Rugby Fitness Training

Rugby produces some unique training requirements not seen in other sports. It is a sport that caters for all types of physiques and places demands on almost all the bodies’ physical characteristics.

I will not go into an in-depth discussion of the various requirements of rugby and variations for each position. However, I will briefly review the main requirements for success. The demands of rugby are varied and I could almost list every physical ability and say it impacts upon performance, however the main factors are:

  • Aerobic power – more specifically a high aerobic power over a pure steady state aerobic base e.g. a good 6 minute run test score more important than good 10 km time. (Obviously these two are highly integrated but still are different).
  • Lactate tolerance – The key limiting factor during play, affects both aerobic power and speed endurance.
  • Speed – More specifically acceleration and repeated sprint speed endurance.
  • Agility – The ability to decelerate and change direction or move in a non linear direction.
  • Strength – Both maximum strength and speed strength and as any sport requires a strong core as a foundation.

To add to this you could easily point out maximum speed is important in many situations and you can never be called too fast, but in general it is not too decisive. Muscles size is also not hugely important to success as it is your strength, absolute, relative and fast speed that is more important. Though one factor affecting maximum strength is of course muscle cross section area. I have not mentioned above about flexibility but just like core strength it is a fundamental that needs to be used to restore ideal posture and muscle lengths. How much flexibility is optimal past these ideal lengths is an issue of much debate and beyond the scope of this article.

To effectively cover all the main attributes a rugby player needs to optimize performance he must cover six main types of training methods:

  • Aerobic training – To develop lactate tolerance and aerobic power.
  • Sprint training- To enhance acceleration and repeated sprint speed endurance.
  • Resistance training- To build maximum and fast speed strength.
  • Agility training – to learn effective mutli-directional movements and changes of pace.
  • Plyometric training – To support speed strength in linear and multi directional movements.
  • Core and flexibility training – To create the underlying foundations of all the above training.