T Nation

Rugby Pre-Season


First pre-season session starts tomorrow and it looks like it's gonna be a beasting. How do you guys cope fitting your weight training around your fitness?

Would also be interested to hear about any recovery tips?


by pre season do you mean fitness - 150's, shuttles, hill sprints etc.

If this is the case, id reduce volume and try to hold on to the mass you have. not going to make much strength improvements while hitting hard fitness 4+ times a week.

Something like 5x3 (85-90%) for the big compunds and maybe 2 assistance lifts around it in the 4x8-12 range.

Id keep weights short and sweet, warm up, hit the 5 tops heavy sets and assistance and be out the gym in about 30-45mins.

Also - need to up the cals and ZMA before bed, aiming for 8-10 hours sleep will help greatly.

First one always sucks.. man up and get through it.


Yeah pretty much a lot of running and various tasks to kill you off. For example, last season we had to push a 4x4 around the pitch in groups of 4 and do suicide runs up and down the pitch.

Currently I have been doing an upper/lower split with 1 major and 1 assistance exercise per body part
(chest, shoulders, back) and 1 exercise for bi's and tri's. e.g.

today :
Shoulder press/delt triad
DB flies/press ups
Bent over row/shrugs
DB bicep curls/tricep push downs

The plan was to do a bodybuilding type program during the off season to add some mass and then change to a more power/strength maintenance routine during the season but depending on how this weeks fitness goes I may change to that sooner.


bodybuilding for rugby.... TROLL

if settling on a 2 day upper/lower split
your upper day should be:
Some form of Overhead Press - Push Press is what id recommend, or a ramping military into push press series
Close grip bench as assistance
Some from of row - Old school bent over row is what id recommend
and lat pull downs as assistance.
Chin ups in place if curls

and most importantly for a rugby player:
Shoulder prehab - mainly rotator cuff stuff as that is a ridiculously common injury in rugby

You've got it all wrong imo

Id suggest you drop the upper/lower split and follow a 3 way split, something along the lines of:
Day 1
Overhead Press
CG Bench

Day 2

Day 3
Olympic stuff:
high pulls


What you've recommended was what I was planning on doing when the season started. I didn't say that I was doing bodybuilding for rugby specific weightlifting which is why I've been doing it in the off-season to add mass and because I enjoy training that way. Was also a 3 day split of upper/lower/upper.

I understand what you're getting at and will begin to use a more rugby specific training program as of now.

What sort of shoulder prehab would you suggest? band work etc?


I played up to international level for U23 for Ireland.

As soon as the off season came, we spent 6 weeks goin after power and strength. mass means fuck all if you cant use it fast and powerfully.

Then inseason we changed to lower volume to try to keep this gains. typically we would increase our lifts by about 20% over the 6 week and have lost 5-10% by end of season. Therefore progress was always being made.

Shoulder prehab - band pull aparts, dumb bell rotations, look up diesel crew shoulder prehab on youutube. do that once a week and you shouldnt have any shoulder problems. least no niggly ones that beocome big injuries.
(this is not saying that you wont snap your collarbone or seperate your shoulder due to impact, but shouldnt get injuried due to stress)


Thanks for the help.

What position do you play?


I played prop/hooker at my "peak" as I was probably one of the strongest players. I also played 6 at international and have played 12 (strategic plan by new coach which worked brilliantly)

I had the speed and stamina, but my agility was crap. I was used as a battering ram and my main job was to scare the shit out of their 10 if not injure him.



2nd row until 15 then prop for school and number 8 for club. Then prop/hooker for school last season and 6/8 for club because can't play front row until 18 in mens rugby but played last game of season at hooker when I had turned 18.

Going to concentrate on front row this season as I don't really have the speed for back row plus every other rugby player likes to think they're a back rower so more chance of me getting a starting place at front row.


if your going for front row pal, you definatly should be using a powerlifting template.

You need heavy squats, heavy deads, and lots of power work like cleans, snatch pulls etc.

Also speed training is helpful, not alot of peop;le would think about it for props, but if you can get your hit in first in the scrumm you have every change of beating any prop. no matter his weight or strength.

I once got dominated by a 14 stone guy (i was 18), simply cuz his tech was brilliant and he was lightening fast. he got his hit in ultra low and ultra quick, i had to rely on my upper body strength to wrestle him into more advantageous positions for me later in the game.

