Build your Pre-season and In-season Week

November 7, 2014

Lee Eldridge is currently Strength and Conditioning Coach for London Welsh and has previously worked with Fullham and Watford football clubs. Lee examines the structure of gym and conditioning sessions and the weekly structure of an amateur player.

There is a huge amount of information surrounding the type of training that an amateur/ semi professional rugby player should be doing in terms of improving physical performance – be it maximal/explosive strength/increase lean body mass or improving conditioning. However I feel that one of the main overlooked decisions is that of the structure and timing of physical preparation (gym/conditioning) sessions in a weekly schedule of an amateur player.

Unlike in a professional environment where there is a set structure to the week, controlled by both the conditioning and rugby staff, the amateur week is controlled by the player - apart from the set club coaching evenings.  Which means that no two amateur players weeks will look the same due to work, family or social commitments.

The first point to make is that pre-season weekly structures should be very different to that of an in-season week, as the main goal of the programme should be that of physical development taking priority over rugby. As the pre-season continues there will be a bigger emphasis on rugby, and therefore a change in physical preparation may be required.

Every week, whether in season or pre-season, should be focused on what the player needs to improve on. “The end is the starting point”. An example of this is hearing a player say ‘I need to be more powerful’, however they have little understanding that maximal strength is a key determinate of force generation and, therefore, power output. Improving strength will have a relationship to power, as Force= Mass (the amount of weight we can move) x acceleration (the speed at which we can move it).  “If you can’t move it in the first place then you will not be able to move it fast”.


So, let’s look at pre-season.  Pre-season is the time to improve both in physical and tactical/technical standpoints. Therefore players need to arrive at pre-season with a level of strength/conditioning to last and utilize the sessions from both the rugby and physical side. Too many players turn up to pre-season to get fit. What they fail to realize is there is not enough time, in terms of both number of sessions and duration of sessions. As S and C coaches we need the base to improve the high intensity work. With this in mind over the course of the off-season the focus of conditioning should be around developing aerobic or cardio output. If this is not done players try to play catch up by increasing both the intensity and duration of the sessions or number of sessions. This can lead to soft tissue type injuries. Completing pre-season is one of the strongest indictors for a reduction of risk to soft tissue type injuries.

So from an amateur standpoint, the off season is longer (8 weeks) than that of a professional player (4-5weeks). Therefore I would suggest a 3-4 week regen (holiday) period, then a 4-5week re-introduction/development phase.

In theory the start of pre-season should have limited amounts of contact/tackles in sessions, therefore allowing both upper and lower body development. The use of split sessions - upper/lower sessions - can be utilized. This split has a number of benefits:

  1. Maximal sessions without the issue of direct fatigue into the next session. For example, tough upper body sessions will have no/or little affect the on field conditioning during the rugby session.
  2. From a hypertrophy/lean muscle mass point of view there is benefits of keeping the metabolic stress/blood in the area.

Club training Monday/Wednesday/Saturday (which should include on field conditioning)


Monday- Upper body before training/during the day

Tuesday- Lower Body                                                                                              

Wednesday- Off

Thursdays- Upper Body

Friday - Lower Body

Saturday - Off (extra hypertrophy circuit if needed)

Sunday - Complete Rest

Club training Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday


Monday- Lower Body

Tuesday- Upper Body before training/during the day

Wednesday- Off

Thursday- Upper Body before training/during the day

Friday - Lower body

Saturday - Off (extra hypertrophy circuit if needed)

Sunday - Complete Rest

Note that if you need to improve conditioning levels there may be a need to drop a weights session for an off conditioning session or circuit (not an extra running session, as you should already be doing 3 running session per week during club training) or add some type of conditioning towards the end of a weights session.

As you can see, it’s a good idea to stay away from lower body sessions before rugby sessions. This is due to the fact that in pre-season the volume of the weights session should be higher than that of in-season. This causes a risk of injury if heading into on field conditioning sessions in a fatigued state.


Now as we get into in season the week will look different again, in terms of both sessions and content of sessions. You now have to make a choice - stick with a upper/lower split or look to total body sessions.

Again we have decisions to be made - normally club training will be held on a Tuesday (defense orientated) and Thursday (attack/team run).

Club training Tuesday/Thursday


Monday - Lower body

Tuesday - Upper body- Before training

Wednesday - Off/ extra conditioning if needed

Thursday - Power or Hypertrophy Session

Friday - Off or Hypertrophy circuit

Saturday - Game

Sunday -Recovery Session

Total Body:


Monday - Total Body-Lower body dominant

Tuesday -Total Body- Upper Body dominant

Wednesday -Off/extra conditioning if needed

Thursday - Power Session

Friday - Off or Hypertrophy circuit

Saturday - Game

Sunday -Recovery Session

Now, as you can see, lower body sessions are on days when there is no club training. In addition to this you can also see that upper body sessions are held on defense orientated evenings.  The reason for this is that I feel the weight training will have a neural priming effect that will carry over into the rugby session. This should outweigh the negative effects of upper body fatigue.

Please understand that these weeks are best-case situations. We all understand that it might be hard to get three/four weights sessions per week on top of the club nights. However players should be looking to do at least 2-3 sessions per week around the 45-60min per session mark.


Follow Lee on Twitter: @Lee_eldridgeS

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Comments (1)

  1. TomMay13Sevenoaks RFC Nov 14, 2014 at 08:53 AM

    This is a great article. I have bee asked so much about how to work in a good strength and conditioning plan into the training week from players who are having to complete a 9-5 job. It's hard and I haven't had too much experience in it but Lee seems to have nailed it here in this article. There is a great deal of detail and if you follow what he says here and add in some the sessions we provide in other articles you will be flying!

    Having had some exposure to different sports Lee can draw upon that experience and add it into the things that he works on from a strength and conditioning standpoint meaning that programmes and plans that are designed are better and better suited to amateur players.

    Let us know how you get on.