David Joyce's blog - Elite level recovery strategies - REVEALED!

David Joyce

Hi everyone,

We had a bye in Super Rugby this last week after our 3 weeks on the road to Melbourne and South Africa. Whilst we were incredibly disappointed to only come away with the single bonus point, we were very encouraged by some of the signs on and off the park from the boys.

The focus at the front part of this week was recovery and then the back end of the week was a solid hit out from an athletic development perspective. In a competition such as ours, we so rarely have the opportunity to ‘top up’ strength levels because we are constantly fighting the effects of fatigue. The bye week gives us this opportunity to put some ‘strength in the bank’ and that’s certainly been the theme over the last couple of days.

We are the most travelled team in world sport and so we need to ensure our recovery protocols are spot on. Otherwise the veil of mental, physical and emotional fatigue will shroud our physical capabilities too much.

Our recovery protocols start immediately following the match with nutritional and fluid support. We want to replace lost glycogen and get some protein in to enable the repair process to commence.

We get pre- and post-match body weights and then seek to replace 150% of weight lost with fluid, whether that is simply water or an electrolyte replacement drink.

Ice baths are next. The purpose of these is to cool the body and reduce the metabolism surrounding any injuries that they have picked up. Inevitably, after a game of rugby, one of the most physically demanding games on the planets, we have a team full of players that look and feel as though they’ve been in a car accident so anything we can do to ease these symptoms and kickstart the recovery process the better.

Once we get back to the hotel, it’s a coaching debrief followed by a pool session, where we look to get general movement through range. We have found that this helps reduce the pain and stiffness the next day and allows us to be able to train earlier the next week.

The next day, we will check all the lads for injuries and triage them as necessary. There will be another pool and flexibility session with an emphasis on nutrition and hydration again. In our case, it’s often then onto a plane to the next venue, either home or away.

The first training is light and learning-related. Generally speaking, by day 3 after the match, most of the lads are back on deck, ready to do it all again. There are, of course, others that we need to look after a bit longer due to their age or injuries and so we will more heavily restrict training volumes or intensities for these blokes.

This week, I am honoured to be giving a keynote presentation at the “Target Gold” conference for High Performance New Zealand, in Auckland. There are some awesome people presenting there and so over the next coupe of weeks, I’ll be able to share some of the insights that I gain from our Kiwi cousins across the ditch.

Til next week,

Stay robust amigos


David Joyce

David is the Head of Athletic Performance at Emirates Western Force in the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby Competition. He holds Masters degrees in both Sports Physiotherapy and Strength and Conditioning and lectures in Sports Physiotherapy at the University of Bath (UK) and in Exercise Science (S+C) at Edith Cowan University (Australia).

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