Basic Strength Programs for Rugby

Explanation of the basic Programs for Rugby

As stated there are four (4) basic strength training programs – if there are more write to me !

As listed earlier they are

  1. Hypertrophy Training – Bulking
  2. Strength Training – Pure Strength
  3. Power Training – Getting Fitter and Faster
  4. Endurance Training – Maintenance

Lets define them in simple terms


Hypertrophy is, (by definition) the enlargement of a muscle by the process of increasing the size of the cells that are already there within that muscle.

(Not to be confused with hyperplasia, the process of increasing the number of cells)

When it comes to building bulk, hypertrophy doesn’t just happen on its own. It has to be triggered by a physiological need.

Hypertrophy is often thought of as a thickening of muscle fibers, which occurs when the body has been stressed (trained) just the right amount to indicate that it must create larger, stronger muscles that can tolerate this new, increased workload. This need causes a cellular response, leading to cells synthesizing more materials.

For muscles to grow, two things have to happen: stimulation (strength training)  and repair. (Rest and recovery, Nutrition and Massage)

Dormant cells called satellite cells, which exist between the outer and basement membranes of a muscle fiber become activated by trauma, damage or injury — all possible responses to the stress of weight training.

Your immune system response is triggered, leading to inflammation, the natural clean up and repair process that occurs on a cellular level. ( You must read about DOMS – Delayed onset of Muscle Soreness)

Concurrently, a hormonal response is triggered, causing the release of growth factor, cortisol, and testosterone. These hormones help regulate cell activity.

Growth factors help stimulate muscle hypertrophy while testosterone increases protein synthesis. This process leads to satellite cells multiplying and those cells migrating to the aid of the damaged tissue.

It is at this point that they fuse with skeletal muscle and donate their nuclei to the muscle fibres helping them thicken and grow.

The result, in plain English: larger muscles with improved tolerance to larger loads.

Special Note: In Plain English – to gain larger muscles we must first break up the cells of the existing muscle , as it repairs it recruits additional cells so where there was one cell there is two or more and so the muscle grows in size and strength


Strength Training – Pure Strength

Pure strength is a different form of strength training

It is often referred to as low-speed strength, the goa is to lift maximal or submaximal loads from point A to point B. 

Moving weight at a moderate speed is recommended, since the goal is to develop a high level of overall body strength with heavy loads. Power, something we talk about later, relies almost exclusively on speed of the lift.

Pure strength athletes, or those in need of more strength for their sport, are interested in performance, period.  Methods for increasing strength overlap somewhat with hypertrophy training, specifically regarding progression, but the goal here is purely performance based.

Strength enthusiasts will commonly refer to percentages of max efforts or percentages of reps max (%RM).  A reminder that this is the maximum amount of weight lifted for a specified number of reps (XRM – X being the number of reps).

Once that number is identified, a percentage of that maximum amount of weight lifted is used for training purposes. For example, if a lifter has a one-rep max bench press of 400lb and wants to train with 90% of his max weight, he will train with a load of 360lb (.90% x 400).

Ask yourself where does strength training come into the game of rugby and I have no doubt that you will find any number of areas of the game, tackling, grappling, jackling over the ball requires lower and upper body strength. It has a clear place in the game.


Power Training – Getting bigger, faster and stronger

Power training, also referred to as high-speed strength, can take many forms depending on the goals of the individual and the demands of rugby union.

The goal of any player is to move a heavy oad at high velocity (speed).  Training for Power is often associated with the Olympic lifts.

However, power training encompasses many other forms of training such as jumps, medicine ball throws, dumbbell swings, rope exercises and any exercise that focuses on speed of the weight being lifted, pulled, pushed, rather than the weight itself.

Another common belief is that power relies only on heavy weight being moved at maximum velocity. For example, an individual may perform a clean with 90% of their 1RM for 2 reps.

However, another way to develop power is to use a rather low percentage of their 1RM, such as 20% to 30%, and perform a higher number of reps using a more restrictive exercise such as a bench press.

Power training is another performance-based protocol focusing on percentages of rep maxes and speed that the equipment is used, pushed, pulled or lifted.

This method is a complement to pure strength training, in that strength training will provide stability and whole-body strength, while power will increase the rate of muscle fibre recruitment. Allowing the athlete to work faster and harder


Strength – Endurance training – Maintenance

This is not the type of endurance training that requires us to run , swim, cycle for kilometre after kilometre. It is the type of training that requires us to maintain muscle size at the same time retaining strength and power outputs.

There is much discussion with regard to the average rugby player and his In season maintenance training and how that fits into our rugby training program.

There is some thought that we should divide the week into two or three sessions and in turn divide those into one session of hypertrophy training and the other into Power Training.

Personally I favour the other option , where a player divides the month into separate sessions and tries to fit in at least 6  to 8 sessions per month . These should be based around your playing workload.

Train hard when you are not playing hard – and we all have games where we know that they are or could be easy games.

Or train hard during a bye weekend. Holiday period or when injured (injury allowing)

The simple answer would be :Taking 8 sessions per month

Two sessions on Hypertrophy

Three Sessions on Strength

Three sessions on Power training

Take the sessions form your previous programs, keep testing your 1RM or 3RM maximums to ensure that you know where your current weights lifted are at:.


Rep Maximums

A word of warning to all rugby players , from 14 upwards and whether you are doing body weight training, free weights training or machines .

Under 18 and Below should never use the 1RM (one rep maximum) as there guideline. We need to avoid damaging the growth plates in your bodies and excess weight lifts etc can do that easily.

3RM:  3rep maximum should be used as a starting point, and that means the amount of weight you can lift, push, pull Three (3) times for each exercise nit one but three times. Yes you may grow slightly slower, but you will still be strength training into your forties and fifties without pain and damage.

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