High-Low Periodisation for Rugby

The High-Low organisation of training was popularised by legendary sprint coach Charlie Francis. Francis knew how important the role of the central nervous system (CNS) was for improving speed and power and thus organised his athletes training to allow development and recovery of the CNS.

High low periodisation

The basic approach is to isolate training that is high stress for the CNS and perform it on separate days to low CNS training. This allows the CNS to recover and for the intensity to remain as high as possible when the training plan calls for it.

CNS recovery takes roughly 48-72 hours and so you alternate high CNS days with low CNS days. The low CNS training helps improve general conditioning and also enhances recovery. Read on for High / Low periodisation for rugby…

High/Low for Rugby

Speed/AccelerationWeights 8-15 reps (not to failure)
Strength >80% (or to failure)Low Intensity Conditioning
Explosive Jumps & ThrowsGPP Circuits
Intense Rugby TrainingLow Intensity Medball Work
Contact WorkCore Work
Competitive Con GamesAerobic Cross Training

What about training medium or somewhere in the middle? Isn’t rugby somewhere in between? Well Francis found it ineffective, it wasn’t fast or powerful enough to stimulate the CNS adaptations but it was demanding enough that it needed greater recovery than low CNS activities. He proposed to avoid medium training and focusing on only high CNS training and low CNS training.

High Low periodisation 2

At some point rugby training will end up being in the “Medium” range but this is still somewhat demanding on the CNS and thus should be programmed the same as High to allow recovery post.

So how do you structure a training week based on the high-low model? Here are some examples for in and out of season:

Off/Pre Season

3 day high low periodisation

The first option is a typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday split. on those days you focus on your high intensity work and use the other days to recover but work on low level aerobic work. You can of course train on the Saturday too, if you wish!

2 day high low periodisation

The second option gives you an extra rest day but of course limits the amount of high intensity work you can do. On Monday and Thursday you focus on building your maximum power and on Tuesday and Friday you develop the ability to repeat it.


Inseason high low periodisation This should give you a good idea of how you can setup your inseason training program using High-Low programming. Obviously the week is planned around the day which will be your biggest high intensity day. You then have a recovery day followed by a low intensity day for upper weights and analysis. Tuesday is your intense rugby and lower body strength and power emphasis. Wednesday is recovery followed by a more explosive session on Thursday. Friday is a light captains run leaving you ready for a big performance on Saturday.

There you go, 3 ways to use the High-Low Periodisation for rugby and schedule your training week. Remember that speed, power and strength are vital for performance and are controlled by the CNS so it is important to allow its recovery and to train it optimally.

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