With the 2015 Rugby World Cup well under way, we look at just what it takes to become a modern day rugby star. Whilst the sport itself has undergone a few changes over the years, the major progression in the game is the vast increase in the level of physicality. The rugby we now know sees burly bearded giants layered in muscle sprinting down the field like a 100m athlete taking hit after hit while retaining an incredible level of speed and endurance.
This increase of strength, fitness and explosive power comes through intense training that strikes a fine balance between keeping body mass high and retaining an athletic physique. We explore the off-field fitness training routine of the professional rugby player by taking you through the main exercises involved in a targeted workout routine.
Core strength builds by training the intrinsic muscles, which are responsible for your posture, joint stability and mobility. By working these muscles, you’ll be able to generate more power in your tackles, increased agility in attack positions and quicker moves between set pieces. The following core stability exercises require little to no equipment and can be performed at home or at the gym.
Place a Swiss Ball in front of you and move over the ball into a position lying face down, with your body weight supported by the ball on your upper thighs. Your hands are placed firmly on the floor, spaced double shoulder width apart with your arms perpendicular to your body. Slowly bring your knees to your chest flexing the joints as the ball rolls towards your shins. Pause. Reverse back to original position and repeat.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, place a Swiss Ball between your feet and extend your arms above your head. Whilst performing an abdominal crunch, squeeze the ball between your feet and lift it. Take the ball in your hand and return to lying flat on your back. Pause. Reverse the motion.
With your back to the wall, move forwards about 3ft and place your feet hip distance apart with toes pointing forward. Place the Swiss Ball between the wall and your lower back and slowly start to lower yourself, flexing at the hips and knees. Allow the ball to support your back as it rolls up towards your shoulders; do not exceed a 90 degree bend at the knee. Pause. Return to starting position. Repeat.
Rugby players of all positions must have a good level of fitness as the game is very much a survival of the fittest. The pace of rugby is constantly changing throughout a match and this affects aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, which means you will have to develop a good base fitness level to build on. The following exercises require little equipment, just hard work and strong willpower.
(Note – you will want to main a steady heart rate of approximately 150 to 160 bpm. Too high and you’ll enter anaerobic workout territory. Any lower and you won’t get a sufficient aerobic workout.)
This is a great full-body workout. If you’re coming back from an injury, the support of the water offers a great starting block to build from. Try not to focus on how long you swim but rather the distance. Use a 25m pool and start by doing 5 lengths, building up by 2 lengths a session until 50 lengths is a breeze. Front crawl and breaststroke are adequate; other strokes are not necessary.
Rowing is another great all-over workout that can be found in any gym. Ensure that you keep your back straight and don’t pull with the arms until you have fully extended your legs; this will prevent unnecessary strain. Try to keep a consistent stroke rate throughout.
Jogging is one of the most straight-forward workouts and provides a great cardio session. Try and work your way up from a 15-minute jog to 40 minutes. Once you’re comfortable with running for this length of time, try to increase the pace little by little until you’re running for 40 minutes above 10km/h.
For more fitness training tips, check out our Total Abs Workout feature to build your core strength and stability before hitting the pitch. For all your sports gear and equipment, head to your nearest Sun & Sand Sports store to shop our latest collections.