Training Progression Methods: Rugby Strength & Conditioning

We all know that we want to get better in the gym to improve our rugby performance and the best way to do that is to increase the load on the bar. Unfortunately we can’t simply keep adding weight to the bar though, if we could there would be a lot more 1000lb squatters out there!

So how do we progress then? How do you makes sure you’re not that guy who who rocks up at the gym and performs the same workout with the same weights the same sets and reps and never makes progress? Progression methods built into your programme thats how!

Read on to learn the best progression methods for your gym training to make sure you are improving and stimulating adaptation at every session.

Rugby Strength & Conditioning: Progression Methods

Progression Method 1: Increase Load

Like we said possibly the most common form of progression but not possible to maintain indefinitely. Here are some classic ways to use it as a progression method:

Linear Progression

Use the same sets & reps but increase the load at each workout until you can’t increase anymore.

Step Load

Here you build up to a heavy weight each set. We commonly use 5 sets of 3-5 reps. If you start conservatively you progress for a good 6 weeks or so by just adding 2.5kg for upper body exercises and 5kg for lower body exercises each week.


Use percentages of 1RM to change your loading. for instance you might go from 70% to 75% to 80% to 85% etc.

Progression Method 2: Increase Reps

There is a lot to be said for increasing volume when to trying to get bigger and stronger. You can actually increase strength whilst sticking at the same weight and increasing volume and increasing reps is the first way to do that. Here are some examples:

Add Reps:

Week 1: 5×2, Week 2: 5×3, Week 3: 5×4, Week 4: 5×5

Max Reps Sets:

Perform 3-5 Sets of max reps and try to increase the number of reps you get at each workout (great for bodyweight exercises)

PR Sets:

If you see 3×5+ You do two sets of 5 then the last set try and get as many reps as possible on that day. Great for training motivation to see how you’re progressing without doing too much excess volume.

Progression Method 3: Increase Sets

The next best way to increase volume is obviously to add sets! It’s more difficult to do however as it can make sessions become extremely long! Here are some good examples:

Add a Set per session:

Week 1: 3×5, Week 2: 4×5, Week 3: 5×5, Week 4: 6×5 (or deload)

Add a Set until Rep Max:

You might be tasked with building up in 5-10kg increments until you get to a 3RM. Essentially you build up each set until you get to a weight you can only perform 3 reps with then stop. Next session you would try to go up heavier again by adding another set.

Add a Set based on performance:

Here you perform the prescribed number of reps for as many sets as possible until you can’t get that number of reps or your speed has dropped by a certain percentage (if you have access to a dynamometer!). You might get prescribed Max Sets of 5 and the workout might be: 5,5,5,5,3,Stop!

Progression Method 4: Increase Difficulty

Not as common as the other methods but can be good for beginners as they build the capacity for more advanced exercises and to manipulate the power/velocity of olympic lifts. Here’s a couple of ways you could use it:

Olympic Progression Force to Velocity:

High Pull >>> Power Clean >>> Hang Clean >>> Hang Snatch

Basic Squatting Progression:

BW Box Squat >>> Air Squat >>> Goblet Squat >>> BB Back Squat >>> Overhead Squat

Progression Method 5: Decrease Rest

Mainly used with conditioning circuits or for fat loss sessions but it can turn a seemingly easy session into a tough one in a matter of weeks! Basically you decrease the rest periods at every session. Here’s an example:

Week 1: 60s Rest, Week 2: 50s Rest, Week 3: 40s Rest, Week 4: 30s Rest

Simple but damned tough!!

Progression Method 6: Increase Density

Density training is an awesome way to stimulate muscle gain, strength and fat loss, if you don’t believe us try a session and get back to us! Basically you have to perform as many reps of an exercise in a set time period. Then at the following you beat the number of reps! Watch the video below for an example:

Rugby Strength Training: Escalating Density Training

And What Progression Methods Should You Use When?!…

Rugby Strength & Conditioning: Progression Methods 2

Wrap Up!

So, there you go. Some a variety of ways for you to progress your training to make sure you are improving and not just spinning your wheels in the gym. Make sure you are progressing your training by using at least one of these methods and let us know how you get on!

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