T Nation

Rugby Prep


Hey Jim,

I am setting up my pre season training for spring rugby. Considering your background is football you can think of my position as a well conditioned linebacker. Anyway, my current strength levels are fine compared to the strength standards for that position but considering the increased conditioning work I will need to lower my training max. Do you think resetting to 80% is too much of a drop?

For the conditioning, I am considering the prowler challenge. Problem is, I don't have a prowler. I do have an EFS sled and I am going to tak.e it to work and have some low handles welded on the back so I can push it. After that is done, I will need to experiment to find the weights I need to use for the challenge. Until then, I am thinking of doing hill sprints. I know you said in the challenge that you couldn't program the hill sprints since the hills people use are of various distances, angles, etc. Considering that I will be running the same hill you have made famous, how would you program a challenge using that hill? I could increase/decrease the difficulty by running different areas. This would include where you ran as a medium hill, the big hill and closer to the road as a small hill. Any ideas?

Another thing I am thinking of including is a 100 day burpee challenge. Day one is one burpee. Day two is two burpees and so on until 100 burpees are done on the 100th day. Or do you think that is just gay?


If you are resetting your training max, I'd suggest either taking 90% of whatever your last predicted max from a 5/3/1 day was, or just 90% of your current training max.

Honestly though, if you lower your volume a bit, do just the prescribed reps, then gradually add in conditioning, that will give you the best results. Starting off small but a few times a week, then doing a little bit more each week is the easiest way to go. Your body will adapt just fine if you don't try to come out of the gates at 100 mph. If you have until the spring to get in shape and actually get started now, that's plenty of time. Don't look at it as your conditioning needs to be a challenge every day, but as another workout. Something that requires discipline but is doable. Consistency and incremental progress with that mindset will get you further in the long run. It's the same mentality behind 5/3/1.


Do things that'll make you better than what you are now. If that means the 100 day burpee challenge, then so be it. Although I will say you're darn lucky you have access to that big mother of a hill. That will be the best conditioning for any sport along with prowler walks/sprints. Quick word about the hill sprints, start with a small number like 4. If you're dead, stop there and then gradually increase the number. Don't worry about how badass you are at training cuz the end goal is ultimately to be badass on the rugby field.


I get what you're saying about gradual improvements in conditioning. The way my mind works, I will be bored to death with doing a little more each time. That's why I like the challenge idea. I know, the burpee thing is a "one more than last time " thing but there is a challenge aspect to it as in the goal of 100 days.

The hardest thing for me to do is switch my training from the idea of lifting to get more weight and/or reps to training for a sport. Now weights and conditioning are all GPP for rugby.


I'm obviously not Jim, but as a 5/3/1 veteran...

  1. I would either drop your current TM by 10% or take 85-90% off your best (recent) estimated/tested 1RM. Better to start too light to allow your body to adapt and allow yourself to progress for longer.

  2. The homemade prowler idea will probably work just fine. Jim can tell you about the hill sprints idea but I have some ideas of my own about how a hill sprint version would work. For me, getting a prowler within the next 3-4 months isn't realistic for sure but I have a kick ass hill near my apartment building (+45 degree incline for about 50 yards).

  3. Fuck burpees, I hate them. They're not bad but I think prowler/hill sprint will do enough for your conditioning.


Let's address burpees. Burpees are done by pedos and thick tongues as "exercise".

Let me explain burpees to everyone. Burpees are what you do when you miss a block, miss a tackle or fumble the ball. They are used as stupid punishment by football coaches in an effort to make practice suck. The problem is burpees are a fucking joke. I've done over 200 in them at once and it's not hard. It is not fun but hardly difficult. And serve no purpose.

Now burpees are being heralded by "athletes" as a way to get in shape. Let's look at this term "athlete" and define what it isn't - it isn't someone that has all the right clothes, hops up/down like an urgent diarrhea and spent the last 8 months learning how to do a snatch (seriously people olympic lifting isn't quantum physics) - an athlete works and burns for DECADES for his craft. Just because you joined a BOX doesn't make you an athlete. Just because you can jump rope or use a med ball - not an athlete. Show some fucking pride.

Here's a challenge - every time you see, read or hear about an "athlete" doing anything like burpees, put a $1 in a jar. Scour FB, forums, etc. In 20 minutes you can take your wife, kids and your mistress, first class (except the wife) to Hawaii...for a month.


obrnpwrlftr - Glad you are gonna give it a go. Shoot me a message, let's talk prowler.


Well technically anything you do in the gym regardless is GPP. But think about this, if you can lift more weight and/or do more reps then you've gotten stronger = better conditioned = better prepared for rugby


If you are pre-season now and talking about spring in February, you likely don't have to cut too far off your max yet if you are starting conditioning on the alternate days. I would guess your last heavy cycle would be a month before your real season starts, then cut your max as others have written above. In agreement (of course) with Wendler that 100 burpees isn't much but it depends where you are starting from. Ashley Jones posted a great article on here recently about rugby conditioning, and I have linked a site where we have a sprint workout, you could reduce the distance on the sprints if you are doing them on a hill (day 1). You could sub the prowler if you have it for the work (estimated 10-30s of work) and you could cut this down on the start since this is for guys in season already and work up to it (just do something for 30 minutes). www.gainesvillerugbyclub.com/?page_id=442 We put those exercises in for those without access to a sled, but they are meant to estimate the amount of work you do in a game. Good luck.


