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Rugby In-Season 5/3/1 Program


Hi Guys,

I am currently in Pre-Season for Rugby and doing 4 x Week on 5/3/1 including the BBB Template but am finding it difficult now as Pre-Season has started. Pre-Season consists of grueling sprints and physical activities 2 days a week which will soon be 3 days a week.
Now previous season I was Training 5/3/1 2 days a week as follows:

Squat - 5/3/1
Bench - 5/3/1

Deadlift - 5/3/1
Press - 5/3/1

Also within these days I add Interval running, sprinting and recovery running.
Training 2 days a week previous season worked well but have found that training 4 days a week has lead to better gains, would it be possible to run 5/3/1 3 days a week?
Does anyone have any advice they could share, it would be highly appreciated!



Your off season training was not intense enough.

if you would have followed the program and added 3x week conditioning, you would be fine.

You would have dropped your off season conditioning and added your program conditioning, while keeping 5/3/1 going for your pre season.

Eat more, take a de load on 5/3/1 and suck it up. 2, 3, 4 days is irrelevant.

probably, eat more?

Once season start, you deload a bit on 5/3/1 and stay with the reps (do not add anything) and concentrate on accessory work. Your main focus will be the sport itself.


Stick to two days a week for inseason but if you feel up for more work crank up the volume on assistance excercises....



Thankyou guys, JFG I did not completely understand your advice but much appreciated.
I will give that article a good read and take what I need from it.



How do you guys feel when doing high volume work during season?



you said your pre season training was gruelling and so it was hard to maintain your present work outs. It sounded like you said that your current training is "too much".

The reason for off season training, is so that you will not suffer, once pre season starts. Obviously, you are suffering, so your off season was not intense enough. If you would have done it right, all you would have done is drop your conditioning from working out and kept the 5/3/1 as is.

I prefer the 3 days 5/3/1 and combine shoulders and chest.

This is how I train athletes. This is in a nut shell, no two athletes are exactly the same. I also used 5/3/1, as that is what you are using.

Off season: Balls to the walls 5/3/1 and conditioning. Accessory to keep up with work outs only.
Pre season: Drop conditioning and (as stated above) 3 days 5/3/1. Accessory to keep up with the work outs only. Get back into (respective sport) shape.
During season: Deload 5/3/1 by 10-20 (this is individual), never go over prescribed numbers of reps. Low steady cardio and/or HIIT (again, very individual) or some kind of (I call it flush exercise, I believe CT calls it neuro something). Concentrate on accessory work to stay healthy. Put everything in practice and especially games. If you are getting tired for games, look at your diet and work outs.
Post season: 2 weeks of active rest. Get out of the gym, enjoy life, go swimming, fishing, walking the dogs, etc.




Thanks JFG, fully understand now. My aerobic capacity is high, I just find Squat hard when doing 4 days a week pre and in-season. I have done 3 days a week in the past and have found recovery to be better. Normally if I do 5/3/1 3 days a week I combine Deadlift and Press, your option sounds quite good combining Bench and Press.

Also as I train on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Play on Saturdays or Sundays. How would it be best to do a 3 day split as I was thinking Mon/Weds/Friday?



Also forgot to mention, what 5/3/1 accessory program do you use if any?
I have found BBB to work very well.



For in season 531 for athletes is usually pretty good on 2 days a week. I would stick to as you had it with 3 exercises, don't think intensity of the season suits high volume. My favourite split both when I played rugby and now while rowing in season is:

Session 1
Squat and Bench 531
Weighted Pull Ups 5 sets

Session 2
Deadlift and Military Press 531
Barbell ROws 5 x 5

I would stick with the 2 a day, but as mentioned earlier maybe take a deload week in preseason whilst you adapt to higher intensity conditioning. Problem with 3rd session may be lead to you struggling to maintain intensity, but I think the main thing you can do is focus on the recovery. Make sure you are getting adequate nutrition (preseason not the time for 0 carbs or anything like that) and also plenty of sleep. I know what you mean with squatting when doing so many sprints and conditioning work preseason.

My recommendation is to ensure you keep up with stretching and mobility work. I found in past preseason work my calves and hips get very tight which would affect your squat. Tennis ball to the calves and hips usually helps as well as foam rolling and some of the mobility work that you can easily find on this site. There is some good stuff for hip mobility and that should all help you.


I'm on my 6th cycle of 5/3/1 and had great results. I use high volume RDL's/GM's for Dead and Squat day, and pretty much a BBB set up for upper body work. Lots of tricep work as well.


Thank you again, I will be adding a little more Tricep work in as my Bench needs improving even though recently I have noticed my Bench improving. Also If I am wanting to improve my Bench is it worth doing it first before Squat?



Just thought of a good routine:

Squat and Bench - 5/3/1
Bench - 5x10
Kroc Rows - 5x10
and maybe some added Dips - 5x10

Thursday or Friday:
Deadlift and Press - 5/3/1
Front Squat - 5x10
Pull Ups - Weighted or 5x10
Leg Curls - 5x10

Any input would be appreciated.



Please don't take any of this the wrong way, I'm only trying to help.

That being said, I'm currently playing rugby in college, and so am responsible for programing all of my lifting and such.

