Rugby Sport Specific Training

I will be playing rugby this term… I can train up to 6 days per week (7 I think would be overkill, especially with rugby injuries/wounds/etc) I am looking for sport specific workout suggestions… Practices are Monday through Thursday, but I am not really concerned with being sore at practice. My diet is clean and in order. I am planning to incorporate some of coach davies exercises and ideas. My main concern is what should I use for a training split, and what would be the so-called “money exercises” for rugby. The last season I played I had not discovered t-mag so I continued with an essentially hypertrophy training program. I play hooker, so neck strength is a must… any suggestions for that would also be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Ahh good ol rugby, I played second row and occasional prop. Back to your question for your neck you should do a search here and on the net for back bridges, this will help you out.

As for exercise selection stick with compound movements such as squat, deads, bench, pullups etc.

You might want to change your workout abit to a more power/strength regime, maybe a 5x5 system or check out westside, I’ve only heard good things about it. Best of luck

i’ll give ya a decent reply (at least i think it’ll be decent) tomorrow morning, too tired right now. Which links to one of the points i will make, make sure ya sleep craploads.
Good to see fellow rugby players on here. I’m off to sleep craploads now…

As far as rugby training goes, I think the best system is Joe Kenn’s Tier system.

I play rugby and this is what I’m currently doing coupled with my conditioning sessions. It allows me to develop power, strength, size, speed and fitness at the same time.

Drop me a message if you would be interested in this.


you need to to do big heavy exercise. Deadlifts are a must for Front Row players, you should smoke 2.5 x bodyweight. Other important exercises include variations on basic Power and Olypic lifts (squat, bench, hangclean). I also work rrecommend various neck exercises (eg rolling bridges). Try to include specific grip exercises in your pulling movements (ie chins using a rugby jeresy thrown over the bar).
dont neglect the core and be sure to include heavy rotational work.
In actual training time incorperate heavy non conforming object in to basic drills like shutlles run (ie carrylarge tackle bags, dumbells other players etc). Key is to be inventive.
insaying that nothing trains you better than just playing the game. The game like most sports is 90% mental anyway.

What position? I played 8 for 12 yrs. I would recommend squats as your core excercise and build around that. If your a back would also work on your arms (biceps) if you don’t want to lose the ball. What team are you playing for? We used to play Old Blue in some epic battles back in the day out on Randalls Island.

My position is hooker.

I do deadlift… my stats are 5’8" 185lbs, and my max deadlift is 515, so I guess that puts me within the 2.5 x bodyweight range.

I also do towel chins (which would be the same as the jersey chins) and other grip work.

Does anyone have any input on a training split and/or tempos for exercises?

Yeah, i agree with most of the stuff posted, stick with the compound movements only, squats and deads especially should be the backbone of your routine. Workin that posterior chain will help ya loads at hook, the back work from it will help ya with the rucks and scrums. I’d throw in some shrugs as well to help out with the stability from the shoulder up, good for the scrums of course. One thing you should be careful for though is overdoin it all. You say you can train 6 times a week, with practice mon-thurs. You say you’re not worried about being sore for practice, but you should be worried about being tired/drained for practice. Bein kinda sore/tired for a practice or two may be ok every once and a while, as it may mimick a game situation in the fact that you’ll have to do everything even though you’re tired, but i’d still want to stay fairly fresh for a lot of the practices. I’d recommend doin no more than a 3 day split, 1 lower body day, 2 upper. Since practice is mon-thurs, i’d recommend throwin in your leg day on the weekend, preferably saturday so that you’ve had a day rest from practice and have another day off on sunday. I wouldn’t go too low with the reps or too high either, gotta get that good mix of strength and strength endurance, somethin like a 5x5 type thing may work well.

Basically, watch your diet and sleeping habits huge as these two things can affect your game performance MUCH more than if you missed one workout or something. All the suggestions i’ve made are based on the fact that you’re now getting into your season, so more focus is going to be put on skill and endurance during practices. I personally wouldn’t expect any huge gains in season, more of a maintanance goal since you should be pushing yourself hard as hell in practices and games. Big strength and weight gains are better focused on off season when you can focus on just those goals.
To sum it up, i suggest no more than 3 weight days/week, compound movements-squats, bench, rows, pullups, and especially DEADS. Make sure your diet is in check, keep the carbs up cuz you’ll need em, and get as much sleep as ya can.
When does your actual season start anyways?
oh yah, i play 8/flanker, gotta love the rugby.

Do wrestlers bridge for your neck, these are the king of neck strengthening exercises.
Also check out ‘Rapid Fire’ by Christian Thibaudeau for a good neck development program.

185lb and a hooker? You must be pretty mobile for a hooker as the tendency is for modern hookers to be alot bigger.

I’d love to respond, but I gotta dedicate my time to a monstrous computer science project that’s due thursday. So I guess on thurs night I’ll post my training plan for the upcoming season.

I have been doing neck bridges… anyone have any variations on these to try?

Any other hookers on this forum to offer some advice? ha. hookers.

Also does anyone have advice on tempo of exercise and load selection?

Yeah get an x-vest, load it up and away you go!
Something that we do in Vale Tudo is to practice resisting an opponent trying to snap the head down from a neck clinch. When i say snap i mean constant applied pressure not literally a snap!

i have trained three hookers that have played for various rep NZ teams, one of which was an All Black… does that count?

So how did you train them? Do I have to beg for it or what?


It looks like you are looking for some sort of magic ke to training for rugby, there is non and non of the world class teams do anything different than most people in the gyms all over the world, they are just better organised but if you coupled joe kenn’s tier system to rugby training then you would be better than most rugby players out there.

The name of the game is power and that’s where your training should focus.

I’ve played rugby for 16years and am currently 210lbs at six foot ad play inside centre, dancing rings around your oposition is more important than worrying about what weights will make you better.

As a hooker worry about getting the ball in straight to line outs, just watch skipper badenhorst or steve thompson if you want a lesson in fucking up (i’m sure whetu can name a few enzed that are shit at the mo as well!) Mealamu is the best example of a good hooker to try and emulate, 100kg and power all the way, he’s having a great season.

SO in short reads joe kenn’s book or the article on his web site. set up the split as you require and work hard on progressive overload, if you want a goal to shoot for then look at:

and match those figures


check out

if you want an actual training programme for a super 12 team, when i was out in durban i was asking a couple of the players and staff about how they train and its not all that complicated!


If you want a 20 week program you can pay for it.
Other wise use your brain, its not that hard. First off what are YOUR weaknesses? Its pretty hard to tell you what to do having never seen you play or train. You could be shit or you could be the next Keith Woods. Obviously these opposite ends of the spectrum would need different focuses!
Hookers are a position that also have the luxury of having a prefered method of play. Do you play as a Tight forward or the 4th loosie? Guessing by your weight i would be going for the more mobile lossie option. A big factor in this style of play is reading the game and being good at the break down. your coach can help you with the “reading the game” aspect, or you can watch good hookers play, Kevin Mealamu and Anton Oliver were reasonable good here. Broken play work requires good stability and ability to take knocks while recycling the ball.
Think laterally. Most of the shit I have done with footy players depended on what they needed to work on, and was made up specifically for them, or adapted from a similar method design for a similar task.

Thanks guys, big help. I apologize for being thickheaded… I discovered t-mag only about 8 months ago, and until then I had no real knowledge of sport specific training, and no interest in doing it until I started playing rugby again this year.