How to Train like the Top Rugby Players

The 2016 Six Nations comes to a head this afternoon when Wales take on England in the biggest game of the tournament so far. No doubt it will be a game full of drama and crunching tackles, though the game will also serve as an exhibition of outrageous conditioning and athletic prowess.

Once upon a time rugby players had a physique developed from a mixture of beer and barbells. Now, however, players are finely tuned specimens. Top rugby players aren’t just built like tanks, they are extremely mobile too. The ability to create power is crucial to achieving this combination of strength and speed and so with this in mind, we asked our fitness guru Rhys Jenkins, General Manager at Simply Gym Cwmbran, for advice on how aspiring rugby players can develop power like the pros…

“For rugby players power is all about generating strength and speed through certain movements like throwing, pushing or tackling. To train to be a better rugby player you need to focus on specific exercises that help you to develop your power, such as weight-training, speed training and plyometrics.

Traditional weight based exercises like bicep curls are not necessarily useful in rugby training as the movement patterns involved are not common during a match. Multi-joint movements such as pull ups and military presses are a much more efficient way to work on your upper body strength as they involve explosive movements. That being said traditional exercises such as deadlifts, lifts made from a standing position without any equipment, and bench presses can also contribute handsomely to your strength-programme.

Leg strength is key to your power and so incorporating plyometrics into your routine is essential. Plyometrics are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power. They can help rugby players run faster, jump higher and tackle stronger. Staple plyometric exercises include box squats, box jumps, tuck jumps and bounds – where you sprint with as large a stride as possible.

It is crucial that you warm-up before plyometrics or any other exercises mentioned here. Spend 10 minutes jogging, skipping or cycling and stretch the muscles involved for 10-15 minutes. Make sure you stretch your lower back and any other areas of weakness.

To avoid injury, I would advise that you perfect your technique with the help of a professional trainer before developing your programme.

On top of developing strength, you also need to work on your speed. Players of all positions will need to improve their acceleration, top speed and reaction times. Specific sprint training needs will vary from one person to the next, though exercises such as flying sprints and side sprints are recommended. For a flying sprint, accelerate for 10 metres, sprint for 20 metres and then decelerate for 10 metres. For side sprints, hop side-to-side over a cone and then sprint away for 15 metres.

Interval training is also extremely popular amongst rugby professionals. Try figures of 8 around the rugby pitch where you jog from one corner of the pitch to the opposite corner, sprint down the try line, jog from the next corner to the corner opposite that, sprint down the other try line and repeat.

Finally you need to support your training with the correct nutrition. Eating carbohydrates is recommended within 30 minutes of your workout. Be sure to drink lots of water and even the occasional cup of green tea!

At Simply Gym we can help you develop a plan that is best for you and show you how to execute each exercise safely. We also make sure to stock all the equipment our budding rugby players need!”

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to email Rhys at

Rhys Jenkins

Rhys Jenkins
General Manager, Simply Manager Cwmbran

Rhys recently moved back from Aberdeen to become the General Manager at the brand new Simply Gym in Cwmbran. He has worked in the fitness industry since he left University and has experience in personal training and many other roles. As much as it may seem a cliché, Rhys loves helping people achieve their goals and turning their lifestyle around. The more people he can help the better!

If you have any questions for Rhys you can email him at

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