Rugby players need to be in peak physical condition; so weight training, diet, mental toughness and endurance are critical. Here are the top 10 tips from rugby players to stay strong, flexible and in peak fitness for the big game.
1. Cardio, cardio, cardio
Rugby players run as much as soccer players, but they’re bigger and stronger — and they get that way by switching up how far and how fast they run. Mix up distance runs, 1000-metre shuttles, sprints, these variations will burn fat without sacrificing muscle.
2. The beat test
The toughest workout faced by rugby players is the beat test. This requires athletes to complete 20-yard sprints to the beat of a metronome. The tempo starts slow, and gradually increases until the athletes are moving at sprint speed, which ensures that each rep will be tougher than the last.
3. Heavy on the Weights
Rugby players are big guys and they lift heavy weights often. Doing big, compound movements that use lots of muscle groups and stabilisers will help maximise your strength. Players will do a set of six reps, then rest, then do a set of five, then rest. Then they’ll work back up. Add weights to the lowest rep sets.
4. Sprint training
Rugby players do lots of sled runs to improve sprinting over short distances. Put around 10% of your bodyweight on the sled and time yourself over 10m. Players allow plenty of rest in between and do three or four reps. Running with sleds makes you have to stay low to the ground as you push your legs, which is important to build explosive speed.
5. Get more power
One way to help you improve your explosive power is by using power bands when you squat. Hook them over the ends of the barbell and secure them to the floor or stand on them. When you push up in the squat, the resistance will remain throughout the lift, forcing your leg muscles to become more dynamic. You can also use bands in a similar way for deadlifts, bench presses and pull-ups.
6. Improve your rugby stamina
Rugby training doesn’t just focus on short sprints. For scrum-halves, doing longer distance running is key for improving fitness. They are constantly moving, getting to the breakdown, going from one side of the pitch to the other at a steady pace, so to build that stamina do a lot of running over distances of 5km and 10km.
7. Get faster
Rugby players don’t often sprint a full 100m. Instead they focus on the 0-5m or 0-10m acceleration to burst through gaps in defence. For this they need strong glutes, which is where the power comes from. Try the single leg sit back. Hold on to something in front of you while you stand on one leg and bend that leg to lower yourself slowly before pushing back up.
8. Nutrition, stretching and yoga
You wouldn’t think chunky rugby players would be eating light salads and going to yoga classes or pilates classes but you’d be wrong. Rugby players need to be flexible, avoid injury and build muscle without the fat like all other athletes. While it is good to be strict with what you eat, you should try different things and experiment with food as well to find what really works for you but make sure it’s something you enjoy. In addition to yoga, pilates exercises help develop core strength, open up the hips and protect the lower back. It helps rugby players recover from any bumps and bashes they get on the pitch. Improving flexibility helps with balance and stability and with that comes strength and power.
Some players such as forwards are big enough to power through opponents but for the backs, it's sometimes better to avoid them, thus agility is so important. Try footwork drills, skipping and changing direction to build strength and speed in lateral movement. It's also important to be rested and relaxed on game day, so know when to workout and know when to rest.
Rugby players use Bosu balls to improve balance combined with woodchops for rotational strength to help them run more efficiently, maintain good balance and avoid injury.