• Coaches Corner with Ashley Jones
    Ashley Jones, MS, CSCS, is a rugby strength and conditioning coach who has worked with the elite of the game. Jones has been employed by the Crusaders (Super XV competition), New Zealand All Blacks, and the Australian Wallabies rugby teams over the last decade. He has worked in the sports physical performance conditioning and fitness industries since 1978 and has worked in various professional sports across three countries.
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  • CoachesCornerBannerCoaches Corner | Ashley JonesAshley Jones, MS, CSCS
    Ashley Jones is a rugby strength and conditioning coach who has worked with the elite of the game. Jones has been employed by the Crusaders (Super XV competition), New Zealand All Blacks, and the Australian Wallabies rugby teams over the last decade. He has worked in the sports physical performance conditioning and fitness industries since 1978 and has worked in various professional sports (basketball, rugby league, and rugby union) across three countries (New Zealand, Australia, and Japan).

    1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning?
    I was fortunate to get my start as a professional strength and conditioning coach with the Sydney Kings Australia National Basketball League team in 1992. Prior to that start, I had been doing some work with amateur teams and the fitness industry since 1978. So I think I have been working in the field roughly 35 years in total with 20 of those years with professional sporting teams across various sports (basketball, rugby league, and rugby union).

    2. What is your training style/methods regarding training?
    I would say my general programming philosophy is humanistic over mechanistic and uses a simplistic rather than over-complicated approach. It is developed around the basics: that strength underpins all other physical qualities and that we can achieve gains in this vital area through a varied approach. Utilizing the best of ideas from Olympic-style lifting, power lifting, strongman, body building, and calisthenics to build a well-rounded program that will transfer from the weight room to the field of play. I do a lot of wave loading in off-season training for size and strength and also a lot of undulating periodization with plateau loading in the power programs. 


    A standard four-week loading cycle for my programming would be as follows in an off-season program:
    Week 1: 4 x 6 in a step load fashion hitting a max weight of between 2 and 6 reps on the final set, then apply an estimated 1RM formula (weight lifted x repetitions) x 0.0333 + load
    Week 2: 2 x 3 (6/5/4) at 75%, 80%, and 85% with the second wave adding a small amount of weight
    Week 3: 2 x 3 (5/4/3) at 80%, 85%, and 90%
    Week 4: 2 x 4 (4/3/2/2)

    After this cycle, I re-select exercises and go through another cycle. In-season I would not wave load but would add a second top end set, as follows:
    Week 1: 4 x 6 in a step load fashion hitting a max weight of between 2 and 6 reps on the final set, then apply an estimated 1RM formula (weight lifted x repetitions) x 0.0333 + load
    Week 2: 4 sets (6/5/4/4) at 75%, 80%, 85%, 85+%
    Week 3: 4 sets (5/4/3/3) at 80%, 85%, 90%, 90+%
    Week 4: 4 sets (4/3/2/2) at 85%, 90%, 95%, 95+%

    My power programs work off an undulating periodization, again based on a four-week loading cycle:
    Week 1: 4 x 6 at 60%
    Week 2: 5 x 3 at 80%
    Week 3: 5 x 4 at 70%
    Week 4: 4 x 2 at 90%

    3. How has this training style/methods evolved over the years?
    I think I have really maintained this approach since day one of my career. Over the years, I have refined my ideas not just to use movements that I like, but to favor what the players need—which is a trap that young trainers fall into time and time again. I also now use a lot of major exercise variations and dumbbells in my programming. For example, I use the bench bar and the trap bar as an overhead pressing movement and a bent-over row movement.

    4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
    My players each and every day: They teach me and keep me inspired. They also add to my program all the time as we grow together. From an educational perspective, I think Lyn Jones and Harry Wardell were the guys that influenced my initial thinking. Going way back when I first walked into the American Health Spa in Brookvale, New South Wales, the gym owner Vince Basile, took the time to instruct me in the basics. This was ably supported by Dennis and Pat, two local powerlifters, as emphasis on technique was everything and I hope I pass that on to my own players now. Lately, people like Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell crew make me think of how I can use their methods to benefit my players. From a personal perspective, his holiness the Dalai Lama is a constant source of inspiration through the way he approaches life.

    5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with?
    This is ongoing every day, I try to have a gym filled with variations on the major movements so I can find a movement that a player can use even if they have an injury. You are a teacher each and every day you are in the gym with your players. The most important question I ask each day is “how are you feeling?” so that way I will know if they are good to go and then we can tailor that day’s plan around how they feel. For example, we have over 40 variations on squats should we need to fit a player into something different for the day.

    6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning?
    Without a doubt, individualization; it is the Holy Grail of individualizing and optimizing performance of each individual in a team sport environment. Individualization is what I hope we are all trying to achieve in our careers each and every day at a time. I also have seen some trainers nowadays that actually do not do their own training—if you cannot do the program you set, how do you expect your players to perform it. You do not have to be a world champion, but if your players see you train with excellent technique then they themselves may be motivated as well.

    7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field?
    I find that very difficult since a lot of conferences are scheduled at times when I am with teams, so I use a lot of internet use through organizations such as the NSCA, EliteFTS, All Things Gym, and Get Strength. I also use chats with fellow professionals and I try to look more to the power production sports like bobsleigh, shot, discus, and hammer throw to something that can optimize our power training. I try experimenting on myself with training protocols as well. I once read that if your full-time job upon graduation from any science degree was to read the available literature in your subject area, then after your first year, you would still be three months behind—so it is impossible to stay abreast of everything.

    8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming?
    Specificity, I believe is doing what you need to do when you need to do it, both on and off the field, in the game and in the gym. I do not think that there are any specific exercises for rugby in the gym. People get too hung up on trying to replicate actions from the field to the gym. I believe that the only thing that transfers is confidence. Obviously you need to be a certain strength level, but I believe no one actually knows how strong is enough.

    9. What is your favorite tool in your tool box?
    I guess overall it would be the Olympic barbell since it can be used for so many exercises. But over the last few years it would be the many variations of the barbell that are now available, trap bars, safety squat bars, cambered bars, and bench/football bars.

    10. What are your five favorite exercises?
    Power snatch, good morning combo, push press, close grip bench press, Pendlay row; there are so many more since we have a huge variety in my current gym, but those are five that came to mind.

    11. What advice do you have for young coaches who are beginning their careers and hoping to "follow in your footsteps”?
    Look outside your own sport for ideas. Listen to everything you can, especially from your players, and actually hear what is being said. You can learn something from everyone you come across, so never stop learning. To paraphrase from the classic movie “Shawshank Redemption,” “get busy learning or get busy dying.” My advice is to train and compete in one of the weight training-related sports, progress slowly with patience and humility, develop a philosophy but be open to modifications along the way if you find some idea that shakes your beliefs, and to stand for something. Whatever you ignore, you are actually accepting, so be ever vigilant. Finally, be the best you can be each and every day and tomorrow will look after itself.
  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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