T Nation

Training for Rugby Players?


#1

Hi coach , can you give me some tips on how i shall train as a rugby player in the gym to help me on the field aswell? Both in pre-season and on-season? I am looking for more explosive power . Thanks!


#2

Can you be even less precise with your question?

What I mean is that you are not telling me anything. Training an athlete is more complex that training someone who just want to get stronger, leaner or more muscular.

You need to fix weak points in relationship to what you need in your sport. Can’t do that if I don’t know what your weak points are.

An athlete needs more than just strength or size (if fact he might not even need size). Speed, agility, resistance, endurance, strength, power are very important. BUT you need to focus on what is holding you back as a player.

The position is also important. A prop should not train like a winger since they have different body types and need to emphasize different qualities. A prop will need more initial explosion (power), strength and size while a winger will need more acceleration, speed and agility.


#3

Ok , sorry for missleading information
I play as a second row/flanker
My weak point is explosion,speed reaction , i lack on doing the movements faster
Thank you!!


#4

Lots of good stuff here…


#5

Ok since you are a second row you are likely tall which is one of the reasons why you lack explosiveness. You are likely a neurotype 1A, which is stronger than he is explosive, which is another par of the problem.

While I can’t give you a program; it’s part of the services I offer and it would take WAY too long for a simple forum I can give you some advice.

  1. You first need to program your body to be able to use the stretch reflex efficiently. This is the first step in becoming explosive. However since Type 1A are not built for being explosive, doing jumps and plyo right away will not work and it will drain your nervous system too much. A Type 1A cannot do explosive work (especially plyometrics) without first becoming more efficient at utilizing the stretch reflex.

Here is a progression I use. This can be used with any big compound movement but I prefer the squat, power clean from the hang (if you are comfortable with the olympic lifts) and bench press.

WEEKS 1 and 2 - Lower to around 2" above the lowest position in the eccentric portion (2" above the bottom of your squat, 2" from the chest in the bench, 2" above the knees in the power clean from the hang). Hold the position 2-3 seconds. After the hold, QUICKLY lower the last 2" and immediately switch to lifting the bar as explosively as possible

WEEKS 3 - 4 - Lower to around 4" above the lowest position (so 2" higher than the 2 weeks prior), hold 2-3 seconds and quickly lower the lat 4" then rapidly switch and lift explosively.

WEEKS 5 - 6 Do a regular movement, no pauses, but try to “accelerate down” for the second half of the lowering phase, catch a rebound and lift explosively.

The load on the bar should be moderate, 60-65% for 5-6 sets of 3 reps. If you can’t lift explosively, lower the weight.

The same is done with jumps:

WEEK 1 : Using a box that, when you are seated on it, your knees are about a 110 degrees angle. Sit on the box and jump up as high as possible from the box (don’t stand or use weight shift to jump up)

WEEKS 2 - 3: Using the same box. Stand in front of the box (the box is behind you). Squat down until you are 3-4" from the box and pause for 2-3 seconds. Then rapidly squat down and when you touch the box, jump up as high as you can.

WEEKS 4-5: Don’t use a box. Stand up. Squat down until you are in the same position as when you did the pause in weeks 2-3 and pause for 2-3 seconds. Then quickly squat down 3" and explode up.

WEEK 6: Don’t use a box. Do a regular vertical jump but not going lower than in the preceding weeks and the last half of the squat down should be super fast and then rebound up as explosively as possible.

4-5 sets of 3-5 reps are done. If you feel like your explosiveness is going down, stop the set.

That is done in the first phase of the off-season program and is combined with barbell lifting for the main movement patterns using 4-6 reps per set and a slow eccentric tempo (4-5 seconds down).

For conditioning work I recommend density work on the prowler/sled push. Heavy, short distance (10-20m) with short rest intervals (20-30 seconds of rest) for 8-12 sets. Farmer walk and Zercher carries for sets of 60m are also recommended.

