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Program Advice for Rugby Athlete

Hey Jim, thanks for reading this.

I ran 5-3-1 all throughout highschool as a strength program for football and wrestling. I mainly stuck to the standard Boring but Big template, and made pretty good progress following that. I got off of the program while doing some more specified military prep training. I am now beginning to play Rugby for my college, and am looking to pickup 5-3-1 again as my strength routine. Rugby players have a reputation for being some of the best athletes on the yard, so I’ve got some high standards to rise to.

I was thinking of running the traditional 5-3-1 routine, split into 4 days a week.

Day 1:

Power Snatch: 2 reps EMOM for 10 minutes
Squats 531
RDL 3x8-12
kroc Row

Day 2:

Bench 531
Press 3x10
Dips and chins

Day 3:

Clean: 2 reps EMOM for 10 minutes
Deadlift 531
squat 3x10
DB row

Day 4:

Press 531
Bench 3x8
weighted dips and chins

I was thinking about trying to add some farmers carries in somewhere, but Im not sure where they would fit best. I have an hour of morning PT where i hit lots of longer running, pushups, pullups, and core work, so I am not stressed about including that within the program. Just looking to be strong and explosive.


Here is my 2 cents since nobody has replied to you

Read this:

If your school/club doesn’t offer a S&C program for Rugby just do the above since you mentioned 531. Its that simple.

On a personal note: I know plenty who use 531Football & WS4SB. Again read the article by Jim at the link and its all gravy after that,


Not Jim, but I did play rugby for several years. Without knowing your teams training schedule, I’ll give you some general recommendations. When I was in school, we practiced on Tuesday and Thursdays, and played matches on Saturdays. Tuesday’s were a lot of time on the scrum machine, I was a forward, rucking and mauling drills, situational scrimmaging, and heavy conditioning. Thursday’s were lighter on contact, usually focusing on something we wanted to emphasize in our next match, plays off a line out, rolling mauls or whatever. Conditioning was still heavy, just not as much as Tuesday’s. I lifted and ran on my own on Mondays and Wednesday’s. I would suggest lifting twice per week, doing two lifts per day, doing 5’s Pro or the original 531 and maybe capping your pr sets at 10 or less. If you do supplemental work, 3x5 fsl to start out, maybe increase that if your body can handle it. Your shoulders and low back take a beating in rugby, especially in the forwards. Face pulls, rear laterals, band pull a parts will help keep your shoulders healthy and back raises and all types of ab work will keep you solid in the middle. Push-ups, chins, fat man rows and dips are all good for assistance. If you have a neck harness, use it often. Some jumps and throws before your lifting would be a good idea. It sounds like you are doing some distance running for I’m guessing ROTC. Google Jingle Jangles. Throw those in twice a week, and I think you’ll be set.

Thanks for the article, useful read!

Thanks for all the advice! I think im going to end up being a Prop, which sounds fine by me. I didnt think about training neck, but it actually sounds like a very good idea considering how this sport takes a toll on you, appreciate the idea. We have those 4 way neck machines at the gym, I will have to give those a try! Again, thank you!

PS: ROTC was a good guess, but nope. Midshipmen at the Naval Academy.

Naval Academy, excellent. Navy or Marine officer, or no preference?

Well I wont know for 100% certainty until I actually receive my commission senior year, but right now the plan is Marine Ground, hopefully going into Infantry or Ground Intel, though I will be content with anything that gets me boots on the ground!

If you’re a forward just get someone to stomp on your head and back with studded boots til you get used to it :).

Run with 100% purpose and goal.
Lift: squat, press, row, chin, dead and dip. LOTS of ab/low back work

Training for sports is VERY easy as it is GPP. You dont need ONE SINGLE ADVANCED training method/program. ZERO.

I assume you practice every single day (even in off-season) so you will need to coordinate this with your coach. If you don’t, I don’t know what to tell you.

Thanks Jim!

Im following a set Running Program made for Marine/SEAL prospects, so definitely have a goal that I am working towards there.

I will certainly incorporate some jumps and throws into my training, along with a little more ab and low back work than I am currently doing

I ve been playing rugby for 10 years or so, I m spanish and we don’t have a professional league here but still 6 of my team mates made the 7s team into the olympics so I have being able to look at various “pro programs”, that plus 10 years of own lifting experience are my credentials.

First, you need to train movements not muscles, isolating them is a very commun mistake. People often look for a men’s physique body with the strength of a powerlifter. This is not our goal, our goal is being able to transfer those gains into performance on the field as fast as possible. I could make a book out of this post, we could say lifting for rugby has been my life thesis inside the gym. But I will make it quick.

Your eating will depend on your position, if you are a forward you just have to take care of having an enough amount of protein to ensure your gains while if you are a back (my case) is more complicated because you need to make gains but without carrying too much fat, so I d suggest a high protein diet 2/3gr per kg. You will need to lift vigorously in every session, so dont forget to have a good source of carbs (white rice, potatoes) before hiting the gym or field practice while avoiding them the rest of the day.

In therms of lifting, while it is good to improve your maxiums this will mainly be a consequence of putting on more muscle mass. In the off season you will train as many times a week as possible because you dont have to care about doms annoying your field practice during in season time you have to take doms into consideration which means your main gains need to come in the off season, that’s right, your bulking season will be in summer.

Okay, exercise time, your work must be, once again, around the main lifts. These exercises are a must for a rugby player: deadlift, squat variations, bench press, shoulder press, pull ups (as well as weighted) and row variations. Rep scheme could be 6x3 (85% of 1 rm) and focusing of performing the reps faster each week, don t get obsessed with the weight, change it just when it feels really light. There are still many things to be told about this but with this you will have a starting point.