T Nation

Rugby/Lifiting Program Critique

Hey guys, I just started playing rugby this season and I’m trying to alter my program to make it more sports specific and maintain muscle mass. I’ve never played rugby before, played a little foot ball, and a lot of H20 polo, so propper training is super important to me. I’ve made MWF into my maintenance days, and T Th as my specific days. Once the season starts that will change on account of my periodization and game days. What I’ve set up so far is as follows:

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MWF: Light cardio (30 min - 1h ultimate Frisbee)
 Lifting: 8-10 reps each

       Barbell curls
       dips
       pull ups
       YTWL's
       Arnold press
       Bench press
       Reverse Hypers
       Rows

T Th: Practice 2h
  Lifting: 2-5 reps each (plyos differ accordingly), approx 85-95% 1RM 
       Various plyometrics (box jumps, leaps, bounds, squat jumps etc)
       Dynamic balance training (standing on Swiss balls, BOSU training, perturbation etc.)
       Squats
       Box Squats
       Lunges (multi directional)
       
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     I won't use all the exercises listed each day, but that's the general idea. Once we get into season I'm going to retract the amount of work done on the MWF routine and increase the amount of sports specific training. 
   Any ideas as far as exercises, training days, or anything? I'm open to suggestions.

     Thanks

-K

[quote]Kdowg wrote:
Hey guys, I just started playing rugby this season and I’m trying to alter my program to make it more sports specific and maintain muscle mass. I’ve never played rugby before, played a little foot ball, and a lot of H20 polo, so propper training is super important to me. I’ve made MWF into my maintenance days, and T Th as my specific days. Once the season starts that will change on account of my periodization and game days. What I’ve set up so far is as follows:

-----

MWF: Light cardio (30 min - 1h ultimate Frisbee)
 Lifting: 8-10 reps each

       Barbell curls
       dips
       pull ups
       YTWL's
       Arnold press
       Bench press
       Reverse Hypers
       Rows

T Th: Practice 2h
  Lifting: 2-5 reps each (plyos differ accordingly), approx 85-95% 1RM 
       Various plyometrics (box jumps, leaps, bounds, squat jumps etc)
       Dynamic balance training (standing on Swiss balls, BOSU training, perturbation etc.)
       Squats
       Box Squats
       Lunges (multi directional)
       
-----
     I won't use all the exercises listed each day, but that's the general idea. Once we get into season I'm going to retract the amount of work done on the MWF routine and increase the amount of sports specific training. 
   Any ideas as far as exercises, training days, or anything? I'm open to suggestions.

     Thanks

-K[/quote]

Rugby, like football is an explosively powerful sport and it is vital that you bring olympic lifting and power lifting into your regime. do cleans, push press, deadlifts etc. with very heavy weight (though you must build up to this) and you will see some solid gains.

Forgot to put deads and straight legged deads on my T Th routine. I will for sure start incorporating cleans and power exercises, They totally slipped my mind. Thanks

This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but the most important thing, in my experience (4 years playing mostly front row in college), is that the conditioning aspect of the sport will be more important than any strength work you will do. You need to be able to transition from aerobic to anaerobic instantly and have a solid base of both. Here’s what I would look at for the offseason:

M: about 5 miles; you probably need to get this under a 8 min/mile pace

W: 4-5x400m or 6-8x200m

F: either another 5 miler (about 8:30 or 9:00 pace), or depending on how good your joints feel, swim some laps, great for active recovery and easy on the joints.

As you can see, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for lifting. I’d try to go 3 times/week total body (every once in a while you need to cut it to 2 times/week), keeping the volume low and only doing compound stuff. Focus on hamstrings, glutes, trunk, and shoulders.

For the in-season, cut out one of the long distance runs and one of the lifting sessions, so you get 2 lifting sessions, one distance day, and 1 sprint day.

Of course, this depends on the pace, frequency, and duration of your practices. Our practices involved a lot of full scrimmaging; if your is more skills-based, you might need a little more conditioning.

Good luck, and PM me if you have any questions.

