gym robshaw

Harlequins Head of Human Performance John Dams reveals five surprising secrets behind the athleticism of players like England’s Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown…

1. Leave the bicep curls to the footballers…

“We prefer to work on upper-limb strength through the use of multi-joint movements such as chin-ups, weighted dips and military presses, as opposed to through isolation movements like biceps curls,” explains Dams.

“These multi-joint movements tend to be more efficient exercises which work in a much more functional way. We still isolate muscle groups but mainly as a way to add training volume.”

2. Old exercises, new tricks

“We tend to be very traditional with our strength training,” explains the club’s Head of Human Performance John Dams, who oversees the players’ physical training. “Our general preparatory exercises are tried and tested and we don’t tend to vary them much. Squats, deadlifts and bench presses form a large part of our strength programme.”

“We like to use small variations of our main lifts, such as box squats, band-assisted bench presses and trap-bar deadlifts,” reveals Dams.


3. Don’t be afraid of yoga

“Making sure the players can move properly is huge for us because they need to be able to sprint at high speeds regularly throughout games,” explains Dams. “We have had a massive push to make our players more dynamic and more resilient to stress. We like them to use foam rollers, bands and Lacrosse balls for self-massage which helps to improve muscle health and reduce muscle soreness.

“The overall goal is to increase their active range of movement and these therapy sessions develop improved motor patterns and mobility. We also get them to do hot yoga because it helps with their flexibility, mobility and recovery.”

4. Bridges > sit-ups

“The foundation of our core work is isometric, such as planks, side planks and bridges,” explains Dams. “We do some dynamic work such as cable wood chops and weighted sit-ups too, but our primary focus is on developing isometric strength.”

5. 4 seconds for bigger muscles

“When you are looking to build muscle, you need to stress the muscle to literally cause damage (on a micro level) to the muscle,” says Dams. Only then will the muscle adapt by growing back stronger.

“An efficient way to do this is to increase the amount of time the muscle spends under tension,” continues Dams. “If you change the tempo – that is, change the speed of either the concentric (shortening) or eccentric (lengthening) component of the lift – you can change the time under tension to help stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth) and gain mass.”

“If you do a bench press with a four-second eccentric tempo – instead of a one-second eccentric tempo – you will do more damage to the muscle and get better results to stimulate growth,” advises Dams.


Read more on the Telegraph.