This pre-season, I am intending a break-in program for the first week of the preparation phase. I intend to split each session into two parts to have adequate education time and minimize the potential risk of injury with other activities essential to the program. At present, we do not have a set date to commence training, but irrespective of our start date, the first week will be a three-day only program. This will allow more recovery time and an even stress loading across the week.

Break-In Week


This first week will be education sessions and training sessions, so the weight training elements are split to ensure there is no interference from one session to the next. I use a Bronco (1.2 km shuttle run test) aerobic test to start the program after an education session on monitoring and a team meeting. Within this first week, there will be skills sessions, both of a static and dynamic nature, and speed introduction, conditioning, and rugby sessions. The running load will be capped at 60 percent of a normal training week from the previous season to gradually increase the running load to minimize risk of injury. The players will have run sessions to allow them to transition to this week’s loading as seamless as possible. You will always have players do less and, in some cases, more than is requested whilst they are away from monitored, structured, and supervised training. I do believe this is an adequate volume and intensity to start at.

This is the first-week break-in program that I will put in place. I will also keep some players on this three-day-a-week programming based on needs-based discussions with the playing group upon their return and what other work-ons they have from a physical and skills perspective. Player’s will select different exercises each training day and perform just three sets on each, working off my favoured introduction set/rep scheme made famous by the work of Dan John, the 8–6–4.

Three-Days-Per-Week Full-Body Program

Choose one exercise from each numbered category, seven exercises in total.

Lower Body Exercise | Contrast(Plyo/Ballistic/Speed)

1. Absolute Strength

Squat /Deadlift Variations | Box Jumps, Depth Jumps

2. Lower Body Accessory       

Lateral Squat/Lunge | Ice Skater, Zig Zag Bound

Sprinter’s/Bosch Squat | Borzov Hops, Box Hops/Jumps

Walking Lunge /Step-ups | Repeat Hops/Jumps, Hurdles

Jump Squats | Hops to Box, Bench Blasts

Olympic Variations | Knees to Feet Jumps, MB Scoop Toss

Prowler® (3 x 25 metres) | 3 x 10 - 20 metre acceleration

3. Posterior Chain (Glutes/Hamstrings)

Reverse Hyper™/GHG/Reverse Lunge | MB OH Toss, KB Swing

Nordics/RDL/ Hip Thrust/Bosch RDL | MB Caber Toss, Scoop Toss

Single Leg Landmine RDL 

Upper Body Exercises

4. Push: Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Push Press, Floor Press, Javelin Press, Half Kneeling Landmine Press, Jammer

5. Pull: Pendlay Row, Yates Row, Shrugs, One Arm DB Row, Machine Row, Chins, Landmine Row

6. Loaded Carries (2 x 25 metres)

Farmer’s Walk, Overhead Walk (bar or Waiter’s), Suitcase Walk, Zercher Carry, Combination Carry

7. Core (2 x 10)

Full Body Twist, Russian Twist, Pallov Press, Suitcase Deadlift, Turkish Get-up, Windmill, Rollout, Hanging Leg Raise

Following on from this first introduction week, the program will increase to a normal loading week as per below. There will be gradual progressions in running loading and intensity from both the conditioning and skill/rugby training elements. As mentioned above, some players will remain on a three-day-per-week while the majority will move to this next programming level. The training age of a player will be a discussion point as to the type of program he will move into, based on what he has done previously and his position on the team and other elements as well.

In this next level program, I have tried to look at all elements I had previously divided players into groupings based on needs. These are Neural (power and strength), Mechanical (strength and size) and Metabolic (muscle endurance and fitness). Each player will get a dose of each training modality over three sessions in two days in this program, repeated twice a week. I am attempting to isolate each aspect of the program, so that full intensity and focus can be given to each element to step up from where we were last season.

Remember that other training sessions will be interspersed around these and that volumes may be altered depending on individual needs as well. The loading for a week in the gym will look like this:

Standard Loading Weeks Gym Sessions


Neural (AM Monday and Thursday)

Choose two from each group and perform as supersets:

Strength Speed/Accelerative Strength options

Starting Strength/Speed Strength Options

  • Lower Body Plyometrics (power skips, bounds, hops, box jumps/hops, long jumps, triple jumps, hurdle jumps/hops, knees to feet jumps, depth jumps, bench blasts, drop to split on box, ice skater, Borzov Hops)
  • 10m Accelerations
  • Med Ball Throws (scoop toss, caber throw, forward throw, rotational throw, reverse throw) 

Different exercise selections will be performed in the second workout of the week. Also, if you are fortunate to have a velocity monitoring device such as Gym Aware you will be setting a velocity range of 0.75 to 1.0 metres per second for the first exercise. If you do not have these devices, avoid excessive loading. I would suggest keeping the loads at between 50–80 percent of 1RM and using Prilepin’s Chart to determine your sets and reps loading. I will use between 3–6 reps for each of between 3–6 sets and monitor speed, terminating a set if speed has slowed down considerably from the previous rep. Hence the beauty of an objective measuring device.

