Changes in the physical fitness of elite women's rugby union players over a competition season
Hene, Nceba Mzimkulu
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OBJECTIVE: To investigate changes in the physical fitness characteristics of elite women’s rugby union players over a competitive season. METHODS: Thirty-two elite women’s rugby union players, all members of the South African Rugby Union High Performance Squad, were sub-divided into 2 positional categories of 17 forwards and 15 backs, respectively, and assessed pre-, mid- and post-competition season. Players underwent anthropometric (stature, body mass and sum of 7 skinfolds) and physical performance measurements (vertical jump, 10 m and 40 m sprint, 1 repetition maximum (1RM) bench press and multi-stage shuttle-run test). Analysis. A 2-factor analysis of variance was used to evaluate differences in physical fitness variables between and within playing positions over the competition season (p<0.01). RESULTS: In both groups, no significant changes were detected in the sum of skinfolds, vertical jump height, 1RM bench press and multi-stage shuttle-run test scores throughout the season. However, sprint times (10 m and 40 m) significantly increased and then decreased for both groups between the early (pre- to mid-season) and later phases of the season (mid- to post-season), respectively. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that, for improvement in physical fitness, players need to train at higher loads, especially in the preparatory phase. Thereafter, they must take measures to actively maintain these gains throughout the competitive season. Direct supervision of their conditioning should be encouraged.