I’ve been reading a lot into Conditioning work for 7s recently, some good, some bad, so I thought I should give you my own views and some ideas into how to make your 7s team the fittest on the circuit.
7s is a fast paced game, so the first thing that every coach should look at implementing is Speed Training. This starts with technique. The basics are all that is needed. Every player needs to be able to run more efficiently before you can start breaking their technique down too much. Just start with all of the players moving their arms more efficiently and running on their toes. Sounds simple, but the amount of players I have coached who don’t do either is astonishing – a quick tip; Get them to bend their arms at 90 degrees and to drive their elbows backwards as if trying to hit a board behind them. Their hands shouldnt come up any higher than their chin, and when driving the elbow back, they should be looking to make sure their wrist brushes past their hip. Just by increasing the arm efficiency and speed of arm drive will increase their over all speed significantly.
Try to remind them of these techniques in everything they do especially the conditioning, it is when they are tired that they will forget these simple instructions, so keep shouting out key words to them so that they will remember and get back into the correct position.
Don’t over do this. what they need to be doing is working at maximal intensity. This means that they will not be able to last more than 30s maximum. My personal favourite is conditioning touch games. This simulates 7s games, as well as pushing each player to their limits.
Turn around touch: Played 7 on 7, every time a team scores, they turn around and play out. As soon as a mistake is made the ball is given to the other team and they play the same way they were defending. This starts off slow at the beginning but as teams get more tired, and holes appear it gets physically harder. The whole point of this is to make the players work under extreme fatigue.
2 Ball Touch: Again played 7 on 7, this time the attacking team is only allowed to be touched 3 times. They will play with 1 ball, while another ball is placed somewhere on the pitch, they must play until they score, or until they have been touched 3 times or make a mistake. If they score, it goes back to the centre and they kick off as in a normal game, however, if they reach their touch limit, or make a mistake, they must drop the ball where they are and are immediately into defence. The team that was defending scrambles to where the second ball is and plays straight away. This teaches teams to keep the ball away from contact, whilst also teaching the basics of going from attack into defence – not getting sucked in, keeping width. Fundamental skills needed for 7s.
I also do fitness running drills. These are done at the beginning of the session as they are heavily based on speed and speed endurance. You can’t train these elements when fatigued too much, so get these done first.
50s: Very simple, get you players into groups of 3 of equal speed. Its a simple 50m race with a walk back recovery. Try to time the fastest person, they should aim not to drop more than 0.5s over the whole set, if they do, then they must stop there because they are no longer training speed. Do 2×6 to really benefit them.
50s with turn arounds: Again using 50 metres but this time having a 10m turn around at the end. The players will race in their 3s over the 50m (being timed again) then have to slow down inside 10m and sprint back 10m. This doesn’t sound too bad, but the lactic build up from the deceleration and acceleration after the sprint really starts to take its toll. Again, 2x 4-6 will be most beneficial.
200s: This is one of my favourites for really working physical and mental abilities. I usually include this at the beginning of 7s season, about 4-6 weeks before competitions start, but it can be used up to 2 weeks before the first competition. Again, split your group up into 3 even paced, even numbered groups. Set out 3 stations all starting with the base line of the try line. Group A will be running from try line to 22. Group B will be running from try line to half way, and group C is running from try Line to try line. For all of these, from try line to end distance and back to try line is 1. Group A will do this 4 times, Group B will do 2, and Group C will do 1, all in 30 seconds, (they should be aiming to complete the distance each time). After they have completed their 30 seconds work, they will get 1.5 to 2 mins rest. In this time they will move to their next station ie; Group A to B, B to C and C to A. Complete this until they have done all 3 stations, then give them a 3-5 minute recovery before deciding whether to do this 1 or 2 more times. Definitely not more than 3 times over all. If fitness levels are low, only do 1 set, otherwise it will not be beneficial to speed endurance and they will not be working their Lactic Acid systems during the work out.
This is just a few ways on how to help develop your 7s teams. Sessions should be short but intense. 7s games played should never last more than 10 minutes per section. Try to keep everything short, sharp and focused with plenty of time to rest and recover. The most important thing to remember is that with any sports training, the training should be harder than the match ever will be, because then it makes the game easier – but never over do it.