With the rugby world cup in full flow we at Cre8 Fitness have decided to get into the spirit of things and create an exercise routine that is fun and incorporates rugby fitness into it.
Now this plan will get you leaner and stronger as well as improve general fitness for the newbie all the way through to people who actually play. Now we can’t promise this routine will get you looking like the big lumps you see on the television as it takes time and years of training to get that size, however if you want to try to eat what they do then crack on and good luck, you will need it!
Rugby is an immensely physical game and has definitely created athletes that could compete in numerous disciplines across numerous sports or events. The requirements needed for rugby does cover all the aspects of fitness to be able to compete at the top level. The main ones people see though these days are the speed, strength and power.
Strength is massively important due to the sheer size of all the players and being able to stop them. Leg strength is far more important than the upper body due to the leg pump that is needed to break tackles, drive mauls, support yourself and others in rucks and to protect yourself from injuries.
An easy way to think pf speed is effectively how many times a muscle can contract and relax in a given time. Generally the more this is the faster someone will be able to run and can be partially a genetic trait (thus the difference in forwards and backs at a young age to determine positions).
Power is how well you combine strength and speed. The faster you lift something that is heavy the more powerful you will be. In rugby terms it’s generally what you see when Julien Savea runs over someone or bumps them off for New Zealand. If you aren’t too familiar with this or rugby check out Jonah Lomu, the original rugby wrecking ball.
These aspects of fitness are important for daily life too as it can assist with carry shopping, picking something up off the floor or simply walking up and down stairs effortlessly. Of course this will all help protect from injury through movement and that is always welcome.
Now the way rugby players train is by using the big lifts. These are usually considered to be squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press and pull ups. We will also be using these minus the overhead press due to factors such as previous injuries, shoulder impingement, lack of mobility in thoracic spine and shoulders and generally from a safety standpoint as it can be dangerous if too heavy or the lifter is inexperienced. Safety is always paramount when training so for now this one is left on the bench. These lifts will train the aspects of fitness mentioned earlier as well as a few others as a bonus.
So let’s get into the meat of the routine!
The following exercises are in the order in which they appear in the workout:
The squat is considered the king of exercises (along with deadlift) due to the amount of muscles worked, central nervous system activation (CNS), testosterone produced and the fact it’s hard as anything when heavy and done correctly. This is THE move for rugby. All rugby positions squat and so should you. It will increase strength in a big way as well as turning chicken legs into solid meaty units. Humans squat all the time but many people don’t realise. Every time you sit and stand you are squatting, only difference with this is that there will be a weight on your back.
In rugby it is what gives the players the basic strength levels and big thighs. You will run faster, jump higher, lift more and also shed excess fat due to the nature of the lift. There is a reason why rugby players squat often and a lot! The biggest difference between rugby back in the 70s to modern day is this exercise. It creates fast, powerful players that can cause damage from any position and placement on the field.
How to perform a squat
• Place bar across the traps and rear deltoids, not the neck.
• Assume a hip or shoulder width stance (depending on mobility) with feet straight or 5 – 20 degrees out (depending on mobility).
• Take a deep breath to fill up the lungs which helps brace the core for stability.
• Sit back with the hips to unlock them then bend your knees until your hips are at least parallel with your thighs or lower
• Squeeze glutes and drive feet into the floor as you stand back up
• Keep torso as upright as you can (mobility dependant) throughout the movement, keep weight in a triangle through the feet (60% heel, 20% big toe and 20% little toe) and keep knees out over toes by squeezing the glutes and pulling knees apart.
The bench has important carry over into rugby, mainly in the form of overall strength as well as force generation for passing and handing opponents off when running. The bench will increase pec, anterior deltoid and triceps on top of increasing the support work ability of the traps, lats, serratus anterior and the core muscles. There is more to the bench than just trying to show off to your peers in the gym. There can be different ways to do one to focus on different muscle fibres but we will stick with the basics with one slight difference, hand width and placement.
How to perform the bench
• Lay on the bench with eyes below the bar, shoulder blades squeezing the bench, heels pulled back so they are slightly off the floor and hands roughly a fist wider than shoulder width apart (this ensures safer movement mechanics for the shoulder and chest plus it uses more tricep).
• Take a deep breath and hold whilst you lower the bar to roughly the nipple area by pulling it down using the lats.
• As you drive the bar up, push heels into the floor, squeeze glutes and push shoulder blades into the bench. This ensures tightness which will make you stronger in the lift which in turn enables more weight to be lifted plus more stability.
• Breathe out at the top of the movement but keep core engaged.
