Two basic principles need to be employed for optimal results from strength training

Two basic principles need to be employed for optimal results from strength training

1. Progressive loading  –   progressive increase in resistance (relative to the capacity of the individual)
2. Specificity of the movement  –  use of exercises that resemble as closely movement structure of the sport.

These 2 principles are combined in training by:

• Dev. of strength with no consideration of the structure of the performance-for strength dev. of assisting muscles, as well as dev. of muscles directly involved in a specific movement.
• Dev. of muscle involved in a specific movement pattern with the load resembling the dynamics and duration of performance for rugby.

Important points to ensure during strength and power development:

• Exercises and loads create high to max tension in the muscle fibers.
• Exercises performed with a high contraction speed, relative to resistance.
• Exercises Include rotational movements and not just vertical plane.
• Exercises have a balance between the dev. of prime mover antagonist muscles.
• Exercises correspond to contraction pattern of the competition.
• Strength and power are developed in parallel.
• Skill dev. is not neglected.

Concentrated blocks

It is incompatible to combine large volumes of strength and power dev. with skill dev.

Better results are obtained by shifting the emphasis from one to another in concentrated blocks.

Block method uses two phases:

– first concentrates on high volume of specific strength training.
– Second exploits compensation effect (delayed training effect)

First phase training has relatively low intensity, which enables a rapid increase in intensity in the second phase, where concentration is on the dev. of skill/technique.

For best results from the concentrated blocks method, the following principles apply:

1. Adjust training load so there is a decrease in power level at the end of the concentrated strength development block.
2. The next technique development block should exploit the delayed training effect, during which technique is adapted to the new power level by rapidly increasing intensity.
3. A series of 3 conc. blocks (4-6 weeks long) must be followed by an extended recovery with medium to low loads.
4. One recovery week should occur at the end of each block.

Strength and Power training methods

Before designing the programme ask: “how much strength is required by the player for top level performance?”

Choice of training methods:

What kind of power is needed?

Is the power strength dominated or speed dominated? According to this will the means and methods of the training programme be decided. For rugby it is a combination of both.

Weight Training

First decide how much value is to be gained from weight training vs more specific forms of exercise? (circuit training, partner exercises, bounding, medicine ball work, etc.) Rugby again demands a combination of high strength/weight training and more specific forms of training.

Fit into training the programme according to its contribution to the final performance and time available.
Eg. How much time has the player got to increase muscle mass before he needs to be training more specifically for on field functional performance?

Keep in mind: Optimal results in power development are achieved when training is adjusted to the competition needs of the strength and speed components specific to rugby demands.

Large resistances: maximum strength, muscular contraction speed against the resistance is developed with little carry over to the contraction speed of competition performances.

Which format of weight training is best?

3 choices:

1. Dev. of pure or absolute strength
2. Dev. of power (max. force in shortest time.)
3. Dev. of muscular endurance.

Rugby demands a combination of the above capabilities and so all the components need to be included  in the training plan.

Designing weight training programmes

Progressive loading systems

Basic Version (10RM)

– useful in introductory phase of weight training, recovery from injury, and young players
– 3-4 sets x 10 reps per exercise.

Intensive Version

– For dev. of absolute strength for activities that require explosive power.
– Improves relative strength (max strength vs body weight)
– Sub-max to near max loads (80-95%)
– 2-6 reps, 5-6 sets.

Extensive Version

– Med. resistance (40-60%)
– Parallel dev. of strength and muscle endurance.
– Reps 20-25
– Suitable for young players, beginners, and endurance training when needing a repetitive power level.

Contrast Version

– Combines heavy and light resistance’s to dev. parallel maximal and explosive strength.
– 2-3 sets with heavy weight, followed by a number of sets with about 10% less.

Pyramid Methods

Basic principle: increase resistance as repetition decreases.

– Responsible for fast and good increase in max. strength. (dev. of more efficient intramuscular coordination)
– Why? – more motor units are recruited as fatigue increases.(if load decreases, further stimulus to dev. strength is maintained.
– Suitable for high level performers.

2 common pyramids:

Narrow version: resistance is increased up to a single maximal repetition
Wide version: lower resistance’s with a higher number of reps, never reaching max resistance.


= all types of exercises and drills that create pre-tension and stretch reflexes in the muscle.

