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Old School Non-Gym Based Rugby Strength Training: Part 2


Get rugby fit on the pitch

In the first Part there were 7 exercises all geared towards getting that all too important rugby specific cardio vascular fitness. Being able to sprint and run the whole 80 minutes to ensure you are better than the opposition. Our next 8 exercises (making our 15) are all about adding some strength and power for those big hits or to ensure you can boss a ruck or maul.

The drills - Strength specific

Following a thorough warm-up, including a few light laps of the pitch, mobility for the joints, dynamic stretches and slow controlled bodyweight exercises before some more running, increasing the speed to raise the heart rate, perform the following drills.


Whether straight box jumps (best with trainers not boots) or more complicated depth jumps or one or two leg bounds across the width of the pitch, plyometric work requires 100% effort. Most rugby teams won’t use these drills mid season as recovery takes too long. Pre season these exercises are superb for adding strength and stamina, not to mention line out jumping prowess.



Fireman’s carries in part 1, but instead of carrying the person, keep the core tight, back straight and knees strong and squat them to a safe depth. Depending on the person being squatted’s weight and the person squatting’s strength, perform 5-12 reps then change over. Perform 3-5 sets.


Simply stand with the arms at right angles out to the side (T position) and make little circles. Try 30 secs forward, 30 secs backwards 15 secs rest for 3-5 rounds.


One of you kneels on the floor with lower leg/feet flat on the floor and knees at right angles; knees, hips and shoulders in a line. Hands across chest. A teammate/friend puts their hands onto the kneelers ankles and puts his/her weight through them. The kneeler then lowers his/her bodyweight down to the floor as slowly as possible until lying flat. Use the arms the push back up to the start position. Try 5-10 reps and switch over.


The classic core workout. The classic can be used as part of a circuit - think partner sprints but instead of resting you plank while your partner sprints. As a standalone, try holding for 60 sec for 5 rounds with 30 secs rest between or try planking with a ball at arms length in front of you. Touch the ball with alternate hands without moving the rest of the body. Try 20 touches.


Bullet proofing the back without a gym involves back extensions. Lie down in the dirt, fingers on temples and bring the chest off the floor by extending the lower back. Hold for a slow 5 count and lower slowly. Repeat for 8-12 reps. If too easy, increase the hold at the top.


Feet shoulder width apart, squat down keeping the back straight and the knees strong, explode up into the air as high as you can, land softly into a squat keeping the back straight as before. Use this exercise as part of a stamina circuit performing 8-12reps as high as possible or separately for higher reps to build muscular endurance.


Press-ups are such a useful exercise to the rugby player, especially when performed out on the pitch. How often does each player push up off the wet/soggy ground to get back to their feet per game? Whether clap press-ups to build strength, close arm to add stamina/strength to the triceps or regular/wide-arm to help add muscular endurance to the chest and shoulders, they are also training the wrists, forearms and core for working on moist uneven ground.


There you have it. 15 exercises to improve your rugby strength and conditioning without needing to step foot into a gym. One for each player, meaning these can be run as a circuit for a squad of 30. Set up each exercise as a station around the pitch and have 2 players on each station. Whether the sprints, fireman’s carries or press ups, work in pairs, either dragging or carrying each other as the exercises dictates or one working while the other encourages. It’s a team game after all, so get into the mentality of training together, motivating each other and enjoying the shared hardships of old school rugby strength training.

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