T Nation

Off-Season Rugby Training


Off-season strength and conditioning program for amateur athletes. I have adapted this plan from Christian Thibaudeaux's Layer System and encourage trainees to view the original thread here http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/thibs_layer_system

This is a strength-building phase and will run for approximately 2 months, based on the individual athlete.

1) Amateur players have limited time to train, so efforts are placed on building proficiency on basic lifts rather than coaching more complex lifts.

2) Advanced athletes benefit more from "fine-tuning". Amateur athletes should go for training economy over variety and build proficiency on major lifts before getting too creative.

3) Athletes who train in commercial gyms are limited by equipment availability. Substitutions are acceptable as listed below.

4) Since warm-up time eats into training time, we stick with one major lift per day so athletes only warm-up one movement pattern.

5) This program takes about 1.5 hours per day/ 5 days per week, including conditioning.

Training Template:

DAY 1:BENCH PRESS (Flat, Incline, Chain or Band if available)

*perform 3-5 sets of med ball slams before bench press

1) After warming up, ramp up to a new 3 rep max (3RM) in less than 5 sets. Use clean form and maintain explosive bar speed. I call this a "soft max" because it's the most weight you can do without grinding out reps and/ or using bad form.

2) Use your new 3RM weight to perform 10 single reps, waiting 1 minute between reps. These reps should be done very explosively. If you start grinding out reps, drop the weight by 20 pounds.

3) Use 70% of your new 3RM to perform 3 extended sets. An extended set is done by repping-out, resting for 20 seconds and then repping out again.

Notes: if you decide to ramp to a 1RM instead of a 3RM, use 90% for the 10 singles and 60% for the extended sets. (This is because a 3rm represents approximately 90% of a 1rm)

*Do a set of pullups in-between every set of bench press.

DAY 2:DEADLIFT (conventional or trap-bar)
Same sets/ percentages as above.

*After warming up, do 3-5 sets of box jumps before deadlifting.

*Do 10 sets of abdominal work after deadlifting.

DAY 3:SHOULDER PRESS (DB, Barbell, Push-Press or Push-Jerk)
Same sets/ percentages as above

*perform 3-5 sets of med ball slams before shoulder press

*Do a set of pullups in-between every set of shoulder press

DAY 4:SQUAT (front or back)
Same sets/ percentages as above

*After warming up, do 3-5 sets of body weight jump squats before squatting

*Do 10 sets of abdominal work after squatting

Each workout listed on the conditioning menu should be done 1 time/ week. Menu items can be done in any order -- the only important thing is to do all of them every week. I personally prefer to do sprint work on upper body and/ or off days and steady state work following lower body sessions.

1) Timed 3 mile run
2) 20-min. Treadmill interval training (sprint 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds for 20 minutes)
3) 10-min. Metacon (10 burpees; 10 med ball slams or sledge swings; 100 jump rope jumps) for max rounds in 10 minutes)
4) 30-minute steady state run for distance
5) 10-min farmers carry or sled drag/push interval training. Choose a heavy weight to carry or push for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, repeat)

I strongly recommend playing some type of sport 1 day/week to squeeze in some agility work and extra conditioning. This can be basketball, flag football or anything that requires rapid acceleration, deceleration and change of direction.

1) Band rotator cuff every morning 3-5 sets ea. way (internal/ external rotation)
2) Neck harness work 3-5 ea. way (flexion/ extension) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37vSrdcrSVM
3) Band pull-aparts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKBsia-o9N4
Training log to follow on a daily basis. Questions welcome!


Monday 12/1/14

Bench Press:

1) Ramped to 3RM of 225+90 in chain weight (315 total)

2) Performed 10 single reps @315 in approximately 10 minutes

3) Performed 3 extended sets w/ 70% (220)

4) Performed one set of 4 chest-to-bar pullups in-between each set of bench press

(optional) Extra Assistance Work:

1) Internal/ external rotator cuff 3x15 ea.

2) Face Pulls 3x15


Additional training considerations:

1) I perform all deadlifts double-overhand with no straps. It limits the weight I can use but improves grip strength.

2) I perform bench press with a swiss bar when available.

3) I perform all overhead pressing with an axle bar.


Interesting. Looking forward to following. Do you do any higher volume work ie sets of 10 on main lifts? Or do you think the extended sets are adequate for hypertrophy/ muscle building?


