IMPORTANT: Before starting ANY programme of exercise, you must consult your doctor, to ensure there are no underlying health issues.

Rugby places a huge range of demands on the body – aerobic and anaerobic, muscle strength, joint strength, suppleness and impact resistance. So while regular jogging is important, it’s not nearly enough to get you into shape. 

 If you’re playing contact rugby, you’ll need a well-designed training programme – and your club coach will have prepared a plan of exercise specific to your position (e.g. tight-five forwards will spend more time strengthening the neck and shoulders, whilst the backs will have more emphasis on sprint training), however…

Looking after yourself

All players have a responsibility to look after their own base-level fitness – particularly speed, stamina and core work. Cardio fitness work is hugely important – running, rowing, cycling or swimming, for instance. And in your strength work - press-ups, sit-ups, squats, steps and lunges - are all crucial to improve your base level fitness in all the major muscle groups you’ll use in the game. They’ll also be useful if you’re playing the non-contact forms of rugby – it’s still easy to get injured when you’re twisting, turning, sprinting and stopping, so you’ll enjoy the game more if you put in this prep work. 

Aerobic vs Anaerobic Fitness

While the majority of the game is performed anaerobically, the higher your level of aerobic fitness, the faster you’ll recover between the short, explosive bouts.

Your exercise mix really depends on how fit you are now, of course. If you’re scoring under 10 on the Bleep Test, you really need to concentrate on cardio until you’ve got your score up – there’s no point being as strong as a lion if you can’t get to the breakdown…

So depending on your level of fitness, you either need to do more cardio more often to get the levels up to the demands of rugby for beginners, or just enough to maintain the levels while concentrating on other areas such as strength training. 

THREE USEFUL CARDIO WORKOUTS 

LONG AND SLOW

Go for an easy-paced run for 20-30 minutes, keeping your heart rate at 60% of your age-adjusted maximum. In real terms, this means comfortable enough to maintain a conversation, but slightly out of breath. You can build this up to about 40 minutes, but no need to push it beyond that, since it won’t improve your fitness much more.

30-30 INTERVALS

In a typical game, you’re active for bursts of 20-30 seconds at a time, so to replicate this situation, it’s useful to do the following after your normal warmup:

Run, row or cycle hard for 30 seconds then slow to a recovery speed for 30 seconds (Sprint and walk, for instance). Repeat 20 times over 20 minutes in total. As you get more used to it, add more intervals, and work up to 40 intervals, to simulate a full half of rugby. 

SHORT-BOOST SPRINTING

To develop your fast-twitch muscle fibres (and your ability to sprint hard, recover and repeat it again and again, row, sprint or cycle as hard as you can for 10 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Repeat 6-10 times. 


STRENGTH TRAINING

As mentioned above, press-ups, sit-ups, squats, steps and lunges form the basis of body preparation for rugby for beginners. But if you want to introduce a bit of variety, you can try some of the following exercises. 

BARBELL SPLIT SQUATS

Sets – 3

Reps - 12

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other, hold a barbell on your chest in an overhand grip. Lower your hips until your back knee is 2-3 cm from the ground, pause, then rise back to the straight leg position

INCLINE DUMBELL BENCH PRESS

Sets – 3

Reps - 12

Lie on an inclined bench, hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing outward with a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly push the dumbells up until your arms are straight, then lower to the start position. Take twice as long to lower as you do to lift.

BENCH CRUNCHES

Sets – 3

Reps - 20

Lie on a flat bench with your hips on the edge at the very end and your hands behind your head. Keep your knees and feet together with a slight bend in your knees. Keep your shoulders on the bench and lower your legs, then slowly raise them, bending your knees and crunch your chest to your knees.

HORIZONTAL PULL-UPS

Sets – 3-5

Reps – 4

Lie on your back under a weightlifting (Smith) rack, ensuring your chest is level with the bar. Grip the bar overhand with your hands shoulder width apart. Keeping your legs and torso straight, pull yourself up till your chest touches the bar. Lower yourself back to the start and repeat.

SWISS BALL CRUNCHES

Sets – 3-5

Reps – 20

Sit on a Swiss ball, then slide forward till the ball is supporting your hips and lower back. With your arms behind your head, squeeze your abs and lift your chest off the ball. Slowly come back to the starting position and repeat.


ROTATOR STRETCHES 

For both these exercises, place a knotted length of resistance band in a door at elbow height and close the door.

INTERNAL ROTATOR

Sets – 3-5

Reps – 10

With the door on your right, lock your right elbow at 90 degrees with your forearm parallel to the floor and the door. Place a pillow between your right elbow and body, and holding the band in your right hand, pull it towards your left hip. Slowly return to the starting position, repeat. Follow the same procedure with your other arm.

EXTERNAL ROTATOR

Sets – 3-5

Reps – 10

With the door on your left, lock your right elbow at 90 degrees with your forearm parallel to the floor, but across your body. Place a pillow between your right elbow and body, and holding the band in your right hand, pull it outwards away from the door. Slowly return to the starting position, repeat. Follow the same procedure with your other arm.