Rugby is a rigorous, full-contact sport that requires tremendous physical strength and endurance. Because the rugby season involves skills training and other activity, the off-season period presents the best opportunity for rugby players to improve their physical strength through weightlifting and other activities. Strength training for rugby helps maximize performance and minimize injuries. A variety of approaches to strength training exist, but players should remember--whatever program they undertake--to train like rugby players, rather than body builders.
Rugby Football Union
The Rugby Football Union, or RFU, is the governing organization for English rugby. Its website outlines strength training programs for rugby players of all ages, from youth to adult. Its workout program for youth players, for example, is designed for use at school, home or a local rugby club and requires only minimal equipment, such as a medicine ball and a set of adjustable dumbbells. The RFU programs emphasize developing muscular endurance as well as strength. Weight training exercises in the program advise resting 30 seconds between sets and increasing the number of repetitions, or reps, as your strength increases.
David Williams, strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. national rugby team, outlines the basics of a strength training program on the USA Rugby website. This program includes squats, dumbbells and working with a stability ball. Williams advises rugby players to warm up the muscles they will use before lifting weights. Using Swiss balls, for example, develops balance and coordination, he writes. Williams advises warming up the body’s core, then moving on to Olympic lifts and squats, and working your way from major muscle groups to smaller ones. The USA Rugby website outlines in-season and off-season strength training programs.
Virginia Rugby Union
Brett Burdick, coaching coordinator for the Rugby Union group in Virginia, outlined a rugby fitness training program he based on the program used by the football team at Penn State University. The off-season portion of the program emphasizes twice-weekly weight training and plyometrics (exercises designed to produce fast, powerful movements). Recommended weight training exercises include military presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions, deltoid lifts, and leg curls and extensions. Burdick advises choosing a weight at which you can perform eight to 12 reps for one set per training period.
George Mason University
George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., uses a comprehensive training program that emphasizes weight training, stretching and appropriate nutrition. The program advises players to lift a certain percentage of the maximum weight they can lift (known as the one-rep limit). After working out, players should engage in at least five minutes of warm-up and cool-down exercises, such as riding an exercise bicycle or walking on a stair climber, before and after strength training.