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Train it like Dan Carter

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Train it like Dan Carter

Dan Carter is an international rugby player who recently played a crucial role in New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup victory. Today Carter plays for Racing Metro in Paris and has built a reputation for demonstrating both skill and stamina on the field.

To reach the level of the game that he has reached, Carter has adhered to an interesting diet regime and fitness programme, encompassing the following:

Food -

Carter trains in the morning and the afternoon, and has stated that, as such, breakfast is very, very important to him. Typically Carter likes to eat cereal with yogurt and muesli in the morning, together with poached eggs on toast and a berry smoothie.

Delicious, non?

For lunch, Carter typically enjoys sushi, while during the day he snacks on a muesli bar with pieces of fruit. Meanwhile, for dinner, Carter will go for red meat or chicken (neither of which is fried, he insists!). Carter also underlines how, rather than eating three set meals a day, he actually finds himself eating throughout the day.

Training -

Of course, everything for Carter revolves around his rugby performance. So, in terms of training he undertakes two weight training sessions a week; the first to build muscle size and strength, with high repetitions to build his muscle, the second (called a “power session”) involving lighter weights with more explosive action during the sets undertaken.

As a general rule Carter also engages in a lot of “explosive” exercise and clean squats. He states that rugby is an explosive sport anyway, so he is required to train his muscles in a way that fits with what he has to do on the field.

Speed training -

For Carter, what is known as speed training is an important part of his fitness programme. As part of this programme he undertakes regular sprints over 10 meters, as well as working consistently on his agility by running around cones with what he describes as “100 per cent effort”.

Carter also integrates interval running into his training, typically consisting of 30 second accelerations, followed by a cool down period, and then he repeats this set once again.

A specific rugby workout -

In his position (and as the highest professional rugby scorer of all time!), Carter has added into his typical training week three to four kicking sessions (with an hour dedicated each time to this part of his training).

Preparing for a game -

But it’s not all physical training. For Carter mental training is just as important to achieve success in his training and game. As Carter puts it, “I like to prepare mentally by relaxing” and he is able to do so because he feels confident after all of the hard work put in above, which can typically be spread over a period of weeks, or indeed months.

Thus, before an evening game Carter will go for a walk around 2.30pm, then have a nap of between 2-3 hours duration, while before the game itself Carter likes to have a cold shower to prepare for the game ahead.

It is always interesting to learn from the best in their field about how they train and also from those sports’ people who have reached the highest level of their game on the strategies they use. Carter, for example, discovered that he he needs to relax, as above, before a game (especially after his hard work leading up to it) to reach his full potential on the field, which in itself is interesting (the dedication to relaxation being as important as physical training in the path to success).

Obviously someone interested in maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle outside of such a professional sporting career does not have to replicate everything that Carter (or indeed anyone like him) undertakes in their fitness programme to make gains, but taking pointers from such men or women is always a good idea to move forward in the gym.

There is something to particularly consider in Carter’s approach to training and speed training, as outlined above.

Mixing weights in the right way can achieve results; by using lighter weights combined with an explosive, snappy approach, and by combining weights in an intense session (especially if joined with strength target sessions) can bring real benefits.

Another option is in the integration of speed training to a structured training programme. This can be achieved realistically (intervals are more likely if undertaken in the gym, by the way) whatever the level of training a person is at.

Finally, my advice in considering how to successfully integrate methods used by such athletes as Dan Carter would be to not skip a legs session or exercises, as these are fundamentals to our body’s balance. Legs are easily overlooked, especially if aesthetic results are the objective, but are our foundation, and are left out of any structured training programme at our peril!

So, be like Dan Carter: Get the balance of training, relaxation and diet right for what you want to achieve and, oh yeah, don’t forget your legs if you want to move forward in your programme.


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