In this second instalment of the Wattbike x Leicester Tigers miniseries, we chat with Aled Walters, Head of Physical Performance at Leicester Tigers, about how the Wattbike helps to benchmark performance, how results affect individual athletes and the competitive nature the training can bring out within the team.
We use the Wattbike for a full range of performance testing, but we never have a ‘test day’, it’s not good for players morale to feel like they're coming in just to be tested so we use the Wattbike for progressive monitoring all through the season.
In pre-season, the 3-minute test is great to calculate Maximum Minute Power (MMP) to set baseline performance figures for the season ahead. From this, we can tell more accurately in the season if our players are retaining power, highlighting if there’s any drop off or if they are recovering well.
When we’re in the full throws of the season, players don’t have too many weeks off so they would get bored if we were repeatedly testing them so we keep it varied, but specific variety.
If we do start to spot significant drop offs in players results, we make informed decisions on the players recovery, sometimes this is physical, sometimes it can be a mental impact from a tough weekend game. Either way, when we get the players on the Wattbike, the numbers don’t lie and we can tell, as can they, immediately if we need to refocus or look at some recovery options.
Typically, our bigger guys perform better in the shorter, explosive tests. However, we do see the backs as some of our top performers when it comes to peak power. Some of our backs are able to compete with our centres in that respect.
When it comes to the 1km time trial test, a fair few of our players come in in under 1 minute. But, a couple of our young players, Ollie Chesum and George Martin, both back row, are hard to beat. Ollie has recorded it in 55 seconds, and I haven’t seen a faster time than that. George is chasing right behind at 56 seconds in his most recent go. The competition is hotting up, but they're all extremely supportive of each other. It’s always healthy competition in our training room, we wouldn’t accept anything less from our guys.
The shorter, more explosive stuff such as the 500m sprint, is where our outside back, Nemani Nadolo, comes into his own! He will blast through 500m in 25 seconds! We tend to take the backs off the 1k testing, as it would take too much out of them for what they need to do in training that afternoon or the next day. Forwards are a bit more robust and have to go to the coalface more often.
As a team though, all of our players work incredibly hard on their own individual performance on the Wattbikes. The data, the results, it means something to them. If you asked me which players beat themselves up the most over the data, I’d honestly have to say all of them, it’s the nature of elite athletes at the top of their game. They are competitive animals.
“They all beat themselves up if they don’t perform. It’s the nature of elite athletes. They’re competitive animals.”
We drive healthy competition across the whole programme, internal competition to be the best individual player they can be and as a whole team. But, they do rally round each other, there is always plenty of banter flying around. But it’s the banter that makes life interesting. As I’ve said already, the boys all want to be in the 2000s club on the Wattbike, and if they do get there, they end up watching over their shoulders for the next!
Missed Part 1 of the Leicester Tigers Miniseries? Read here.
First episode of our 3-part Inter Miami Mini-Series. This episode focuses on athlete engagement and intent, why both are so important to overall performance and the benefits of delving into the training data.