First, a couple of my throughts:

1- Your lifting will have to change significantly during rugby. As an athlete, the only thing you HAVE to do is practice. Everything else is gravy. Your lifting cannot keep you from practicing optimally.

2- High volume work during the season is a very bad idea. During the season, volume needs to be low-ish

3- Full body days are optimal during the season. This is because a lower body day will definitely keep you from practicing optimally.

4- For example, in the template you posted just above this post, you have heavy deadlifts, 5x10 front squats, and 5x10 hamstring curls. Do you really think you're going to be able to practice or PLAY A GAME to your full potential the next day? The answer is no.

5- You stated that you guys do a lot of sprinting/conditioning in practice. I suggest you do not condition on your own, save it for practice.


So with that said, this is the template I use in season. I run the WS4SB program, so this is the inseason template from that program, tweaked a bit to suit me


Jump variation- 3x3-5
Box Squats- 3 week wave of 60% for 6x2, 70% for 5x2, 80% for 3x2
Db Bench variation- 3x10-20
Lats/Upper Back superset- 3-4x10-15 for each
Ab Circuit- 3-4 exercises, 2 sets through the circuit


Max Effort Upper- 3-5 Rep Max
Single leg exercise- 3x8-12 per leg
Lats/Upper back superset- 3-4x10-15 for each
Abs/Hip extension superset- 2x10-15 for each

My general suggestion for you is to lift twice a week, Monday and Wednesday usually work best since most rugby teams practice tuesday and thursday. You could also have light "flushing" day on sundays (assuming you play saturday), but that would be for recovery.


With that being said, this is the template I follow during the season. I run the WS4SB program, so this is the inseason program tweaked to suit me.


  1. Jumps 3x3-5
  2. Box Squats- 3 week cycle of 60% for 6x2, 70% for 5x2, 80% for 3x2
  3. Db Pressing- 3x10-20
  4. Lats/Upper Back Superset- 3-4x10-15
  5. Ab Circuit- 2x10-15 each exercise


  1. Max Effort- 3-5 Rep Max
  2. Single Leg Exercise- 3x6-10 per leg
  3. Lats/Upper Back Superset- 3-4x10-15
  4. Weighted Abs/Hip Extension Superset- 2x10-15

My advice to you is to lift twice a week with both days being full body. Monday and Wednesday usually work best as most rugby teams practice on tuesdays and thursdays. You could also have a "flushing" day the day after a match, but that would be done purely for recovery. Don't lift the day before a match.


Thank you Chris, I would like to keep some volume work in but maybe do 3x10 with the Front Squats. I can always go by feel!
Definitely understand about training optimally as if you are training for a sport but cannot play or train at your potential because of lifting it destroys the whole point.



^^^^I think this is golden.

Also, don't be afraid to hit the gym before you go to your club for training on a tuesday and thursday. I have done that for 2 seasons now, at first out of neccessity, but now as a 35yo tighthead in a decently competitive league i find the rest on M/W/F perfect (and also a great time for foam rolling and stretching).

Also, the main "problem" that most people seem to grumble about with 531 is that bench stalls out quicker than the rest. So if you want a 3rd session in a week, think about going on a sunday and just hitting a little extra bench and some vanity work (similar to Chris' "flushing work" comment above.)


Im a soccer player, and i find deadlifts and squats are just too taxing to do every week in-season. Although Im prone to lower back issues as well so I suppose that doesnt help.



changed it a bit.

All your answers are here somewhere. Chris also has the same idea.

Kroc rows? Just no.

You will not get your bench up. That is for the off season.

Keep accessory to 3x10.

Watch the leg work. You need the power for the game.

Gym work is to stay healthy on the field. Nothing more.

Good luck with every thing.


some interesting advise here, im not going to try and tackle all the different points, just throw in my two cents

heres what worked pretty well for me

assuming no major injuries (which is a pretty massive assumption in rugby) and starting at the end of the previous season i would take a 1-2 week rest depending how trashed my body felt

then i had a 6-10 week pure strength phase (depending on whether i was press-ganged into playing 7s). i didnt do any conditioning, or much volume really, during that time, just try and get really strong (im a prop).

this would usually take me towards the end of july/beginning of august (european rugby season) which is when i would increase the volume in the weight room and start getting out for some general conditioning (sprints, agility work, etc.).

no matter what, for me, preseason is always brutal. rugby is so positionally specific and group training sessions (especially preseason break-you-down, build-you-up sorta stuff that seems to prevail with old school coaches) just aren't. i found it far more beneficial to focus on what i needed for my position in the offseason and then jump back into getting fit for the field when preseason starts. after all nothing will ever make you match fit apart from matches.

in season speed work was my best friend. i've always found speed work (think: westside dynamic effort) adequate to maintain strength (and guess what you gain speed, strength x speed = power). this worked for me for a few reasons. mostly psychologically i was too beat to contemplate getting under a really heavy bar, and the recovery just couldnt justify the "gains", which never really materialise in season anyway. equally, the light(er) weights (not lowered intensity mind) of speed work, and using full ROM movements explosively, would clear out all the junk building up locally in low back, hips, etc. and help maintain joint mobility.

anyway, bit rambly, but hey, thats what worked for me

what position do you play/for who?