[quote]bville wrote:

Rugby, like football is an explosively powerful sport and it is vital that you bring olympic lifting and power lifting into your regime. do cleans, push press, deadlifts etc. with very heavy weight (though you must build up to this) and you will see some solid gains.[/quote]

Just had to second this. Power and Strenght should be a main focus. Get into the Power Cleans ect. You want to be explosive on the pitch so you can do some damage!

I second the explosive lifting but your current schedule is way too much volume if you have games once a week. You should be doing gym training on your practice days so you have actual days OFF. I like the total body split. Look for Chad Waturbury’s Total-Body Training. I have had great success with that in-season.

Also, strongman type training is great for rugby. Tire flipping and farmers walks being the best. Harness pulling is good too. So is chain dragging. Heck, it’s all good.

Mind your rest days though.

W.F.Call78 you are correct but two cardio sessions a week is more than enough and this should be conducted in an interval training manner that replicates a rugby game i.e. stop/start nature, similar to football. combine this with the powerlifting and your laughing.

Go to Dan John’s website:

http://danjohn.org/coach

Look up the Volume 1 Issue 7 in the Get Up! archives. There is a great article there about preparing for rugby.

In the early offseason I would do some longer distance running once per week, no more than 5 miles, as well as some other sports to maintain fitness, swimming, riding a bike etc, anything but the sprinting and running you do in rugby. You want it to be general preparation, not sport specific.

As for lifting this is the time to pile on size and strength. Try programs such as CW’s Waterbury Method, TBT and Dan John’s One Lift Per Day. Use the big compound exercises, you use your whole body to tackle and scrimmage, not just the biceps, stay away from the isolation exercises! Work on any weaknesses or imbalances at this time as well. Actually, it may be a good idea to do this for a month first, use unilateral exercises to get things in balance and then move on to one of the other programs.

As you get closer to the season you get more specific in your preparation (as described in the Get Up! article). Ditch the longer distance cardio and start working on 400m and shorter sprints. Focus a bit more on pure strength in your weight training as well as power e.g. power cleans and snatches.

When you get into the season you may only need two sessions per week for weights. Do a heavy strength day on the Monday or Tuesday and then a lighter power/speed-strength day on the Thursday or Friday i.e. power cleans/snatches at 50-60% 1RM. Throw in an extra conditioning day apart from your training and you should be right.

You do NOT want to overtrain so that you can’t recover for the game. Match fitness alone with a bit of help during the week will be enough conditioning. It’s more important to work on skills so that you don’t drop the ball, can get away the final pass for a try, boot the ball downfield to get out of trouble etc, depends on your position as to what you need to work on. A smaller forward pack with perfect technique will beat a bigger pack which doesn’t know how to scrummage properly. Watch when a little scrum half or fly half picks up and dumps a prop forward who weighs 20-30kg more than himself, it’s mostly tackling technique rather than strength that works for him.

Hope this helps,

Ben

Some good stuff in the replies so far. I’d just add that there may be some things that you need to do specifically, depending on what position you play. For example, if you are a prop you need to do more strength work and specialisation work on your neck. Look at top level props and the question is usually “what neck?” Looks like their heads are connected directly to their shoulders.

Also some mobility work and single leg work is a good idea. Renegade lunges eg would be good.

Thanks for the replies, awesome stuff. And W.F.Call78 it doesn’t matter what I want to hear as much as what I need to hear, so don’t hold back. Season starts in late Oct, so I figure I can fit in 2 maybe 3 weeks of long distance running, and in that 3rd week incorporate fartlek training.

Was for sure not going to continue my previous regimine into the season, that would’ve been retarded.

I was being WAY optimistic trying to do 5 days of lifting, after our 3rd or 4th practice today (not consecutive, but I mean since preseason began) I knew I wouldn’t be up for lifting. The whole 2-3/week total body workout is looking good, focusing on power for the majority of movements.

Don’t know anywhere around here where I can do any strong man stuff. I just transfered here (Near Santa Barbara) and don’t really know the area too well. Ideas on that?

I don’t really have a “position” per say, it’s kinda my first year going out. I’m 6 2, at 215 so I don’t really know where that’s going to put me. Practices have been just scrims so far, focusing on passing, then just play. That being said I’m just going to get into general rugby shape, and see where that gets me.

Thanks for the input, season’s going to rock!
W.F.Call78 you still play?