• Includes bounding drills, depth jumping, and some throwing rebound exercises.
• Excellent for the production of power needed in explosive types of movements, as they bridge the gap between strength and power.

How does it work?
• Max tension is dev. when active muscle is stretched quickly.
• The faster the muscle is forced to stretch the greater the tension it exerts.


– Often it is just body weight that needs to be overcome for acceleration and propulsion.
– Dynamic ballistic movements can efficiently be dev. by bounding exercises.
– Most common are the multiple horizontal jumps:

Repetition hops (take off and land on same leg)
– aim for pre-marked distances.
– aim for  max distances.
– aim for speed.

Repetition steps (take off from one and landing on the other leg)
– aim for pre-marked distances.
– aim for  max distances.
–     aim for speed

Repetition double leg bounces (continually taking off and landing on both legs)
– aim for pre-marked distances.
– aim for  max distances.
–    aim for speed

After basic drills are established combos can be introduced, E.G.:

Double rhythm: LL, RR, LL, etc.
Double rhythm; LL, LR, LR, LL, etc.
Combined: LLR, LLR, etc. or LL,  R,L,R  RR,  LRL,  LL
Lateral displacement drills: sideways movements to dev. knee and hip drive.

After establishing the basic multiple horizontal jumps, move to more dynamic and explosive bounding exercises in the power development programme.

NB only introduce more explosive drills after an initial strength & power base has been built.

Egs. of advanced bounding exercises:

– Repetition hops and steps over low obstacles.
– Repetition hops and steps on and off benches.
– Combo hops and steps over benches/obstacles.

Depth jumping (very advanced form of bounding)

v Take-off occurs from an elevated position, followed by a vertical or horizontal rebound.
v Increases breaking tension for the reflex rebound and the concentric contraction is stronger.

For best training effect and to prevent injury:

Adjust take-off height to establish balance bt breaking tension(height of drop) and acceleration tension (height of rebound) test

Performance technique:
Keep arms immobilised (can contribute 10% or more)
Keep arms on hips or hanging loosely down, except for rebounds that involve rotations.
Landing on the ball of the feet with slight bend for smooth change to upward or forward drive.

Injury precautions:

v Only do after adequate level of strength and mobility is established.
v Do at least 8 weeks of gradually intensified horizontal bounding before depth jumping.
v Ensure correct technique, especially the knee joints(not less than 90 deg.)

Wide variety of jumps, choose according to the demands of the sport (vertical, horizontal or combinations)

Circuit Training Options for Rugby

All round physical conditioning method that uses progressive overloading and is based on sound physiological principles.

Fits well into the preparation phase on the yearly training programme

Combines many aspects of physical conditioning into one session and has the following advantages:

• Large groups can train at the same time.
• Individuals work at their own rate.
• Easy for assessment of individual improvement.
• Individual competes against his own record.
• Training is easily organised and supervised.

Benefits include: improvement in all round strength, muscular endurance, general endurance, muscular power and mobility.

Designing a circuit

-Exercises are usually selected to have an all round fitness effect. Bias can occur if a particular component is required. eg. Strength or muscular endurance.
-Arrange exercises in that uses different muscle groups in turn.
-Consider the number of exercises and the number of rounds to be included.
-Depends on the amount of time available and amount of other training planned for the same session.
-Should take a min. of 10-12 mins. to have a training effect.
-Finally, a circuit can be designed by using the players own body weight or using equipment


Do not just design a series of conditioning exercises. Base circuit on its original concept and physiological principles. Achieved by using the following principles:

Session 1- Learn the correct execution of each exercise shortcuts lead to false impressions of improvement.

Session 2- Testing for maximums (30-60secs) , _ of test scores = suitable training load for each exercise.

Session 3- Setting circuit repetitions and target times.

Complete circuit moving steadily from one exercise to the next without rest.
Record time; on basis of initial time a target time is allocated.
When target is reached, player is ready for re-testing.


Fixed load circuits

• Simplest type, reps for each exercise are set by coach for the whole group.
• No testing is needed and all members of the group use the same reps.
• Aim of each person is to simply reduce the time for the selected no of laps.

Interval Circuits

• Use different speeds and recoveries, adjusting to the needs of a particular activity.
• Progress by increasing speed or reducing recovery.

Skill circuits

• A selected number of skills can be incorporated in a conditioning circuit.
• Skill drills done between exercises should be measurable.


Muscular Strength and Power Training for Rugby

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