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Old school non-gym based rugby strength training: Part 1


Old school non-gym based rugby strength training: Part 1

Get rugby fit on the pitch - If you played rugby at school, you probably experienced some form of strength and conditioning outdoors on or around the pitch. You were too young to hit the gym properly or the coach didn’t have the facilities for the whole squad. This meant old school outdoors rugby strength and conditioning drills. These sessions can be done anywhere you train rugby, outside in the cold, wet and windy conditions means they also develop mental as well as physical ro-bustness. As they often require another teammate they also help develop team cohesion and camaraderie.

What type of fitness does a rugby player need?

Twenty years ago this question would have been met with, “For what position?”. The thought process being that a prop needs a different style of fitness to a fullback. These days the game is more complete. The expectations are that every player on the pitch should have endurance, stamina, pace speed and of course, strength and power. Although you might expect the speed of a winger to be greater than that of a lock, or the overhead lifting strength of a prop to be greater than that of a fly-half, by ensuring each player trains every element of fitness regardless of their position, the coach will have a team that are strong and proficient in all movement patterns and will be able to compete any-where on the pitch. Strength training for injury prevention is imperative for every player.

The drills - Cardio specific

Rugby players need:

  • Explosive acceleration and speed
  • Upper and lower body muscular endurance
  • Upper and lower body strength
  • Balance and co-ordination
  • Proprioception and agility
  • Jumping power
  • Flexibility
  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Cardiovascular stamina
  • Strong core
skills every rugby player needs

We all know that every rugby player needs a good “engine”. They need good stamina and good endurance to keep up with the game and never give up. The following drills are designed to aid speed, stamina and endurance specifically for a rugby player.

Following a thorough warm-up, including a few light laps of the pitch, mobility for the joints, dynamic stretches and slow controlled bodyweight exercises before some more running, increasing the speed to raise the heart rate, perform the following drills.

1. Sprint starts - With one hand holding a rugby ball on the ground, pick it up and sprint with it for 20 metres before jogging back. Per-form 4-8 reps.

2. Weighted sprint starts - As before, but this time with either a team mate holding the back of a cotton rugby shirt (see old school!) or attached to a rope attached to a tyre; sprint away, dragging the person/tyre for 20 metres before jogging back. Repeat 4-8reps

3. Full sprint - Simply sprint at full speed the length of a pitch and walk back slowly. Repeat 4-6 times.

4. Partner drags - One person lies on their back on the touch line, feet away from the pitch, the other person approaches from the head end and picks up the lying persons upper body by scooping both arms under their armpits and clasping the hands across their chest. The dragger now runs backwards as fast as they can. The person being dragged relaxes and lets the body and legs go limp. Start with half a pitch and then switch over. Once fitness allows try doing the whole length of the pitch. Perform 4-10 reps each.

5. Fireman’s carries - Safely lift a team-mate/friend onto the shoulders into a fireman carry at one end of the pitch. As quickly as possible carry them to the far end of the pitch/area. Switch around and have them carry you back. Do this back and forth for 6-10reps each.

6. Two person scrummage - Two people, scrummage position, straight back and off you go. Try 30 sec on 30 secs off like an interval session for 6-10 rounds. Cardiovascular fitness, leg muscular endurance and mental strength are all put to the test.

7. Playing rugby. - In the old days, people would only play their sport. They wouldn't use strength and condition enough to ensure injury avoidance but also to prehab the body by strengthening in areas that would make them a better player. For some, the tables have turned, too many spend too long in the gym and not enough time on the pitch. Rugby is a physical game. You’ll be surprised how much strength/fitness is built by simply playing. Just don’t forget to fuel before and re-fuel after.

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