A week could look like this:

MONDAY
Squat (as was explained in the progression)
Power clean from hang (as was explained in progression)
Split squats 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with 4-5 sec eccentric
Romanian deadlift 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with a 4-5 sec eccentric
Prowler pushing 8-12 x 10-20m with 30 sec of rest (increase distance every 2 weeks while keeping the same weight)

WEDNESDAY
Bench press (as was explained in the progression)
Military press (as was explained in the progression)
Bent over barbell row 3-4 x 4-6 with 4-5 sec eccentric
Chest-supported T-bar row 3-4 x 4-6 with 4-5 sec eccentric
Zercher carries 3-4 x 60m

FRIDAY
Front squat (as was explained in progression)
Power clean from the hang (as was explained in the progression)
Glute ham raise or back extension 3-4 x 4-6 reps using a 4-5 sec eccentric phase
Prowler pushing 8-12 x 10-20m with 30 sec of rest (increase distance every 2 weeks while keeping the same weight)

SATURDAY
Jumps (as explained in progression)
Incline dumbbell press (as explained in progression)
Chest-supported T-bar row 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps using a 4-5 sec eccentric
Neutral grip pull-ups (use added weight if you can or a band if you need help) 3-4 x 4-6 with a 4-5 sec eccentric
Farmer walk 3-4 x 60m

THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE. And it only includes the main lifting. The warm-up, activation, rehab is not included

Phase two would start to include both heavy lifting and explosive lifting trying to use the rebound. We also further work on improving jump performance.

Here is the progression for jumps:

WEEKS 1-2: Stand on a box that is around 45-50cm high. Drop down and land in your jumping position (knees bent around 110 degrees, shoulders over the knees, hips back, arms behind ready to be throw upward), hold the position for 2 seconds then jump up as high as you can FROM THAT POSITION (do not squat down lower)

WEEKS 3-4: Same set-up. Drop down to your jump position, hold for 3 seconds, when you land from the jump make sure that you land directly in your optimal jumping position and rebound straight up as high as you can. In a set you do 4 jumps. Drop/hold/jump/rebound jump/go back on box/drop/hold/jump/rebound jump

WEEKS 5-6: Do regular depth jumps… drop from the box, land in your optimal jumping position and jump up as high as you can. Reset onto the box (don’t jump back up on the box) after every rep and do 3-5 reps per set.

The weekly set-up could look like this:

MONDAY
Squat
Weeks 1-2: 4 sets of 5 at around 80-85%
Weeks 3-4: 4 sets of 3 at around 87-90%
Weeks 5-6: 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 adding weight on every set

Power clean from blocks or floor
Same progression as squat

Squat 3-4 sets of 3 reps trying to be as explosive as possible using around 60-65%

Power clean from hang 3-4 sets of 3 reps trying to be as explosive as possible using around 60-65%

Walking lunges 2-3 sets of 4-6 steps per leg

Prowler pushing 10-15 x 5m with 15 sec of rest (add sets every week keeping the same weight)

WEDNESDAY
Bench press
Weeks 1-2: 4 sets of 5 at around 80-85%
Weeks 3-4: 4 sets of 3 at around 87-90%
Weeks 5-6: 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 adding weight on every set

Pendlay row
Same progression as bench

Bench 3-4 sets of 3 reps trying to be as explosive as possible using around 60-65%

Bent over barbell row 3-4 sets of 3 reps trying to be as explosive as possible using around 60-65%

Zercher carry and Farmer walk medley (20m Zercher carry / 20m farmer walk) for 3-4 sets

Walking lunges 2-3 sets of 4-6 steps per leg

Prowler pushing 10-15 x 5m with 15 sec of rest (add sets every week keeping the same weight)

FRIDAY
Zercher squat from pins (start every rep from pins in the bottom position)
Weeks 1-2: 4 sets of 5 at around 80-85%
Weeks 3-4: 4 sets of 3 at around 87-90%
Weeks 5-6: 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 adding weight on every set

Sumo deadlift
Weeks 1-2: 4 sets of 5 at around 80-85%
Weeks 3-4: 4 sets of 3 at around 87-90%
Weeks 5-6: 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 adding weight on every set

Depth jumps (according to progression above)

SATURDAY
Push press
Weeks 1-2: 4 sets of 5 at around 80-85%
Weeks 3-4: 4 sets of 3 at around 87-90%
Weeks 5-6: 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 adding weight on every set

Neutral grip pull-ups 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps holding top position 2 seconds per rep

Floor press 3-4 sets of 3 reps using around 65-70% of your max bench, pausing 2 sec on the floor then exploding up

SPRINT SESSION

BTW the percentages are only for illustration purposes select a weight that is challenging for the number of reps prescribed but with which all the reps are solid.

