Contrast Training for 7s

April 10, 2017

As the long, hard-fought season draws to a close, many of us will be getting ready to swap the bleak wintery conditions for some dry weather and with it, fast paced action filled with fun and excitement.

Of Course, I am talking Rugby 7’s!

There’s nothing like filling your off-season by playing in one of the many ever-growing tournaments appearing across the country. It offers the chance to showcase your skillset with ball in hand whilst building a great engine in preparation for next season.

7’s Vs 15’s

The differences between the 2 games in terms of physical demands are huge.

Sevens requires a more superior aerobic and anaerobic capacity due to its high intensity relentless physical demands. Given the pitch size and teams only consisting of 7 players, the game is a lot faster and more open. Therefore, speed, acceleration, agility and explosive power are all vital for success on the sevens stage.

There’s no substitute for speed but it is not enough to be simply strong in 7’s; you must apply force quickly.

So how do we become more explosive?

In this article I will introduce you to a system of training used to develop power and speed in rugby and it will enable you to reach your explosive potential. 


Contrast training is a highly effective method that should be a part of any rugby programme, 7’s or 15’s.  Simply put, it is the pairing of a heavy strength exercise, (such as Bench Press) with a biomechanically similar but lighter power or plyometric exercise (such as plyo/clap Push Ups).

This takes advantage of a technique called Post-activation Potentiation (PAP). The explosive capability of a muscle is enhanced after its been forced to perform maximal or near maximal efforts, as you teach your body to recruit more motor units for explosive tasks such as jumping, sprinting, accelerating, throwing and pushing.


Here are some key points when applying it to your training:

  • The heavy exercise must mimic the explosive movement.
  • Attempt to move the bar as fast as possible on the concentric phase of the strength exercise.
  • Structure must be balanced – cater for all movement patterns and muscle groups.
  • This type of training is extremely demanding on the nervous system so volume, sets, reps and recovery between workouts become very important.
  • Strength exercise: 3 – 5 Reps @ 85 – 95% of 1RM

Explosive exercise: 5 – 10 Reps

Overall: 3 – 5 sets

20 – 30 second rest between exercises and 2 – 3 minutes rest between sets. 

Upper Contrast Session

Horizontal Push

A.1 Bench Press: 3 reps at 90% - 3 Sets (20 secs rest)

A.2 Plyo Push Up: 8 reps – 3 sets (2 mins rest)

Upper Pull

B.1 Weighted Chin Up: 3 reps at 90% - 3 sets (20 secs rest)

B.2 Med Ball Slam: 8 reps – 3 sets (2 mins rest)

Vertical Push

C.1 Overhead press: 3 reps at 90% - 3 sets (20 secs rest)

C.2 Med Ball Overhead Throw: 8 reps – 3 sets  (2 mins rest)

Rotational Core

D.1 Cable Woodchop: 5 reps each side (heavy) – 3 sets (20 secs rest) 

D.2 Med Ball Rotational Throws: 8 reps – 3 sets (2 mins rest)

Lower Contrast Session

Lower Push

A.1 Box Squat: 3 reps at 90% - 3 sets (20 secs rest)

A.2 Box Jump: 5 reps – 3 sets (2 mins rest)

Hip Hinge

B.1 Trap Bar Deadlift: 3 reps at 90% - 3 sets (20 secs rest)

B.2 Kettlebell Swings: as many as possible in 10 secs – 3 sets (2 mins rest)


C.1 Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 reps at 90% - 3 sets (20 secs rest)

C.2 Bulgarian Plyo Jump: 5 reps each leg – 3 sets (2 mins rest)


D.1 Heavy Prowler Push: 10 metres – 3 sets (20 secs rest)

D.2 Sprint: 20 metres – 3 sets (2 mins rest)

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