Simon Etheredge, a native of Te Anau, a town in New Zealand’s South Island, is a flanker for the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) rugby team that played in the SCC International Rugby 7s tournament at the Padang in November.
“The flanker, also known as a loose forward, functions as one of the links between the forwards and backs,” says Etheredge, 32. He has to make a lot of tackles and be a nuisance to opponents. “They’ll kick me, knee me, punch me and throw me to the ground
because I have to disrupt everything they do.” Another part of his role is to support the backs when they’re on the offensive. “I’m slightly smaller and a little faster. So, when we’re attacking, I have to make sure I’m supporting the backs that are faster. I can get to all the different breakdowns and tackles.”
Of all the different positions, a flanker runs the most, says Etheredge. “He has to be fast and have the stamina to last an entire 80-minute game.” He must have some of everything: power, speed, stamina and agility. “When you’re the jack of all trades, the biggest challenge is in striking a balance.” For the Kiwi, training is divided into three phases: off-season (which focuses on muscle-building), the start of pre-season (for strength and speed), and the end of pre-season (for power and anaerobic threshold).
It helps if a flanker is big. “Having mass helps you to absorb the blows better, but it can also slow you down,” he says. During the off-season, a six- to eight-week period, Etheredge trains to build muscle. “I’m about 97kg, which is not very heavy. So during the offseason, I do high-pressure sets to put on size.”
Etheredge’s four-days-a-week bodybuilding split comprises the following: Day 1 for legs, Day 2 for chest and triceps, Day 3 for back and biceps, and Day 4 for core and shoulders. His regime: High sets (5) and high reps (8-12), with a tempo of 3 seconds up and 3 to 4 seconds down, or 2 seconds up and 7 seconds down. “This keeps a lot of tension in the muscle,” he says. He also incorporates 2 to 3 runs a week. “Train fast, run fast,” he says. “If you run slowly for an hour, you’re just going to train your body to run slowly.”
2. Start of Pre-Season
Etheredge describes this as the hardest phase. “This is when I run more to train for speed. You’re always trying to get further each time. So when you do your run onto the ball, you have to be really explosive – you have to sprint to it and get past that line as far as you can,” he says. “This is also when I start training with the team again.”
At every weight-training session, he’ll still be pumping 5 sets, but the rep count would be reduced to 3 or 5 – or, occasionally, a maximum of 6. “I’ll be going for maximum strength. If I’m normally benching 120kg for 8 reps, then I’ll be looking to get 5 reps with 140kg. Or if I’m usually squatting 8 reps at 150kg, then I’ll work up to 3 reps at 200kg.”
Aerobic fitness is also important for rugby, as it contributes to speed and stamina. Etheredge says: “You’re working your anaerobic threshold, between 170 and 190 beats a minute, so you’re working at a high-intensity load – to get used to the high intensity at which rugby is played.”
3. End of Pre-Season
Flankers have to be explosive because their contacts – or hits – are usually done within five seconds. “You hit someone and take them to the ground in a tackle, then you’ve got to try and get on your feet again – all in five seconds,” says Etheredge. “The other thing is, you have to be explosive when you grab the ball. If I were just jogging to the ball and I grab it, and if someone hits me, I’d get nailed and probably lose possession.”
Etheredge devotes the second six weeks of pre-season training to power lifts. “I do compound exercises such as Olympic lifts and power cleans 3 times a week,” he says, “I’ll do 5 sets with 1 to 5 reps per set – using fairly heavy weights – and also throw in core work for stability.”
To improve speed and anaerobic threshold, Etheredge incorporates two speed sessions a week. “I do lots of short shuttles, high-intensity repeated sprints and suicide shuttles. Every trainer’s got different ideas about doing things. Some have us do 12 reps of 300m repeaters at maximum speed on the track, with 1 to 2 (or 1 to 3) minutes to recover in between reps. So, it’s pretty tough.”
Simon Etheredge follows these nutrition rules for maintaining body mass and energy levels.
1. Stick to Low GI
“If I’m training three times a day, I don’t eat food with lots of sugar, which will see my energy levels shoot up and then drop me back down again. Instead, I’ll have a wholemeal sandwich.”
2. Keep Up The Protein
“I’ll eat chicken and steak throughout the day – any sort of protein – while still keeping my carb intake up. I need to have a steady supply of energy, especially when I train so often.”
3. Have A Big One
“I’ll have my biggest meal after a tough session. At this point, my body can absorb twice as many calories. That’s the best time to get all my major nutrients – carbs, protein and fat.”