I've found that the extended sets are more than enough for hypertrophy. Each set I typically get 8 reps followed by 5 reps. So you're still within the strength building range, but the volume is also conducive to muscle building.

BTW the reason I use the Swiss Bar and Axle Bar is that they're friendlier on my shoulders. That is not a programming recommendation, rather a personal preference...


Tuesday 12/2/14


I perform deadlifts double overhand without straps. It limits the weight used and helps build grip strength. It also limits the risk of biceps tear on the supinated arm, as is common w/ mixed grip. Get your ego in check because it will cut down your bar weight significantly.

1) ramped to 1rm @405 (double overhand, no straps)

2) performed 10 singles @370 in about 10 minutes

3) performed 3 extended sets @245

4) performed 5 sets of leg raises and 5 sets of incline sit-ups


As an alternative to the singles and extended sets I have also used a German Volume Training template (GVT) when muscle mass is a priority. This template works better for trainees who are trying to put on weight in the off-season. Too much volume for use in-season.

*only perform the 1RM test in week 1 to assess your percentages for the GVT. In the following weeks, try to complete 10 reps on all 10 sets.

*When you can complete 10 sets of 10 with good form, add 10 pounds to the bar next week and repeat the process.

1) ramp to a 1RM

2) perform 10 sets of 10 reps @60 1RM.

This GVT template looks like this:

Day 1: bench press
Bench press 1RM (week 1 only)
Bench press 10x10 @60%
*pullups in between every set of bench press

Day 2: deadlift
Deadlift 1RM (week 1 only)
Deadlift 10x10 @60%
*ab work 10 sets afterwards

Day 3: shoulder press
Shoulder press 1RM (week 1 only)
Shoulder press 10x10 @60%
*pullups in between every set of shoulder press

Day 4: squat
Squat 1RM (week 1 only)
Squat 10x10 @60%
*ab work 10 sets afterwards

Conditioning menu as prescribed in original template


Excellent. Thank you!


Wednesday 12/3/4

Strict shoulder press on a 3" axle bar:

1) ramped to 1RM @225 (strict standing overhead press, knees locked)
This max was pretty sloppy so I backed down to 205 for my working max for the day.

2) 10 singles @185 in 10 minutes

3) 3 extended sets @135 (10/5, 8/4, 7/5)

4) 4 neutral grip dead hang PULLUPS in between every set of shoulder press

Optional assistance work:

Rear delt flye 3x15-20
Hammer curls 3x10
Skull Crushers 3x10


Friday 12/5/14

Low bar back squat, below parallel:

I've been avoiding heavy squatting for a couple years now in favor of unilateral movements and leg press, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Decided to go w the GVT template for squats because Id like to get more volume in.

1) ramped to 1RM @350

2) performed 10 sets @210 (60%) 10/10/8/8/7/6/6/6/6/6
Once I can get 10x10 I will add 20 pounds to the bar.

3) supersettted lying leg curls in between sets of squats

4) performed 5 sets of leg raises and 5 sets of incline sit-ups

Optional assistance: performed 5 sets of reverse hypers


Saturday 12/6/14

Optional workout:

If I complete all 4 sessions by Friday I allow an optional workout on Saturday to focus on whatever I feel I need. I'm recovering from a shoulder injury so shoulder injury proofing has been a priority.

"Fives" Shoulder Complex:
Pick a weight that you can upright row 5 times and do the following compex without setting the bar down. 5 reps of each exercise. Repeat the complex 5 times resting as needed in between. Total of 100 reps.

1) upright row x 5
2) high-pull x 5
3) strict shoulder press x 5
4) push-press x 5

"3-D" Shoulder Raise Complex (repeat 3 times)
1) lateral raise x 8
2) front raise x 8
3) rear delt flye x 8

I finished the session with:

barbell shrug x 3 sets
DB shrug x 3 sets
internal/ external rotator cuff x 3 sets ea.
face pulls x 3 sets


Monday 12/8/14

Bench press:

My shoulder has really been bothering me on anything around/ above 80% 1RM so I decided to go w/ the GVT template again -- this time for Swiss Bar bench press.

Notes: I've been performing "slight decline" bench press recently and it has helped my shoulders a lot. Slight decline is done by placing a 25 plate under the tail end of the bench so it raises a few inches. Unless you're a powerlifter I strongly recommend trying it.

1) GVT bench press, Swiss Bar x 10 sets @205. 10/10/8/8/8/6/5/5/5/5. Once I can get 10x10 I will add 20 pounds to the bar.

