For the more advanced rugby players who already possess a strong level of core stability and solid base fitness levels, we will explore some of the more complex and rugby-specific training routines that players use to build up mass, explosiveness and endurance.
If you’re new to rugby then check out our previous blog for beginners looking to develop a strong core and higher fitness level
This type of training is not for the faint-hearted; it’s meant to break you down and build you back up one session at a time. The necessity of interval training is because during a rugby match, the individual passages of play cause your body to switch between anaerobic energy bursts, whereby your body is operating at a high intensity that results in muscle fatigue, oxygen deficit and a build-up of lactic acid. The periods of aerobic energy bursts are where your muscles are able to contract without the above fatigue because you’re able to take in sufficient oxygen.
The few times you’ll have to catch your breath will be few and far between, so this training will increase your body’s ability to remove lactic acid and restore oxygen during times of aerobic plays of jogging to a line-out or scrum. The quicker your body can perform these tasks, the higher your level of performance.
(Note – before all interval training you should have completed a good warm-up followed by a cool-down session and adequate stretching).
Using a rugby field, hit a fast run at about 80% of your maximum speed along the try line, then jog up the touchline to the halfway line and hit 80% across the pitch to the opposite side, going back to a jog down to the opposite try line. Snake your way around the pitch until you end where you began. This counts as one lap.
As you might have guessed by the name, this isn’t going to be easy. Standing on the try line facing down the pitch, jog at a medium pace as if you were jogging to a scrum or a line out. As you hit the 22 metre line, turn and sprint back to the try line. Without stopping for a rest, jog back to the 10 metre, turn and sprint back to the try line. Continue this back and forth sprint/jog until you’ve sprinted from one try line to the other.
Whether you’re getting ready for the season or you’re well under way, maintaining a strong physicality and mass can only be achieved with a sustained weight training programme. As the season progresses, you may find that you only have time for two sessions a week in between skill training, game and recovery; therefore, you’ll need to perform dynamic weight training sessions that target multiple muscle groups within a singular rep. Here, the focus will be a few dynamic lifts that are suited to rugby players of any position. Muscle training is more than bulking up and testing the weights you can lift; a rugby player must be explosive throughout the game.
(Note – weight training should always be performed in a controlled environment with a spotter ready to assist. Before attempting to perform these movements, ensure that you are able to perform the movement correctly by training with little to no weight. Improper weight training can lead to serious injury, and your body will not benefit if the movement is incorrect).
This set of lifts is performed without a break, giving you a whole body workout which targets all of the major muscle groups. It’s a great way to start your workouts by getting a real burn on. Load a standard power bar with a light weight at either end. Start with 10kgs; at the end of the set you will be able to decide if you want to increase the weight.
3 BY 5s
This is all about developing your technique of exerting power in collision engagements on the pitch. Start with a light weight on either end of a standard power bar before building up. Perform 3 squats followed immediately by 5 burpees. During the squat, focus on your stance throughout the move, ensuring that your back remains straight, eyes forward and lower slowly until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. The slow and controlled action engages and targets the active muscle groups. When performing burpees sets, go for maximum height to develop your stamina.
The bench press is one of the most important exercises for rugby players. Whilst powerful leg muscles drive you over a ruck or press through in a maul, having a strong upper body is vital. Using a medium to heavy weight, lower the bar slowly to a stop about an inch off your chest. Pause. Lift the bar with an explosive force. Between sets, perform 5 reps of clap press-ups.
Having a powerful side-step in your armoury is crucial for rugby players of all positions, as it allows you to exploit the narrowest of gaps in the defence to break the game line. To increase this move, you’ll need powerful inner quads and a strong groin. To perform the move, position the bar across the shoulders as if you’re about to perform a regular squat. Start with your feet hip-distance apart and raise your knee so your quad is parallel to the floor; slowly lunge forward at a 45 degree angle. Your knee should not go further than your toes. Pause. Reverse the process and repeat on the opposite leg. This is one rep.
This is a brilliant exercise for developing an all-round level of raw power, as it engages different muscle groups in an explosive manner. This is one of the more difficult moves to conquer so be sure to take your time breaking the movement down and keep the weight to a minimum before loading up. Enter the starting position with the bar on the floor close to your shins; take an overhand grip slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Lower yourself over the bar flexing mainly at the hips, focusing your weight towards your heels. Keep your back straight, lean your chest and head forwards with your shoulders directly over the bar. You are now ready to begin the lift. Keep the angle of your back uniform with arms straight. Begin to push down on your heels, driving the knees backwards. As the bar passes your knees to the middle of your thighs, begin extending through the hips into a jumping motion and accelerate through the hips, knees and ankles using speed to drive the bar up. This momentum means there’s no need to actively pull with the arms. Now comes the last part of the pull where you’ll need to shrug the shoulders backwards and flex your arms, with the elbows under the bar, bringing the bar to rest on the front of the shoulders.
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