Exeter Chiefs have started their second season in the Aviva Premiership with a nail biting 30-28 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, proving that this season they are not merely content with ‘staying up’ but they intend to be challenging English Rugby’s top-flight teams. We caught up with the Chiefs Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Paddy Anson and Nutrition Partners Myprotein.com to see exactly how they’ve been preparing for what could be their best season yet.
Countless ice baths, miles of sprints and many protein shakes later it seems Exeter Chiefs’ gruelling pre season training has paid off as this Saturday they won a nail biting opening first match at Welford Road against Leicester Tigers, 30-28. But how have the Chief’s been preparing for their second season in the Aviva Premiership? Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Paddy Anson reveals ‘we’ve taken a much more scientific and precise approach to training this season… if we don’t continue to move forward in line with the scientific developments we will not continue to evolve as a team, so this year GPS heart monitors, specific grappling conditioning sessions and purposely tailored nutrition has featured heavily in our season preparations… and after today’s performance, it seems to have paid off’ he says with a smile.
Then with a little bit of persuasion, Paddy gladly talks about the latest ‘gadget’ the Chiefs have in their training arsenal; GPS Heart Rate Monitors. ‘GPS heart rate monitors allow us to test if players are working close to their maximum heart rate or if they are just actively resting, working at 60% of their maximum heart rate, it’s these tiny differences that could be the difference between injury and full health, stimulation and annihilation, since at elite level it’s such a fine line between the two.’ He goes on to say ‘it just allows for more transparency in the players fitness and allows us to care for them more as part of the coaching team. After every session the data from the heart rate monitors are fed into a computer where we are able to track each players work rate, aside from showing if any are slacking it also allows us to assess their current level of fitness and if any changes need to be made to their programme.’
Next with an almost sadistic grin, Paddy talks about the dreaded post training ice bath, saying ‘I won’t lie, it’s horrible… but it works.’ For those who haven’t encountered the age old practice of the ice bath, the basic principle is:
After a training session your muscles will be tired and full of lactic acid (which causes the stiff aching feeling) but when you get into an ice bath for five to 10 minutes, the icy cold water causes your blood vessels to tighten and drains the blood out of your legs. After 10 minutes your legs feel cold and numb. So when you then get out of the bath, your legs fill up with ‘new’ blood that invigorates the muscles with oxygen to help the cells function better. At the same time, the ‘new’ blood coming into your legs will have to leave as well, draining away and at the same time taking with it the lactic acid that has built up from his match. Most of the players at major tournaments will be taking ice baths regularly after training sessions to help their muscles stay fresh and avoid injury and Exeter are no exception with Paddy being a true advocate of this torture/ recovery practice.
As well as the continued strength and conditioning development of the players Paddy stresses the importance of nutrition saying ‘it is important that I take an active role in the nutrition and with the assistance of Mark Twiggs and Dave Silvester ensure that the players understand what they are eating, and the most appropriate times to eat around training. We aim to have consistency in the message we give to the players and remain on top of our own education and up to date with current research.’ He adds ‘this year I am delighted to say we have teamed up with Sports Nutrition Company Myprotein.com, to create nutrition and supplement plans specific to the players.’
‘Working with Myprotein.com has enabled us to completely take care of the teams nutrition, both during training and on match days.’ Myprotein.com Sports Scientist Ross Edgley talks specifically about a few of Exeter Chiefs favourite supplements and how rugby specific nutrition can help the Chiefs achieve success this season.
“Many studies show that athletes, especially rugby players, have an elevated need for protein since, put simply, protein is the building block of new muscle growth and is vital to maintaining a positive nitrogen balance necessary to stimulate maximum protein synthesis which in turn increase muscles growth and repair. That’s mainly why Exeter Chiefs order A LOT of tubs of True Whey, since it contains the perfect blend of high-grade whey protein concentrate and isolate. To further increase the rate of repair and re-growth, the Chiefs stock up on literally bags of L Leucine, an essential amino acid which a study at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine found can increase protein synthesis by as much as 33%.’
“To help with speed and power the guys order quite a lot of creatine monohydrate, the subject of hundreds of studies, it’s has been proven to help improve strength and growth and also to reduce overall recovery time and recovery between intense bouts of exercise.”
“And lastly the team always order a few bags of beta Alanine, a non-essential amino acid that combines with L-Histidine to help form Carnosine. Increasing the concentration of Carnosine in muscles is vital to athletes as Carnosine can increase the ability of your muscles to work harder and perform for longer. It may also prevent lactic acid build up during intense exercise, thus reducing fatigue, therefore helping the Chiefs in the final minutes of a game.’
All in all, it seems no stone has been left unturned in the Chiefs training camp, and as after Saturdays performance against last years runners up, it’s clear they are more than capable of taking on any of the Aviva Premierships finest.