quality is massive!

The All Blacks key to injury prevention is that the players are as strong as possible. This has led to them moving away from individualized programs over the years and now all the players lift the same, as they all need to be strong and robust.

All Blacks weights sessions are about 90-105 mins long and are performed 2-3 times per week depending on games. This will include dynamic and static mobility, rehab and prehab work and of course strength and power development. Prehab/rehab work is given to the players based on their individual injury history and weaknesses and also there is some work the entire squad performs.

The All Blacks put a large emphasis on their technical/tactical training and rightfully so. Because of this they don’t want to sacrifice any rugby training by getting injured in the gym. This is achieved through a sensible approach to their strength training

They don’t chase PB’s, they concentrate on consistency and steady adaptation. Nic wants quality training sessions, so he ensures there is repeated practice of the exercises they do. Over time they can push harder and there is less risk of injury, because the exercises are familiar to them.

This approach also allows Nic to emphasize the importance of technique and the players to master the exercises they repeatedly do. Nic used the example of the squat and said that people often ask him why the players are so good at squatting? He replies “because they have squatted 1-2 times per week for 8 years!”

Take home message??…. Do the simple things well!

Often we expect to hear experts share all kinds of new and complex methods of training. So it is refreshing to hear that one of the best teams in the world follow a simple approach that has proven results - Focus on the Big Rocks and doing the simple things well.