In the third phase you would ramp up the amount of speed and conditioning work and strength work would decrease to allow more recovery.

It could look like this

MONDAY
Squat
WEEKS 1-2: 1 x 1 @ 87.5% / 1 x 3 @ 60% / 1 x 1 @ 90% / 1 x 3 @ 65% / 1 x 1 @ 92% / 1 x 3 @ 67.5%
WEEKS 3-4 1 x 1 @ 90% / 1 x 3 @ 62.5% / 1 x 1 @ 92.5% / 1 x 3 @ 67.5% / 1 x 1 @ 95% / 1 x 3 @ 70%
WEEKS 5-6 1 x 1 @ 92.5% / 1 x 3 @ 65% / 1 x 1 @ 95% / 1 x 3 @ 70% / 1 x 1 @ 97.5% / 1 x 3 @ 72.5%
The lighter sets should be very explosive

Bench press
Same progression

Power clean (any variation)
Same progression

WEDNESDAY
3 x flying 30m (gradually build up speed over a 30m ramp up and then sprint all out for 30m)
3 x acceleration 30m (the first 30m is all-out then you maintain 80% of that speed for 30m)
3 x 60m (60m run at 90-95%)
Multimodal medley: 20m Zercher carry + 20m sprint + 20m farmer walk + 20m sprint for 3-4 sets

THURSDAY
Vertical jumps 3 sets x 5
Jump onto a box holding a 16-20kg kettlebell on your chest 3 sets of 5
KB swing 3 x max reps in 30 sec

FRIDAY
Back squat overcoming isometrics 4 sets of 6 seconds
Bench press overcoming isometrics 4 sets of 6 seconds
Deadlift overcoming isometrics (just below knees) 4 sets of 6 seconds
Overhead press overcoming isometrics (forehead level) 4 sets of 6 seconds
Neutral grip pull-ups isometric (hold the top position for 15 sec and middle position 15 sec, add weight if possible)

SATURDAY
3 x Flying 60m (Gradually build up speed over 30m then go all-out for 60m)
3 x Acceleration 60m (sprint all-out for 60m then maintain 80% of that speed over 30m)
3 x 60m
Multimodal medley 20m prowler/sled pushing + 20m sprint + 20m Farmer walk + 20m sprint for 3-4 sets… the difference is that here the rest period (3 min) is done jogging and not complete rest


#6

Thank you coach ! It looks awesome , i will start my monday with it , have a nice day!


#7

That program would have cost $$$$ from some no name schmuck but you had it spoon fed to you by a world class coach himself. No charge.
CT, again, I applaud and appreciate your presence on this forum, and your willingness to help us all.


#8

Honestly it’s simply because I love Rugby and the question was really interesting to me. I didn’t even plan out to design a program (which is why I said at the start of my reply that I was not going to write a program) I only wanted to illustrate the concepts I was explaining but it sparked my interest and got me motivated to write more.


#9

Nice to hear that , i trully appreciate it ! I don’t know what to say about it anymore , words are priceless for the time you were thinking to help me and the program you made.


#10

rugby players are HUGE. lol they are massive, particularly thighs and neck/traps. always impressed at how fast they are at that size with tree trunk legs! physical specimens rivalling nfl


#11

What is more impressive with Rugby players is that training is not yet as well established as with US football players. A lot of rugby players started training very late, and some don’t train much at all.

I still think that Jonah Lomu and Bo Jackson are the two freakiest athletes that have been around.