The deadlift is the other king of exercises that I spoke of earlier. It hits near enough every skeletal muscle going plus it makes you feel like a boss when you lift a heavy weight off the floor. With rugby this is what probably helps prevent lower limb injury the most as it builds strong and robust muscles in the glutes, hamstrings and calves. These all protect the lower back and joints from too much force from the impact of running or tackling someone. If you look at the number of hamstring injuries between rugby and football then you can see that deadlifts is a key player in helping prevent tears or hyperextension (along with suppleness from a good stretching program that the players follow). The deadlift also develops tremendous grip strength which makes tackling a lot easier when all you can get is a hand full of shirt. It’s hard to shake someone with a vice like grip!
For you guys giving this routine a go then it will build your whole body, improve posture, increase strength as well as give your testosterone levels the kick up the backside they need to really get the results happening!
How to perform a deadlift
• Hip width stance, grip just wider than legs.
• To keep a flat back grab the bar and pull so your arms are straight and hips come down. Chest should be visible and bar hasn’t left the floor.
• Keeping tight in the whole body, lift the bar off the initially then drive hips up and forward squeezing the glutes as hard as you can.
• Lock the legs out at the top, hips are as far forward as they can go, do not lean back through the lower back.
• Lower the weight by pushing the hips back until the bar passes the knees.
• Bend the legs after and the weight should be back on the floor with a straight back still.
• Try and keep the bar as close to the legs as possible on both parts of the lift. If it comes away or goes around the knees the pressure on the back will be massive and can cause issues.
Chins is a pure strength exercise if there ever was one. It builds strong biceps, forearms, grip and back. In rugby, combining the strength gains from bench for the front muscles then this builds the back muscles and makes the players into running bulldozers. Having a big back may seem like a pointless thing to have for rugby but it aids players with support for the shoulders and scapula and helps protect the core from the big hits and general impact play of rucks and mauls too.
For a lot of beginners who can barely do one then this is usually a big thing to aim for. In this plan by the time you have completed it then you will be able to do at least 1!
How to perform a chin up
• Grab the bar shoulder width apart with palms facing you in a supinated grip.
• Retract the shoulder blades to initiate the pull
• Focus on pulling the elbows to the floor to activate the lats. Don’t pull from the hands as this uses forearms and biceps not the actual muscle that we are targeting.
• Pull until the chin is above the bar and squeeze lats to lift the chest to get peak contraction.
• Lower yourself slowly until you are in a dead hang position for a full stretch and to activate more muscle fibres.
• Core is on throughout the movement of stability and tension.
Now this is a machine that all impact sports use or should use. It’s basically a triangle on legs with some poles sticking up through it from where you push/ pull it and load weight on. The benefit of this for rugby is that it can add resistance to sprint attempts and also get the players powerful in a low driving position which is need for scrums and mauls. It can also aid in the clearout of rucks too. This thing is amazing for conditioning drills of the lower body and can make jelly legs out of anybody pretty quick. This could be the difference between a world cup or nothing at all from a physical point of view.
How to perform a sled push
• Grab the sled on the high handle side about a quarter of the way down
• Sprint using full strides to hit the thighs and glutes maximally. Arms can be straight or bent (dependant on weight used).
• On the low side, use whichever handle ensures the most efficient slide of the sled or the one that makes it bobble least.
• Sprint back using full strides. Keep back flat and core tight due to the height of the handles.
How the Plan Works
Reps Sets Weight (RM) Tempo Rest (Seconds)
Squat 10 4 8 – 10
Bench 10 4 8 – 10
Deadlift10 4 8 – 10
Chins 10 4
Sled 6 4 180
Bench, DB Chest Press, Decline Bench/ Chest Press
Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, Rack Pull (for people with questionable deadlift technique)
Chins, Inverted Row, TRX Row
Sled, Burpees, Rower (250m)
There are 5 exercises which need to be completed 4 times each to finish the routine. If the correct intensity and focus is given to the plan then it can be completed in under 35 mins.
Each weight picked needs to be heavy enough that the last 2 reps of each set of 10 become a challenge by round 2. If the weight is too light then the routine will be too easy and not have the desired effect and this applies to going for broke and trying to out lift the professionals as you won’t be able to complete each set with either good form or at all.
So, complete 10 squats then move onto the bench immediately and perform the 10 reps here. Once these are done move to the deadlift and smash out 10 before going to the chin up bar and pulling yourself so fast that people will think you are a Kardashian clamouring after fame. Finish the round off by pushing the sled up and down a track 6 times as fast as you can. Rest 3 minutes before repeating another 3 times, simple.
If you don’t have equipment to complete exercises then feel free to substitute them for the ones listed. If you can do the exercises listed then do them, no excuses of them being hard, that’s the point! In case of the sled/ prowler, you may just have to book an appointment with us to experience what it is like.
Now be warned, this is a lot more challenging than it may sound and will tax your muscles and lungs like nothing you have done before. This is why it is so effective with anyone who tries it as it will push you on in a fairly short space of time.