Mechanical (PM Monday and Thursday)

Absolute Strength Option

Deadlift or Squat variations

3-week strength cycle: wk1 – 4 x 6, wk 2 – 2 x 5, 3 x 3, wk 3 – 5,4,3,2,1


Secondary Options (superset a hip dominant option with a knee dominate option)

Hip Dominant | Knee Dominant

Reverse Hyper™ | Sprinter’s Squat

GHG | Step Ups

Reverse Lunge | Walking Lunge

Good Morning | Split Squat

Pull through |  Lunge

RDL | Bosch Squat

Split Stance RDL | Landmine Skier’s Squat

Hip Thrusts | Lateral Squat

Bosch RDL

Single Leg Landmine RDL

3-week cycle: wk1 – 12/10/8, wk2 – 10/8/6, wk3 – 8/6/4


Upper Body Push and Pull Options (superset a push with a pull option)

Upper Body Push | Upper Body Pull

Bench Press Bent-over Row

Incline Bench Press | Bench Pull

Floor Press | One Arm DB Row

Shoulder Press | Chin up

Dips | Shrugs

Close Grip Bench Press | Pendlay Row

Half Kneel Landmine Press | Seated DB Snatch

Arnold DB Press | Seated DB Clean

3-week cycle: wk1 – 4 x 6/12, wk2 – 4 x 4/8, wk3 – 4 x 2/4


Size Option to Finish the Workout (optional) or Body Part Finisher Sheets

  1. Front Squat/Back Squat (both to either concentric failure or 1 RIR)
  2. Deficit Trap Bar Deadlift s/s Banded Good Morning
  3. Triple Drop DB Bench Press s/s Renegade DB Row
  4. 3-Way Shoulder Raise (DB Lateral, Plate Front Raise, Barbell Humeral Extension)
  5. Triceps Death s/s Matrix Fat Bar Curls

In this second workout, strength is targeted as well as size for specific players. The sets and reps will vary, but once again will be guided by Prilepin’s Chart for absolute strength with reps below 6 with the appropriate number of sets. The secondary options are performed as a superset to raise intensity within the session, the reps for these movements are in the range of 6–12.

When training the upper body, my personal philosophy is to perform pushing and pulling movements as supersets, to decrease overall training time, and increase both density and intensity in the training session. I also prefer higher reps for the pulling movements than pushing movements because most players have done nowhere near the same amount of posterior chain work. Also, I think that this extra work will assist in injury prevention around the shoulder as well.

The final section of this program will be either body part-specific hypertrophy focus or my personal favourite, five size-specific programs listed or some other finisher such as arms. The sets and reps will vary depending on needs, but due to the nature of the program, it will be in the range of 6–20 reps.


Metabolic (AM Tuesday and Friday) 

Choose one circuit from the list below. I have collected these over the years. Where I can accurately source the person responsible for the design of the circuit their name is listed:

Circuit Options

Warm-up: Sledge Hammer Hits, KB Swings, Skipping, Battle Ropes (3 x 30 secs on each)

1. Otago Circuit (5)

  • Row 300m in <1 minute
  • 10 Full Burpees
  • 10 x 36kg 2-Arm Swing with KB
  • 4 x 15 metres Shuttle Run
  • 10kg Med Ball Slam to Ground 10 each side

2: Power Circuit (5x5 + 500 Metres Row After Each Circuit)

  • Power Snatch
  • Clean + Push Press from Blocks
  • Band Bench Press
  • Full Body Twist
  • Band Box Squat

3: Beastly Circuits

(4-6 sets x 6 reps then 3 minutes hard cardio – Row/Assault Bike/Treadmill Incline Run)

  • Option 1: Deadlift/Power Clean from Hang/Front Squat/Push Press/Bent Over Row/Romanian Deadlift
  • Option 2: Power Clean from Floor/Split jerk/Front Squat/Hang Clean/Lunge/Bent Row
  • Option 3: Power Snatch from Floor/Push Press/Back Squat/Hang Clean/Split Jerk/Romanian Deadlift
  • Option 4: 3 Position Clean/Push Press/Jump Squat/Hang Snatch/Split Jerk Behind Neck/Good Morning
  • Option 5: Power Snatch from Floor/Overhead Squat/Push Jerk behind Head/Combo Good Morning/Jump Squat/Power Clean from Hang

4a. Body Weight GPP Circuit

(10 reps on each non-stop circuit)

  • Grasshoppers
  • Hindu Push-ups
  • Knees to Feet Jumps
  • Scorpions
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Alternate Lunges
  • Rock & Rolls
  • Push-ups
  • Prisoner Jump Squats
  • Sit-ups

4b. BW Blast

(Continuous for 20 minutes)

  • BW Chin-ups x 5 reps
  • BW Dips x 5 reps
  • BW Horizontal Row x 10 reps
  • BW Push-ups x 10 reps

5. Kettle Bell GPP Circuit

(30 seconds on each, rest 90 seconds, and repeat for a total of 6 sets)

  • A1. Alt. KB Cleans
  • A2. Alt KB Press
  • A3. Alt. KB Upright Rows
  • A4. Alt. KB Snatches
  • A5. Alt. KB Floor Press
  • A6. MMA KB Row

6. Strongman Circuit

  • 40m Prowler®
  • 20m Tyre Flip
  • 40m Farmer’s Walk
  • 20m Bear Crawl
  • 40m Cross Carry

7. The Warren Metabolic Blast

(20 seconds of each, then 10 seconds of each, then 20 seconds of each, then 30 seconds of each, then rest 90 seconds. Complete circuit 2–4 times.)