If the season starts in October then I’d concentrate on conditioning and then when the season starts just try and do 2-3 weight sessions per week like I suggested above. When the next offseason arrives plan your training to start the season in peak condition.

At 6’2" and 215lb you could play a variety of positions with the exception of prop, hooker or scrum/flyhalf, although the latter doesn’t matter as much, but you’re too tall and probably not heavy enough for the front row.

It really depends on what endurance and speed qualities you have. If you have great endurance I would put you in the backrow, either flanker or No. 8. A good vertical leap will also help in the lineouts as one of these positions is often used as the third “jumper” after the two second rowers.

If speed is more your thing as well as having great ball handling/kicking skills a guy of your height and weight would be great as a fullback (height needed to catch the bombs put up by the opposition) or an outside centre.

Inside centres tend to need to be a bit more stocky in build to take on all of the crash-ball runners that they need to stop during a game. You could also be a winger if you are very fast but this position tends to go to the shorter and more agile guys.

Good luck and keep us updated on your progress.

Ben

[quote]Kdowg wrote:
Thanks for the replies, awesome stuff. And W.F.Call78 it doesn’t matter what I want to hear as much as what I need to hear, so don’t hold back. Season starts in late Oct, so I figure I can fit in 2 maybe 3 weeks of long distance running, and in that 3rd week incorporate fartlek training.

Was for sure not going to continue my previous regimine into the season, that would’ve been retarded.

I was being WAY optimistic trying to do 5 days of lifting, after our 3rd or 4th practice today (not consecutive, but I mean since preseason began) I knew I wouldn’t be up for lifting. The whole 2-3/week total body workout is looking good, focusing on power for the majority of movements.

Don’t know anywhere around here where I can do any strong man stuff. I just transfered here (Near Santa Barbara) and don’t really know the area too well. Ideas on that?

I don’t really have a “position” per say, it’s kinda my first year going out. I’m 6 2, at 215 so I don’t really know where that’s going to put me. Practices have been just scrims so far, focusing on passing, then just play. That being said I’m just going to get into general rugby shape, and see where that gets me.

Thanks for the input, season’s going to rock!
W.F.Call78 you still play?[/quote]

[quote]Kdowg wrote:

I don’t really have a “position” per say, it’s kinda my first year going out. I’m 6 2, at 215 so I don’t really know where that’s going to put me. Practices have been just scrims so far, focusing on passing, then just play. That being said I’m just going to get into general rugby shape, and see where that gets me. [/quote]

Depending on the make up of your squad and your individual strengths and weaknesses you sound like a backrower to me. However if you are good laterally can shift with pace and have good skills you good be quite a handful in the outside backs.

Remember be aggressive and back yourself - have a great year, I hope you enjoy Rugby - I am sure you will

On a further note I think there is a balance been the aerobic and anaerobic conditioning and the strength you need for rugby. I have seen plenty of big strong guys who are ineffective after 20 minutes because they don’t have the conditioning. Similarly many superfit guys who get pounded when they play the big boys because they don’t have the size and strength to match it with them.

You know your capabilities. Focus more on the deficiencies would be my advice.
Certainly get you conditioning done in your preseason and as stated once the match fitness kicks in you will find it easier going on the pitch - Be prepared to hurt in those first few games though…

Once you know what position you’ll play we’ll be able to tell you a lot more about what speed/strength work you need to do. You might not think so, but playing in the pack often requires more aerobic endurance than being a back. Moving in and out of rucks and mauls continuously is very aerobic. Hence my recommendation to do some longer, slower runs. If you’re a back, you generally don’t have to worry about that as much; it’s more like creeping up to where the ball is and then sprinting for 50 meters.

I would expect you to play (based on your size and experience) #6 or #7. Not as much to learn as the eight man or the front row; it’s where a lot of forwards start playing. I started as a loose forward and then got moved to front row.

I stand by my 3x week cardio sessions. However, my team (before I “retired”) played a very fluid and fast style (props joining the backline, a lot of poaching and quick rolling plays), so your mileage may vary. Might not be as important if you play a more structured, “Americanized” game.

Hope this helps.

Strength is only a small component of successful rugby.

Lift hard a couple of times a week and run hard, too.

