Top 10 Ways To Get Explosive For Rugby – Without The Olympic Lifts

At Rugby Renegade we love the Olympic lifts. The Snatch and Clean & Jerk are great tools to develop power and explosive strength for rugby. They teach you to lift heavy loads explosively because, heck if you didn’t, you would miss the lift!

But the Olympic lifts aren’t for everyone and they do have limitations. Not everyone has access to bumper plates and lifting platforms and more importantly good coaching. Also if your training time is limited, which most rugby players are, maybe learning the Olympic lifts should take a back seat.

It is also worth mentioning that with the injury profile of rugby players you will find some portion of your career where you physically can’t perform the Olympic lifts. Even minor wrist, elbow and shoulder niggles can stop even the keenest lifter.

So, can we still develop power and explosive strength without the Olympic lifts? You bet! Read on for some great alternatives to the snatch and clean and Jerk…

Dynamic Effort Method

The dynamic effort method was popularised by the Westside Barbell Club powerlifters. It involves lifting a moderate weight (usually 50-60% 1RM) as explosively as possible for low reps and high sets with relatively short rest periods. For squats they usually perform 10-12 sets of 2 reps with 45 secs rest and Bench press they do 8 sets of 3 reps with 45 secs rest. Bands and chains can be added to increase the acceleration throughout the lift too.

1. Speed Squat

2. Speed Bench

Ballistic Training

Ballistic exercises involve actually jumping or releasing the bar in the case of upper body exercises. You will use a lighter load but will be able to move even more explosively. 20-40% of 1RM is best for jump squats, bench throws and Trap Bar Dead Jumps. These will definitely get you explosive for rugby!

3. Jump Squat

4. Bench Throw


It should be no surprise that jump training will develop power and explosive strength. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps are a good starting point but begin cautiously and progress slowly, especially bigger athletes. Remember you’re training power so you don’t want to be fatiguing too much. Ensure there is enough recovery that you can perform them with good technique and speed. Here are a few of our favourites:

5. Seated box Jump

6. Kneeling Jump

7. Banded Broad Jump


Prowler and sled work is an excellent tool for developing explosive strength and power for rugby because it builds strength in a low body position. This is ideal for acceleration and similar to many contact positions you will find yourself in. It is also unilateral and creates full body tension. When training to increase power make sure you rest fully and allow maximum speed save your conditioning for another time.


Medballs offer another unique way of developing power and there are unlimited ways to use them. They challenge the whole body and some exercises can challenge you in movements and ranges that other conventional exercises just don’t reach. Our favourite drills include; slams, rotational slams, scoop throws, overhead throws, shot put throws, chest throw into broad jump and there are many more!

8. Medball Slams


The Jerk is a great exercise but don’t worry there are other great explosive full body lifts to challenge the upper body. If you have access to a Jammer it is perfect fit to develop explosive strength for rugby. You can perform double or single arm and another twist on it is to hold a rugby ball in the non-lifting arm to tie in nicely with rugby. 

9. Jammer

Landmine Press  

Now we know not every gym will have a Jammer but there is a simple and effective alternative. Chuck when end of a barbell in a corner and you have a landmine press! A challenging way to perform it is to release the bar re-catch it and throw again. You should be able to see why some coaches call it a barbell hadn off! To increase difficulty again, alternate arms on each rep! It’s also a great rehab tool for players with shoulder injuries who still have difficulty overhead pressing.

10. Explosive Landmine Press

Wrap Up! 

Yes I know, we said 10 but gave you an extra one free!! I hope it’s given you some good examples of how to develop explosive speed and power for rugby without using the Olympic lifts. We know that they are not for everyone and have found these methods do a great job!

*This article was originally published at

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