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Six Nations: Using the Gym to Boost Your Rugby Performance


With the Six Nations having just wrapped up, it’s as good a time as any for all amateur rugby enthusiasts to think of new ways to up their game and transform themselves into a powerhouse on the field.

Here are a few ways you can use the gym to boost your rugby performance.

Get to the barbells for a heavy powerlifting routine


No matter your position, strength is something that’s essential to any rugby player worth their salt. And when it comes to boosting your strength in the most direct and effective way, there’s little that will get the job done as well as some heavy barbell work.

The name of the game here is full-body strength, and powerlifting techniques are the way forward. Deadlifts, squats, the bench, and overhead press should be the core of your barbell training sessions. The weight should go up every few weeks as you get stronger. Committing around 3 days a week to hauling the iron around with all your might.

Some popular barbell strength programs that will get the job done include Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, and Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1.

5/3/1 will have you dedicate one training day each week to one of the “Big Three” lifts; squat, bench and deadlift, along with some accessory work. With this routine, you’ll work your way up from 5-rep warmup set, to a heavier 3-rep warmup set, and ultimately a 1-rep max effort set at the end of each workout.

Starting Strength alternates “Workout A” and “Workout B” on each training day, with each workout focusing on a handful of the core movements for 5 sets of 5 reps each.


Hit the rowing machine for some full-body, low-impact cardio


Rugby’s a pretty rough sport, and you’ll want to arrive at each game fresh and ready to go, not nursing injuries and irritated joints from your last training session.

While running laps around the block might be one way of building up your aerobic fitness, it also puts you at a higher risk of irritating your joints than many other forms of cardio.

Enter the rowing machine; one of the best bits of cardio conditioning equipment for any rugby player. It’s low-impact, reducing the risk of injury, while at the same time forcing you to engage your core, drive with your legs, and maintain good posture and form during the exercise (assuming you’re doing it right!)

Aim to perform around 20 Reps Per Minute when starting out and maintain a consistent speed. Go for 30-60 minutes per session and be sure you keep your form tidy.


Head to the Functional Zone to finish up with some kettlebell swings


The kettlebell swing is an old-school exercise which involves holding a kettlebell by both hands, lowering it to the ground in a squat stance, and then swinging it up in front of you, using explosive drive from your hips, legs, and core.

Not only is the kettlebell swing a great way of working out the athlete-essential muscles of the ‘posterior chain’ (including the glutes, hamstrings and lower back) and conditioning you for explosive movement, but it can also provide an immense cardio workout, perhaps equivalent to sprinting.

One of the simplest ways of benefiting from kettlebell swings is to use them as a ‘finisher’ exercise for your workout, doing as many reps as you can with good form until either your muscles or lungs cry for mercy. 

If you fancy getting grips with the kettlebell, join us in our Pure Kettlebell class. For details about this class, click here.

For more workout inspiration, including ways to improve your golf swing or your football performance and workouts to improve your rowing,  check our improving sports performance hub.

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