  • 30 seconds Prowler® (loaded carry of any type)/30 seconds REST
  • 30 Seconds Assault Bike or Rower or Ski Erg/30 seconds REST

8. Tumminello Weight Plate 8’s

  • Overhead Squat
  • Swings
  • Bent-over Row
  • Reverse Lunge & Twist
  • Shoulder Press
  • Diagonal Chops
  • Overhead Walk

9. Medley Conditioning (6)

  • 30 seconds: Prowler® push
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 30 seconds: Sledgehammer hits
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 30 seconds: KB swings
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 30 seconds: Tyre flips
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 30 seconds: Battling ropes
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 30 seconds: Push-up + Burpee
  • 15 seconds: Rest

10. Pull–Push–Squat EMOM (Thibadeau)

(Repeat for 4-8 circuits. Use any combination of movements you wish.)

  • Minute 1: 4 Squats @ 75%
  • Minute 2: 4 Bench Press @ 75%
  • Minute 3: 4 Deadlifts @ 75%

11. Poliquin Lactate Circuit x 3

  • 12 Squats @ 12RM
  • 60 sec REST
  • 12 Chins @ 12RM
  • 60 sec REST
  • 12 Deadlifts @ 12RM
  • 60 sec REST
  • 12 Dips @ 12RM

12. Strength as a Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) Circuit

  • Squat option
  • Hinge option
  • Upper Body Push option
  • Upper Body Pull option
  • Loaded Carry option

Screen Shot 2021-01-07 at 10.59.17 AM

Loaded Carries

(Choose one loaded carry option.)

  • Farmer’s Walk
  • Overhead Walk (bar/DB/KB or Waiters)
  • Suitcase Walk
  • Zercher Carry
  • Combination Carry
  • Stone Carry

Distance will depend on specific needs, based on the work of Thibadeau who recommends these parameters:


Finish this session with the following:

Core Accessory Rehab Exercise (CARE) Program

(2 x 10 reps on each. Select one exercise from each of the categories below.)

1. Loaded Core (3 x 5): ½ Turkish Get Up, Windmills, Rollouts, Suit Case Dead Lift, Combat Twist, Weighted Sit-up

2. UnloadedCore (3x15): Dead Bugs, Sprinter’s Sit-up, Plank Variations, Hanging Leg Raises

3. Shoulder/Rotator Cuff: Incline YTI’s, Bottom-up KB Press, Cuban Press, DB Scarecrow, DB L-Raise, Lying Internal/External Rotation, Supine T-Rotation

4. Scapular/Posterior Shoulder: Scap Push-ups, Scap Retraction, Face Pulls, TRX Scap Push-up, TRX Scap Retraction

5. Neck: Iron Neck, Wrestler’s Bridge 2 Ways, Neck Planks 3 Ways, Band Look Away, Plate Flexion/Extension

6. Groin/Hip: Copenhagen Planks, Crab Walks, Clams, Yoga Series (Inchworm to Plank, Right Step Then Back, Left Step Then Back, Down Dog, Up Dog, Inchworm to Standing)

7. Hamstrings: Landmine Negative Accentuated RDL, Nordics, RDL Drop & Catch, Single-Leg Hip Thrust, J Curl, TRX Hamstring Curl

8. Grip: Captains of Crush Grippers, Dog Bone Chins, Grandfather Clock Chins, Grenade Chins, Towel Chins, Rope Chins, Thick Bar Chins/Pull-ups

9. Knee: Single-Leg Squat to Bench, Single-Leg Leg Press, Petersen Step-up, Reverse Nordic

10. Calves/Ankle/Foot: Single Leg Calf Raise, Toe Press on Leg Press, Skipping, Prowler Push, Inversion/Eversion with Band, Single-Leg Hops, Single-Leg Landing on Bosu Ball, Toe Yoga, Intrinsic Foot series

11. Thoracic Mobility: Overhead Squat, Turkish Row, Band Pull Apart, Cat to Camel, Kneeling Banded Downward Rotation

The final component of the pre-season plan is the shock week, where the above is actually performed three times in the course of a week. Following on from this shock week is a return to the first week, the introduction week, but now it is considered as a download week.

Shock Loading Weeks GYM Sessions


My thanks to Simon Price for his assistance in the design of the finisher charts.

Header image credit: Wavebreak Media Ltd ©

home Prowlerad-3-R