rugby fitness

A rugby training program must help players to cope with the rigorous demands of the modern game. Despite its gruelling nature, amateur players perform poorly in rugby-specific fitness tests and this may be due predominantly to poor training habits (1).

Rugby is classed as a multi-sprint sport. Its intermittent nature demands that players generate high levels of speed and explosive power, as well as possessing the ability to recover quickly between sprints (2).

Elite rugby league players are quick, performing a 40-meter sprint test in just over 5 seconds. They also possess good speed off the mark and acceleration power (2). They have aerobic capacities that are moderate to high allowing them to sustain a high work rate for the full 80 minutes (3).

Strength is an obvious necessity for rugby players. However, muscular size and body mass, although important is not the only goal of a rugby strength training program. Explosive power is equally as important, not only for the development of speed and acceleration but for tackling and jumping (5).

Although in rugby, different positions have contrasting match play activities, professional backs and forwards have very similar physiological profiles (4). Backs are typically faster than forwards (4) but there is little difference in aerobic endurance and muscular strength suggesting that rugby training is uniform for all players at the elite level (6).

The articles below cover a range of rugby training topics – from strength and power development to speed and speed endurance training. You will find sample training programs and training sessions along with individual drills specifically designed to mirror the demands of the game.

Rugby Training Articles

Interval Rugby Training for Sport-Specific Endurance
Every position in Rugby requires a high level of endurance. As a multi-sprint sport, interval training is much more sport-specific than other types of endurance training

Training to Increase Lactate Tolerance
The multi-sprint nature of rugby, often with minimal rest periods, means that blood lactate can soon accumulate in players. Nothing is more debilitating than lactate accumulation so this form of tolerance training can have a dramatic effect on a player’s performance…

Strength Training The Sport-Specific Way
Strength training has become a fundamental component in a rugby training program. While it’s true that ice hockey players require brute force and strength to cope with the physical demands of the game, explosive power is also an important consideration…

How To Design Resistance Training Programs For Athletes
Here is the step-by-step process of developing a sport-specific strength training plan – one that meets the demanding nature of rugby…

Power Training for Athletes
Strength and power are not the same. Do rugby players need to be powerful? Absolutely. Learn how you can convert a solid strength base into explosive power on the field…

Plyometric Training for Developing Explosive Power
Plyometrics is used in many sports as an effective way to increase speed and power. Rugby players can benefit from both upper and lower body plyometric exercises…

Strength Training Alongside Other Types of Training
Rugby players must complete a wide variety of training.  How does strength training interact with other components of fitness? Does endurance training have a negative effect on strength and power? And does strength and power training negatively affect aerobic power or flexibility?

Using Power Cleans in Sports Conditioning
Power cleans can be useful for developing explosive power in rugby. Use this technique guide and animated images to see how the lift should be performed…

The Speed Training Program
Speed, agility and quickness plays a major role in the success of every rugby player. Here’s how to design a speed training program and how to use and combine various types of drills…

Speed Drills for Maximum Velocity
These speed drills are used to develop basic, all-out speed and acceleration off the mark…

Speed & Agility Drills
These agility exercises are easy to set up and require little or no equipment. They are ideal for teams and individual training…

Ladder Agility Drills for Quick Feet & Coordination
Speed ladders form an integral part of many speed training programs. These five drills will improve your foot speed and coordination…

Flexibility Exercises for Hockey
Increased flexibility may reduce the risk of certain injuries. It may also allow a rugby player to move with greater dexterity, agility and finesse…

Dynamic Stretches & Stretching Routine
Dynamic stretching is now recommended over static stretching before a game or rugby training session…

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
We’ve all suffered it – the stiff, aching muscles that follow the first day of training or a long layoff. But can it be prevented or treated?

A Sample Off Season Strength Training Program
The off or closed season is typically about rest and regeneration. But that doesn’t mean doing nothing at all.


1) Tim J Gabbett. Physiological and anthropometric characteristics of amateur rugby league players. Br J Sports Med. 2000; 34:303-307

2) Brewer J, Davis J. Applied physiology of rugby league. Sports Med. 1995;20:12935

3) Baker D, Nance S. The relation between running speed and measures of strength and power in professional rugby league players. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 1999;13:2305

4) Scott AC, Roe N, Coats AJ, Piepoli MF. Aerobic exercise physiology in a professional rugby union team. Int J Cardiol. 2003;Feb;87(2-3):173-7

5) Baker D. A series of studies on the training of high-intensity muscle power in rugby league football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 May;15(2):198-209

6) O’Connor D. Fitness profile of professional Rugby League players [abstract]. J Sports Sci. 1995;13:505