#12

Jonah Lomu yeah…such a legend , he started training in the gym at 13-14 years old , he made all international players he ever faced to look foolish on the field when facing him…


#13

I’m a former D1 football player and current men’s D1 Rugby lock. I’m going to tell you something you already know: conditioning is what drives everything else. Every team has a 600 pound deadlifter who dominates the first scrum of the match and is completely ineffective theareafter.

As I get older, I train almost exclusively for anaerobic conditioning because my goal is to maintain 80-90% max speed and power for the entire match — rather than exert 100% seldomley.

With this in mind I try to get through my strength training as quickly as possible so I can get the the main course — interval training. But bear in mind that I’m big and strong enough that I don’t really need to get bigger or heavier so I can get away with lighter mainentence work. I do most of my assistance work in Tabata intervals to stay on point and get in some extra conditioning. Anyway here’s what my offseason week looks like:

Mon:
Bench/ Band Pull Apart 5x5/20-30
Push-up/ Pull-up 10x Tabata
Weighted vest Walk 30min

Tues:
Front Squat/ Leg Curl 5x5/8-10
Air Squat/ Back Hyper 10x Tabata
Treadmill Tabata Sprints 10x

Weds:
Trap Bar Carry (body weight) 10x Tabata
Suitcase Carry (1/4 bw) 10 x Tabata alt sides
Prowler Sprints 10 x Tabata

Thurs:
Push-Press/ Band Pull Apart 5x5/20-30
KB Press/ Pull-up 10x Tabata
Steady state jog 30 min

Fri:
Trap Bar Clean Pull 5x5
Lunge/ Good-Morning 10x Tabata
Treadmill Tabata Sprints 10x


#14

PS — I do abs and neck harness every AM before going to work


#15

A few of my friends played in France (two guys I played with when I was younger) and back then my friends were made fun of for lifting weights; these guys mostly did tons of cardio and were naturally big boys.

I think things have evolved a lot strength & conditioning wise (thank God) but conditioning still rules. However I think that it is a mistake to neglect strength development if you are not naturally a strong and explosive guy.


#16

This is really cool. Should all lifters do a period of explosive work and then return to normal lifting?


#17

Where did I mention that?

It depends on your goal and neurotype.

Type 1B should always have an explosive component to their program
Type 2A should have an explosive component in 1-2 phases out of 3

Type 1A, 2B and 3 training for muscle mass and/or aesthetics should not use explosive work

Type 1A can use a 1 week of explosive work at the end of a training cycle as a “change of pace” when training for strength (e.g. Full Smolov program).

Type 1A, 2B can include a VERY gradual learning progression with explosive work and only do a small amount if they absolutely need it as athletes.

Type 3 will need and even slower progression to be ready to do explosive work


#18

Addendum:

The key differences between rugby and football are that 1) rugby players don’t wear pads and 2) there is very little upper body extension in rugby ie the movement used by a defensive or offensive lineman engaging a block. All rucking, mauling and tackling is done w the shoulders. While these differences seem elementary they should manifest themselves in adjustments to training.

I operate on the premise that mass x velocity = power. If I’m heavy and I’m running fast I will hit you hard. That said, you also have to be able to take a hit — which is why I prioritized shoulder/Trap/Neck bodybuilding earlier in my career. But you also need to be fit enough to run forever at a heavy weight.

A pitfall that athletes get into is that they say “I need to get bigger” so they embark on a bodybuilding-style bulk with little or no conditioning to “preserve their gains”. Then they show up to camp slow and out of shape. Anecdotally, old school observers look at these guys and say “see, I told you lifting weights makes you slow”! When in reality you can get bigger, faster and fitter all at once if done properly. But you need to be really smart about it.

And BTW there is no position on the field — front row included — where I would ever advise a player to get bigger at the expense of conditioning. Conditioning is king in rugby.


#19

You didnt say that and I was inquiring into this type of liftings transferability. But ya neurotyping is a huge thing I have to spend time with.


#20

Yeah same ;
I’m a rugby player in France too,
I have always loved to go to the gym and workout but my coaches and most of my team mates made fun of me , all they did/recommended was to run
my coach challenged us to run 12km in 1 hour and it was a “must have” standart for the whole team
I’m a prop so it was “kinda” hard