Periodisation for Rugby Union Athletes

June 12, 2017

We’ve now hit the off season, and although many of you will be jetting off on holiday and enjoying some free weekends away from rugby, now is the perfect time to begin development plans to ensure you’re in peak physical condition heading into next season.

During this article we will discuss strength and conditioning, and in particular, periodization throughout the year, so you’re at optimal conditioning for each phase.

When we talk about athletic periodization we break the year down into sections with key names –

Macrocycle which is considered as the whole year view

Mesocycle which is where we break down the year into shorter periods in which we set specific strength and conditioning aims

Microcycle which is the individual sessions that work towards the overall aim of that mesocycle

When we look at the average rugby union year at club level, we can break it down as follows:

April – May

Although at this time most of us are enjoying some well-earned time off, perhaps playing a little 7s and generally not training rugby wise, we should still ensure we maintain fitness levels, whilst also giving our bodies a rest from the physicality of rugby.

Choose low impact activities such as walking, swimming, light resistance work, or even take up a less intense sport to free the mind and body from the regular rugby contact. The last thing to do is fall into the trap of completely halting any form of training and losing strength, fitness and stamina.


12 weeks out from the season kicking off should be when Pre-Season kicks in. Breaking this period down into 4-week mesocycles will ensure specific and key conditioning for the campaign.


This phase should focus around developments in strength and intense resistance training whilst maintaining aerobic fitness.


Training should become more specific to the demands of rugby such as speed, agility and anaerobic conditioning.


Known as the late preseason stage and should contain training very specific to rugby E.g. positional conditioning, power lifts during weights sessions, plyometric conditioning and functional strength.


During the season, maintenance of anaerobic conditioning, strength and power is vital. It’s often at this stage teams will neglect strength and conditioning – especially at grassroots level due to time restrictions and other commitments. Instead they focus on individual, team skill and tactical work.

Conditioning can easily be integrated into skill work, with the added benefit of coaching players to maintain optimum skill levels even through fatigue.

It’s amazing how beneficial breaking your season down and focusing on specific types of training at specific times can be; Why not give it a bash this season?

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