Rugby Strength & Conditioning: Exercise Selection


One of the common questions we get asked is about exercise selection. Specifically what exercises to use for different purposes and how often to change said exercises. The first thing to clarify there is no perfect exercise and choices will be dictated by the individual, their injury history, training goals etc. A good starting point to explain how we select exercises is thinking about the reason you train and what you’re trying to get out of an exercise. Exercises should be improving a building block towards improved performance and not thrown in as you saw it on a youtube video and it looks cool!
There are tons of variables that go into exercise selection but to make things easier I’ll explain our philosophy in terms of different exercise categories:

Core Lifts –

The purpose of these exercises are to increase the performance of your neuromuscular system so you can produce more force faster. With this in mind you need to stick with exercises for a longer period of time so you can adapt to them. These exercises will be your squats, deadlifts, pull ups, rows, Olympic lifts and presses. When you switch to a new exercise it takes a couple of weeks to learn the movement again so if you changed exercise every 4 weeks you would only get 1-2 sessions to to actually stimulate adaptation. For best results stick with an exercise for longer durations and get variation from changing how you perform the exercise, different sets/reps, different rep techniques and changing velocity or dynamics of the exercise.

Assistance Lifts –

The purpose of these exercises are to build muscle mass, prevent injuries and get rid of imbalances. You can therefore use a bit more variety. Don’t however go away from using big compound lifts still stick with the basics and exercises that you can progressively increase the load but you can get away with changing exercises every 4 weeks or so. Types of lifts to use here include dumbbell and kettlebell exercises, unilateral exercises and some multiplanar exercises.

Conditioning Exercises –

This is where you can go to town with variety! The purpose of conditioning is to stimulate the heart and lungs maximally so they adapt to be able to produce more energy and recover faster between intense bouts of rugby play. If you stick with the same exercises you will become efficient and thus not stimulate maximal adaptations.
*Obviously with running hand rugby we want to become efficient but we also need to use other methods to stimulate the cardiovascular system.

Wrap Up

Hopefully we’ve explained how to choose the right exercises and how often to rotate them in a program.  You should realise that you need to persist with exercises for longer than most to develop desired adaptations. Don’t be that guy who tries a new training program each week and never makes any progress!

If you want a program for rugby that has exercise selection down to a fine art after working with professional players and hundreds of amateur players click the link below!…

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