For this, id have a look into any vertical leap work/templates as this are essentialy simed at training the fast twitch muscles in the prosterior chain - the hit in scrummaging is basically a horizontal leap if you think about it.


actualy thinking about it.

a west side template might be excellent for you.

It has the max effort stuff for overall strength and also the dynamic stuff for speed.

Id change the bench for incline bench or some form of overhead press as this is far better for rugby than bench press.


Yeah I've currently doing 3-6 reps on all the compound movements.

Just had a quick look at the west side stuff and it looks pretty good but quite a lot of volume and highish frequency. Do you mean WS4SB template?


Not too familiar with it myself as I do strongman now so use a customized template depending on events in next comp.

Look up a west side template for american football. it will probably suit your goals.


WSFSB III has an in-season template, it calls for two lifts a week, full body. I have always found the most success with twice a week full body lift pre-season/in-season- but thats just me. I know some boys who did a light full body recovery workout Sunday after match and then Wed-Thur lower/upper split with a set up similar to Defrancos before Saturday match

If your making the full-time switch to front row and worry about keeping your weight up the extra lift may help. Pre-season you can sneak it in on Sat and during season after the match on a Sunday use it to work the soreness out.

Also, be careful with your exercise choice during the long season, your shoulder can get mashed up (I played 6/8 so can only imagine it gets worse up front)rotating to floor press or pin press can help save some wear and tear out of the bottom of the lift. The catch phase of clean or snatch can tax the the shoulder and wrist so I really like going to power pulls and box jumps during that phase.


I like this, but id still say take the bench out and do overhead work instead.

Bench has little carry over to rugby - as in the chest, the tris will be hit on overheads and close grip.

Overhead strength will be invaluable especially for lineouts.


Well just got back from training and it was a bit of a killer but still good and can't wait for the season to start but a long pre season to go yet.

Mostly shuttle runs and sprints with a little bit of touch at the end. The lungs and legs were on fire but it can only get better.

I will be checking out the WSFSB III, cheers Rockland


To be honest, I've had a hell of a time keeping mass in-season. I've lost 15 lbs during the season before (I am 5'11" 195) but I think I wasn't eating/sleeping enough. I find that my legs don't need too much work in-season to keep strong (I play hooker/prop) and as thosebananas said, overhead training has worked great to keep my upper-body lifts strong. I'm in off-season now and I've been doing hill sprints a few times a week and building up to peak when club practice starts up again. When I'm lazy and don't do fitness in the off-season, it's killer to try and recover while lifting as well.
Best of luck.

p.s. best results I've had have been while doing WS4SB III in the off-season and moving to 2xweek full body routine to keep strength in-season


Yeah definitely, In the offseason I tend to tell myself I will do some fitness on my own but just end up getting on the booze although this year I have been for a few runs/hill sprints and been hitting the gym hard.


I agree full on about the overhead stuff. I never felt better on the field then when doing overhead stuff, pushpress as well as standing strict press. Just makes you feel strong in the lineout.

Just making the point that there comes a time in every season that the shoulder are mashed-up and you still need to train heavy. If you feel good by all means keep up the heavy pressing. As a change of pace(WS rotates focus lift every 2-3 weeks) or durring the middle part of the season when shoulder are beat-down from contact and floor and pin can be a welcome press to switch too.

With the mass discusion, I do all power stuff now 3-5's but do beleive there is some merrit in what Dan John(im sure you can find the article) calls armor building. Keeping some mass in chest, traps and shoulders helps stay health in contact for sure, so keeping some rep work for thsoe supplemental exercise can help. Most important, bananas was rigth on, keep the pre-hab every workout is a must.


On the strict stuff and mass building all rolled into one.

since i beleive in season you should keep the weights short and intense i always did something similir to this for pressing.

use the percentage of your max strict press or a rough estimate

Strict press
80% 3x5
90% x3
70% max reps

Push Press
100%(of strict 1RM) 3x5
110% x3
90% x max reps

try to increase the weights by 2.5% each session, then every 4-6 weeks, id just keep slamming on plates to get a new 1RM for strict and push press then repeat.

The above is great since you have two hypertropy/fitness/armour building things in, some heavy lifting and you dont need to strip the bar or go to a new area. Simply a rack, bar, weights. makes it quicker. 60sec -90 sec rest and be strict, you dont get much more than this on the pitch to rest between having to do something that needs strength.

Depending how you split works out, you could superset this with cleans, chins, leg assistance. all about maximising the time in gym but not burning out your cns.