Learn the rules and tactics. Watch videos. This is the biggest weakness of North American rugby compared to the legendary rugby playing nations of SA, Aus, and NZ. Players in America start the game late so are unco-ordinated and can’t ‘read’ a game.

Drinking practice is also essential to maximise the enjoyment of your rugby.

The big difference between rugby and American football is that you have to by out there for 80 minutes with just a five minute break. Conditioning and endurance are crucial. Quite often, the team that manages to keep going, when the other falters will win. Welcome to the sport played in heaven!

[quote]W.F.Call78 wrote:
You might not think so, but playing in the pack often requires more aerobic endurance than being a back. Moving in and out of rucks and mauls continuously is very aerobic. Hence my recommendation to do some longer, slower runs.
Hope this helps.[/quote]

I must respectfully disagree with this point. I agree that building up a long distance conditioning base early in the off season is important, but when you really analyse a game it is still very much an “interval” type of game with all the brief breaks such as lineouts and scrums. Therefore the longer sprints of 200-400m are of the most benefit for conditioning, along with short sprints to help with speed and acceleration.

A lot of strongman stuff would be beneficial as well, because it replicates performing feats of strength whilst really challenging the cardio system.

I think the only positions on the field that really need top long distance cardio conditioning are the flankers and the scrum half because they have to be first to the rucks all the time.

[quote]deanosumo wrote:
Strength is only a small component of successful rugby.

[/quote]

Hmmm, maybe for the backline. I think it’s a different case for the forwards. I remember seeing a “strength requirements” table which compared the different strength needs of a variety of sports on a scale of 1-10. A rugby union forward was the only one which required a 10. When you think about the scrummaging and mauling etc that you have to get through in a game I think it is very important, although if you don’t have the conditioning to last a game it’s not much use!

I train at the Sydney Universtity gym where the Rugby players train. I don’t really pay attention to rugby but I think they did pretty well this year, and they all seem pretty strong. Their strength coach has a solid reputation. He generally writes their workouts out for them and leaves them on the board in the gym.

He generally has them doing full body rather than split workouts, 4-6 exercises per session + abwork, which is completed in a circuit fashion. His rep schemes for the main exercises are generally stuff like 5x5 and 4x6. They do most of the squating on the scrum struck (padded plate loaded machine which simulates the scrum) - I have squatted on it and it really hits your traps and neck as well as your legs and back. The Power Squat or similar machine squat would probably be a good alternative.

THey do a lot of basic stuff - barbell or dumbell bench presses, dumbell overhead presses, push presses, various deadlifts, power cleans, shrugs, “falling hamstrings” (manual ghrs - we don’t have a proper one), hyperextensions, dumbell rows, etc. Every workout is somewhat different from the last. Order also seems to vary. I will try to remember a sample workout the next time I see one and post it here if you like.

[quote]bg100 wrote:
deanosumo wrote:
Strength is only a small component of successful rugby.

Hmmm, maybe for the backline. I think it’s a different case for the forwards. I remember seeing a “strength requirements” table which compared the different strength needs of a variety of sports on a scale of 1-10. A rugby union forward was the only one which required a 10. When you think about the scrummaging and mauling etc that you have to get through in a game I think it is very important, although if you don’t have the conditioning to last a game it’s not much use![/quote]

Perhaps I should have said ‘Strength is only ONE component of successful rugby’. I make my living coaching the sport, and of course have my players lift, but it’s not the be all and end-all. Especially regarding American rugby, size and strength is generally very good, but overall skill levels, and knowledge, and general rugby sense, is really lacking. Improvements in these areas, and in conditioning, will lead to much faster improvements in players, than an over focusing on strength.Think how much time it takes to increase your overall strength by even a few percent. One hard run can improve fitness by 10%. Actually sitting down and reading the rules of the game, or watching some videos, could improve a player’s rugby immensely, in a short time.

[quote]deanosumo wrote:
bg100 wrote:
deanosumo wrote:
Actually sitting down and reading the rules of the game, or watching some videos, could improve a player’s rugby immensely, in a short time.
[/quote]

i wholegeartedly agree. this is part of the mental preparation and if you visualise what you actually have to do, you will have ‘mini-flashbacks’ during the course of a game that will really get you taking the correct options.