Rugby Strength & Conditioning: Exercise Selection

In strength and conditioning for rugby there is tons to consider when putting a program together and exercise selection is one of those things. We often get asked questions like:

  • What’s the best exercise for “fill the blank”?
  • Are paused deadlifts good?
  • What’s better squats or deadlift, bench or military press?
  • How often should I rotate exercises?
  • How long can I stick with an exercise?

And the answer is often; it depends!

Firstly there is no such thing as the perfect exercise and conversely no bad exercises just some don’t suit individuals. Any exercise can make someone stronger if programmed possible. It is also true that certain exercises won’t suit an individual in terms of their own biomechanics, experience and injury history. Exercises should be looked at in terms of the risk and reward.

Secondly a common debate is how much variety athletes should have when it comes to exercise variety. To make things easier we’ll explain our philosophy in terms of different exercise categories:

Core Liftsbarbell-3895455

The purpose of these exercises are to increase the performance of your neuromuscular system so you can produce more force and 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. You can of course perform said exercises differently for instance 4 weeks using slow eccentrics, 4 weeks with a pause at the bottom, 4 weeks explosively and of course variety should come from your set and rep schemes too.

Assistance Liftsrenegade-rows-2054864

The purpose of these exercises are to build muscle mass, prevent injuries and get rid of imbalances and maybe even strengthen portions of your core lift. 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 multi-planar exercises.

Checkout our youtube exercise library

Conditioning Exercisesassault-bike

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 and rugby we want to become efficient but we also need to use other methods to stimulate the cardiovascular system as the game consists of more than just running!

Wrap Up

The main point to take away is that any exercise you choose must be justified in terms of the goals you’re trying to achieve and the suitability for your athletes. Think about what you’re going to achieve and this will dictate what exercises you choose and how long you should stick with it for best results. Of course if you want it all done for you sign up to our membership program or apply for online coaching!

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