In this first episode of the Wattbike x Leicester Tigers mini-series, we dig into the data with Aled Walters, Head of Physical Performance at Leicester Tigers to find out how Wattbike data, and its accuracy supports elite sport and player development, both on the pitch and in the training room.
Without doubt, the most usable metric for us is power. That might sound basic, based on how much incredible data the Wattbike provides. But when we’re working with our Rugby players, we need data that they can easily recognise, that resonates with them, and for us, that’s power.
So, we can rest assured knowing that when the players jump on the Wattbikes, they already know what a good power output is, or a good time is and what they need to work towards without us having to instruct too much. And trust me, they all know what a good Peak Power score is now, it’s one of those things that they can get a bit competitive amongst themselves about!
Our Peak Power scores are really varied across the team, some of our heavier guys hit some big scores. We have a fair few players who will come in on a Monday, two days after a game and hit over 2000 watts, we have two players in particular who will hit over 2100! They’re the guys to beat!
Power is such a fantastic indicator of performance for us, and as we use it so regularly, we really know what to look for and the Wattbikes accuracy is essential in this. A flat out, all you’ve got effort for 6 seconds tells us a lot about a person! It can tell us a lot about how well recovered a player is, and it’s a mental test.
For example, back row Jasper Wiese, internationally capped for the Springboks, is one of our guys who hits over 2100watts on his Peak Power test. If he isn’t hitting those numbers on a Monday, we know,and he knows,that he either needs to recover more physically from the weekend game or there’s something else we need to look into.
We test and monitor a lot of data across every block of our season, but we don’t want the players to think of this as testing, more as looking at progressive data periodically so the guys keep enjoying it. We don’t want them coming in dreading a ‘test day’, that’s not what this is about. But we will encourage the sense of competition. A player getting close to 2000 watts is a big thing, everyone wants their name in the Wattbike 2000s – it creates a great energy in the gym!
We tend to work the forwards a lot more on the Wattbikes in-season than the backs as it’s a brilliant alternative to getting some hard work in the forwards without risk of injury. The Wattbike is our ‘breaking the seal’ training tool to start the Monday off after a weekend game, we go early in the day on them and we go hard to get the last game out of the system.
Data for us is about monitoring purposes rather than taking direct actions. Repeatability of action is key on the pitch. And the Wattbike is the ideal way to gauge repeatability. If repeatability is poor on the Wattbike, it’s going to be poor on the field.
“If repeatability is poor on the Wattbike, it’s going to be poor on the field.”
But don’t let me fool you that it’s all about Peak Power, the Wattbike forms part of our skill rotation and we also run a rotation of 200m, 500m and 1000m to time. These are key determinants of performance. When we have a short space of time, but we need to get the guys working hard, efficiently and effectively, the Wattbike is our go-to.
Most memorably, I have made use of the Wattbikes when I was with the Springboks and also with Munster. So, I came to Leicester knowing how good the bikes were and we quickly added to the numbers they already had in the gym. To be honest, I quickly judge a training facility by whether they have Wattbikes or not. If they don’t, they can’t be taking their training that seriously.
“I quickly judge a training facility by whether they have Wattbikes or not. If they don’t, they can’t take their training that seriously.”
The Wattbikes played a massive part of the guys training through lockdown and now still at the club, they play a huge part in our off-feet training. If there was a week that went past that the guys weren’t on the bikes, they would think that odd, it’s a key ingredient to our weekly training schedule.
Essentially, the data is important to us because we want to keep improving. That’s the beauty of the Wattbike. The data is instant and accessible, the players see the data as soon as we do, which is different to GPS systems or other methods of monitoring performance and means we can adjust in real-time and coach.
The players definitely have a love / hate relationship with the Wattbike. It’s like anything, if you’re good at it, you love it. But, if you’re not, you hate it. But one thing is true, everyone respects the bike.
“The players have a love/hate relationship with the Wattbike. But everyone respects it.”
No other indoor bike gives us the level of data that the Wattbike does, it’s the bike I trust. It’s part of the fabric of our club and it's one of the first things I insist on in any environment I work in.