Paul Stridgeon has worked as the strength and conditioning coach for England and the British and Irish Lions, and currently looks after the superstars of Toulon. There, he works closely with E4R ambassador Carl Hayman, and Carl can’t speak highly enough of him. Paul knows his stuff inside out and Toulon’s results, and the condition of the squad, attest to that. He has kindly provided E4R with a strength and conditioning programme for front rowers.
The conditioning for a front row player is very specific. Because of the nature of the work they do, the front rowers need an abundance of whole body strength (WB), neck strength, core/trunk strength and a good level of endurance/repeatability.
One of the most important jobs of the front row forward is the scrum. Here, the need for whole body strength is most evident and a good level of neck strength is also important, not only for winning the scrum but also in preventing injury.
The game of rugby has become faster and more intense and front rows are now required to do a higher volume of running, and at a greater intensity, than they would have twenty, ten or even five years ago.
The front rower also plays a major part in the game through clearing rucks in both attack and defence. This require him to have a high level of strength in contact.
Rugby requires a high level of size and strength, so forwards will complete 2-3 weights sessions a week during the season. The nature of these sessions will be determined by the individual needs of the player i.e. whether he need to be, fitter, faster, stronger, more powerful etc
Below is a sample of a weekly schedule for a front rower and also a selection of general exercises that are beneficial to a front row player.
The modern front rower is not only strong. He also needs to be explosive and have a good level of repeatability (I have copyrighted that word!).
By repeatability, I mean a level of fitness that allows the player to do a functional movement (scrum, carry, hit, get up off the floor) to a high degree of competence and speed over and over again.
For this reason, the front rowers of today will add at least 10-15 minutes of conditioning to their week, even when playing games every weekend. And that includes Carl!
The conditioning that is done here should be intense and functional.
On-field sessions that include, running, pushing, wrestling movements, pulling and getting up off the floor are ideal. Sets of work that last between 10-20 seconds with roughly a 1:1 work/rest ratio are perfect.
A sample session would be:
Other off feet methods of conditioning are good as well such as Watt Bike, Rowing Machine.