Rugby Training: Building Endurance & Power


How do rugby players train outside of matches? Whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner, you can become a stronger and more powerful version of yourself ahead of setting foot on the pitch.

Rugby players.

Endurance and strength training don’t usually go hand in hand, as strength and power training is far more explosive and shorter whereas endurance training is usually spread over longer periods of time. We recommend training these different elements on different days as, in this case, each workout will send a clear cellular signal to the body as to what to adapt to.


The Journal of Strength and Conditioning defines strength as your body’s ability to generate force, and in Rugby, you can imagine this plays a large role in the game. Taking a scientific approach, Force = mass x acceleration, which means you can either increase the weight you are moving or focus on the speed at which you are moving that weight (power).

Focusing on the weight/mass variable, you can perform general movements such as squats, bench press, deadlifts, military press etc. as you lift heavier weights for lower repetitions. However, if you have access to a sled, loading this up with weighted plates and pushing it down a 10 - 20m track will allow you to practice a rugby-specific movement. In the same way you push the sled in the gym, you will push the opposing team back in a scrum.


Power relates more to the speed at which your body can produce this force. So using the sled analogy, if you were to walk slowly with the sled down the track, this would be enhancing your strength, but lowering the weight and pushing it as fast (and safely) as you can to the other end and back is a great way to build up power.


Endurance is your ability to perform an exercise at a given intensity or duration - i.e. how long you can run (not necessarily how far!). For a large number of players in the front row, they will spend the majority of the game running, so training for endurance by working on your aerobic capacity is key.

So, how do you train for endurance? There are plenty of great ways to train for endurance in the gym. With treadmills, bikes, ski-erg machines, cross trainers and more, there is a plethora of equipment that can help build up your endurance. Opting for a more rugby-specific option, running on a treadmill might be the most beneficial as you’ll rarely be cycling or skiing in the middle of a rugby pitch. 


In rugby, it’s not just how long you can run for, but how fast you can run as you chase down the opposition who is running to score a try. You might be able to run from end to end of the pitch without getting out of breath, but if your top speed doesn’t match your opponent’s, it’s almost guaranteed that he will outrun you and score a try.

Sprints are a great way to build up your top speed. This is hard to do on a treadmill as you have to wait for the machine to increase to the speed you want and then decrease it before you fall off.

Take a roughly 80/20 training split. Spend 80% of your workout time working at a faster pace (an anaerobic capacity in heart rate zone 2) and 20% of the time at a slower pace (an aerobic capacity). Perform a 5-minute warm-up, then 10 rounds of 30s sprints followed by 30s rest and then a 5-minute cool down. This is best performed on grass as, on game day, grass is what you will be playing on. At the end of the day you will be sprinting wearing rugby boots on grass, so why not train that way?

Playing rugby isn’t the only way to train for a rugby match (while it is undoubtedly important for any player). But building strength, power, endurance and speed outside of these games could make the difference between a win and a loss for your team.

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