Training to Become a Better Rugby Athlete
What does every athlete need to be able to do in their sport?
Move and have full range of motion! Movement is essential for an athlete to perform at their best. Athletes need to be able to move at high speeds and be able to control their body at the same time.
What are the demands of the sport?
Rugby is 80 minutes of continuous movement. You have to be able tackle, ruck, maul, and then sprint to the next breakdown. Not only are you constantly running, changing direction and backpedaling throughout the entire match, but you must focus on a ball to accurately throw, pass, and kick.
What does it take to be a great rugby athlete?
You need Strength in order to take hits and deliver hits in the scrums, rucks, mauls, and tackles. Strength helps you with driving/pushing in the scrums, mauls, and tackles.
You need Power to be explosive in your accelerations on the field and in the rucks and tackles. Power is also essential for kicking and throwing. You need Speed to evade the opposition.
Speed ensures that you are a contributing member of the team while running with the ball and transitioning to the next phase in support. You need Endurance in order to perform throughout an 80 minute non-stop match.
Stamina and endurance allow you to be constantly moving for the entire match. You need Mobility so that you can get low in the tackles, scrums, rucks, and be able to pick the ball off the ground with ease. Mobility also plays a part in throwing and kicking the ball as well.
How often should you be training?
Here is a basic weekly training schedule:
- Strength 3x per week
- Conditioning 2x per week
- Recovery training 1x-2x per week
What should I be doing in recovery sessions?
These sessions should involve yoga, joint mobility, or long slow cardio. These are not meant to beat you into the ground. The importance of these sessions is to get blood flowing to all the joints throughout the body so it can heal itself.
Rugby involves a lot of contact to the body. So if you want to stay fresh for each match and limit your chances of injury, then you need to take the time and focus on your recovery each week.
Nutrition what to eat?
Simple formula = Stay away from processed garbage. If you can’t kill it or grow it, don’t eat it! What you eat has a direct impact on how you feel and perform on the pitch. Treat your body like you would treat a Lamborghini. Would you put sugar or low octane fuel in that car? No!
Athletes ingest only the best high octane fuel so they can perform at their best.
Five foods that cause inflammation in your body are Soy, Dairy, Corn, Sugar, and Refined grains (flour,wheat,etc.). Try to avoid these at all costs as they can cause arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and many other harmful conditions in your body.
What about sleep?
7-8 hours per night is the standard and important for proper recovery. Do you want to feel good and refreshed each day? Then, get some deep REM sleep. It is the easiest and best way to speed up recovery.
What should my trainings look like?
Here is a simple template of what each of your sessions should look like:
- Mobility warm up 10 min (joint mobility, foam roll, body weight movements)
- Power 10-15 min (power cleans, snatch, jerk, box jumps) (1-2 movements 3-5 reps)
- Strength 30 min (squat, deadlift, press or bench press, pull ups or rows) (2-3 movements 5-20 reps)
- Conditioning 10 min (loaded carries, sled push, hill sprints, swings) (1-3 movements time based reps)
What exercises should I be doing?
You must think and plan your workouts around movements such as squat, push, pull, lunge, loaded carries. Stick to the basics of squat, deadlift, press, bench press, pull ups, power cleans, and push ups. Adding in other exercises is completely fine for variety and mixing things up.
However, make sure you focus on your main lifts before doing those. The best way to add in a variety of lifts is to incorporate a circuit format at the end of the session for some conditioning. Rugby like most sports is played on your feet. You need to do movements that help build a better foundation on your feet.
Why is technique so important?
Always focus on quality reps versus quantity garbage reps. When you constantly perform the same movement over and over again you will create a muscle memory for the movement. Muscles and tendons will remember repetitive movements regardless if they were good or bad reps. So, if you are just cranking out reps with bad form then your body will think that is the way to perform that movement.
Poor form movements will eventually lead to some type of overcompensation in your body and injury. Terrible technique limits the strength potential and the attainment of goals of athletes. Keep this in mind for every bad rep you do, it takes 3 good ones to reverse what you did. So if you just cranked out 10 bad reps it will take 30 quality reps to correct your muscle memory for that movement.
Which routine is best bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting?
First, you must establish a goal. Do you want to be a better a rugby athlete or do you want compete in another form of lifting? Training like a bodybuilder will help you gain size, but it can also make you slow and stiff.
Training like a powerlifter will make you strong, but it can limit your range of mobility.
Olympic lifting will make you explosive and increase your mobility, but it does nothing for your endurance. Each can be helpful in making you a better athlete when programmed correctly but remember your goal is be a better rugby athlete.
So what does that mean?
You need to be strong, fast, explosive, have some mass, and be able to move (greater range of motion). You may be able to bench 500 lbs. However, if you are too slow to move around the pitch and have limited mobility, lifting heavy weight is hindering your progress as an athlete.
If you are so tight that you can’t touch your toes, then you will not be much help in rucks or getting low to make a tackle.
What is the best program ever created?
The answer to that question is consistency. There is no one size fits all program. What works for one person does not mean it will work for you. There are many different training protocols out there and you have to keep an open mind when trying something new. What does work is being consistent in your training. Athletes constantly work on improving everyday.
If you miss a day here or there, no worries just pick up where you left off. That is called life. You will get sick, you will do some traveling, so may have a ton of work, hanging out with friends, or family function. It’s ok to take a break now and then.
Plus, the body needs breaks and will appreciate the recovery time. What you don’t want to do is think that you have to make up for lost time by doing some marathon session where it takes you a week to recover from. That is not going to help you be fresh come time for a rugby match. Consistency is your best program ever created.
Rugby is a game that requires strength, power, speed, and endurance. It is one of the most challenging and fun sports to play. It is also a sport that you can play forever.
I have known many guys that have been able to play in the same match with their kids. It is also a sport that can create many opportunities for you play abroad and help you find work as well. If you train smart and listen to your body you can have a long and rewarding career in Rugby.