OK. So burpees are useless. Any thoughts on programming a hill challenge along the same lines as the prowler challenge?


is this your first rugby season? my experience has been D1 collegiate for 3 years, 4 years D3 mens 15s and 7s as flanker mostly. still take that with a grain of salt. Ive always been a better 3rd half rugger anyhow.

itt: burpees he wanted, blowing bubbles he got!

your fitness really depends on the position...it almost sounds like youre describing a flanker, so think in terms of a beep test you need to be at least 12 on that. rugby is running and sprinting for 80 min. You should be able to run for 80 straight at a good pace and 2x 40min at a faster pace. This isn't football, you need to have a huge aerobic base and simply doing drills at a fast pace wont cut it. Run, a shit ton. If you cant recover to run more because of the gym, then you need less time in the gym. you can find a lot of international numbers online, lots of 2x bw squats and 1.5bw benches, which isn't a whole lot. but props running 12-13 on a beep test speaks volumes. im not advocating getting good at the beep test but that should be your 'challenge' event every few weeks to see where you are.

prowler and hill springs are great, but they cant be the bread and butter here. prowler helps with scrums and rucking for sure and I do them a lot, same with hills.

resetting your training max to 80% is generally never a bad idea, going into camp or off season work I never set things below 85%, and ive kept things at 90% as well (90% of 90% that is...) keep in mind I also used the squat/push/pull split which is less volume, 2-3 times a week. In season was s/p/p 2x a week at the most and then I was dropping my max down to 80%. keep the strength up during the off season and camp, bring the max down in season when you need to recover.

the 2 biggest things I can really offer are this. stretch an hour every day for a week, then 10min a day every day during camp and in season. conditioning doesn't need to be fancy, just run and sprint, sprint till you get tierd then run till you recover and sprint again, do this for 40min+, easy way is running around a pitch or football field, sprint the shorts, run the longs.

wendler has wrote about it a lot, if you want to get good at something that's not in the gym, then what you do in the gym shouldn't be a focus since you should probably be outside practicing.

cant say getting good at aerobics like burpees has ever helped much besides getting better at burpees. oh that one football one where you do high knees then drop to the ground and do a push up to get up is good, since you go the to ground a lot and that takes a lotta energy out of you, and to get you faster at getting up to steal the ball after a tackle.


That high knee thing to the ground and back up is what I meant by burpees. That's what we called them in high school. The idea was just as you mentioned...to conditiontion to get up and to the ball quickly.

Thanks for the advice.


  1. Resetting your training max is personal preference, but if you are resetting it because of a need for increased conditioning, there is no reason to do that. Your ability to build strength will be affected by extra conditioning, however your 'intention' to get strong shouldn't change. Keep doing what you're doing.
  2. Hill Sprints. People overthink/overask the shit out of these things. Go to a hill. If it's your first go. Set 20mins on your watch and run up the hill. Don't give it 100% yet. Build into it, but there are no reps/set schemes that work generally. Just run up. Walk back down and go again whenever you want. Understand, the more 'puffed' you are, the slower you'll run and quicker you'll burn out. The longer you rest, you more times you can run, but the less 'fitness' you'll get from it. I generally believe a walk down of any distance is enough rest. In all honesty your fitness level, your work ethic and the hill intensity will decide how long you train for.
  3. Burpess are shit. I use them in my gym for chicks and shit, but I very rarely do them myself. I always believe in training for 'intention'. Do you plan to get better at burpees?? No? Then just do hills, prowler work, jump rope and even short field sprints (will help your game) for your fitness. Burpees will just waste precious minutes of your day.


This link also has good ideas for sled work:


I'd have to do it first to see what works - and that would kill me about now. Just do this:

M-F - 10 sprints, touch railing, walk down, rest a minute, repeat.
Saturday - the above + 3-5 big hills.

Only changes would be to do some of the week running as walking with a 100 pound Weight Vest or barbell up the hill. This is essential.


If you have to use a special program or exercise to get off the ground - holy shit - rethink EVERY PART of your training. God help any team that does shit like this or any "trainer" or "coach" who thinks this way.


I have played rugby as both an inside and outside back. Never did a single burpee. What I did for conditioning was lift 3 days with one lower and 2 upper body days. I also ran hill sprints twice a week and one track workout doing 100s, 200s and 400s. Apparently I was overtraining but my fitness was through the roof and I was strong and fast.

If you want to learn about rugby conditioning, go read Ashley Jones' articles on elitefts.


I found a basic 5x5(5/3/1 works just as well) full body workout was awsome for preseason rugby. Also, do really high intensity cardio ofr rugby, the kind that mimmicks what you'll be doing on the field, like prowler, hills, and bear crawls. Also, try to play as much scrimmaging as you can, its the best type of cardio you can get for preparadness on the field.