There are many aspects to consider when designing a physical preparation program for team sports. Rugby has unique constraints to work with since the set pieces, scrum, and lineout take up a large proportion of training time — especially the scrum since I have been told by a number of coaches that the physical demands of say, nine scrums in a session, are equivalent to 3 x 3 above 90 percent squat session in the weight room. This aspect certainly needs to be taken into consideration when planning to ensure they do not negatively impact each other.

Many running sports are tangential in nature, so in order to optimize transfer from the weight room to the field, both vertical and horizontal movements need to be considered. To this end, the program I am going to outline will look at elements of training to ensure all bases are covered.

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Firstly, what are the key components to consider when designing this weight room program for the lower body? The key elements, I believe, are power and force development in two planes as well as both bilateral and unilateral movements, and lastly, but by no means less importantly, the engine room of explosiveness the posterior chain.

Strength development is a major injury prevention strategy of course, but specific muscles are additionally targeted by a range of movements that are part of the CARE program and are done at the conclusion of each session.

This is primarily an off-/pre-season training plan, so lower body will be targeted twice a week in conjunction with sessions designed by the forwards’ unit coach to improve scrum and lineout. I particularly like to use the power movements initially to act as a neural primer for the session, then, if possible, go immediately into the skill session, and then finish with the remaining elements of the lower body program. If this is impractical, then go from the weight room to the field.

So, the elements to consider are as follows:

  • Power/Speed (speed-strength/strength-speed): vertical and horizontal
  • Horizontal Force: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral option)
  • Vertical Force: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral option)
  • Posterior Chain: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral)

I would advise taking inventory of the available exercises/equipment that you have in your weight room in the above categories before you begin the program writing. After you have detailed this, you can then chart them and have the players select those movements that they feel they get the most out of, or you can prescribe as I have in the outline below.

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Core Accessory Rehab Exercise Program (CARE)

Choose five options from below. 2 x 10 reps on each.


  • Half Turkish Get-Ups
  • Windmills
  • Rollouts
  • Suitcase Deadlifts
  • Combat Twists
  • Weighted Sit-Ups
  • Leaning Pallov Presses to overhead position on the TRX
  • Flywheel Rugby Rippers
  • Trunk rotation

Hips, Hamstrings, Calves, and Knees

As far as sets and reps go for this program, I would work within the Prilepin’s Chart and use three-week blocks with a straight linear progression, as detailed below:

  • Week 1: 4 x 6 @ 70-80%
  • Week 2: 4 x 4 @ 80-90%
  • Week 3: 4 x 2 @ 90+%

In regard to the flywheel, I have used time as well as reps as a guide in prescribing programs, four sets of 15 to 20 seconds works extremely well. Also, it is worth considering using slightly higher reps for unilateral movements, I have rarely programmed below four reps on these. I would favour the Dan John rep scheme of 8-6-4 for these movements.

There have been some exciting advances in equipment over the last few years. The Static Dynamic Jones Machine by Louie Simmons will revolutionize training for sport. I am very enthusiastic about combining the iso-dynamic squat with the inertial flywheel to take the physical preparation of rugby players to a new level, especially in terms of transfer from the gym to the field. After all, is that not what all training should be attempting to achieve?

Gym Inventory

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Power: Vertical

Power: Horizontal

If you have a device to measure bar velocity, such as Gym Aware or Tendo Unit, bar speeds will be between 0.8 to 1.3 metres per second.

velocity zones

Horizontal Force: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral option)

  • Prowler®
  • Scrum Truk
  • Horizontal Squats
  • Inertial Fly Wheel movements

Vertical Force: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral option)

  • Squat variations
  • Deadlift variations
  • Step-ups
  • Single-Leg Squat options

Posterior Chain: primary (bilateral), secondary (unilateral)

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