Strength & Conditioning; Highway to the Danger Zone

September 11, 2017

When you look at sport as a whole, football, hockey, cricket, tennis, swimming etc. there is no game that can match the pure athleticism, strength and stamina that rugby demands (IMO – challenges to this statement welcome).

Regardless of a rugby players position, they must possess a balance of agility, explosiveness, power, strength, stamina, and flexibility. From grassroots to pro rugby, every one of us who dons a rugby jersey can count themselves a gifted athlete – even the beer swilling, pork pie loving individuals - due to the high intensity of rugby.

So, with this in mind, the word every player dreads to hear from the coach on a training night is ‘conditioning.’ This one word alone can bring the toughest, meanest of hard nuts close to tears within seconds.

Within this article, I will be advising coaches, much to the distress of players, on how to structure and run a conditioning session that will drive even the fittest of athletes to their limit.

The Session

This is a fantastic 40-minute session, designed with no rest between exercises, aimed to target the whole body. Make sure you aim to complete each exercise with as good form as possible before moving on; it’s about both quality and quantity.

The reason we work to 40 minutes? This is the most applicable to the game of rugby – 40 minutes per half.


4x car tyres

Weights plates (5kg and 10kg x 2 of each)

6 x rugby balls

Make sure you’ve completed a suitable warm-up before you begin this workout.




10m tyre flips

Full squat position to grip underneath the tyre, flip it over once by driving up through hips and legs, not arms. Squat and repeat. Once reached 10m pick up the tyre and run back to start to repeat

Driving through the ruck and the maul + stamina and endurance

Press up ladders with long jump

Complete 1 press up, stand up and complete an explosive leap forwards from a full squat – complete 2 press-ups, stand up and jump forwards again. Complete 3 press-ups and so on. Reach the highest ladder possible in the time given

Explosive strength to sprint, drive through rucks and mauls + endurance and upper body strength to push through tackles

10m overhead weighted walking lunges

Hold a 5/10kg weights plate overhead, maintain the weight in this position and walking lunge out 10m, turn and repeat for set time

Core strength, shoulder stabilisation to avoid injuries, stamina, endurance, driving through scrums

Tyre sprints 20metes

Lift the tyre and cuddle into your body, sprint 20m and turn back to repeat. Complete as many metres as possible in set time

Stamina under resistance, strength, resilience, speed, upper body strength to battle through tackles

Plank on rugby balls

Arms extended in a full press up position with hands on the ball to offer an unstable base

Core strength, balance, focus, maintaining low body position in the scrum, tackle, ball handling

Burpees with one ball

Hold rugby ball in the fundamental core grip, maintain grip on the ball throughout the full burpee movement, explode up and repeat for set time

Stamina, endurance, explosive strength, grip and carry

Tyre push

Place a tyre flat to the ground, place hands on the top, outside edge of the tyre with arms fully extended maintaining a low body position. Remain in this position and sprint 10 metres in this position, turn around after 10 metres and complete as many metres as possible in the set time

Driving through the scrum, ruck, and maul, stamina, and endurance

Tyre press

Lift the tyre so that your head ends up in the middle of the tyre and the tyre can rest on your shoulders. Press the tyre fully above the head for as many reps as possible within the stated time

Upper body strength and endurance, shoulder stabilisation, lifting in the lineout

Mountain climbers

Start in a press up position, holding and maintaining neutral alignment bring knees up towards the chest and fully extending back out alternating as fast as possible

Stamina, core strength, upper body strength

Plyometric squats

Set up as a standard squat and lower down into the squat as normal. From this position power up exploding into a jump as high as possible, immediately upon landing drop into the next rep

Driving through rucks, mauls, and scrums, jumping in the lineout


Dependent upon team fitness levels, this can be completed over 40 minutes in different ways:

  • 10 exercise X 1 minute for 4 rounds
  • 10 exercises X 2 minutes for 2 rounds
  • 10 exercises X 1 minute (2-minute rest between each round but no rest between stations) for 4 rounds

I would strongly advise not to complete this workout within 72 hours of a game.

After your workout, complete a 10-minute gradual cool down, starting with a 6-minute light jog and finish with a 4-minute walk. Follow this with full-body static stretches.

Good Luck.

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