2) performed a set of 4 chest to bar dead hang PULLUPS in between each set of bench press.

Optional assistance work:
Hammer curls x 3 sets
Face pulls x 3 sets
Internal/ external rotator cuff x 3 sets
V grip triceps pushdowns x 3 sets


Note: on almost every work set I operate in the "failure minus one" rep range. This means that I keep explosive bar speed and don't grind out a final, sloppy rep at the expense of form.


Wednesday 12/10/14


1) ramped to a double overhand, no strap 1RM @455
2) performed 10 singles @405 (90%) in about 10 minutes
3) performed 3 extended sets @315 (70%): 9/5, 7/5, 6/4
4) performed 5 sets of incline sit-ups and 5 sets of leg raises

Optional assistance work:
Good mornings 3x8

Pulled a muscle in my lat/ upper back on the final set of deadlifts. Hoping it's not too serious and doesn't impact my training too much.


Some of the athletes I work with have been asking about diet. I'm hesitant to get into it because it varies from person to person. But here's what I've been doing:


1) at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight per day
2) at least 1 gram of carbs for every pound of body weight per day (all from fruits & vegetables)

Total Macros (training day):

Calories: 2700
Protein: 275g
Carbohydrates: 240g

Some trainees need heavier carb sources like rice, grains and potatoes. I do not.

Meal 1: 6AM
Shake consisting of:
1 can 100% organic pumpkin
1 cup egg whites
1 scoop protein powder
1 packet stevia
(420 cal; 55g protein; 50 g carbs)

Meal 2: 8AM
2 hard boiled eggs (150 cal; 10g fat; 12g protein)

Meal 3: noon
Garden salad w/ .5 pound turkey breast and oil/ vinegar
(350 cal; 40g protein; 10g carbs)

Meal 4: 2 PM
2 hard boiled eggs (150 cal; 10g fat; 12g protein)

Meal 5: pre-workout
Shake consisting of:
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 scoop whey
(350 cal; 25g protein; 50g carbs)

Meal 6: post-workout
Same as meal 5. On non-training days I skip one of these shakes and use the other as a snack around 4-5PM.

Meal 6: dinner
.5 pound meat, chicken or fish
Stir-fried w vegetables in coconut oil (broccoli, squash, onions etc)
(approx 500 cal; 50g protein; 30g carbs)

Meal 7: bedtime
Same as meal 1

There you go...


Thursday 12/11/14

Strict Shoulder press on 3" axle bar:

1) ramped to an explosive 1rm @225
2) followed GVT template and performed 10 sets @135 (60%): 10,10,10,8,8,8,7,6,6,6
3) pulled/ torn lat still an issue so I performed one set of face pulls in between sets of presses instead of PULLUPS.

Optional assistance work:
Rear delt flye 3x8
Internal/ external rotator cuff 3x8 each


Friday 12/12/14

Low bar back squat:

1) ramped to a new 1RM @375
2) performed 10 sets of squats w/ GVT template @225 (60%)
3) supersettted one set of leg curls in between each set of squats
4) performed 5 sets of ab rollouts and 5 sets of lying leg raises

Notes: My 1RM and 3RM have taken some pretty big jumps recently. This is due mostly to the fact I haven't lifted "heavy" in a couple years. I also deliberately start light when I enter a reprogramming phase. I've also put on about 15 pounds of "holiday weight" since October (225-240) so that has helped, especially since my timed runs have held fast.


Saturday 12/13/14

Optional/ additional workout:

I competed all 4 sessions by Friday so added in an optional workout on Saturday. This week I focused on "movement" training.

1) ramped to a max height box jump
2) moderate weight (200lb) stone loading to a shoulder-high platform 5x10
3) Hussefel Stone carry 5x50 feet
4) Farmers carry 5x50 feet (150/hand)


Monday 12/15/14

Bench press, standard bar:

Someone else was on the Swiss Bar today so I decided to go back to traditional bench press. I've been performing all bench press with a 1-second pause at the bottom.

1) GVT template @205 (60%)
2) Pulled lat still nagging me so I did a set of face pulls in between sets of bench press instead of PULLUPS

Optional assistance work:
Hammer curls x3 sets
Skull crushers x3 sets
Rear delt flye x3 sets


Pulled/ torn lat still an issue so I plan to substitute a second day of squatting for deadlifting this week, followed by some posterior chain assistance work.