5 Essential Strong Man Exercises for Rugby

Strongman training is about true functional strength, using multi-joint movements and multiple muscle groups. It is about lifting heavy, awkward objects (like those you encounter in rugby match!), getting them from A to B – whether that is from the ground to overhead, or from one end of the room to the other. Strongman is about getting you functionally strong to dominate your opponent on the rugby field.

Due to the challenging nature of Strongman style training, in addition to the strength and power benefits, it also places significant stress on the cardiovascular and nervous systems, whilst developing mental toughness in the athlete. Strongman training is not sport specific as such, however a number of the physical demands and movements of this type of training are transferrable to rugby union.

Here are a few of our favorite strongman exercises, that can be used as individual exercises or in a functional / strongman circuit…

Prowler Pushes:

Pushing a heavy prowler requires you to use pretty much every muscle in the body. Your legs provide the driving force, your core has to remain rigid and your shoulders stable to keep the prowler moving forward. The transfer of force from your legs, through your trunk and up to the shoulders / upper limbs replicates a number of rugby movement patterns; such as scrummaging, hitting rucks and tackling.

Here are a few simple sesisons that you can add into your leg day session:

  • Front Row / Locks: 20m Push – Heavy as possible – Rest 90s x 8
  • Back Row & Half backs: 60s – max distance – 60s rest x 10
  • Outside Backs: 10m max effort / max speed – 30s x 10

Tyre Flips

This exercise requires both skill and a solid foundation of strength, which is why it has been a staple in strongman competitions for decades. Although this exercise looks simple, it requires good technique to avoid injury so be sure to follow these pointers:

  • Relax your biceps to avoid curling the tire
  • Keep your back tight and straight and avoid rounding
  • Focus on driving through the tyre – not on lifting it

Rugby Renegade recommends that rugby athletes should use a heavier tyre for fewer reps. Thus keeping the focus on strength and power. We suggest aim for a maximum of 10 reps.

Here are a few options of how to about it:

  • 5 sets of 2 reps
  • 4, 3, 3 reps
  • 3, 3, 2, 2 reps
  • 1 rep every 20 seconds until 10 total reps are completed

Farmer’s Walks

The basic premise of the farmers walk is simple… pick up something heavy, then carry it for a set distance or time. Farmer’s walks are a classic strongman exercise, stressing the entire body, incorporating grip strength, shoulder stability, core stability, leg strength and the entire posterior chain.

In most gyms you will be limited to dumbbells which will work fine for maximum distance / time training, but for maximum weight you will want a Farmers Walk specific implement – like a loadable handle or trap bar. On lifting it is important to stand chest tall, shoulders and neck set neutral, letting the implement hang by your side. Take small but fast steps, trying to move as fast as possible, without losing control of the implements or allowing your chest to drop. Once you feel your grip giving away, place the implement down… repeat dependent on your goals for that session

Adding farmer’s walks into circuits or making them a small-group or team competition are fun ways to add variety to finish out a training session. Heavy dumbbells can get the job done, being creative with how they should be held can ramp up the difficulty of even the lightest weights.

Sandbag Training

sandbag training for rugbySandbags are excellent for teaching the athlete how and when to apply their strength to an odd object, in less than ideal circumstances. Moving a load from the floor to shoulder, throwing them from the hip overhead, carrying them, or simply picking them up and slamming them into the ground, all train very fundamental patterns of power generation.

There is the added benefit of developing the strength of the hands, fingers, and forearms to battle an uneven distribution of weight. This makes the sandbags a great tool for rugby athletes.

Heavy Keg Toss

Keg toss for rugbyThe Keg Toss is inspired by the long tradition of Highland Games. Loaded hip extension is a universal tool for the development of power output, making the keg toss the perfect exercise for strength and explosiveness. The keg toss is a pretty self explanatory!!!…toss a keg (or med ball / weight) over a given wall/bar for maximum height.

The action of the body is with feet wide apart, the keg starts just above the ground and by swinging it back between your legs and up in front of you to gain momentum you then extend the ankles, knees, and hips (triple extension), like you would in a power clean and then keep it going with the arms in a front raise to a final release point just before it’s above your head… You can get a keg for fairly cheap from most beer distributors in your area – just make sure it’s empty!!


Strongman training can add significant value to your weekly program. Without a doubt, a set of farmer walk handles, heavy sandbags, and a prowler sled should be top of the shopping list for kitting out your gym or Box for Strongman-style training. Not only does it add variation to your program (reducing the monotony of barbell training), it also adds a boost in functional development. More to the point it’s a good crack and develops competition and adds some grit to your sessions. Add Strong man training into your program and become the machine you were meant to be!! #BuildingMachines

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