Notes from Dan Baker – Power Training Research & its Practical Application in Training the Brisbane Broncos

Dan BakerDan Baker PhD has been Strength & Power coach at the Brisbane Broncos since 1995 during which time the team have won 6 Premierships and two World Club Challenges. You can read more about Dan on his website here.

He is also very proud of the fact that his team became so physically dominant that they had to bring in the “Dominant Tackle” rule to negate the Broncos’ power game!

Dan’s presentation described the research on power and strength training that he had personally carried out on the Broncos squad. My notes in bullet point format from his lecture at the 2010 UKSCA Conference are below:

  • Dan mainly uses Mean Power as a measurement – power across a movement not peak power i.e. at its highest in the movement
  • One repetition maximum, PMax and Power with heavy resistances are the best indicators of Elite status in Rugby League players
  • Pmax in the Bench Press occurs on average at 50% of 1 repetition maximum but:
    • For stronger athletes (1RM 152kg) Pmax occurs at 45%
    • For less strong athletes (1RM 125kg) Pmax occurs at 55%Ben Te'o
  • The Load Power Spectrum –
    • Speed Power:          0-20%
    • Ballistic Power:       20-40%
    • Max Power:            40-60%
    • Explosive Power:    60-80%
    • Max Strength:         80-100%
  • 6 reps is best for Power training – this was ascertained on Squat Jumps & Bench Throws
  • The stronger you are the more power output you lose with fatigue
  • Highest power outputs are achieved when loads are applied in an ascending fashion (e.g. 40kg, 50kg, 60kg)
  • Descending order of sets is most effective for high power outputs at lighter resistances
  • Ascending order followed by a “down set” may be an effective strategy e.g. 40kg, 50kg, 60kg, then 30kg
  • Must choose the order that suits the training objective
  • High strength levels in antagonist muscles increases limb speed as it allows action, braking & clamping to occur later in a movement and in a shorter period of time
  • The biggest changes is strength & power occur early in a player’s career (age 17-18 up to 22-23). Once playing Rugby League past the age of 22-23 it is very difficult to improve strength as they become established first team players and there is less time for strength/power training
  • Dan is aggressive in his approach to Strength/Power maintenance in season and while they may not gain strength it is unacceptable for his players to lose strength
  • General goals of his training are:
    • 1 rep max Squat >175% of bodyweight
    • 1 rep max Bench Press >150% of bodyweight
    • 1 rep max Chin Up >150% of bodyweight
    • 1 rep max Hang Power Clean >133% of bodyweight
    • This means that the average opponents bodyweight is <66% of your 1 rep max – ideal for power production so that you can…….

Tonie Carroll

  • The upper back is a key region to promote hypertrophy. You need a “Big Coathanger” to hold the muscle and the upper back doesn’t take as much impact
  • Functional isometrics mimic the collision in Rugby League – Bench Press with a partner providing an isometric in the mid range for 3 seconds then grind out the rest of the rep
  • Uses lots of split leg exercises – split cleans, split jerks, jumps, lunges, step ups to mimic absorbing force/collision on the field
  • Uses complexes often:
    • Alternating heavy & light resistances for upper or lower body power e.g Lower Body – Band resisted squat (60-80% 1 rm) + Jump squat (40-60% 1rm)
    • Contrasting muscle action – pull vs push
  • All sessions are very tightly controlled – every exercise/weight/set/rep/rest/order for every athlete set by Dan
  • If there are two gym sessions in a week they will do:
    • A Day – 1) Max Strength 2) General Strength 3) Muscle Size
    • B Day – 1) Complex Explosive Power with P Max or Ballistic Power 2) General Strength 3) Muscle Size
  • If only one gym session in a week i.e. some in-season weeks they do:
    1. Max Strength Bench Press
    2. Complex of Antagonist Strength + Agonist Power e.g. pull ups + bench throws or Antagonist & Agonist power e.g. hang power clean + split jerk
    3. Additional Power exercise
    4. Size training
    5. Max Strength Squat
  • They always do max strength squats last in a session as they get so hyped up it wipes them out!

This was one of the best lectures I have attended as it was apparent the energy Dan brings to any situation and the quality of the information he presented was excellent as he blended well executed research, conducted on high caliber athletes, conducted over a long period of time to produce easy to understand practical recommendations.

A key message was to carry out your own research on the athletes you work with so that you can draw your own conclusions as to what is or isn’t effective in your situation. To spell it out – Don’t take these notes as concrete rules to use with your athletes!

If you ever have the chance to see him present take the opportunity with both hands – “Giddy Up!”


Simon Nainby is an Accredited Strength & Conditioning Coach and Tutor, Sports Massage Therapist, RFU Level II coach and an Assistant Athletics Coach. He has worked for a number of professional and semi-professional teams and he currently acts as a coaching consultant through Underground Athletics to a wide range of athletes from rugby players to Olympic Lifters. He provides physical preparation training and support in order to maximise sports performance. This consists of strength, speed and power training combined with recovery support to create a periodised programme which is essential for athletes to perform to their potential.

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