Rugby

I was a bit too bulked up – Ollie Sleightholme thriving after dropping muscle

Sleightholme is aiming to win his first England cap on the upcoming tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Ollie Sleightholme is uncapped at international level
Ollie Sleightholme is uncapped at international level (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Ollie Sleightholme is operating at his ideal playing weight after discovering the bulking up programme that turned his Northampton team-mates into Gallagher Premiership champions took the edge off his own game.

Sleightholme is aiming to win his first England cap on the upcoming tour to Japan and New Zealand to cap a stellar season that produced a domestic title and the personal triumph of emerging as the league’s top try-scorer.

But the turbo-charged wing’s success only came after realising that adding muscle was not having the same impact on him as it was for other members of Saints’ backline, who became stronger in contact with the extra kilos.

Ollie Sleightholme helped Northampton win the Premiership
Ollie Sleightholme helped Northampton win the Premiership (Robbie Stephenson/PA)

“There’s a fine line between being too big and being in a good spot,” said the 24-year-old, son of former Northampton and England wing Jon.

“At the start of the season I was a bit too bulked up and it was during the season that I found where I needed to sit with my body and then I got into a rhythm after that.

“I had put on eight kilos – I went from 90 kilos to 98 kilos in four-and-a-half or five weeks. It was just loads of gym and loads of eating, basically.

“I got to the end of it and the strength and conditioning coaches said ‘well done for doing it’, and I was like ‘I can’t play this heavy, it’s not going to work’.

“The turning is the difficult bit. When you’re a bit heavier, turning and moving and changing direction is when you feel it.

“Running in a straight line isn’t too bad because once the weight’s moving, it’s moving. But changing direction and reacting to stuff was difficult when I was heavier.

“So it became a case of starting to get back into training and it all sort of drops off as you start training and playing.

“I’m now somewhere around 92 kilos, so just a couple of kilos heavier than where I was. A weight of 92/93 is probably where I want to be.”

England captain Jamie George describes Sleightholme’s pace as “scary”, but the finisher’s speed training requires the same nuanced approach as adding muscle to his frame.

“It’s difficult to find the balance because I’ve got the balance wrong plenty of times in previous years and it’s ended up in injuries,” he said.

“It’s about keeping yourself fit and keeping yourself on the pitch. If it’s a case of trying to do a speed session, or being fit, pick being fit.

“It’s a case of trying to get the training in when your body feels right but definitely prioritise staying on the pitch over anything else.”