Rugby Fitness Training

Tonight marks the beginning of one of my personal favourite events of the sporting calendar. The Welsh and the English will do battle yet again to kick-off this years 6 Nations. It is fair to say that sometimes footballers spend a proportionally larger amount of time in the public limelight than rugby players, a certain Mr Beckham springs to mind here. That isn’t to say David Beckham is not physically fit, he is clearly a tremendous athlete, like a lot of footballers. But for today, let’s consider the athletes on the rugby field.

Rugby players are some of the fittest athletes in the world. As with most athletic competition training it is essential that the work you are doing is suitable and specific. For example a swimmer, a cyclist and a rugby player can all be considered physically fit and fine athletes, but they all train in very different ways.

Granted, some rugby players may not fit the typical image of physical fitness in some eyes. In fact if we looked at the body mass index (BMI) of some of these guys we would be led to believe they are obese – Lawrence Dallaglio being an example I remember hearing about. I think it is safe to say that is more a point of concern for the BMI system, than the fitness of these men.

To start off with all rugby players depend on a strong core fitness, this is the base from which they build. This is then supplemented with specific forms of training that are tailored to suit the requirements of a rugby player. Every team in the country and every nation in the world will train players differently, but there are fundamental ideas that will crop up across the board.

Weight Training

It is no secret that you need to be strong to play this sport and strength in this case comes from lifting. This type of training can be limited when preparing for athletic competition though – there is a lot to fit in. So unless it’s the off-season you might find restrictions that only allow weight training two or three times a week. Therefore it is essential to focus on compound exercises that use as many muscles as possible. And what better to go with one of the most traditional sports we have than two of the most traditional weight exercises we have – squats and dead lifts. Of course other exercises are needed to focus on specific muscle groups but these two are a great place to start

Sprint Training

This is where we start to see a real difference between normal fitness training and training for athletic competition. If you are training to keep in good shape you might never even consider incorporating sprint training but if you are playing a game that needs constant bursts of explosive acceleration you need to ensure you are in the best shape to do that. When it comes to sprinting try and focus on these four elements:

  • Relaxed – try not to be tense as you run
  • Smooth – slightly leaning forward as you run will encourage a smoother style
  • Tall – avoiding contact between the floor and your heels (on your toes) will keep you in an upright position
  • Driven – push through with your legs and elbows making sure each drive of an arm is coupled with a drive of the opposite leg

Interval Training 

Rugby looks like it was designed for interval training. You are constantly required to exert large amounts of force and effort for relatively short periods of time, with even shorter breaks in between. Your training can reflect this. A lot of bodyweight exercises are perfect for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). You don’t need equipment here, you just need to ensure that you are completing short bursts of maximum exertion with regular short breaks in between. If you watch the game tonight, just look at how applicable HIIT is.


Again this is another form of training used mainly by athletes and again it seems like it was almost designed for rugby. This, as oppose to strength training, is focused far more on conditioning through maximum power exertion. Your leg power increasing will allow for better jumping and tackling ability on the field.

We know that not everyone trains in the exact same way, especially for athletic competition. Just make sure that the way you train is specifically focused on what you are training for!

Ollie Lawrence
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