Skill-based conditioning games as an alternative to traditional conditioning for rugby league players

Tim J Gabbett
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2006, 20 (2): 309-15
This study investigated the effects of skill-based conditioning games and traditional conditioning for improving speed, agility, muscular power, and maximal aerobic power in rugby league players. Sixty-nine subelite rugby league players performed either a skill-based conditioning games program (N = 32) or a traditional conditioning (i.e., running activities with no skill component) program (N = 37). Each player participated in a 9-week in-season training program, performed over 2 competitive seasons. Players performed 2 organized field-training sessions each week. Players underwent measurements of speed (10-m, 20-m, and 40-m sprint), muscular power (vertical jump), agility (L run), and maximal aerobic power (multi-stage fitness test) before and after the training period. Skill-based conditioning games induced a significant improvement (p < 0.05) in 10-m, 20-m, and 40-m speed, muscular power, and maximal aerobic power, whereas traditional conditioning activities improved 10-m speed and maximal aerobic power only. No significant differences (p > 0.05) were detected between the traditional conditioning and skill-based conditioning games groups for changes in 10-m speed, agility, and maximal aerobic power. Both groups won 6 of 8 matches played within the training period, resulting in a win-loss ratio of 75%. However, on average, the skill-based conditioning games group scored more points in attack (p < 0.05) and had a greater (p < 0.05) points differential than the traditional conditioning group. The results of this study demonstrate that skill-based conditioning games offer an effective method of in-season conditioning for rugby league players. In addition, given that skills learned from skill-based conditioning games are more likely to be applied in the competitive environment, their use may provide a practical alternative to traditional conditioning for improving the physiological capacities and playing performance of rugby league players.

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