Grassroots Rugby's Guide to Pre Season: Phase 1

June 13, 2017

Whether it’s professional or amateur level, the way you structure your pre season will have a huge impact on how you start, maintain and ultimately finish your forthcoming season.

All the stages of pre-season need to be catered for if you want to peak at the right time. This is sometimes hard to accomplish at grassroots level as not all clubs enjoy the luxury of having experienced or knowledgeable fitness/strength coaches to plan, prepare and implement these structures. Often it is left to one or two people to juggle the rugby and technical aspects of coaching, such as game planning and fitness training. And that's not even mentioning the administrative and social side of things...some are even left to also wash the team kit!

It’s therefore my aim to provide you with some basic structures, timings and programmes to use during your pre-season. don’t need to be a professional athlete to train like one. And don’t just take my word for it; world leading rugby S&C coach Ashley Jones agreed in E4R’s latest interview; ‘’no man is an amateur when it comes to physical conditioning’’.

Using a similar approach will enable you to kick off your campaign, more physically prepared than your opposition. 

I’m going to split your pre season into 2 parts.

Hopefully, most of us will now be feeling fresh and rejuvenated since finishing last season – and most will be itching to get back out on the pitch in search of glory and to go into battle once more.

How well equipped we’ll be to achieve this is determined by what we do from now until September.

Phase 1

Commencing in July, it consists of full body strength training and improving your aerobic capacity through fartlek/endurance conditioning.

Again, as Ashley stated, ‘’fitter teams tend to win more games’’. So the aim of this type of training is to put miles in the legs and fuel in the tank, in preparation for those energy sapping, lung busting final 20 minutes of a game.

Phase 2

Starts in August, and see’s us transferring the foundational strength and endurance built in phase 1, to a more explosive strength and power base, which is much more game related and will have you peaking at the right time!

In terms of energy system development, this stage sees us switch to more field based repeated high intensity efforts to prepare us for the anaerobic bouts involved in rugby.

Phase 1: Full Body Strength (July)

It’s important to notice that there are no similarities between this and any workouts that you’ll find in the latest bodybuilding and health magazines. I.e. no fancy exercises that involve balancing on a bosu ball – we shall leave them for the circus!

We are rugby players and need to train like one. Strength training for rugby is simple – we use basic exercises, lift progressively heavier weights and train all movement patterns that are used in our sport (1 exercise per movement pattern is sufficient. There is no need to throw in every exercise under the sun!) And most importantly, one thing that all rugby players need to have in common...a work ethic that is relentless. 

To be completed twice per week as part of club training, or to be given to players to do in their own time.

  • Week 1 – 4 SETS X 6 REPS
  • Week 2 – 5 SETS X 5 REPS
  • Week 3 – 2 SETS X 5 REPS then 3 SETS X 3 REPS
  • Week 4 – 5 REPS/4 REPS/3 REPS/ 2 REPS/ 1 REP

(Progressively increase weight each week)

A Lower Body Push – Back Squat

B Lower Body Pull – Trap Bar Deadlift or Standard Deadlift

C Single Leg – Bulgarian Split Squat or Walking Lunge (*3 sets of 10 reps)

D Upper Body Push – Bench Press

E Upper Body Pull – Weighted Chin ups

F Loaded Core – Barbell Half–Moons (*3 sets of 20 reps)

Phase 1: Fartlek Training

To be completed twice per week as part of club training, or to be given to players to do in their own time. Session can be completed on the pitch.

1) 800m – ¾ pace

2) Walk fast – 3 mins

3) 2 x 50m sprints with 50m walk recovery

4) 800m – slow jog

5) 100m - slow walk

6) 2 x 400m fast pace with recovery jog after each

7) Walk fast – 3 mins

8) Running uphill broken by 10m uphill sprints

9) Recovery walk – 1 min

10) 400m – ¾ pace

Stay tuned for Phase 2 of Pre Season preparations. In the meantime, rip in and get strong.

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