The All Blacks Strength and Conditioning: What they can teach us


I recently attended a talk by Nic Gill the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the New Zealand All Blacks, the most successful rugby side in history. Nic has been working with the AB’s for 8 years now and was very open and honest about his work with them. I’d like to share with all Renegades what was discussed and what I learnt…

On of the first things that Nic spoke about was the “Big Rocks” analogy. Basically, If you put big rocks in a glass first there is still room for sand. But if you put the sand in first you can’t get as many rocks in. This means that you need to focus on the most important things first then the minor details later.


Nic then explained the Big Rocks for him working with the AB’s.

  • Injury Prevention
  • Relationship with athlete/coach
  • Simple things well – strength and fitness (it’s not rocket science!)
  • Constantly review and evaluate what you’re doing.

Nic went on to explain that the ABs don’t have their own training base. Unlike England at Pennyhill and Wales at The Vale Resort, every week their training environment is different. But this doesn’t stop them from performing. Some might look at that as a negative but they see at as a positive because they can ensure quality nutrition 24hrs a day, adequate sleep and no outside stress from family etc… Anyone who has kids can appreciate the sleep quality is massive!

When Nic spoke about injury prevention he said that the key was that the players were as strong as possible. This has led to him over the years moving away from individualized programs and now all the players lift the same, as they all need to be strong and robust.

The AB’s weights sessions are about 90-105 mins long and are performed 2-3 times per week depending on games. This will include dynamic and static mobility, rehab and prehab work and of course strength and power development. Prehab/rehab work is given to the players based on their individual injury history and weaknesses and also there is some work the entire squad performs.

The AB’s put a large emphasis on their technical/tactical training and rightfully so. Because of this they don’t want to sacrifice any rugby training by getting injured in the gym. This is achieved through a sensible approach to their strength training

They don’t chase PB’s, they concentrate on consistency and steady adaptation. Nic wants quality training sessions, so he ensures there is repeated practice of the exercises they do. Over time they can push harder and there is less risk of injury, because the exercises are familiar to them.


This approach also allows Nic to emphasize the importance of technique and the players to master the exercises they repeatedly do. Nic used the example of the squat and said that people often ask him why the players are so good at squatting? He replies “because they have squatted 1-2 times per week for 8 years!”

Take home message??…. Do the simple things well!

Often when you go to see people speak at these things you are expecting to hear all kinds of new and complex methods of training. So it is refreshing to hear that one of the best teams in the world follow a similar approach to the one I believe in. Focus on the Big Rocks and doing the simple things well.

Jamie Bain
Senior S&C Coach
Gloucester Rugby


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