An­thony Wat­son’s train­ing se­crets

Eng­land wing An­thony Wat­son used his speed and skill to help the na­tional team bounce back from dis­ap­point­ment to be­come a real force in world rugby. Now you can use his train­ing tips to build a grand slam body

Men's Fitness - - Con­tents -

Build ex­plo­sive speed and power with the Eng­land rugby union winger’s work­out drills

“Pres­sure is a priv­i­lege,” says Eng­land rugby union winger An­thony Wat­son. “That’s the phrase that stuck in my mind when I was work­ing with a per­for­mance coach called Don Macpher­son at my club, Bath. He said you only get pres­sure if you’re in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions so there’s no point in let­ting it get to you - use it to give your­self a boost.”

It’s ad­vice that made an im­pres­sion on the 22-year-old, and it seems to have been adopted by the en­tire na­tional side since their fail­ure in the World Cup group stages in late 2015. The play­ers took the op­por­tu­nity to re­group un­der new head coach Ed­die Jones and stormed through 2016 win­ning ev­ery­one of their 13 games, col­lect­ing a Six Na­tions Grand Slam and four wins against their arch-rivals Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing three in the Wal­la­bies’ own back yard, along the way.

Wat­son was a key part of that suc­cess and, as one of the younger mem­bers of the squad, looks set to be an im­por­tant part of their re­demp­tion project at the next World Cup.

“It’sal­waysfuntodotests be­causeev­ery­o­negets com­pet­i­tive.I’mpretty goodon­theWat­tbike–I’d sayI’minthetop­five”

It’s no sur­prise to hear the play­ers talk pos­i­tively about Jones’s im­pact. Be­fore this year’s Six Na­tions, Wat­son told a press con­fer­ence that the Aus­tralian had given in­ter­na­tional train­ing camps “a club at­mos­phere” - a sense of to­geth­er­ness that has made them into a for­mi­da­ble team. Throw in a com­pet­i­tive in­stinct and you have a bunch of elite ath­letes all push­ing them­selves to be even bet­ter.

“It’s al­ways fun to do tests be­cause ev­ery­one gets com­pet­i­tive,” says Wat­son on the gym work that lays the foun­da­tions for suc­cess. “We do Wat­tbike sprint tests to as­sess our peak power and we also use a thing called Gym Aware, which can mea­sure your bench press power. I’m pretty good on the Wat­tbike – I’d say I’m in the top five. I’m good at gen­er­at­ing power on the light weights on the bench press, but I’m not as good when it gets heavy.”

Play­ers are of­ten re­luc­tant to sin­gle out team-mates for ei­ther praise or crit­i­cism but ac­cord­ing to Wat­son, one player does stand out in train­ing. “I’m al­ways im­pressed by Ge­orge Ford,” he says. “He’s a fly-half and there’s so much pres­sure on him… he could get out of a lot of bits of train­ing, but he gives it his all. My own men­tal­ity is, if you’re in the gym, there’s no point wast­ing time. If you only work at 50% ef­fort it’ll just take you longer to get to where you want to go.”

The all-in men­tal­ity is clearly work­ing for Wat­son and his team­mates. Turn the page to fol­low his train­ing tips and achieve get your own elite-level per­for­mance and re­sults.


“I’ve worked with Jonas Taw­iah-Dodoo [coach to Chi­junda Ujah, Bri­tain’s third fastest man over 100m] and we did a lot of ply­o­met­ric work, try­ing to make me feel bouncy and light on my feet,” says Wat­son. “We fo­cused on the start of a sprint and how to shift your body­weight faster. He got me to fo­cus on try­ing to in­crease my leg speed while also length­en­ing my stride. You have to stay low and then be as smooth as pos­si­ble as you tran­si­tion into stand­ing up.” Want to get even faster? Make sure you’re pump­ing your arms, with el­bows bent at 90°.


You’d be for­given for think­ing that train­ing for speed in­volves lots of 100m sprints. In fact, sports­men very rarely sprint for long dis­tances, fo­cus­ing in­stead on their pace over short bursts. “If we’re do­ing sprint re­peats I try to limit the dis­tance,” says Wat­son. “A cou­ple of years ago at Bath I did a 90m sprint all-out in train­ing and pulled my ham­string. When you run at high in­ten­sity for longer dis­tances you can in­crease your risk of in­jury. Now I keep it rel­a­tively short. A 100m sprint isn’t likely to hap­pen dur­ing a game – the max­i­mum dis­tance I’ll prob­a­bly have to run at top speed is 30-40m.”


If you want to get faster, you need to get stronger. “I’ve found re­cently that leg strength is key to im­prov­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion,’ says Wat­son. “For the last few months I’ve tried to do my key legs ex­er­cises as of­ten as pos­si­ble and I’ve found that has re­ally helped and trans­lated into im­prove­ments in my 10m speed. I’ve found do­ing Bul­gar­ian split squats very help­ful. I’ve tried a few dif­fer­ent ex­er­cises and that’s worked well for me – it has helped with rugby-spe­cific sce­nar­ios such as 10m sprints. Ev­ery Mon­day I do three sets of four or five reps on each leg.”


“For rugby power, I do weighted box jumps,” says Wat­son. “I also do hur­dle jumps, with four or five lined up in a row, about one han­dle-width apart. The aim is to be quick off the floor to build re­ac­tive speed. Jonas said to me, ‘Try to jump be­fore you’ve landed’. The point is, you don’t want to wait to feel the floor. Keep your toes up and be ready to go into the next jump.” If you’re not an elite ath­lete, it’s sen­si­ble to do box jumps without ex­tra weight. And it’s not the height that mat­ters - it’s the in­ten­sity. Go all out for three sets of three to five reps when you’re fresh.


“I’m do­ing more speed work plus a bit of up­per-body strength work at the mo­ment,” says Wat­son. “I’m also work­ing on my re­cov­ery, mak­ing sure I warm down, have an ice bath, stretch and have a pro­tein shake. It’s not the ex­cit­ing part of train­ing but it needs to be done and I’m look­ing at the long term – I’ll reap the ben­e­fits later in my ca­reer.” Let’s face it, no-one rel­ishes mo­bil­ity work and stretch­ing, but write it into your ses­sion plan be­fore you get to the gym and you’re less likely to skip it. An­thony Wat­son is a Max­imus­cle am­bas­sador and was speak­ing at the launch of Max­imus­cle’s Home of Gains. Visit max­imus­ home-of-gains.

“Do­ingmykey leg­sex­er­cis­esas of­te­nas­pos­si­ble hasim­proved myspeed”


Wat­son evades a tackle dur­ing Eng­land’s 23-7 win over Aus­tralia in Mel­bourne in June 2016

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